By Jennifer Colosimo
Lake life has its perks. Whether it’s the sunrise mist rolling over the water, watching the horizon warm up at sunset, afternoons spent lounging on the boat, or simply being able to call the sparkling blue-green water your own backyard, there’s a magic to living on the lake that isn’t found anywhere else.
But as residents of Lake Lanier know, the sweetest part of lake life here extends beyond the scenery. In fact, it often ends up right under your nose — on your dinner plate. The dining options around the lake are plentiful, but the exclusive nosh spots that seat you right up at the water make this area a residence to envy.
Ranging from wooden picnic tables and paper towels to tiki-laden floating docks, resort-style menus and courtesy dock cocktails, there’s truly a place to appease any appetite, to complement a lake day done by an adventurous boat full of friends or a family full of enthusiastic little ones, a quiet, couple’s night out or sophisticated sunset cruise. Once you’ve picked a place, the options on each menu are endless, but we’ve rounded up our favorites and narrowed down their must-order menu items to get you started. We can’t wait to see what you order.
Pelican Pete’s Tiki Bar & Grill
Located right in the middle of the lake, this is not the Pelican Pete’s you popped into for hot dogs a few years ago — let’s get that out of the way. General Manager Brian Grill and his team have reinvented the floating dock concession stand to be a true tiki bar with a growing reputation for sit-down eats.
The best part about Pelican Pete’s is the experience it delivers as a part of Port Royale Marina. It’s the perfect way to spend the day on the lake, especially if you don’t have a boat. Your crew can park the car, rent a boat on site, stock it with all the day supplies you’ll need (floatables, coolers, snacks, life jackets and more) and grab either lunch or dinner, or both, when you come back to refuel.
Second only to the seemingly endless view of the horizon, Pelican Pete’s menu is one of the best on the lake. Choose an entree to amp up the island feel, like the baja fish tacos, succulent grilled fish smothered in creamy baja sauce atop of a bed of fresh pineapple salsa and shredded lettuce. Wash it down with The Lava Flow — a traditional Pina Colada swirled with luscious, strawberry puree.
New this season, the Captain’s Burger adds a Southern twist on the staple burger selection, topping a fresh, handmade patty with sharp, rich pimento cheese and tangy green pepper jelly, served with zesty seasoned fries. Get one thing straight — although your food may come served in a plastic basket (it’s a floating dock, after all), it’s culinary craftsmanship all the way. Enjoy it to the tunes of live music, watching your kids play in the water feature or just counting the boats that go by. They’re open every day once summer starts, so whether you come for the food, the buoyant ambiance or the famous frozen cocktails, your next trip to these docks will leave a tasty mark. bestinboating.com/lake-restaurants/lanier-pelican-petes
Far from your typical dining experience, lunch or dinner at Fish Tales is more like going on vacation. The courtesy docks let you jump from water fun right into whetting your whistle and a giant sandbox filled with beach toys keeps the kids happy before and after the meal. The live music and beautiful views of Hideaway Bay Marina plus a menu to satisfy everyone on board keeps the adults happy, too, delivering a bottom line that Fish Tales has everything to make you want to kick back and stay awhile — like going to the beach, without ever leaving your neighborhood.
Start your vacation by ordering the signature item — a platter of Fish Tales for the table. These fresh, hand-cut grouper fingers are served with a creamy, homemade dill tartar sauce. Bigger appetites can tackle the giant Grouper Sandwich, a heaping serving of fried grouper filet served on a banh mi roll (made from H&F Bread Co. out of Atlanta) and topped with lettuce, juicy red tomato and classic crunchy onion. Fish Tales’ fish tacos are stuffed with blackened tilapia, lettuce, cheese and homemade pico de gallo before getting doused in the restaurant’s own spicy boom boom sauce. You can order them with grouper, red snapper, salmon or shrimp, if you can resist the temptation to order all four. The menu’s hidden gem is the ahi tuna. A fresh switch from the fried food sampling, this dish is a feast for your belly and your eyes with a gorgeous plate of vibrant yellow fin tuna seared with sesame seeds and black pepper and served over fresh greens, drizzled with a spicy sriracha honey soy sauce that the chefs make from scratch.
The culinary goals at Fish Tales make this one hard to pass up when making your lakeside snack selection. They’re aiming for something a little different, which as a result, makes them stand out. Just make sure you get there early because it’s no longer a secret, and tonight’s line has probably already started. fishtaleslakelanier.com
Bullfrogs Bar & Grille
It’s hard to talk about living on the lake without mentioning the biggest resort on the local radar. Lanier Islands offers a full-service way to soak up all that lake life offers — golfing, spa days, boating, water sports, outdoor adventures and more — in one place. That includes good meals at Bullfrogs Bar & Grille, a casual indoor-outdoor restaurant located on the ground floor of Legacy Lodge. Bullfrogs is easy access for guests already on the property, and just a short walk from the water for drive-by boaters. So whether you crave draft beers or frozen cocktails ordered onsite from the pool window, or you’ve settled on a table outside packed with plates of the restaurant’s award-winning racks of ribs and finger-licking barbecue shrimp, from the second you pull up to that courtesy dock — or leave your room — you’re in for elevated and creative culinary concoctions.
The menu includes classics like a crispy fried seafood sandwich and burgers served with sweet potato waffle fries, nachos or veggie quesadillas. They’re known more for being fresh and inventive, and options like the grilled cheese sandwich stacked high with creamy mac and cheese, juicy red tomatoes and crispy fried bacon on buttered Texas toast prove it.
Added to an array of lighter options like an Antioxidant salad or black-eyed pea hummus, anything you order makes it hard to even think about packing your own picnic.
That includes dessert. The cakes, pies and more are all homemade, with a menu that changes so often, the servers deliver it audibly. The real treat is that you can enjoy whatever you order with a fire pit crackling amidst friends and family conversation, the lake twinkling in the moonlight in front of you and the pool sparkling at your back — truly, a glimpse of the good life that’s pretty hard to beat. lanierislands.com/dining/bullfrogs
Skogie’s on Lake Lanier
Good news for lake dwellers on the north end of Lake Lanier: You haven’t been forgotten. As the only waterfront restaurant above Browns Bridge Road located near the Gainesville Marina, Skogie’s holds its own, offering regulars and first-timers, seniors and young families a little bit of everything — stellar food, great live music and the perfect place to have an ice-cold pint when you get off the water. If you’re one of the regulars, then you know it’s the kind of place where they know your order before you even sit down. If you’re just passing through, then it’s the kind of place that won’t take long to make you want to be a regular.
Husband and wife owners Tony and Heather Jonovitch also own the coffee shop inside The Lawrence Pharmacy nearby, so plenty of people already start their day with them in mind. But Skogie’s combination of a family-run feel and a relaxed, laid-back vibe make it a can’t miss for any lake dweller. Anyone can enjoy the most important meal of the day with them on Saturdays, or during brunch on Sundays. Tony himself may even be the one cooking your omelet.
That level of personal service is what makes Skogie’s such a hit — they’ve infused a little of their own personalities into the everyday experience. You’ll see classic Key West-inspired decor and nuanced menu items from Tony’s 37 years in the business — like the Cuban sandwich, the Caribbean plate with fried plantains or the classic jerk plate of chicken, pork or grouper. People will preach about the burgers, but the Blackjack chicken sandwich and the salmon B.L.T.A. have held their own as customer favorites since they first popped up on the menu. Just like their neighbors to the south, expect everything to be hand-breaded, battered and made to order.
Nothing fancy, this tucked away, pick-your-own-table kind of place offers indoor, air conditioned seating or picnic tables on the patio, a brand-new bar with 14 craft beers on tap, plus live music on the weekends. Whatever meal you join them for, this restaurant’s beachy, comfortable vibe lets you continue your lake day, seemingly uninterrupted, as you dock, dine and get back out there. Land captains are welcome, too. skogieslakefrontrestaurant.us