The lilacs are in bloom, the sun is bright, and it's not dark until nearly 9:00pm. Why in the world would you eat indoors? My dining preferences from now until well after Labor Day are all al fresco.
Other than your own back patio, what are your favorite outdoor dining options in the Buff? Here are a dozen of mine and the reasons why I like them. You'll note the running theme of "quiet." I get that Millennials gravitate to exposed-pipe-industrial din, but I like to carry on a conversation during dinner--without having to shout. Sitting in traffic fumes with horns blaring is not my idea of a fun dining environment.
Coco Bar and Bistro
Even some Coco regulars may be unaware of the outdoor courtyard. Out a door beyond the bar, this hidden gem is completely enclosed, filled with flowers and herbs. No Main Street noise penetrates, and the French country-style patio furniture, complete with umbrellas, is delightful. The food? I've never had a bad meal at Coco's. The salads are spectacular (my favorite is the French Country with goat cheese, beets, greens, walnuts and a sherry vinaigrette), and the designer pizzas never disappoint. Fortunately it's open for both lunch and dinner. Treat yourself and some friends to a healthy, quiet outdoor meal.
The Left Bank
Even when I'm craving the fried calamari (best in Buffalo), I won't eat indoors at Left Bank. It's just too noisy (sorry Mike). However, the moment the patio opens, all bets are off. To the east of the indoor dining room, the patio is relatively quiet (there's a fire station across the street!) and the food is divine. It's even open on Monday!
The completely enclosed courtyard offers open air without traffic din to deal with, even though you are right on Chippewa. Furnished like you'd like to deck out your own back deck, with stuffed chairs and sofas as well as linen-clad tables. The food is glorious, of course. Chef Brian Mietus is one of Buffalo's finest. Tip: try the pecan-crusted Salmon. It's walking distance from Shea's, Irish Classical, 710, Alleyway and RLTP, so make it an evening with dinner and a play. In fact, that was what Mark Goldman intended when he purchased the historic Calumet building, bedecked in terra-cotta, all those many years ago. A case of "build it and they will come." Chippewa was a dangerous, decrepit, red light district, right at the foot of the Theatre District. Really? This fine dining establishment proved to be the catalyst needed to turn the entire district around.
Cozy, quiet, enclosed and comfortable. Gabe's secret patio is hidden out back, down a stair or two, deep in the heart of Allentown. You can't go wrong with the sandwiches (named after Allentown streets!), but keep in mind: the best wings in Buffalo are t Gabe's. Really.
Call ahead to make sure that patio seating is available. They tend to rent out the big, beautiful back porch to private parties. Ignore the under-construction on-street patio that they seem to be fabricating. The back porch is comfortable, peaceful and the perfect place to kick back and enjoy a summer evening and better than average pub fare in Williamsville.
Unbeknownst to most, Adam's Rib has an Eve's Garden. Really. It's right out the back door. Sure it overlooks the parking lot, but it's cute and quiet and the food cannot be beat. My favorite is the Lamb Lollipops, but their Fish Fry is top of the line. Very reasonable prices and great service at this old standby (yeah, I think I went there for high school prom). An oldie but goodie in Snyder.
Al E Ooops
In Lancaster, this place is worth the hike. Not only is the patio fabulous, the food is ridiculously good. And the prices are, well, very, very reasonable. This is not new cuisine or farm-to-table, it's better than pub food and cheaper than fine dining. Outdoor seating is porch casual, with a quasi-enclosed tent, over stuffed sofas, wicker chairs. Be sure to try the ribs.
As you walk through this place, head to the back. It gets progressively more outdoors the farther you go. The recently renovated back patio backs up to huge green space and is terrific, but there are semi-enclosed porches as well, handy in inclement weather. Other than the huge patio, the two best things about this typical combo-platter-Tex-Mex restaurant are the Salsa Bar (at least a dozen options, from pico de gallo to refried beans and gooey cheeses) and the horchata. This typical Mexican drink is non-alcoholic and perfectly concocted. I hear the margaritas rock, and the sangria is very well prepared. Dinner for two for under $20, plus drinks. With leftovers.
A great way to eat on the dock, even if you don't own a boat. Right on Canalside, you walk through the Naval and Military Museum and the restaurant itself to get to a glorious Buffalo River view. Plan on an hour wait and spend it wisely walking along the boardwalk or meandering along Veterans Way, a lovely winding path flanked by a dozen moving memorials to our fallen soldiers. Because it's right on the waterfront, it's always a few degrees cooler than inland. And although there is a bit of overflow noise from the boardwalk and boaters, you get to watch the Spirit of Buffalo pull up anchor and head out to sea (well, lake). The fish tacos are terrific.
The Dockside Bar and Grill
Recent renovations have made this spot overlooking the Erie Canal even more wnderful than before. Sit outside and watch the boats below dock and undock as they head up and down the Canal, all while devouring some of the best grilled veggies I've ever tasted (awesome chevre) or a humungous burger with all the fixins. In North Tonawanda, of course. And if that sounds too far away, know that a group of us regularly bicycle there from Elmwood Village for Sunday lunch. And none of us are spring chickens.
That old standby right on the lake. Founded in 1949, it's divey and a bit worn around the edges, but that just makes it feel comfortable. The patio almost overhangs the lake and is delightful The food is good, the portions are plentiful and the view is sublime, particularly at sunset. It's one of the only places that I know of that serves perch. Although Hoak's is known for its fish fries, I prefer the broiled scallops. Yum.
The Terrace at Delaware Park
I've saved the best for last. It's where I chose to celebrate my birthday last year, and I'm making a birthday dinner reservations there for this year, too. How can you possibly surpass dinner and drinks on the terrace of the Marcy Casino in Delaware Park overlooking Hoyt Lake? The food is lovely, of course, but I go there for the view. Here's an important tip to get the most out of this extraordinary venue: make your reservation (and be certain to make a reservation!) timed for about half an hour before sunset and specifiy outdoor seating. If you're truly fortunate you will be seated near the railing, but all outdoor seats feature the sun setting behind the Albright-Knox and the lights brilliantly illuminating the Buffalo History Museum. Simply magical.
These are just some of my al fresco favorites. What are yours? Tell me on Facebook or in Comments.
Eat in or eat out, but eat outdoors! Bon appétit,