Would You Like to Dine Outside?

paris-outdoorcafestagerowFinally, it appears as if summer (or a belated spring) has arrived in much of the northern United States. Seemingly within minutes of the warmup, one of the major rites of summer occurred: all of the local restaurants opened up their outdoor dining areas. A few lucky restaurants actually have rooftop dining or a secluded back area. But for most of the restaurants, outdoor dining means a few tables placed between the sidewalk and the street.

The appeal of outdoor dining in such places remains a mystery to me. Now most of the tables have umbrellas to block the sun, and some even have a few potted plants or flowers. But the view? It’s nothing much to speak of. You can look at people walking on the sidewalk or you can look at the cars driving oh so close to you on the street, but that’s about it. And when the temperature reaches the upper 80s or higher, the heat rising up from the sidewalks combined with the exhaust from cars racing past just makes me miserable.

Now in a nice location, I’m all for eating at a restaurant’s outdoor tables. An outdoor table in the Plaka in Athens? Definitely. A table at a Santorini restaurant with a view overlooking the caldera? Without a doubt. Dining outdoors next to a body of water always appeals to me, be it an ocean, a small inland lake or a view of Lake Michigan from Navy Pier. And I’ve eaten at some lovely courtyard restaurants, most recently The Court of Two Sisters in New Orleans.

At someone’s suggestion here, I’ve also taken to eating my lunch at a park near my office in nice weather. Reading a book outdoors while eating my lunch offers a really nice break in the work day. But offered the choice between a table within a few feet of the street in my local community and a table inside with air conditioned comfort, I’ll opt for indoor dining every time.

What about you? If offered the choice at a restaurant, do you opt for indoor or outdoor dining? What amenities does the restaurant need to offer to make you opt for outdoor dining?


13 thoughts on “Would You Like to Dine Outside?

  1. Victoria S

    HA! I thought i was just me. I too do not see the point in having exhaust spewing cars roll by my dinner/lunch. I have eaten outside when my table is not in danger of being toppled by a distracted driver.If the view is nice, the weather is accommodating, outdoor dining is a pleasant experience. But sitting at a table close enough to hear that annoying song on every radio that goes by…gotta pass.

  2. LinnieGayl

    Whew! Thanks, Victoria S. I was beginning to think that I’m nuts. The waiters always seem so surprised when I reject outdoor seating, and everyone else seems to love it.

  3. JulieR

    I tend to prefer indoor seating, for all the same reasons you list. And I agree that eating outdoors with a wonderful view can be a very enjoyable exception.

    But there can be other exceptions: we ate (twice!) at an outdoor cafe in Milan and once on the Via Veneto in Rome. Both were situated right on busy streets and, in theory, we should have choked with exhaust fumes. But apparently the right combination of eating dinner at 10pm, fabulous food, lots of great wine, fun friends, and interesting people to watch, can overcome anything.

  4. LinnieGayl

    Interesting, JulieR. I’ve eaten in outdoor cafes a number of times in Paris. Most times were enjoyable, but I remember being in one that was on a corner, my table was right next to the street, and there was so much traffic I was afraid of being hit the whole time.

  5. LeeB.

    I’m not one to eat outside at lunchtime while at work but when I’m in Europe, I do enjoy it, especially because there are so many pedestrianized areas. However, I do need to plan carefully when choosing an outdoor table as SOOOOOOO many people light up once they finish their meals.

  6. Jean AAR

    I love outdoor dining, unless it’s sticking humid outside. Otherwise, anything is preferable to being inside. And people-watching is the best part.

  7. Corinna

    I usually don’t care to eat outside, but I’ll make an exception for two places. The best is on Lake Tahoe, at any of various restaurants with decks on the lake. One of the best times is at sunset, and as many places have heaters directing warmth down onto diners, it’s quite comfortable except in very wintry weather. An absolutely gorgeous dining experience.

    The other place is on the Texas Riviera: the Riverwalk in San Antonio, where there isn’t a restaurant that DOESN’T offer outdoor dining. There’s plenty to engage the senses here. No cars, but a boat does come by every now and then. The drawback to eating outdoors in San Antonio is, of course, the extreme heat and humidity, so I can only recommend eating outdoors here from November through March. You’d be doing yourself a favor by dining outdoors here in December while the Christmas lights are up and reflecting into the river. I promise, all your senses will be engaged by the scenery, music and delicious Texmex food.

  8. Missie

    If the weather is pleasant — not so hot and humid that I’ll melt — then I adore outdoor dining. I just like the experience of being outside. I enjoy the people watching, and yes, if the view is a street, the vehicle watching, as well. ;-)

    There’s a little restaurant in downtown Mineola that has outdoor seating, but alas, they usually don’t open it up until it’s too hot for me to want to be outdoors. Their outdoor seating area is a little courtyard type spot that overlooks Main Street. (I think it’s Main Street.)

    In Tyler, On the Border has an enclosed patio as well as outdoor seating. When the weather is pleasant enough, I like the enclosed patio — there’s a TV (although it’s usually turned to sports and I’m ignoring it to read my book, anyway), a fan (not AC, but a fan, I believe), and while there aren’t any spectacular views, it’s just a pleasant place to be when the weather is cooperative.

    The best, though, is when you have a lovely setting — my hubby and I both love the water, and so eating on or near the water is wonderful, be it a river, lake, or ocean.

    But when it gets hot, sticky, and humid, plunk me down under the AC, please, and bring me a cold beverage — STAT!

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