In the Ozarks of central Missouri, summer lake culture is about sun, water, food and the best ways to enjoy all three. Restaurants have adapted to make it easy for people to jump in their boats and hop from dock to dock without missing a moment of the lake lifestyle. Be sure to plan ahead to hit all your favorite destinations. Here are 25 of the best places to dock-hop:
Beaver’s at the Dam Bar and Grill — Beaver’s is located on the north shore with a view of historic Bagnell Dam. Two levels of open decks provide ample seating for guests to enjoy the calamari appetizer or grouper sandwich. Weekly specials include live entertainment on Friday and Saturday, and a breakfast buffet on weekends. The restaurant also hosts the Powerboat Lake Race in June.
Schmidty’s — This small bar in sheltered Tiki Bay started with the owner’s own capital and quickly grew because of the success of the Leg Spreader, the restaurant’s signature drink. Handmade pizzas, crab legs and walking tacos — hamburger meat, lettuce and sour cream inside a bag of nacho cheese Doritos — are also available under the covered outdoor seating.
(Mini) Docknockers Beach Bar and Grill — Bright umbrellas line the two-tiered deck of this scenic restaurant known around the lake for its seafood. Although it operated in small, or mini, capacity during summer 2013, guests will be able to enjoy a full menu, which includes the popular peel-and-eat shrimp or a bucket of crab legs they can break apart with wooden hammers, during the upcoming season.
H. Toad’s Bar and Grill — The diverse menu of this expansive resort includes everything from burgers to frog legs. Guests can choose indoor or outdoor seating, or swim up to the pool bar. Big-name celebrities like Brett Michaels and Nelly have performed during the free live entertainment events the restaurant hosts every other weekend. Features include a spa, boutique and market, and kiosks situated around the resort help guests arrange parasailing trips and boat rentals.
Shady Gators — This self-proclaimed “Party Capital of the Lake of the Ozarks” carries several Cajun favorites such as chicken gumbo, jambalaya and gator bites — hickory-smoked and flash-fried gator filets in a citrus blend. Live bands and DJs perform every Tuesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and sand volleyball matches are common occurrences.
Richard Knoggins Pub and Grill — Cozy indoor seating with a game loft and a cook-to-order philosophy epitomize this small mom-and-pop restaurant. In addition to pizza and burgers, diners can also order the popular “The Unit,” a massive half-pound, all-beef hot dog. All food is air-baked, never deep-fried.
Frogs Bar and Grill — A small bar, indoor dining area and two outer decks afford a view of the water anywhere guests choose to sit. Diners can purchase made-to-order burgers and sandwiches and spin the large drink wheel for mystery drinks, including both alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages. Ice-cold beer is also available by the bottle.
Coconuts Caribbean Beach Bar and Grill — Palm trees, a sandy beach and a swim-up pool bar are prominent features of this Caribbean-themed bar and grill. DJs and live bands play weekly to entertain diners indoors and outdoors. The popular White Fish Bowl is served with black beans, mandarin oranges and Pico de Gallo on jasmine rice with a sweet Thai chili sauce.
Jolly Rogers Grub and Grog — This restaurant is known for its pirate-themed atmosphere and galley, or kitchen. Guests can relax in the covered outdoor seating and open deck, or pull up a chair beside the boat-shaped bar. Famous onion rings are served with Cajun horseradish. A gift shop offers apparel and the sauces and seasonings used in some menu items.
Big Dick’s Halfway Inn — Big Dick’s is located halfway between the Truman and Bagnell Dams. Live entertainment and a Tiki bar are available for diners on the weekends. Besides its popular tenderloins purchased from the local meat market, the restaurant is known for “Shooting the Minnow,” which is the practice of swallowing a live minnow in whatever beverage guests prefer.
Bear Bottom Resort — This restaurant is part of a sprawling, family-owned resort, complete with campgrounds, rental cabins and a large waterslide that is easy to spot from the water. Live bands play every weekend, followed by the owner performing as a DJ for “Club Bear Bottom.” Nachos are a popular choice from the menu, and just a half order can feed three to four people.
Captain Ron’s — Guests have access to two sandy beaches, four Tiki bars and Captain Ron’s very own pirate ship in this secluded cove. Indoor and outdoor seating lets customers enjoy a grouper sandwich or one of the live bands that play every night during the summer. Captain Ron’s is also home of the Shootout, a boat race and the biggest event at the lake.
Franky and Louie’s Beach Front Bar and Grill — This restaurant aims to bring a piece of Key West to the Midwest. A white sand beach and covered seating help evoke the beach lifestyle, while live music keeps guests entertained daily. Pizzas are crowd favorites, and the Surf Side Snack Shop provides peel-and-eat shrimp as well as ice cream and fruit smoothies.
Bumps Barefoot Bar — Bumps offers an extensive assortment of dishes, including sandwiches, wraps and 9 ounce “Hand Pattied” gourmet burgers. A peel-and-eat shrimp appetizer is available in season — cooked, chilled and served with cocktail sauce. Breakfast is served on weekends and holidays. The gift shop on the gas dock sells apparel and souvenirs.
Ozark Bar-B-Que — Guests are afforded great views high above the main channel at this waterfront restaurant. All barbeque menu items — chicken, pork, ribs and sausage — are hickory-smoked on site. Also popular is a bucket of homemade onion rings big enough to share. In the gift shop, customers can purchase apparel as well as candy, flotation devices and water tubes.
Dog Days Bar and Grill — During 2011, Powerboat Magazine voted Dog Days “#1 Restaurant on the Water.” It offers something for almost any dock-hopper. Each year during July, the restaurant hosts Aquapalooza, the lake’s largest free concert event, and weekly entertainment features both national and regional artists. Menu favorites include steak, seafood and pasta.
Larry’s on the Lake — A floating Tiki bar distinguishes this restaurant from any other on the lake. Burgers, salads, pizzas and tacos are just some of the highlights on the diverse menu, with Larrywood Weekly Specials like dollar sliders on Mondays. Diners can also participate in the Big Larry Challenge, devouring 5 pounds of the Big Larry Burger with fries and onion rings in 30 minutes or less.
Paradise Restaurant and Bar — This tropical-themed paradise is open seven days a week, its lakefront location offering expansive views of the water. Wednesday night is “Ladies Night” with half off all frozen drinks. The restaurant also hosts live entertainment and has a menu including salads, sandwiches, burgers and succulent seafood entrées like Ginger Glazed Salmon with Mangos.
The Fish and Company — Barefoot country singer Dale Blue has made this restaurant his new home and regular performance location. Covered patio seating provides a picturesque place for guests to enjoy any one of the burgers, sandwiches or world famous Nathan’s quarter pound, all-beef hot dogs. Food is also available dockside-to-go.
Papa Chubby’s Food and Booze — This Chicago-style restaurant designed its menu to reflect the best of the Windy City. Diners can order one of Chubby’s 14-inch Chicago Thin Crust Pizzas or dig into a signature Gyro. A sandy beach provides easy access to the water and a place for guests to lounge. Live entertainment and weekend events help define the nightlife.
Mariners Pier 31 Restaurant and Marina — Located on-site at the Pier 31 Marina, this restaurant is open year-round and is suitable for all ages. The varied menu includes catfish, steak, pasta and tacos. Customers can browse for souvenirs and apparel in the gift shop or make arrangements at the marina for boat, personal watercraft or boat slip rentals.
Shorty Pants Lounge and Marina — The large wooden deck of the Shorty Pants Lounge overlooks the water at this Cajun-themed restaurant. The New Orleans-inspired menu offers spices from Louisiana, crab cakes, étouffée and po’boy sandwiches. The outdoor Tiki bar serves many popular cocktails like the Cajun Bloody Mary.
Bulldog’s Beach House Bar and Grill —Known for its great bartending, Bulldog’s is also the self-proclaimed “Home of the Stuffed Burger.” The Beach House Burger is stuffed with a signature blend of cheeses and herbs, and the Goober Burger is stuffed with peanut butter. Guests can also enjoy live entertainment and drink specials at the Tiki bar.
The Duck — This establishment gives guests the only fine dining experience on the lakefront. With a wine list of more than 180 selections, The Duck is also the only restaurant on the lake to receive Wine Spectator Magazine’s “Award of Excellence.” Menu items include seafood, dishes made with certified Angus Beef and the popular Grilled Rack of Lamb.
The Jerk Shack — Bright powder blue walls draw diners off the water and into this Jamaican-themed restaurant. Fried plantains as well as rice and peas make up the island-inspired menu, complete with the popular Rasta Jerk Chicken seasoned with mango sauce and served with grilled pineapple. Guests can also use the gas dock and visit the gift shop for apparel.