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[MSP] Outdoor Dining?

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Do you have any suggestions for good outdoor dining? Sidewalk dining is just about the only thing I miss about Ann Arbor, MI and I haven't yet found anything similar in the twin cities.

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  1. What comes to mind quickly are all patio dining - would that satisfy you? If so:

    Black Forest Inn in Minneapolis has a really gorgeous patio and decent chow to boot.

    Several places on West 7th St. in St. Paul (near the Excel Center) have really beautiful patios. The food's not terrible, but nothing to write home about: The Liffey http://www.theliffey.com/, Chico Chica: 242 7th St., and I think McGovern's just built a lovely patio last season, but haven't been there so experience it myself: 225 Seventh St W

    W.A Frost on Selby in St. Paul has a gorgeous patio and solid (and pricey) food: http://www.wafrost.com/

    The Happy Gnome (also on Selby in St. Paul) has a very comfortable patio, great beer list, and decent bar food: http://www.thehappygnome.com/

    Lots more, but they don't come to mind as quickly.

    6 Replies
    1. re: diesel

      All wonderful recommendations, except for the Happy Gnome, which really has mediocre, at best, food. I keep hearing the beer list is great, but the food is really pretty lousy. And, sadly, the patio could be nice if it weren't smelly. If you want outside+barfood in a neighborthood not too far from the Happy Gnome, I recommend instead the patio at Muddy Pig.



      1. re: The Dairy Queen

        TDQ, I know you've mentioned the patio stank at the Happy Gnome before, but I've never smelled it; I offer as credentials that fact that I've spent a fair bit of time on that patio (it's just a couple of blocks from where I live) and have an extremely low tolerance for reek. :) I generally don't sit near the outdoor bar/door to the building, so maybe that's the ticket. They do a decent burger and fries, but I agree that the food is very hit-or-miss. The patio is a great place to sit on a nice afternoon, though.

        1. re: mcgeary

          I totally respect your chowsense, mcgeary, and I appreciate that you've been multiple times. I so wanted to love the Happy Gnome, but my one and only experience was so truly bad, where the food was so awful, the patio so smelly, and the service so indifferent that I've never been willing to give it a second chance, especially with WA Frost down the street and Muddy Pig around the corner, both of which have great (in the case of Frost) or good ( in the case of Muddy Pig) food. Happy Gnome even managed to mess up the dessert, which they bring in from the place (A Piece of Cake? Or is it A Slice of Cake, I can never get the name right) across the street by letting sit around too long and get soggy and stale.

          I might have been willing to give it a second chance because a nice patio is a thing of beauty in St. Paul when the weather turns nice but, alas, no one on chowhound --even you--has had much positive to say about the chow there. The comments about the chow itself have been lukewarm at best. Consensus seems to be the beer list is terrific, although, unfortunately I am not much of a beer drinker.

          Life is too short for truly awful chow especially when there are two acceptable alternatives within a couple of blocks. While the Happy Gnome may do a decent burger and fries, the Muddy Pig around the corner does a consistently very good burger. Their patio's not spectacular (the real issue is that it's cramped and a little on the shady side) but the food is good.

          Maybe I should give Happy Gnome another chance, but, I just can't seem to force my feet to carry me there.

          EDIT: I'd even rather go to Billy's on Grand Avenue and sit on the patio than to Happy Gnome. Billy's has some nice salads on their menu, which can be very appealing when it's really hot out and you want something "light."


          1. re: The Dairy Queen

            Eh, I'd say that the beer is the best reason to go to the Gnome, so if you're not beer-motivated there's not much point. And, you're right, Frost is pretty much the best in town for high food quality + high patio quality. Have you eaten there since Russell Klein left? I've been curious whether the food has slipped. I thought they had bad food before Russell took over, and I'm hoping they don't backslide now that he's gone.

            1. re: mcgeary

              Oh poo. I wish I were a beer drinker, then. I hate missing out on stuff.

              And, no, I haven't been to Frost recently and haven't really heard from anyone who has. Maybe now that it's patio season someone can check it out?


      2. re: diesel

        For the sake of posterity, I'm going to note an update to diesel's fine post above and that's that Chico Chica on West 7th in St. Paul has been replaced by El Patio Mexican Grill: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/39301...

        Funny, they interviewed the chef/owner in today's Pioneer Press--he's most proud of the enchiladas and margaritas on his menu (the latter being made with fresh lime juice.) I recall someone saying the margaritas were too sweet, but, I could be wrong.


      3. I've eaten at all of these places and the food is decent to really good at most of them. When it comes to me and eating outside, I'm willing to run the gamut of food quality!

        Solera (rooftop!): http://www.solera-restaurant.com/
        Stella's Seafood Cafe (rooftop!): www.stellasfishcafe.com
        The Local (sidewalk): www.the-local.com
        Brit's (sidewalk and rooftop): www.britspub.com
        Birchwood Cafe (sidewalk): www.birchwoodcafe.com
        Sea Salt Eatery (this is a seasonal place by Minnehaha Falls - opens this month sometime): http://www.seasalteatery.com/
        Mill City Cafe: http://www.millcitycafe.com/
        Tuggs (gorgeous patio, OK food): www.tuggstavern.com
        Pracna (gorgeous patio, MEH food): www.saintanthonymain.com/pracna.html

        A few I'd like to try:
        Barbary Fig (patio
        )Clicquot Club Cafe (sidewalk): www.clicquotclubcafe.com
        Punch Pizza (E. Hennepin - courtyard)

        5 Replies
        1. re: MaggieB

          Sea Salt Eatery opened April 1.

          Crema Cafe has a neat little quiet patio and now serve dinners. Recent review in Star Tribune:


          Bagu Sushi is opening a patio soon.

          A lot of the usual suspects mentioned on here have outdoor seating: Out in Lilydale, Osteria I Nonni has quite a few outdoor tables (patio). Trotter's Cafe, Longfellow Grill/Highland Grill, Barbary Fig, Birchwood, Cupcake, Al Vento, Riverview Wine Bar, Lucia's, Lurcat, Muffuletta, Town Talk Diner all have good to great food and sidewalk/patio dining.

          When I ran the Aquatennial Torchlight Run last summer, we cruised past the Monte Carlo Bar & Cafe and their patio looked like a nice place to enjoy a meal.

          I may be a bit behind on the times having not hung around there last summer, but what about the places at and around the Guthrie?

          1. re: MSPD

            I listed Spoonriver and Nochee, both near the Guthrie. I haven't seen any outside dining at Cue, though they certainly have the space for it.

            When did Town Talk get a patio? Is it out back or something?

            1. re: Jordan

              Town Talk has tables along the front in the summer (she said "sidewalk dining"). You have to put up with the Lake Street traffic, but a lot of people say it's quieter than the inside. I don't know...I've never sat out there and the noise inside has never bothered me all that much.

              I forgot to put Tin Fish over at Lake Calhoun on my list too.

            2. re: MSPD

              I like Longfellow's patio when the weather's nice--great people watching. Highland Grill does indeed have a few outside tables, but it's nearly identical food to Longfellow and Longfellow's patio space is so much nicer, that it gives it the definite edge over Highland, I think.


            3. re: MaggieB

              Isn't Brit's Pub the one with the roof-top lawn bowling? I've always wanted to try that. I've only been there once or twice and only in winter. Food is ok for bar food.

              Along the lines of Sea Salt Eatery (which really is one of the funnest+chowish, yet casual, spots in the Cities for outdoor dining, as long as you don't mind standing in line), is Tin Fish at Lake Calhoun. It's not as good as Sea Salt but it's great for a little snack if you're at Lake Calhoun canoeing or just generally being out and about. It's more of a "snack shack," lakeside, with a few tables.


              Punch Pizza in St. Paul on Cleveland has a mini-patio, as does, Blondie's on Snelling nearish to Randolph in St. Paul.

              Also in St. Paul, if you're a breakfast-y kind of person, Day by Day Cafe on West 7th St. has a little patio.


              It looks like the Shamrock on West 7th ("the Irish Nook") might have a patio, but they will have to step the burgers up a couple of notches before we'll be back. We found them so greasy that the buns were soggy. The fries were good.

              Here's a story from the Star Tribune on outdoor dining that's a little old, but still pretty relevant: http://www.startribune.com/456/story/... (you might have to register --free--to see the full story.)

              Finally, my very favorite spot in St. Paul (after Sea Salt Eatery) to sit outside for at least 10 minutes: Izzy's Ice Cream on Marshall. MMmmmmm ice cream.



            4. In south Mpls, add:

              Al Vento (great enclosed patio)
              Broder's Pasta Bar (good patio for drinks and appetizers while waiting for a table)
              First Course (sidewalk on a not-too-busy street with plenty of airplanes overhead)
              5-8 Club (ditto)

              In SE Mpls, add Signature Cafe (nice alley seating in residential neighborhood)

              In the Mill District, add:
              Nochee (great patio, busy Washington Ave.)
              Spoonriver (sidewalk seating, plenty of people-watching on weekend farmer's market days)

              1. I don't know how far you are willing to travel. There are a few places south of the cities that you might want to try, and the drive there isn't too bad either. I've posted about some of these places before.

                In Red Wing a half hour south of the cities, there is Oar Dourve. http://www.greatfoodinredwing.com/ they have an outdoor patio that will be open soon to eat out on with a beautiful garden below to enjoy.

                In Stockholm, Wi about 20 minutes south of red wing on the wisconsin side. there is Gellys Pub 715-442-2023 They have great fish, burgers, and daily specials that are well worth the trip. They have a deck outside that is great to sit on.

                In Pepin, Wi about 30 minutes south of red wing on the wisconsin side, there is the Garden Pub and Grille. Right on main street in Pepin. Big beautiful wooden restaurant with only open air dining. Burgers, sandwiches, pizza and such with a big of gourmet flare.

                The Pickle Factory www.pepinpicklefactory.com has a deck you can also eat on that overlooks the lake. They have a great fish sandwich, burgers, sandwiches, etc.

                Last but not least there is "pizza on the farm" Tuesdays between Stockholm and Pepin. The staff from the harbor view cafe will serve pizzas on the farm cooked in a brick oven outdoors. Perfect for picnic style eating. Bring your own blanket, chair and some appetizers and drinks. As they only make the pizza for you. Farm fresh ingredients. Well worth the drive. The pizzas are large, and are about $20. each. For directions you'll have to stop in Stockholm or Pepin and get directions from the locals.

                1. Thanks! I'm familiar with some of these spots (Sea Salt, Al Vento, Broder's) and have been to some of the other suggestions but not in the summer so I didn't notice that they had outdoor dining (Happy Gnome, Birchwood). Now I can add all these options to the mix once the weather cooperates.

                  1. My absolute favorite patio is at Signature Cafe. We were chatting with Nathalie a few weeks ago, and she was talking about making some pretty cool improvements out there.

                    1. In St. Paul, Moscow on the Hill has a charming back courtyard, and Muffaletta has a lovely raised patio.

                      But note that you'll be in a cloud of cigarette smoke when you dine outside. I'm allergic to smoke, and I've had to give up outdoor dining since the smoking ban, alas. (Almost every bar has outdoor seating now for the smokers, which makes walking past a hazard.)

                      Moscow on the Hill is especially smoky because it's an enclosed area. Muffaletta used to devote half of the patio to non-smoking - not sure if they still do. Happily for me, the Birchwood's sidewalk tables are all non-smoking, at least officially. I love the Birchwood!


                      1. I'd like to add Barley Johns and Town Hall to the list. Both have great food and beer. An what's better than sitting out doors in the summer drinking good beer and eating good food.



                        1. Are there any outdoor dining options aside from Birchwood that are smoke-free?

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: dotMac

                            I think the Signature also asks that people not smoke outside, but I'm not sure. Otherwise, there aren't any that I know of. I asked in this thread:


                            No other places came to light - just the suggestion to dine at off hours at places with tiny or huge patios (but I'm always downwind of the only smoker when I risk eating outside, alas).

                            I would love to learn about any other non-smoking patios or sidewalk tables!


                          2. Once it warms up, I think you will be impressed with your inability to throw a dead cat without hitting a restaurant in the Twin Cities that doesn't offer patio/sidewalk dining.

                            In our hood, within a 6 block radius:

                            Bulldog NE
                            Pizza Nea
                            The Times
                            Mac's Industrial
                            and I know I'm leaving a few out.

                            Just pray for 70 degrees and sun and you'll have alfresco options till you puke.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: Foureyes137

                              Ditto for the warehouse district:

                              The Monte (and in reply to MSPD, it is a great patio for outdoor dining)
                              Moose & Sadie's
                              The District
                              Champp's (it's in the alley)
                              Drink (ok, no food, but happy hour martinis)
                              The Imperial Room

                              Up Nicollet Mall you can't hardly find a place that DOESN'T have outdoor seating from Brit's all the way up to Sawatdee.

                              On Lake Street there's

                              Bar Abilene
                              Famous Dave's
                              Calhoun Yacht Club
                              Tin Fish (mentioned several times)

                              And let's not forget last year's winner of City Pages best patio - Psycho Suzie's!

                              1. re: Loren3

                                //Up Nicollet Mall you can't hardly find a place that DOESN'T have outdoor seating from Brit's all the way up to Sawatdee.

                                I believe the downtown powers-that-be were going to take a second look at the arrangment they made last year. In the summer of 2006, buses didn't go down the mall during the dinner hours, which was great because otherwise the "patios" are six feet from diesel fumes.

                                Not sure if Metro Transit is going to make the same concession this year. It's worth finding out.

                                1. re: KTFoley

                                  The buses are currently being diverted to Hennepin all day, every day right now for road construction on Nicollet.


                                  According to the above news release, the buses will be back on Nicollet this month, but a driver told me that it was an indefinite change, so maybe we will be "lucky" all summer. (That is lucky for eating, not my normal commute.)

                            2. The Pioneer Press annual patio review is out. http://www.twincities.com/restaurants...

                              They mentioned several we hadn't (Chambers Mpls, Jax Cafe Mpls, Cue at the Guthrie Mpls, Joe's Garage Mpls, 20.21 at the Walker Mpls, Spoonriver Mpls, LoTo St. Paul) but, for the most part, we chowhounds were way ahead of the curve (as usual!


                              They also mention La Grolla on Selby St. Paul, which I'm surprised we missed!


                              1 Reply
                              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                From one of Dara M's several reviews of La Grolla: "The enormous outdoor patio is a summertime charmer, a perfect place to put a bottle of Pinot Grigio in a chiller and contemplate the fact that the same moon that beams upon Italy beams on your own lucky head."