One positive outgrowth of the pandemic is the way that seemingly every food-and-drink establishment sprouted some kind of outdoor dining venue. The more, the merrier, right? Listing them all isn't feasible, but be on the lookout for more suggestions in the coming weeks, and be sure to check hours and availability in advance. In the meantime, here's a place to start:
If there's one neighborhood that outdoes all others in terms of patios, it's St. Paul's Cathedral Hill. The gold standard — not just for the neighborhood, but for the Twin Cities — is the spacious, leafy patio behind W.A. Frost and Co. (374 Selby Av., wafrost.com).
Several other notables are hiding in plain sight, tucked behind their dining rooms, including Moscow on the Hill (371 Selby Av., moscowonthehill.com), Revival (525 Selby Av., revivalrestaurants.com) and Sweeney's Saloon (96 N. Dale St., sweeneyssaloon.com). There are great-looking newcomers, too: Handsome Hog (173 N. Western Av., handsomehog.com) and the Gnome Craft Pub (498 Selby Av., thegnomepub.com).
Across the river
Minneapolis' most-patios-per-capita counterpart is the North Loop. Top performers include Smack Shack (603 Washington Av. N., smack-shack.com), Red Rabbit (201 Washington Av. N., redrabbitmn.com), Borough and Parlour (730 Washington Av. N., boroughmpls.com), the Freehouse (701 Washington Av. N., freehousempls.com) and street-level and second-story spaces at Graze Food Hall (520 N. 4th St., grazenorthloop.com). But the open-air spot to beat just might be at the neighborhood's oldest dining-and-drinking establishment, the Monte Carlo (219 3rd Av. N., montecarlomn.com).
New this summer is the spacious spread outside StormKing Brewpub + Barbecue (618 N. 5th St., stormkingbrewpub.com), and chef Gavin Kaysen has added outdoor tables to Spoon and Stable (211 N. 1st St., spoonandstable.com), which is across the street from the always-busy stretch of sidewalk seating at his Bellecour Bakery at Cooks of Crocus Hill (210 N. 1st St., bellecourbakery.com)
Mill City classics
Minneapolis is home to a handful of landmark patios, including the sheltered getaway at Jax Cafe (1928 NE. University Av., jaxcafe.com), complete with its own small-scale trout stream; the urbane beauty at Black Forest Inn (1 E. 26th St., blackforestinnmpls.com); the romantic alley hideaway at Cafe Lurcat (1624 Harmon Place, lurcatminneapolis.com), the dripping-in-history atmosphere at Aster Cafe (125 SE. Main St., astercafe.com) and its neighbors, Jefe Urban Cocina (219 SE. Main St., jefeminneapolis.com) and Hideaway Cabin Bar (219 SE. Main St., hideawaycabinbar.com); and the restaurant that started the downtown rooftop patio craze (and the lawn bowling craze), Brit's Pub & Eating Establishment (1110 Nicollet Mall, britspub.com).
Keep these in mind
Take a ride on the Ferris wheel — and then play a round of mini-golf — at Betty Danger's Animal Farm (2501 NE. Marshall St., Mpls., bettydangers.com). Three other northeast Minneapolis patios — at Animales Barbeque (1121 NE. Quincy St., Mpls., animalesbarbeque.com), Centro/Vivir (1414 NE. Quincy St., Mpls., centrompls.com) and Hai Hai (2121 NE. University Av., haihaimpls.com) — definitely crank up the fun-loving quotient.
Several sterling examples of downtown St. Paul's architectural splendor are in view from the sidewalk patio at Meritage (410 St. Peter St., St. Paul, meritage-stpaul.com).
On Grand Avenue, don't overlook the sunny seating outside Salut Bar Americain (917 Grand Av., St. Paul, salutbaramericain.com), the rooftop patio at the Lexington (1096 Grand Av., St. Paul, thelexmn.com) and the cozy, tucked-by-the-alley patio at Grand Catch (1672 Grand Av., St. Paul, grandcatchmn.com).
The gorgeous courtyard at the American Swedish Institute is an ideal venue for enjoying Fika (2600 Park Av. S., Mpls., fikacafe.net) chef Blake Meier's inspired Nordic cooking. A massive overhead solar array makes for a great conversation-starter at Tiny Diner (1024 E. 38th St., Mpls., tinydiner.com). And when a restaurant's ownership also runs the nursery across the street, as it does at Wise Acre Eatery (5401 Nicollet Av. S., Mpls., wiseacreeatery.com), the patio benefits from the green-thumb talent, big time.
On the water
On Lake Minnetonka, make a habit of the first-rate dockside and rooftop patios at 6Smith (294 E. Grove Lane, Wayzata, 6smith.com). The lake's classic outdoor gathering spot is at Lord Fletcher's Old Lake Lodge (3746 Sunset Drive, Spring Park, lordfletchers.com), and the party atmosphere goes full-tilt at Maynards (685 Excelsior Blvd., Excelsior, maynards-excelsior.com).
The spacious deck at Birch's on the Lake (1310 Wayzata Blvd., Long Lake, birchsonthelake.com) is perched above Long Lake, and Lola's Lakehouse (318 E. Lake St., Waconia, lolaslakehouse.com) has a commanding view of pretty Lake Waconia.
In the south metro, the Chart House (11287 Klamath Trail, Lakeville, charthouserestaurant.com) has presided over the shores of Kingsley Lake since 1968, and the multilevel patios at Charlie's on Prior (3950 SW. Green Heights Trail, Prior Lake, charliesonprior.com) make the most of their envy-inducing Prior Lake location.
Two of the metro area's most agreeable lakeside restaurants are counter-service stands in Minneapolis parks: Sandcastle (4955 W. Lake Nokomis Pkwy., sandcastlempls.com), on the western beach at Lake Nokomis, and Bread & Pickle (4135 W. Lake Harriet Pkwy., breadandpickle.com), which is next door to the Lake Harriet Band Shell. While it's not on a lake, Sea Salt (4801 Minnehaha Av. S., seasaltmpls.com) is located a few steps from Minnehaha Falls.
For premium St. Croix River proximity, consider the tree-shaded patio at the appropriately named Dock Cafe (425 E. Nelson St., Stillwater, dockcafe.com, opening soon), and for an up-close-and-personal Mississippi River experience, visit the deck at Psycho Suzi's Motor Lounge (1900 NE. Marshall St., Mpls., psychosuzis.com).
Raise your glass
Patios are near-requisite assets at breweries and distilleries; here are three to bear in mind. The rambling Surly Brewing Co. (520 Malcolm Av. SE., Mpls., surlybrewing.com) beer garden is set to reopen around June 1, with sustenance initially provided by food trucks. The updated patio at Utepils Brewing (225 Thomas Av. N., Mpls., utepilsbrewing.com) boasts a rare perk: it's perched next to the banks of Bassett Creek. And the biergarten outside the historic home of Waldmann Brewery (445 N. Smith Av., St. Paul, waldmannbrewery.com) is one of the Capital City's hidden gems.
Past the parking lot
Patios and strip malls can successfully mix. In terms of looks and comfort, NorthStar Tavern (5101 W. 98th St., Bloomington, northstartavernmn.com) sets the standard. Patrick's Bakery & Cafe (2928 W. 66th St., Richfield, patricksbakerycafe.com) slips rows of tables under a sheltering overhang. Campiello (6411 City West Pkwy., Eden Prairie, campielloedenprairie.com) places tables and chairs amid a pleasant landscape. Umbrellas, well-groomed greenery and overhead lights dress up the patio at Blvd Kitchen & Bar (11544 Wayzata Blvd., Minnetonka, blvdkitchen.com). There's even a patio at the Mall of America, the handsome open-air seating outside Cedar + Stone Urban Table (2141 Lindau Lane, Bloomington, cedarandstoneurbantable.com) at the JW Marriott hotel.
Making the rounds
There's a sweet patio with plentiful seating outside Red River Kitchen (6364 John Harris Drive, Edina, redriverkitchen.com) at Braemar Golf Course. The attractive patio at Kendall's Tavern & Chophouse (12800 NW. Bunker Prairie Road, Coon Rapids, kendallstc.com) is steps away from the links at Bunker Hills Golf Club. There's a similar watch-the-golfers view from the patio at the Brooklyn Restaurant & Bar (8700 Edinbrook Crossing, Brooklyn Park, brooklynedinburgh.com) at Edinburgh USA.
More than one
Several restaurants with multiple locations do patios right. Redstone American Grill (12109 N. Main St., Maple Grove; 12241 Wayzata Blvd., Minnetonka, and 8000 Town Center Place, Eden Prairie, redstonegrill.com) takes equal care with its outdoor and indoor dining venues; ditto Doolittles Woodfire Grill (2140 Cliff Road, Eagan, and 550 N. Winnetka Av., Golden Valley, doolittles.com). The steakhouse vibe at Pittsburgh Blue (3220 W. 70th St., Edina, and 11900 Main St., Maple Grove, pittsburghbluesteak.com) translates nicely to its open-air settings. Invariably, the patios at Blue Plate Restaurant Company's properties are warm-weather draws, especially the ones at Longfellow Grill (2990 West River Pkwy., Mpls., longfellowgrill.com) and 3 Squares (12690 Arbor Lakes Pkwy., Maple Grove, 3squaresrestaurant.com).
The screened decks at Dangerfield's (1583 E. 1st Av., Shakopee, dangerfieldsmn.com) are surrounded by leafy trees and overlook a tranquil pond in the Minnesota River Valley. The long, narrow and super-charming screen porch at Zumbro Cafe (2803 W. 43rd St., Mpls., zumbrocafe.com) is where Linden Hills gathers for breakfast, lunch and weekend brunch. When the Mad Hatter Restaurant & Tea House (1632 S. Ferry St., Anoka, madhatteranoka.com) moved into the 164-year-old Woodbury House, it gained the historic property's serene screened porch.
Rick Nelson • @RickNelsonStrib