Sun! Sip! Sup!

24 Great Places to Eat and Drink Outdoors

The Drive-In

572 Bench St., Taylors Falls

THE VIEW: Your dashboard, and a giant, spinning mug of root beer on a pole.
THE VIBE: Happy Days—if Fonzie drove an SUV.
THE VITAL TIP: You could carry your food to a picnic table, but there’s nothing like eating behind the wheel.

When the Drive-In opened in 1956, James Dean was flicking switchblades in Rebel Without a Cause down at the St. Croix Auditorium Theatre. Today, the Drive-In carhops still don poodle skirts and hang trays of food on car windows. In fact, the place’s only concession to modernity is the small sign, tacked like an afterthought beneath the billboard-like menu, advertising a veggie burger and a “healthy choice” sub sandwich. Look higher—you want the Duke Western burger, dripping with barbecue sauce. You want the old-fashioned Frostop root beer, in a frosty mug. And, when you’re looking for a place to set your basket of criss-cross fries, your malt, and your newly expanded stomach, you’ll want a bigger car. Something with fins. —TIM GIHRING

Al Vento

5001 34th Ave. S., Mpls.

THE VIEW: The cozy deck is more about seclusion than spectacle, with brightly colored plants spilling over flowerboxes that line the space. You might forget that you’re in the city.
THE VIBE: Twentysomethings and fiftysomethings mix seamlessly at this popular, appealing neighborhood spot.
THE VITAL TIP: Bottles of wine are half-priced with dinner on Sundays, Mondays, and any other day before 6 p.m.

If you’re looking for a perfectly delightful spot for a first date or a fiftieth, look no further than Al Vento. Order up one of its craveable thin-crust pizzas (the simple, perfect Neapolitano is a good start) or any of its exceptional made-from-scratch pastas, and then leave plenty of room for dessert. We can’t get enough of the crème-brûlée trio, which includes a classic vanilla bean, a mild chocolate, and a sweetly surprising pistachio. Also worthy is the chocolate oblivion. The pastry, chocolate ganache, and sliced strawberry delight will make you wish you could tuck an extra order in a box to take home. —ERIN PETERSON

The Kitchen

324 Main St. S., Stillwater

THE VIEW: The view here is all of the patio itself: pretty walls of stacked limestone rocks, a waterfall, and frothy grasses waving in the slight breezes.
THE VIBE: Casual in a nice domestic way, as if you’d found the most comfortable backyard in the Midwest.
THE VITAL TIP: The elaborate, (and free!) preschool-fantasyland Teddy Bear park is directly adjacent, making this a perfect picture-taking destination for family outings.

There’s an argument to be made that the Kitchen has Minnesota’s most diverse clientele. A typical Sunday afternoon on the patio will reveal wealthy retirees, Harley riders in full leather regalia, young moms rocking Graco buggies with sleeping babies inside, and bona-fide foodies snapping pictures of their eats with camera phones. The foodies are there because the Kitchen is the restaurant of Erick Harcey, whose farm-driven, elegantly glossed cooking has been the talk of several towns (he also owns the chef’s gastro-pub Victory 44 in north Minneapolis). Everyone else is there because the Kitchen delivers all the basic humble beer-and-a-burger value and hospitality you don’t need a single functioning taste bud to appreciate. Still, if your taste buds are functioning, all the better: Try the house-made charcuterie in the humbly named “ploughman’s plate,” the best-in-the-state wild-rice soup, or the ricotta agnolotti with braised pork belly and you’ll soon be making return trips with every wealthy retiree and Harley Davidson fan in your acquaintance. —DARA MOSKOWITZ GRUMDAHL

Bar Lurcat

1624 Harmon Pl., Mpls.

THE VIEW: Loring Park in the front, urban courtyard in the back
THE VIBE: Casual hipster
THE VITAL TIP: Weekends are busy, but they take reservations for the back patio.

With friendly servers in the foreground and lively (but not-too-loud) music in the background, Bar Lurcat is a comfortable place to spend an afternoon. After a day of perusing art at the Walker or biking one of the nearby trails, the patio facing Loring Park is a great stop for lunch with family or your best pals, and in back it’s quiet enough for an intimate one-on-one. And if you’re caught in a rain shower? Try the “indoor/outdoor” option: a comfy couch or high-top table inside, right next to one of the open floor-to-ceiling windows. —JOCELYN STONE

The Dakota Jazz Bar and Restaurant

1010 Nicollet Mall, Mpls.

THE VIEW: Nicollet Mall, in all its people-watching glory.
THE VIBE: Managers from Target debating whether to return to work or have another Arnie Palmer.
THE VITAL TIP: Splurge on the Blue Note set lunch ($18, including soup, omelet, and dessert)—you’re here to eat, after all.

There are cheaper lunches to be had on Nicollet Mall (Masa’s three items for $10). There are better places to drink on the clock, too (hello, Barrio!). But of all the outdoor restaurants on the mall, the Dakota may be the only one where you’ll find yourself sated, rubbing your tummy, and contemplating never going back to work. Because chef Jack Riebel is the Charlie Mingus of local cooks: experimental, a little wild, but never less than soulful. And always right on the money, whether he’s doctoring the turkey meat loaf with ginger pickled-vegetable slaw or blending lingonberries into couscous. It’s culinary jazz, and for an hour or so you too can improvise a little, stepping outside your workaday life and eating not just for fuel but for inspiration. —TIM GIHRING




772 Bielenberg Dr., Woodbury

THE VIEW: Take a trip to a metropolitan European square. In Woodbury. Seriously. A huge brick patio with its own covered bar. It’s hip, sexy…surprising, right?
THE VIBE: Built the last week in June, it’s got that new-patio smell. You know, freshly cut wood, freshly pressed clothing, freshly made money. It’s all here.
THE VITAL TIP: Order the Spanish Triple-X, a perfectly balanced, ideal outdoor drink mixing bourbon, cava, agave nectar, lemon and orange juices, and West Indies orange bitters.

Aperitif spared no expense making its new patio look fantastic. You’ll feel cooler than the average Woodbury resident, hanging out here. And the food lives up to the expectations set by the noteworthy décor. You’ll especially love the small plates, which include baked cheese wrapped in phyllo ($6) and lamb meatballs with a spectacular tzatziki sauce. The flatbreads are perfect for sharing with friends or family: I liked the Grecian ($11), with artichokes, Kalamata olives, roasted garlic, and feta cheese. The flash-grilled caesar salad was also delicious ($17), with a large portion of wood-fired salmon served next to two grilled hearts of fresh romaine. It might be to early to tell, but we’re predicting that Aperitif’s patio will quickly become the best place to dine outside in the eastern suburbs. —JASON DERUSHA

Aster Café

125 SE Main St., Mpls.

THE VIEW: Dog walkers and the Mill District.
THE VIBE: Anyone over 30 who digs a casual night out.
THE VITAL TIP: Take it slow and order as you go, sharing a few small dishes to taste it all.

From the redesigned look to the expanded menu, it’s clear there’s a new sheriff in town at Aster Café. What’s the difference? Well, one bartender describes it as “more café than coffeehouse now.” Aster offers a relaxed riverside ’tude (dogs clearly welcome) that pairs well with its new menu offerings. You’ll find flatbread pizzas, sandwiches, and salads for under $10—and nothing with the word fried in the description. On a hot day, the guaranteed shade on the tree-lined patio (illuminated with twinkle lights at night) is divine. —ELLIE BAYRD

Bricks American Pub

10340 Baltimore St. NE, Blaine

THE VIEW: If you come after the sunset, feast your eyes on the fire roaring in the patio’s enormous brick fireplace. Sit close enough and it’ll take the edge off those cool, late-summer nights.
THE VIBE: A casual crowd that’s eager for a good craft beer.
THE VITAL TIP: Happy hour, which includes half-price draft beers, wine, and specialty cocktails, runs from 3 to 6 p.m.; there are daily drink specials as well.

Here’s the trick to navigating Bricks’ s substantial menu: Look for cheese and look for the fire icon that indicates it’s been prepared in the restaurant’s brick oven. Those are the items most likely to knock your socks off—like the drool-worthy fire-baked cheese and flatbread starter or any of its pizzas or calzones. Bricks also gives a nod to its predecessor with the “In Memory of Cru Burger,” which is topped with four-year Widmer cheddar, fried onions, pickled jalapeños, tomato jam, and caper aioli. —ERIN PETERSON


6411 City West Pkwy., Eden Prairie

THE VIEW: The sequestered patio is quiet, green, and shady—and feels miles away from life’s bustle.
THE VIBE: You’ll find the well-heeled and the corporate card-wielding set here. Expect white tablecloths, impeccable service, and soothing music on the outdoor speakers.
THE VITAL TIP: Come between 5 and 6 p.m. to get a crack at the early-dining menu, which includes a choice of appetizer, entrée, and wine for $22.

Every gorgeous summer evening should kick off with a light, fruity, buzzy drink, shouldn’t it? Yes it should, and when you arrive at Campiello, you need to look no further than the restaurant’s much-loved martini list, which includes the extremely popular pear martini and the delightful, if vertigo-inducing, margatini. You can’t go wrong with the slightly crunchy bruschetta, with its juicy, jaw-droppingly fresh and flavorful tomatoes. And the tender, sweet balsamic-glazed short ribs have become such an institution that this single entrée alone could keep the restaurant in business for years. —ERIN PETERSON

D’Amico Kitchen

901 Hennepin Ave., Mpls.

THE VIEW: Big watches, small dresses, cleavage you could lose a bottle of Campari in.
THE VIBE: Playa del Carmen, minus the Federal Bikini Inspector T-shirts. And the ocean.
THE VITAL TIP: Reserve a cabana for that Travel + Leisure feel.

The patio outside D’Amico Kitchen at the Chambers hotel is called Eden, and for anyone whose idea of paradise is a tropical vacation, this feels about right. There’s something about the place, a leafy respite amid the concrete jungle, that compels you to unbutton your shirt a little more than usual, or to order some champagne, as if in celebration (try the Sicilian champagne cocktail: Aperol, bitters, and a single white sugar cube). Maybe it’s the decadent, permanent-vacation décor, including canopies of the sort featured on every cover of every luxury-travel magazine ever. Maybe it’s the weekend deejay, whose European electro grooves are muffled only by all the pillowy silicone and Maseratis pulling up outside. But let’s be honest. Like every Eden, this place is about temptation, of the sort inspired by exotic appetizers and earthy Campari cocktails. Drink it in, get a room, and don’t feel guilty until Monday morning. —TIM GIHRING



Black Forest Inn

1 E. 26th St., Mpls.

THE VIEW:  It’s what you can’t see at the Black Forest that makes it extra special—namely the hectic city
just outside the well-
foliaged patio.
THE VIBE: Munich biergarten, with none (or very few) of the drunks.
THE VITAL TIP: Try one of three German beer samplers—five small glasses for $6.75.

You’re about halfway through the weiner schnitzel, kicking back with a cold Späten beer on the Black Forest’s patio, when you realize how simple your needs really are. You’d been drawn away for a few years from this venerable garden, lured by the sushi and fizzy cocktails in the neon neighborhood just outside, and now you’re back. Back among the checkered tablecloths, the cuckoo clock, and the trickling fountain. A bearded gentleman reads at his table, his nose in a pile of books, his hand gripping a velvety beer. A cadre of thespians celebrates the end of a run. A couple of European women drape themselves in spare tablecloths to stave off the evening chill. No one minds, of course. Because for 45 years now, the patio of the Black Forest has been a refuge, and bohemian in more ways than one. You repeat the strange names on the menu like a mantra—Gewürztraminer, Spätburgunder, Franziskaner—and the world outside all but disappears. —TIM GIHRING

La Grolla

452 Selby Ave., St. Paul

THE VIEW:  A bi-level patio with umbrella-covered tables nestled amid blooming plants and lush greenery. You won’t know you’re sitting on Selby.
THE VIBE: Romantic and upscale, but not exclusive or stuffy.
THE VITAL TIP: Patio space is first come, first served.

Oh, the rapture: eating velvety beet carpaccio topped with gorgonzola fondue and arugula, perched at a table among blooming plants, shielded from Selby by a wall of ivy. La Grolla’s patio feels like Shangri-la, if we can assume Shangri-la has fine vino and heaping bowls of pasta topped with irresistibly rich sauces. Sit among a stately crowd: cross-generational book-club members, couples on double dates, guys freshly tanned from a round on the links, execs wooing potential clients, or young couples on a night out. You’ll never overdress, and yet only minimal consideration of your wardrobe beforehand ensures you fit in. Viva Selby Italia! —Katie Dohman

Molly Cool’s Seafood Tavern

17516 Dodd Blvd., Lakeville

THE VIEW:  They paved paradise, put up a parking lot, and then built paradise again. The lovely landscaping around this 60-seat patio almost totally conceals the strip-mall surroundings.
THE VIBE: You’ll feel like you’re looking into an aquarium, as a window cut into the restaurant reveals the sea of diners who prefer climate-control.
THE VITAL TIP: Go Wednesday where 15 bottles of wine are just $15 or Thursday where there’s live music from 7 to 10 p.m.

This place hops on any night when the temps hit the high 70s or more. The service is as warm as a summer night here at Molly Cool’s, where just about everyone is smiling. And why wouldn’t you smile, when you can have a fresh, juicy piece of mahi-mahi (we ordered ours blackened) with a summer-y side of pineapple salsa for just $20? The Prince Edward mussels are perfect for sharing: they swim in an incredibly addictive champagne-cream sauce with shallots ($11.95). Plus, fried oyster po boys with house-pickled onions and tomatoes? I’ll see you outside. —JASON DERUSHA


2940 Lyndale Ave. S., Mpls.

THE VIEW:  If you can snare a seat on the outer edge of the patio, you’ll have an unbeatable view of the Minneapolis skyline and the busy Lake-Lyndale intersection three stories below.
THE VIBE: Moto-i is a haven for the young and beautiful, but even if you’re neither, you’ll feel right at home after your first sake.
THE VITAL TIP: Order up the home-brewed sake not just for the novelty, but for the free dish of spicy house peanuts that accompany the drink.

Moto-i has made a name for itself as the first sake brewery restaurant outside of Japan. Combine it with the most spectacular rooftop in Uptown and a worthy happy hour, and you’ve got an unbeatable combination for a post-work gathering. Sake novices can start with the minty Good Luck Sake Cocktail or the light and sweet Junmai Tokubetsu Nama. Pick out a few small plates—a half-dozen pillowy steamed buns with chicken, pork, or mock duck, or the lovely chicken–green curry dumplings. Unwinding after a long day just got a whole lot easier. —ERIN PETERSON

Happy Gnome

498 Selby Ave., St. Paul

THE VIEW:  Like your fancy neighbor’s patio that you secretly covet: wooden privacy fencing, a ginormous fireplace, tree cover.
THE VIBE: Where the beer snobs and beards are.
THE VITAL TIP: There’s a lower-priced bar menu from Sunday through Wednesday that’s equally tasty as the dinner menu.

If you’re waaaaay into beer, you’re in luck, because so is the Happy Gnome. If you are only kinda into beer, you can look waaay into beer: The list is broken out by taste, so order with feigned indifference alongside the snobbiest of hops snobs. Here’s another awesome thing: If you’re way into whiskey, you’re also in luck. Or cider! Or food! The seasonal, local menu is chock-full of tasty belly fillers. AND! If you were waaaay into beer Saturday night, but on Sunday maybe not so much, the Gnome’s got the save: The Late Rizer, which contains poached eggs, bacon, avocado, tomato, chipotle hollandaise, an English muffin, and American fries. Wear plaid and listen to the wind ruffle the leaf canopy above your head. Better than Excedrin and a day on the couch. —KATIE DOHMAN




2260 Como Ave., St. Paul

THE VIEW:  Downtown St. Anthony Park, in all its stately cozy glory, with leafy bowing trees and genteel Tudor buildings holding old-fashioned businesses, like Micawber’s, a bookstore staffed by real live passionate readers.
THE VIBE: Comfortable and cozy as a top-of-the-line hammock, this isn’t a see-and-be-seen patio. It’s a comfortable-in-your-own-skin, isn’t-life-grand patio.
THE VITAL TIP: Skip the dozy options that Muffaletta’s oldest regulars won’t let them pull off the menu (unless you want to know what iconic beer-cheese soup tastes like—it’s a Jimmy Carter–era classic!). Instead, beeline for anything name-checking a real live farmer.

Chef Jason Schellin had his work cut out for him, rescuing Muffaletta from its own success: How do you do good work in a restaurant in which you can’t remove the 1977 Beer Cheese Soup, lest the regulars riot? But he’s doing it, by showcasing some of the best local farmers and letting their beautiful Midwestern products make his contemporary-cooking arguments for him. For instance, consider his rare-seared Wild Acres duck breast, an exquisite rare and tender pan-roasted preparation perfectly paired with roast carrot dumplings and seared rapini. Pair that perfectly cooked duck with a glass of Pinot Noir and your taste buds will never let you give it a miss again. Of course, there always will be Muffaletta partisans who insist on a nice pitcher of sangria and the lovely, lemony grilled-chicken caesar salad for dinner. And who can fault them, if that’s what you want? Muffaletta delivers the inarguable best in town. Still, all hail Schellin for delivering so much more than he needs to. —DARA MOSKOWITZ GRUMDAHL


294 E. Grove LN., Wayzata

THE VIEW:  Peerless vista of Lake Minnetonka’s Wayzata Bay.
THE VIBE: Decidedly mixed. Pinstriped financial consultants mingle with old-money Wayzata by day; prosperous, lake-loving couples emerge by night.
THE VITAL TIP: Stop in for happy hour, 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., Tuesday to Saturday, and all day Monday, for $1 off specialty cocktails and $2 off bar plates (that means a pair of crispy, scrumptious, walleye sliders are just $5), $3 domestic tap beers, $5 premium tap beers, and $4 wine specials.

Almost everything in Wayzata is oriented toward the lake, but nothing more so than NorthCoast’s dual patios. The upper deck exudes a more laid-back vibe, partly because it’s removed from the parade of townies and tourists strolling the bayside walk. The broad lower-level patio is the place to see and be seen. It spans nearly the full length of the Boat Works building off Lake Street, and is framed by gardens ablaze with roses, delphiniums, and zinnias, and docks with dozens of boats bobbing in their slips. You won’t even be tempted to pause in NorthCoast’s oddly contemporary dining room. Proceed directly to one of the outdoor wrought-iron tables to be immediately enveloped in a perfect summer fusion of water, sun, and breeze. —CHRIS LEE

Uptown Cafeteria

3001 Hennepin Ave., Mpls.

THE VIEW:  Rooftop views of downtown Minneapolis and the leafy copses that surround Lake Calhoun and Lake of the Isles.
THE VIBE: The new Uptown—less goth, more glam. Popular with the iPhone-therefore-iAm crowd.
THE VITAL TIP: Order the walleye–sweet corn fritters, along with a cold Dark & Stormy (authentically made with dark Jamaican rum) for some delicious cultural whiplash.

Retro or rooftop? That’s first choice that confronts the Converse-wearing, cocktail-craving crowd at the new Uptown Cafeteria, the über-popular new eatery in Minneapolis’s hippest neighborhood. Downstairs, the scene is all updated mid-century diner, replete with counter service and a rotating cake display. The menu ranges from eye-openers to nightcaps, French toast to hot Italian beef to Key lime pie—and you can wash down the vittles with a wide selection of draught beers, wines by the glass, and martinis (the “Blue Lagoon” and the “Joan Collins” are among the sloshers that cost just $5 all day long). But if the weather’s good, zip upstairs to Sky Bar, the rooftop patio—it’s this summer’s “it” spot for urban hipsters. The menu’s the same as down below, and there’s no better place in Uptown to snap pics of the sunset—not to mention the crowd—on your new 4G. —JOEL HOEKSTRA

Sea Change

818 S. Second St., Mpls.

THE VIEW: The soaring silos of neighboring Mill City Museum at the front patio, the whole panorama of the Mississippi River and the Stone Arch Bridge at the back.
THE VIBE: Equal parts gourmet fish lovers who have sought out the restaurant, and Guthrie patrons who may or may not realize how good they have it.
THE VITAL TIP: This place is always packed 70 minutes before a Guthrie show. Otherwise it’s the easiest reservation in town. Arrive any night 10 minutes after the show begins and you’ll have your pick of the best tables in the house, and a crack staff waiting to cook only for you.

Conventional wisdom runs that restaurants with a view have no food to speak of—and Sea Change is the restaurant that upends that thought. The food, led by Tim McKee, the James Beard Award–winning chef famous for La Belle Vie, but cooked by chef de cuisine Erik Andersen (French Laundry, Porter & Frye) and Adam Vickerman (opening chef of Tosca), is often delicate to the point of heartbreaking: Raw langoustines quivering like jelly and enhanced simply with olive oil, lemon, and scatterings of tiny flowering herbs, are so fresh, sumptuous, and ethereal they’re the best seafood in town. Cooked pink shrimp (so sustainable, like everything here, that McKee was recently flown to the Monterey Bay Aquarium to receive an award) are not just the best shrimp cocktail in town, they redefine the dish: They’re arranged like sculptures, each shrimp anchored to the plate with a tiny, fiery little spot of just-grated horseradish. And the view! Giant old grain silos, circling gulls, the lush trees that surround the Mississippi. Walk off dessert (the ice-cream sandwich, by rising star Niki Francioli, is just one standout) with a little stroll across the Stone Arch bridge. You’ll never think of dinner with a view in the same way again. —DARA MOSKOWITZ GRUMDAHL



410 Saint Peter St., St. Paul

THE VIEW:  The Landmark Center across the street looming majestically, like a northern European castle. Hark! Are those horse-drawn carriages you see? Yup. On Friday and Saturday nights, mosey on over and cap off your meal with a carriage tour of regal downtown St. Paul.
THE VIBE: Chic urban professionals. You’ll know the architects and artists by their bold eyewear, and the frequent European travelers by the relieved looks of satisfaction they wear.
THE VITAL TIP: A tough reservation 90 minutes before any show at the Ordway, but pretty easy to get any other time. That said, if you’re a Minnesota Opera or St. Paul Chamber Orchestra season-ticket holder, there’s nothing wrong with making reservations well in advance.

Meritage’s chef Russell Klein can trace his cooking pedigree directly to Escoffier, due to his formative years as a young chef coming up in New York City under David Bouley. Will the average diner care? Yes, because Klein takes serious cooking seriously, even when there are frivolous things on the plates like his summer lunch special of the classic East Coast beach food, the Maine lobster roll. Sure, there are ways to cut corners with lobster rolls, chief among them using frozen lobster, but with one eye on Escoffier, Klein takes the trouble to fly in live lobster, boil them off daily, dress lightly, and serve with the exact right butter-seared workaday hot-dog buns that lobster rolls are supposed to go in. And that’s just a lobster roll. You should see what he does with soft duck eggs, morels, and green garlic, or roasted rack of Iowa lamb en tourte. Escoffier would be proud. —DARA MOSKOWITZ GRUMDAHL

The Sample Room

2124 Marshall St. NE, Mpls.

THE VIEW:  Potted plants outside and local art inside
THE VIBE: Upscale, but still eclectic Nordeast
THE VITAL TIP: The savings add up at happy hour with $1.50 Grain Belt, $3 appetizers, and $3 off most drinks (3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. Sunday through Thursday).

The petite patio at the Sample Room may not take advantage of the view of neighboring Gluek’s Riverside Park, but under the overhang is a quiet place to enjoy a brew and a bite on a sunny day. And the drink menu here could make any hour happy, with local brews like Surly Furious and Grain Belt Nordeast, a selection of wine flights, and ’tinis and ’tails, such as the popular French 75, to choose from. Plus, you gotta love any Nordeast eatery with ample off-street parking. —Ellie Bayrd

Trïa Restaurant Bar and Market

5959 Centerville Rd., North Oaks

THE VIEW:  Park-like atmosphere of Presbyterian Home grounds next door
THE VIBE: Suburban casual
THE VITAL TIP: Patio tables usually available on Sunday, but make patio reservations for Friday or Saturday

Although Trïa Restaurant regularly serves residents of North Oaks and the surrounding areas, they are just as welcoming to city dwellers. The patio has a subdued feeling with sounds of birds and a nearby fountain accompanying the quiet music piped outside. After dark, table candles, patio lights, and the outdoor fireplace set the mood even more. And if you’re an animal lover, the staff would love to relate the amusing legend of Morgan the pig, portrayed in a bronze cast in the entryway. —JOCELYN STONE

W.A. Frost

374 Selby Ave., St. Paul

THE VIEW: A green forest of majestic elms, oaks, and ash trees swaying overhead, a patio of brick, ivy, and lush plantings below.
THE VIBE: Everyone who’s everyone comes to Frost: Nervous couples in careful dress on first dates; couples celebrating their 40th wedding anniversaries; girlfriends weighed down with fancy wrapped birthday presents; families with great-grandma in a wheelchair and newborns in strollers.
THE VITAL TIP: Reservations, reservations, reservations: The beauty of the Frost patio is about as big a secret as the fact that the sun rises in the east. If you want to partake on a prime-time Saturday night call well in advance or be prepared to wait. And we do mean call: Open Table can only be used for inside reservations, generally not patio reservations.

You know that scene in the original Star Wars where Luke ventures into the interplanetary bar and there’s a startling cross-section of people from every walk of life? W. A. Frost is like that, if by every walk of life you mean every walk of life in which people send and receive thank-you notes. It’s a genteel place, with well-mannered people of every stripe enjoying chef Wyatt Evans’s beautifully local dishes. For a casual dinner, try the lamb burger with its cucumber-yogurt sauce; more inquisitive diners will beeline for specials like local Singerhouse Farm rabbit-confit risotto with tomato marmalade and Keewaydin Farms spinach. Frost is also a sleeper of a vegetarian powerhouse: How do you like the sound of English pea risotto, accented with smoked paprika and vanilla, or pastry-wrapped tofu with Chinese mushrooms, hot-and-sour soup, and a scallion-radish salad? We like the sound so much we might send Frost a thank-you note of our own: Thanks for being as reliable as the sun, and as welcome during a vacation afternoon. —DARA MOSKOWITZ GRUMDAHL

Jason DeRusha is Minnesota Monthly’s food critic and editor. He was a James Beard Foundation Award finalist for his TV work covering food and is also a WCCO Radio host. Follow him on Instagram, @DeRushaJ, and Twitter, @DeRushaEats.
Katie Dohman is a St. Paul freelance writer and editor focused on lifestyle stories. Formerly the lifestyle editor for Minnesota Monthly, she’s also contributed to Zagat, the Star Tribune, Experience Life, Virgin Atlantic Airlines, and BloomaBlog, among others.
Joel Hoekstra writes frequently about design and architecture for Midwest Home and has contributed to a wide range of publications, including This Old House, Metropolis, ASID Icon and Architecture Minnesota. He lives in Minneapolis in a 1906 Dutch Colonial that is overdue for a full remodel—or at least a coat of fresh paint.
Chris Lee, a longtime magazine writer and editor, has been a keen observer of the Twin Cities thriving design scene for more than a decade. As editor of Midwest Home, she combines her passion for all things home with her love of good story telling.