5360 Westport Rd., Madison (608) 246-3130
Owners: Bill, Jack and Robert von Rutenberg
Chef: Scott Cleaveland
Sous Chefs: Chris Ketarkus and Brian Dracy Pastry Chef: Angie Derr
Summer Hours (Mid-April through September):
Open for dinner daily; open for lunch and dinner
Friday and Saturday; and brunch on Sunday.
Winter Hours (October through Mid-April):
Open for lunch and dinner Friday and Saturday
The Nau-Ti-Gal restaurant may be located on the north shore of Lake Mendota, but it feels like you’ve landed somewhere in the American South when you step onto their bright white, wrap-around porch hung with flowering baskets. Walk around back and you’ll be further enchanted by the green, tree-dotted lawn populated with more bright white: tables and chairs for diners and loungers to relax and enjoy their view of the mouth of the Yahara River. Diners can arrive by car or by boat. Once inside, be sure to notice the nautical charts adorning the walls and the brass mermaids along the bar.
Whether you’re looking for a scrumptious fish fry or a broad and varied Sunday brunch, the Nau-Ti-Gal delivers. The breaded, fried haddock will melt in your mouth and is served in generous portions. Or, choose the Rosemary Lemon Tilapia—a favorite of Robert von Rutenberg, one of the three brothers who own the restaurant. Make sure you have a cup of the clam chowder. This award-winning, sherry-based chowder was featured on the Food Network, and for good reason.
Be sure to arrive hungry for Sunday brunch. It’s a virtual food orgy, with everything from pastries to pastas to prime rib. The French toast, seafood salad, made-to-order omelets and Key Lime pie were also standouts.
The von Rutenberg family has owned and operated the Nau-Ti-Gal since 1982. Look for Robert presiding over things and make sure to tell him you’re new to the Nau-Ti-Gal. He’ll make you feel right at home.
“Because we are locally owned and we support our community, I think that sets us apart,” Robert said. “We donate to several charities including AIDS Network. Personally, I biked in two AIDS Rides from Minneapolis to Chicago and raised close to $20,000 and $10,000 per ride. I rode in memory of my friend Michael and partner Worth.”