Summer won't last forever, so let's make the most of it.
Twin Cities restaurants certainly are. Patios are standard operating procedure, but it wasn't always that way. Get this: Sidewalk cafes were prohibited in Minneapolis until the early 1970s. When City Hall finally came to its collective senses and passed favorable ordinances, an outdoor dining scene slowly but surely began to blossom.
Nearly 50 years later, some favorite Mill City sidewalk patios include the flower-packed gardens outside the Birchwood Cafe (3311 E. 25th St., birchwoodcafe.com) and the curbside tables at Nightingale (2551 Lyndale Av. S., nightingalempls.com) and Sidebar at Surdyk's (303 E. Hennepin Av., sidebaratsurdyks.com).
The well-landscaped sidewalk in front of chef Ann Kim's new Sooki & Mimi (1432 W. 31st St., sookiandmimi.com) is a callback to its popular predecessor, the sidewalk cafe that was, for decades, a Lucia's Restaurant fixture.
There are several downtown Minneapolis sidewalk patios of note, including the breakfast-all-day setup at Hen House Eatery (114 S. 8th St., henhouseeatery.com). Just down the street there's a great-looking lineup of tables under the windows at Normandy Kitchen (405 S. 8th St., normandykitchen.com).
The patio at Fhima's Minneapolis (40 S. 7th St., fhimasmpls.com) doesn't match the dining room's Art Deco splendors (although, seriously, what could?), but it's a comfortable fresh-air setting for enjoying bar director Bree James' libations.
Nicollet Mall's patios are coming out of their pandemic-induced slumber, including the ones at the News Room (990 Nicollet Mall, thenewsroompls.com) and tacos- and tequila-centric Barrio (925 Nicollet Mall, barriotequila.com).
Downtown is the Twin Cities' rooftop patio epicenter. Three of the most impressive destinations are all within two blocks: Seven (700 Hennepin Av. S., 7mpls.com), Union Rooftop (731 Hennepin Av. S., unionmpls.com) and Crave (825 Hennepin Av. S., craveminneapolis.com). Equally memorable are the skyline views from the rooftop patio at the Woman's Club of Minneapolis (410 Oak Grove St., womansclub.org), which is open for reservations on Thursday through Saturday evenings.
Downtown does not have a monopoly on rooftop patios. In Uptown, there's the multi-decked spread perched above Stella's Fish Cafe (1400 W. Lake St., stellasfishcafe.com) and Amore Uptown (1601 W. Lake St., amoreuptown.com) has a second-story hideaway. And over in Lyn-Lake, moto-i (2940 Lyndale Av. S., moto-i.com) has a cozy rooftop lounge, an ideal venue for savoring the house-brewed sake.
The pandemic nudged a number of restaurateurs to convert parking lot asphalt into patios. At Common Roots Cafe (2588 Lyndale Av. S., Mpls., commonrootscafe.com) — love those bagels — owner Danny Schwartzman has topped the pavement with a spacious wooden deck lined with birch trees and umbrellas.
It's all about great-looking pavers, planters and umbrellas at Luci Ancora (2060 Randolph Av., St. Paul, luciancora.com), and a tall wooden fence lends privacy to the patio proceedings at Young Joni (165 13th Av. NE., Mpls., youngjoni.com).
Newcomer Chip's Clubhouse (272 S. Snelling Av., St. Paul, visitchips.com) has a parking lot-turned-patio out back, and nearby Groveland Tap (1834 St. Clair Av., St. Paul, grovelandtap.com) has spread sturdy picnic tables across its parking lot for the sun-seeking set. Fare Game (2900 NE. Johnson St., Mpls., faregamene.com) chef/owner Jason Sawicki has set up picnic tables — be on the lookout for cherry-red umbrellas — in the lot where he's parking his food truck.
Parking lot tents are thoughtfully protecting diners from summer cloudbursts at Pig Ate My Pizza Kitchen + Brewery (4124 W. Broadway, Robbinsdale, pigatemypizza.com), the Lynhall (2640 Lyndale Av. S., Mpls., thelynhall.com) and the Sample Room (2124 NE. Marshall St., Mpls., the-sample-room.com).
On the subject of tents, the most elaborate and commodious (think: chandeliers) just might be the one at Heather's (5201 Chicago Av. S., Mpls., heathersmpls.com), where owner Heather Asbury pitched a stretch of white weatherproof material over her patio last winter, then removed the sides to capture summer breezes. On a smaller scale, there's a tent at Local Roots (817 E. 66th St., Richfield, localrootsmn.com), a sweet spot for a casual breakfast, lunch or dinner.
In the 'burbs
The area around Southdale boasts a few noteworthy outdoor venues, including the well-appointed patio outside Ciao Bella (3501 Minnesota Drive, Bloomington, ciaobellamn.com), the tree-shaded waterside terrace at Tavern 23 (7651 France Av. S., Edina, tavern23mn.com), the glitzy indoor-meets-outdoor qualities of the greenhouse-like RH Rooftop Restaurant (6801 France Av. S., Edina, rh.com) and the semi-sheltered respite at Cov (3155 Galleria, Edina, covedina.com).
Cov (700 E. Lake St., Wayzata, covwayzata.com) sports a similarly yacht club-esque patio — this time, with Lake Minnetonka views — in downtown Wayzata, just down the street from the handsomely appointed patio at NineTwentyFive (925 E. Lake St., ninetwentyfive.com) in the Hotel Landing.
Three other Wayzata patios to consider include McCormick's Irish Pub & Restaurant (331 Broadway Av. S., mccormicks.pub), the Grocer's Table (326 Broadway Av. S., thegrocerstablemn.com) and Gianni's Steakhouse (635 E. Lake St., giannis-steakhouse.com).
The just-opened Tequila Butcher at the Caribbean (135 Lakeview Av., Tonka Bay, facebook.com/TequilaButcherCaribbean) has dockside seating, a Lake Minnetonka rarity. For pasta, pizza and other Italian fare, there's Spasso (17523 Minnetonka Blvd., Minnetonka, spassomn.com).
At Smith Coffee & Cafe (8107 Eden Prairie Road, Eden Prairie, smith1877.com), the Schuster family is a fine steward of the historic Smith Douglas More House and its well-tended greenery. Kudos to the tree-shaded patio at the Good Day Cafe (5410 Wayzata Blvd., Golden Valley, gooddaycafemn.com) and the greenery-packed getaway at Osteria I Nonni (981 Sibley Hwy., Lilydale, osteriainonni.com).
Newcomer Kyndred Hearth (2611 Nordic Way, Eagan, omnihotels.com) has a spiffy patio and chef Ann Kim's great pizzas. The sprawling patio at Porter Creek Hardwood Grill (14201 Burngarten Drive, Burnsville, portercreek.com) has matured into a top south-of-the-river summer destination.
Heading east, Manger Restaurant & Wine Bar (320 5th Av. N., Bayport, mangerrestaurant.com) chef/owner Mike Willenbring has spruced up his already appealing back-of-the-restaurant patio, and the patio at the Freight House (305 S. Water St., Stillwater, thefreighthouse.com) is easily Stillwater's largest.
In the northwest, consider the fresh-air settings at the Sunshine Factory Bar & Grill (4100 Vinewood Lane N., Plymouth, esunshine factory.com), Pub 42 (7600 42nd Av. N., New Hope, pub42.com) and Rock Elm Tavern (16605 County Road 24, Plymouth, rockelmtavern.com).
More in Minneapolis
The patio at Mill Valley Market (1221 Theodore Wirth Pkwy., Mpls., millvalley.market) — and the kitchen's fresh approach to quick-service fare — are two more reasons to get to Theodore Wirth Park.
One of the city's most inviting outdoor dining venues is at Broders' Pasta Bar (5000 Penn Av. S., Mpls., broderspastabar.com), although the alley patio at Tilia (2726 W. 43rd St., Mpls., tiliampls.com) ranks right up there, too; ditto the alley patio at Tilia's next-door neighbor, Harriet Brasserie (2724 W. 43rd St., Mpls., lakeharrietbrasserie.com).
There's a delightful backyard vibe — lawn and all — to the patio at Kieran's Kitchen Northeast (1401 NE. Marshall St., Mpls., foodbuilding.com), and the roomy beer garden at the Butcher's Tale (1121 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls., butcherstale.com) is a role model for its peers.
The snug patio at the Bungalow Club (4300 E. Lake St., Mpls., thebungalowclubmpls.com) has a wonderful off-the-beaten-path vibe. Oh, and one open-air venue that really gets it right — vibrant mural art, a cool postindustrial setting, lively food and drinks — is Centro/Vivir (1414 NE. Quincy St., Mpls., centrompls.com).
Soak up some sun on the sidewalk at La Grolla (452 Selby Av., lagrollastpaul.com), the flower-trimmed deck at Nico's Tacos (2260 Como Av., nicostacobar.com) and the fenced-in patio at Taste of Rondo (976 Concordia Av., tasteofrondostp.com). And one of the city's best patios is the cozy, covered layout at Joan's in the Park (631 S. Snelling Av., joansinthepark.com).
Don't miss these two
Finally, here are two riverside tips: the Mighty Mississippi is very nearly a reach-out-and-touch attraction at City House (258 Mill St., St. Paul, cityhousemn.com), and the word "magical" applies to the bucolic St. Croix River setting at Marine Landing b.o.t.m. (10 Elm St., Marine on St. Croix, facebook.com/mlbotm), a dockside daytime diner that also serves a Friday-night dinner.