It’s time to get outdoors and enjoy every last molecule of summer. Restaurants keep making it easier to do just that, continually adding open-air dining venues in all conceivable shapes and sizes.
What may be the most spacious sidewalk cafe in downtown Minneapolis — or a leading contender, anyway — has recently landed outside McKinney Roe (530 S. 4th St., Mpls., 612-545-5863, mckinneyroe.com), and there are conversation-starting views in nearly every direction: U.S. Bank Stadium, the pretty Commons park, the refurbished 1930s Armory and the downtown skyline. The lengthy, eclectic menu aims to please, as does the accommodating service.
Randle’s Restaurant & Bar
The newcomer in the metro area’s rooftop patio epicenter — which is downtown Minneapolis, in case you didn’t know — is Randle’s Restaurant & Bar (921 Nicollet Mall, Mpls., 612-351-1234, johnrandles.com), restaurateur Michael McDermott’s sports bar remake of his not-so-hot Ling & Louie’s. Talk about perfect timing, because at a time when Nicollet Mall should be wall-to-wall sidewalk cafes, it frustratingly remains a construction zone. So why not skip the dust and take a seat on this well-appointed roof instead? Hit it during happy hour (3 to 6 p.m. weekdays and all day Sunday, a nice touch), when prices go $8-and-under on a long list of drinks and snacks.
Give the somewhat spartan, just-opened Red Rabbit (201 Washington Av. N., Mpls., 612-767-8855, redrabbitmn.com) patio some time to mature. In the meantime, soak up the views of the neighboring historic buildings, and concentrate on chef Todd Macdonald’s excellent pizzas and rustic Italian fare, including an over-the-top chicken Parmesan that has to be tasted to be believed. There’s a new brunch menu that merits exploration, and beverage director Ian Lowther and sommelier Jason Kallsen are making the bar a major draw.
No, that swank pavilion that materialized during the much-needed remake of the wide-open lobby and grounds at the 100 Washington office tower doesn’t belong to Penny’s Coffee (100 Washington Av. S., Mpls., pennyscoffee.com), and that’s a shame. But the best-looking coffeehouse in the 612 area code does have a smattering of nearby tables and chairs, ideal for enjoying the shop’s meticulously crafted crêpes, both savory and sweet, and sipping through its well chosen lists of wine (try the exceptional Scharffenberger brut rosé), beer and cider.
A few blocks away, the daytime cafe at the Bachelor Farmer (50 2nd Av. N., Mpls., 612-206-3920, thebachelorfarmer.com) has picnic-style tables lining a brick-lined, alley-like courtyard between the restaurant and its sibling, Askov Finlayson. Can’t make it for morning coffee, lunch or brunch? Scope it out at the restaurant’s monthly beer garden pop-up on June 22, 5-10 p.m., a collaboration with recently opened Utepils Brewing Co.
Pryes Brewing Co.
In the beer garden tradition, plenty of metro-area craft breweries have patios. The latest? Pryes Brewing Co. (1401 West River Road N., Mpls., 612-787-7937, pryesbrewing.com), which just launched its taproom, one with a sweet patio (and Mississippi River views) that was seemingly designed for enjoying Miraculum, brewmaster Jeremy Pryes’ citrusy IPA. Another draw? A kitchen, one that will host a series of guest chefs. Right now, it’s the folks from Red Wagon Pizza Co. (5416 Penn Av. S., Mpls., 612-259-7147, redwagon-mpls.com), which, naturally, operate a pretty swell patio of their own at their southwest Minneapolis pizzeria.
Howe Daily Kitchen & Bar
There’s a sweet, dog-friendly patio outside the Howe Daily Kitchen & Bar (3675 Minnehaha Av. S., Mpls., 612-729-3663, howempls.com). The bar’s specialty cocktails fall in the $7-$11 range, and there’s a rap sheet-length list of mostly local craft beers. The kitchen sticks to a gastropub-like format (try the broasted chicken), and weekend brunch is all about linebacker-size basics — pancakes, omelets, corned beef hash, biscuits with country sausage gravy. Biking over is easy, thanks to Minnehaha Avenue’s recently debuted bicycle lanes. As for the pooches, they get their own menu, including chicken with brown rice and sweet potatoes ($7), turkey meatloaf with oats and flax ($5) and chewy smoked pig’s ear ($4). Visit during, yes, “Yappy Hour” (3 to 6 p.m.) and save $1 on entrees.
Finally, the year’s outdoor real estate to beat has got to be the stretch of tables perched outside Esker Grove (723 Vineland Place, Mpls., 612-375-7542, eskergrove.com), the Walker Art Center’s excellent new restaurant. The address is about as primo as it gets. The patio is in the shadow of the museum’s superb new addition, with views of the just-reopened Minneapolis Sculpture Garden (not to mention the downtown skyline) that seem tailored to thrill the local tourism board. Toss in a vastly appealing, vegetable-forward menu by chefs Doug Flicker and T.J. Rawitzer — and first-rate libations from bartender Jon Olson and his crew — and the Walker may have the Patio of the Summer.
Lou Nanne’s American Grill
The patio at Lou Nanne’s American Grill (7651 France Av. S., Edina, 952-658-7800, lounannes.com) is a surprise, and a happy one. Enter from the street and there’s little indication — other than the Centennial Lakes name — that you’ll soon encounter a roomy waterside patio. Sure, the man-made lake is ringed by five office towers, but it’s still a pretty setting. Enjoy the fresh air and sunshine with an all-day Sunday deal: a 10-ounce slab of prime rib, served with a Caesar salad, garlic mashed potatoes and sorbet or ice cream, for $29.
Although the restaurant is located near the shores of Lake Minnetonka in downtown Wayzata, there’s no water view on the well-appointed patio at Bellecour (739 E. Lake St., Wayzata, 952-444-5200, bellecourrestaurant.com). No matter. That draw isn’t necessary when chef/owner Gavin Kaysen (he of Spoon and Stable in Minneapolis) is in the kitchen, turning out scrupulous renditions of classic French bistro fare. Two more reasons to cheer: Patio seating is on a walk-in basis, a bonus for those finding it difficult to obtain a reservation at this definition of “hot ticket.” And Kaysen & Co. just launched weekend brunch service, another excuse to indulge in pastry chef Diane Yang’s exquisite baked goods.
The St. Paul edition of Revival (525 Selby Av., St. Paul, 651-340-2355, revivalfriedchicken.com) has got it over its Minneapolis counterpart in several measures. First, chef/co-owner Thomas Boemer has the kitchen space to flirt with barbecue: hickory- and oak-smoked brisket, pork shoulder and pork belly. Second, the bar has a full liquor license. Third (and most important in these warm-weather months), there’s a nice-looking and spacious patio out back. One unfortunate similarity between the two restaurants is the no-reservations policy, one that routinely generates the following question: Is Revival worth the inevitable wait? The answer is a resounding “Yes.”