Best Restaurants in Wausau, WI
PHOTO CREDIT: J. Kyle Keener
When the sun goes down in the Wausau region, the nightlife is just heating up. This city can satisfy an appetite for a night on the town, whether you enjoy dining at a trendy restaurant, sipping martinis or downing a pint at a local pub, or tapping your feet to live music at a nightclub.
Located in the heart of downtown Wausau, City Grill is an ideal place to start off the evening, and it doesn’t matter if you’re going for a fun or formal night out. The three-year-old restaurant and bar defines itself as an American bistro offering a casual, contemporary dining atmosphere.
“If you picked us up and put us in any American city, we’d fit right in,” says Renee Haertle, general manager. “We have unique, upscale décor with a lot of marble and wood. This is something Wausau hadn’t seen before.”
City Grill’s ambience isn’t the only thing about it that’s sophisticated – the menu is impressive as well.
“Our fresh sea scallops with a balsamic reduction are phenomenal, and our Maryland-style crab cakes are all made fresh in-house,” Haertle says. “We also serve certified Angus beef steaks, and our Maytag Bleu potato chips are excellent. They’re house-cut chips served with our own Maytag sauce and melted pepper jack and buttermilk bleu cheese.”
Weeknight diners can take advantage of City Grill’s happy hour, Monday through Friday from 4 to 7 p.m.
Malarkey’s Pub is another happening place to hit the town. Co-owners Tyler Vogt and Todd Link opened the venue in 2007 “to provide more nightlife options in Wausau,” according to Vogt.
“We’re both bartenders and carpenters, and we built everything inside the bar, including the 30-foot back bar, the stage and the booths. It was a blank canvas,” Vogt says. “It’s got a European-inspired feel. A lot of bigger downtowns have something like this, but Wausau didn’t.”
Malarkey’s is the only non-smoking bar in Wausau, and the pub features live music five nights a week.
“There’s always something going on here Tuesday through Saturday,” Vogt says. “We’ve had rock, folk, R&B, Americana. We book bands from all over the Midwest and as far as Seattle and North Carolina. The sheer talent that comes in here is amazing.”
Tuesdays are open mike night at Malarkey’s, when local artists can get on stage to play original or cover songs during a 15-minute set. The pub also serves appetizers and sushi, and its selection of spirits is unparalleled.
A variety of other local establishments provide good eats, drinks and even entertainment after sundown. One Weston hot spot, Buffalo Wings & Rings, garnered nods as the top small chain in the nation. Wish Wisconsin Steakhouse, also in Weston, pairs a posh menu with an impressive wine list, while Wausau Mine Co. offers healthy cuisine in a recreated mine shaft.
“I like the positive impact we’ve had on nightlife in Wausau,” Vogt says of Malarkey’s. “We’ve been amazed at the number of people that have come through our doors. And we’re bringing bands that have never been to Wausau before. Even out-of-towners have made us a destination.”