Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Summertime and the Dining is Easy


Okay, time to revisit my paltry little list from last year (Patios to Know 06/06) regarding great outdoor dining options in the cities. Some, I still whole-heartedly agree with, while others make me wonder what I was thinking (Fabulous Ferns? What? Hello Reaching!! It's call "best patios" not "has patio.")


#1) Alright, there's the venerable W.A. Frost, which is a delight to behold. It's gorgeous with phenomenal cheese plates, respectable martinis and free tasteless bread sticks on every table! Just don't order the food. Seriously, folks, do you have any idea how much time, energy and money I have wasted on place? Just don't do it. It's gorgeous, be happy you're here and if you're starving, leave.
#2) In fact, may I suggest you just toddle on down the street to La Grolla? They also have a lovely little patio. It's shaded, so best visited on warmer days. But should you be forced to go inside, I think you'll find yourself quite pleased. They make all of their pastas from scratch and the owner - Antonio is a bit notorious in the local restaurant scene (yes there is too a scene and I'm privy to it! I know people!) The fiend seems to enjoy making at least one server an evening well up and cultivates fanatical sous chefs - but in a really good way. The way that ensures your food and dining service will be outstanding. Order the appetizer of scallops wrapped in angel hair pasta, fried and served over lobster sauce. They are sweet, creamy, salty, savory, crisp and tender. What more could a diner ask for in a bite? Entrees are highlighted by the seafood cartoccio, delectable little fresh nibbles steamed in parchment paper. All of the fresh flavors of the sea are enhanced and enchanted by mists of lemon essence and nibbles of garlic. Desserts are wonderful, too. My favorite is the ricotta cheesecake of such luscious, buoyant texture and rich, fruity depths of flavor that I tried to convince my piece to marry me. Sadly, though, I ate him and asked instead for just one more.
#3) What's this, you say? Too pricey? Who am I to assume that you can live in such a manner? Well, I merely imply that you should not that it's possible. Need I remind you of the conditions that I am used to living in? Then how about the patio at the CC Club? It really is the perfect spot for cheap, good food (my favorite is the CC Club with pastrami and pepper jack cheese - they make a damn fine Cajun Chicken sandwich as well.) The geraniums, TV and mounted fans create a backyard of such comfort that I wonder why I even bother with the lawn chairs on my back deck? And the drinks don't let you down, either. Punchy and prompt the servers we've had have always been attentive and quick on the pour.
#4) El Meson hangs in there from last year. Although, I haven't made it over there this spring so far, I dream of the ceviche and half priced sangria bottles!
#5) Black Forest really is a gorgeous spot for its beauty, but I never know what to do when I get there. If the weather is perfect for lingering in a patio, the fried and bulky German food and beer ends up being a little much to ingest. But, wow, is it pretty.
#6) Craftsman's secluded and gorgeously landscaped patio is a set up that can't be beat. There's construction on Lake Street right now, but the air was still and sweet last time we were there (if a little chilly.) Order one of their specialty martinis, munch on a little grilled pizza topped with fresh, locally sourced ingredients and you'll be in for summer bliss.
#7) Day by Day Cafe. Recovery people make me twitchy when I'm hungover, but I have to remind myself that they are on a good and healthy path. Chances are that they are not judging me in their clear minds, but more likely the smell of bar floor clinging to my clothing, the red and bleary eyes - not to mention the twitching- is probably the great reminder that they need to thank their sponsor and continue to avoid the demon liquor. The back yard garden on this place is one of the most serene places to sample a little breakfast, sip some industrial strength coffee and savor the glory that this day brings to you. Keep the food order simple, and thus keeping the price down and bask in the early summer sunshine.
#8) The happy hour patio that the local press keeps telling me is the best is Solera's rooftop. Trouble is that I can't get anyone that I know to go there with me. Apparently the food is okay, but over-priced. Even when my company is sponsoring an event, no one will go here. (We are doing bocce ball at Brit's on Friday - I'll let you know how that goes.) So for the happy hour patio I end up at most is the sidewalk by Cafe Barbette. They don't have much in the way of noshing choices, but the mussels and award wining pommes frites are on special 4-6 p.m. and are delectable! Oh, how I long for the tang of the goopy saffron aioli floating over my tongue followed by the crispy, salty appearance of another handful of fries in my mouth. The largest drawback is 27A bus line. Every half an hour during rush hour a hulking, chugging, exhaust billowing bus lurches by leaving you and your food covered with the fumes of the city.
#9) It's Greek to Me as a private and large patio for Uptown framed by lattice work, strewn with pots of blooming plants and serves hearty portions of Greek favorites. The pastitsio alone could fill you up for days on end. It's lovely in the middle of everything, but still feels relatively secluded. Just remember not to go the first Thursday of every warm weather month. It's so loud, smelly and overwhelming that you'll come to resent anyone in ownership of a motorcycle for at least a couple of months to come.
#10) Things are looking a little thin here... Hmm... do I start listing nice patios of places that I never go to, or the dumpy patios that I frequent?
There's the elegance of the View patio (formerly Dixie's on Calhoun.) The last time I went there - the only time I went there, truth be told, I was served one piece of meat- a tiny slice off a chicken breast on a skewer with a side of soy sauce and charged $9 for it! That's a nickel's worth of food! If that!
There's the patio off of the Muddy Pig, that's a small little strip of real estate, but a great spot for a mug of beer from there extensive list and a little snack on some tasty bruchetta with a thick, sweet balsamic reduction. I go there often, but I'd rather you didn't. It's really small and barely a patio. It's nearly a smoking lounge that is occasionally blasted by the most heavenly warm, garlic scented air straight from the kitchen exhaust.
Or, even further down the line of expectations, there's the outside of J.R. Mack's bar on West 7th - near nothing except the neighborhood that I live in. The food is bar food, but the bad kind. The regulars are a surly lot and the view is almost of the Mississippi river, but newly obscured by the housing development going in. It ain't much to look at, but the drinks are strong and the Sunday night bartender knows us. He's never let us go dry. The minute I'm in danger of needing to order my own drink, he's there with a refresher - stiff and speedy. (Just like I like my - nah! Too easy.)
So, really, who's to know what your criteria is for a great patio? I'm just trying to give you some options for the next time you realize that you want to go out to eat, but where?

1 Comments:

At 12:07 PM , Blogger Scott McGerik said...

You have a good list of good patios.

Might I suggest Sweeney's in St Paul. Their patio is total enclosed and the food is reasonably good. If you like craft beer, they got a acceptable selection.

Another rooftop patio is Stella's in Uptown. I like it better than Solera's, which I found to be noisy due to rooftop vents and other things. Plus, the view is partially obscured by a billboard. Stella's rooftop patio has got to have the best view of down town Minneapolis.

 

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