A Side of Fresh Air

Al fresco dining on the Main Line never loses its luster.

333 Belrose’s chicken salad, a lunchtime favorite.In case you haven’t noticed, we’re on the other side of summer, with just 30 days or so to go before these dog days—and nights—are long gone and cooler fall temperatures prevail. That means there’s still plenty of time to wine and dine to the soundtrack of crickets, birds and the occasional buzz of traffic without the schlep, prep and cleanup.

Among the area’s al fresco stalwarts, the patio at Coyote Crossing has always earned well-deserved raves for its pretty wrought iron furniture, green market umbrellas and soothing fountain. On the proper Main Line, you could do far worse than Susanna Foo’s lush, Zen-exuding pair of courtyards, Plate’s petite, secluded patio, Gullifty’s beer garden and Azie on Main’s cozy fire pit. And on the western outskirts, one can sample Mas Mexicali Cantina’s festive rooftop and Firecreek’s spacious terrace.

In case you need a Plan B, here are four of my favorites.

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One of the best places to park this time of year is the patio at 333 Belrose Bar & Grill in Radnor. Tucked behind the restaurant’s bar and main dining room, this first-come, first-served enclave comes by its considerable charm in the way it balances a casual backyard feel with food that’s upscale enough to impress even the most highfalutin Main Liner—but is reasonably priced and gastronomically straightforward enough to appeal to all ages, tastes and budgets.

On the bar side of things, you’ll find a well-chosen wine list (that changes every few months) and plenty of top-shelf spirits to occupy your time while you’re in the very likely position of waiting for a table. White linens, metal tables and rattan chairs are accented with red glass votives and contemporary tableware, while bright orange-and-red market umbrellas shield the sun.

On cooler fall nights, outdoor heaters allow diners to chill without shivering. Potted plants and tasteful music add to the ambiance. If you’re seeking a bit more privacy, check out the two corner tables in the back.

Wednesday-Saturday, 333 Belrose will happily take your order until 10 p.m. (9 p.m. on Mondays and Tuesdays). If you don’t mind a late dinner, this is one of the nicest times to take in this first-rate patio’s true magic.

Right about now, chef Carlo deMarco is rolling out his late-summer menu, full of seasonally inspired dishes to wow guests with luscious tomatoes, corn, crab, berries and other regional flavors for months to come. The menu I sampled offered cool, spicy gazpacho topped with thick slices of avocado; tasty grilled zucchini quesadillas with caramelized onions, Jack cheese and fire-roasted corn salsa; and roasted Mediterranean-style salmon with black olive tapenade, melted fennel, arugula and a yellow tomato salad. All were lively dishes just right for a sultry summer night.
 

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Are you a summer happy-hour fan? Or maybe you like to start early and transition gradually from drinks and apps to a full-blown dinner? In either case, Tango fits the bill. Its quirky location alongside the R5 line might not seem all that optimal, but the back deck and bar have enough personality—and drink specials—to distract you from the clatter. And there’s almost always a fun crowd on hand to keep the atmosphere lively.

The snazzy 15-person Cantina Bar— with its terra-cotta-colored cushions and contemporary metal bar stools—is part of a spacious, covered wraparound patio with black, café-style metal tables. Its canopy is lined with twinkling lights, and the railings sport bright annuals in plastic planters (moss-lined or wooden planters would be an improvement). The dressed-down décor gives the deck a more informal vibe than what you’ll find inside, and there are heaters for cooler nights.

The full menu is available outside, allowing guests to make their evening as highbrow as they desire. Happy hour starts at 4:30 p.m. and runs until 6:30, featuring $5 wines by the glass, $2-$3 domestic bottled and draft brews, and half-priced margaritas and sangria. The selection of $5 appetizers can easily be combined with a hearty salad for a quick, casual meal. Summer specialty drinks—like the blueberry Limoncello martini, which literally tastes like a liquid blueberry pie—are sure to add a little flair to any girls’ night out.

In part because of its proximity to Longwood Gardens, The Gables at Chadds Ford is a great spot for lunch or dinner al fresco. But that’s not the only reason. Nestled in a restored barn foundation, the 50-seat patio is dressed up with classic blue-and-white market umbrellas, rattan and metal seating, lush greenery, and potted plants, slate flooring and gorgeous 7-foot stone walls. The soothing trickle of a waterfall makes a meal here all the more enchanting.

The Gables offers 15 wines by the glass, plus a 60-bottle list that expands nightly with different specials—or bring your own for a $7 corkage fee. Summer features refreshing seasonal cocktails, including champagne infused with fresh peach nectar and mango martinis. You’ll also find eight boutique beers on tap.

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The menu’s contemporary twist on traditional American cuisine utilizes French and Asian influences. Combat the warm weather’s zap on your appetite with one of the $20-and-under petite entrées. Regulars love the more traditional offerings—like calamari, the Gables salad, filet mignon with smoked bacon demi-glace, homemade bread, and the ostrich, buffalo and venison dishes. I couldn’t resist all the savory starters, not to mention the cheese plate. So I must admit that making it to the main course was a challenge.

Perhaps the best thing about The Gables is that you can actually reserve an outdoor table—atypical for most restaurants offering al fresco seating. And each month during summer, you and your friends can take in a little live jazz. (Call for dates and times—and reserve early.)
 

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Fresh local ingredients, innovative combinations and pleasant surroundings sum up Silverspoon Café, where a recent move to the Eagle Village Shops in Wayne has prompted this mom-and-pop operation’s fine-dining evolution.

The sun-kissed interior is inviting, but this BYO has been getting more attention for its outdoor seating atop 400 square feet of hand-laid brick, bordered by a lush array of flowers and shrubs, and set several hundred feet off the street. Round granite bistro tables with wrought iron pedestals are paired with polished bamboo and green rattan seats. Sundays and Mondays, the space is available for private parties.

These days, Silverspoon serves up great sandwiches, salads and soups for lunch, and more ambitious, globally inspired entrées later on. Daytime visitors can enjoy the Cape May panini (turkey, blueberry mustard and Provolone) along with crispy Parmesan-studded truffle fries. Every Wednesday night, chef Ron Silverberg treats diners to a culinary world tour: a prix-fixe menu that stops in four new countries each week for a reasonable $35. And his desserts—like the homemade blackberry granita with cream pearls served on a silver spoon over a glass of steaming dry ice—are cleverly conceived and refreshing.
 

AL FRESCO HOTSPOTS
333 Belrose Bar & Grill: 333 Belrose Lane, Radnor; (610) 293-1000, 333belrose.com
Tango: 39 Morris Ave., Bryn Mawr; (610) 526-9500, tastetango.com
The Gables at Chadds Ford: 423 Baltimore Pike, Chadds Ford; (610) 388-7700, thegablesatchaddsford.com
Silverspoon Café: 503 W. Lancaster Ave., Wayne; (610) 688-7646, silverspoonwayne.com
Azie on Main: 789 E. Lancaster Ave., Villanova; (610) 527-5700, azieonmain.com
Coyote Crossing: 800 Spring Mill Ave., Conshohocken; (610) 825-3000, coyotecrossing.com
Firecreek: 20 E. Lancaster Ave., Downingtown; (610) 269-6000, firecreek-restaurant.com
Gullifty’s: 1149 Lancaster Ave., Rosemont; (610) 525-1851, gulliftys.com
Más Mexicali Cantina: 102 E. Market St., West Chester; (610) 918-6280, mascantina.com
Plate: 105 Coulter Ave., Ardmore; (610) 642-5900, platerestaurant.com
Susanna Foo: 555 E. Lancaster Ave., Radnor; (610) 688-8808, susannafoo.com
 

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