A survey of Southwest's best outdoor dining options
Without a doubt, Stella's Fish Caf, 1400 W. Lake St., has one of the supreme outdoor dining hotspots in the city. Proffering a stunning view of the Downtown skyline, dining out “on top of Stella's” is a treat. On the menu, one will find everything you would expect to find at a fish camp, fresh fish and oysters, Cajun and Creole dishes, fried grouper and Po' Boy sandwiches, and some things you might not, like Delta Dog Tater Tots. Another best bet is the Adult Lobster Roll, priced at a seemingly hefty $18.95, but worthwhile for the heaping portion of lobster that comes atop a buttered bun. Of course, the meal wouldn't be complete without a classic American dessert, like Key lime pie, cheesecake or banana cream pie.
The outdoor dining at Black Forest Inn, 1 E. 26th St., focuses not on a view of what's outside, but an oasis within, in its hidden terrace shaded by plenty of greenery and latticework. The Eat Street favorite offers a wide selection of German beers, and German favorites like potato pancakes, spaetzle, cabbage, sausage and schnitzel.
The longstanding, Lyn-Lake neighborhood favorite, It's Greek to Me, 626 W. Lake St., also offers outdoor dining quietly tucked away from the street. The running fountain guarantees that all city noise comes to a standstill once you're retreated to the patio. The casual, welcoming atmosphere allows you to eat Greek in comfort, with plenty of vegetarian options and daily specials.
If you are seeking a family-friendly variety of alfresco dining, consider Liberty Frozen Custard, 5410 Nicollet Ave. The converted filling station offers a brightly colored scene with a '50s feel and, most importantly, frozen custard treats. Those who don't subscribe to the dessert-first philosophy can start off with Nathan's hot dogs, Italian beef sandwiches and other savory snacks. The walk-up window suits members of the active set, seeking a quick pit stop off the nearby trails along Minnehaha Creek.
Caf Twenty-Eight, 2724 W. 43rd St., offers a wholesome, bistro-style menu and quaint patio dining just a stone's throw from Lake Harriet. The chef makes use of local, seasonal ingredients whenever possible. The Linden Hills neighborhood restaurant serves lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch, and has a kids' menu featuring items priced at just $4.95.
On the heels of Lake Calhoun's boating docks lies Tin Fish, 3000 Calhoun Parkway East, a casual, quick-service seafood restaurant. Enjoy chowders, fish tacos, fish sandwiches and more, while soaking up a few rays, the view of Lake Calhoun and its ubiquitous joggers, bladers and power walkers.
Sonny's Crema Caf, 3401 Lyndale Ave. S., has created a European-inspired boulevard garden and terrace for ice cream, pizza, pasta and desserts. Organic cream and milk, and other fine ingredients are whipped up into interesting ice cream flavors like strawberry basil vinaigrette and vanilla rum.
Auriga, 1930 Hennepin Ave., James Beard award-winning restaurant, has an intimate, covered outdoor dining space. The menu emphasizes local, organic, seasonal ingredients and changes weekly. The atmosphere, inside and out, is versatile, awaiting you for a romantic three-course meal with a date, or a casual appetizer and glass of wine, alone or with friends. The pizzas are almost always a hit, with crispy thin crust, topped with innovative flavor combinations. One example is tomato with pecorino, parsley and truffle honey, but the pizza selection changes with the rest of the menu.
At Campiello, 1320 W. Lake St., the food is described as “rustic contemporary” and the quaint outdoor dining section along Lake Street fits that bill. Savor pastas, roasted meats, hand-tossed pizzas and more at one of the white-linen-tablecloth-lined tables.
This year, The View Restaurant and Lounge, 2730 W. Lake St., replaced Dixie's, with its open-air dining option overlooking Lake Calhoun. Southern-inspired food and dcor were swapped out for a contemporary American menu and a modern makeover. The View is open daily for lunch and dinner with weekend brunches.
The dining establishments of Tom Pham have officially taken over the corner of 26th and Nicollet. Azia, the Caterpillar Lounge and Anemoni sushi and oyster bar, 2550 Nicollet Ave., serve the nighttime whims of any hipster, with offerings ranging from tropical cocktails to Asian-fusion cuisine to sushi and sake, and yes, outdoor dining along Nicollet.