Racine icon: Cliff’s Boathouse Cafe calls it quits as of Labor Day

Cliff's Boat House
"There is nothing about this place that will impress you," wrote a recent reviewer, "except the entire experience."

Food fan favorite, Cliff’s Boathouse Cafe, 301 Hamilton St., just off Main Street, announced this week that it will close on Labor Day, Sept. 2. Manager Marc Brunette took to Facebook Tuesday to give customers the bad news.

“(I)t is with heavy hearts that I have to tell u all this, but Cliff’s is closing for good,” he posted. “Due to unforeseen circumstances, both building and kitchen equipment that we currently use … and Kelly the cook is also leaving so we have no choice but to close. I am so sorry, but it has to happen. We will miss every one of you.”

By Wednesday morning nearly 400 people had commented on the post and 433 had shared the news.

“Thirty years ago, I walked to this place from our boat docked by the Coast Guard station at the mouth of the Root River,” wrote a recent reviewer on TripAdvisor.” I can’t count the number of times I have enjoyed their over-easy eggs cooked to perfection with way over-buttered toast and of course a course of potato pancakes. Cliff’s continues to capture a slice of uniquely Racine boating culture.”

Reviewers praised Cliff’s for its potato pancakes and smelt.

Several other reviewers praised the eatery as one of the few places diners could enjoy smelt. “Four of us had smelt fry with potato pancakes,” a reviewer wrote in June. “The coleslaw was very good as well. I don’t know of anywhere else in Racine that has smelt and it was very reasonable and very crispy. Some of the best potato pancakes I’ve had.”

‘Vibe is pure Wisconsin’

And at least one reviewer earlier in the year noted that the café was great because of all the things it wasn’t. “Nothing fancy here,” he wrote. “Just great service and excellent food. There is nothing about this place that will impress you, except the entire experience. The floor is cockeyed, the building looks like a garage. But the breakfast is fantastic, and the vibe is pure Wisconsin.”

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Rex Davenport is a reporter, editor and editorial project manager with more than 40 years of experience in newspaper, business magazines and other content channels.