It is somewhere in the mid-60s tonight, and I’ve got on a cozy sweater and a pair of jeans. Normally, this wouldn’t really matter, particularly in a food blog, but it’s June 16, a date that marks the true foray into summer and, of course, the inevitable—and highly desirable—al fresco dining season.
Of course, right now, it feels like late August in the Poconos, where polar fleece jackets are proper outdoor dining attire and roasted marshmallows are standard fare. But, if the recent bout of wacky weather has told us anything, it’s that both the sun and the rain can come out at any time. So we’d better be prepared to throw up an umbrella or lather up with some sunscreen.
Since we’re hopeful for the latter around here at MLT, we thought we’d do a little fantasizing out loud about dining under a bright blue or starry sky …
Everyone knows that West Chester, Manayunk and Center City have a zillion outdoor dining options, many on the busy sidewalks, others on rooftops or tucked away in hidden gardens. Coyote Crossing in the borough and in Conshohocken come to mind, as does Avalon, the pup-friendly Four Dogs Tavern a little farther out of town, and The Gables in Chadds Ford.
In the city, there’s the Continental Midtown, RAW Sushi & Sake Lounge, Ernesto’s 1521 Cafe, Positano Coast, City Tavern, Twenty Manning, Gayle, Southwark and numerous other see-and-be-seen or hide-from-everyone spots, including Rittenhouse Square.
But no matter how many places I go to, one of my absolute favorite places to dine outside on the Main Line continues to be 333 Belrose’s patio. It is cozy, yet lively, and affords a nice mix of people-watching and intimacy. And if you haven’t been, the twin patios at Susanna Foo’s are very pretty, with brick walls, lush greenery and soothing water fountains. For more Asian al fresco with a side of hustle and bustle, Berwyn’s Nectar is always popular (might I suggest a round of mango-ginger martinis?), and for French flair, the patio at george’s in Spread Eagle Village is another cozy spot where you can enjoy a heary Caesar salad with shrimp and a crispy side of pomme frites with garlic aioli, or a more lavish three-course meal.
Equally pleasant is Restaurant Taquet‘s porch at the Wayne Hotel. Hands down, one of the most romantic and peaceful places to enjoy dinner or, as is my preference, dessert and an after-dinner drink—especially in late July and August when the true north-south migration begins. The same goes for the terrace at the General Warren Inne, which feels just like you’re dining in a friend’s garden, without the guilt of feeling like you have to lend a hand with the dishes. Elegance also abounds at Pond and Bistro Cassis, where you can dine pondside with beautiful swans basking in the evening glow.
The patio at Plate in Suburban Square is surprisingly lovely, again best enjoyed when crowds are more subdued (like a Sunday evening) and everyone’s at home relishing their own patios and decks after a day of yard work or playtime at the beach. If you’re really lucky and you have a friend who belongs to the Merion Cricket Club—or better yet, you’re a member—nothing says summer on the Main Line better than cocktails and dinner on the massive porch in full view of the vast lawn.
There are so many special outdoor dining spaces up and down the Main Line and, of course, in all four directions leading away from it. It’s hard to pin down just where you might feel the most comfortable on any given afternoon or evening. The great thing is, whatever your mood, there is a chair—and a little patch of sky—with your name on it as far as the R5 goes and beyond. So take advantage of those pretty days and nights when they come, because when another hailstorm hits, you won’t feel quite as gray as the sky.