Take it Outside

17 patios to match any mood

During the spring and summer months, Twin Citians try their best not to eat or drink within four walls. Of course, most restaurants are happy to feed our alfresco addiction—and the recent smoking ban has only added to the mix. Whether you crave breakfast by the shore, a moonlit dinner or a happy hour on high, one of these open-air favorites should satisfy.



Brit’s Pub, Downtown Minneapolis

Located on the south end of Nicollet Mall, Brit’s is just what comes to mind when you think of a pub. Its rich, dark wood interior and toasty fireplaces might make Brit’s the perfect place for a winter drink after work. But during the warmer months, it’s even better when Brit’s opens the rooftop garden, complete with 10,500-square-foot manicured English greens used for lawn bowling or, at other times, for outdoor screenings of British films. Try the Scotch Eggs with one of the many stouts, ales and lagers on tap, or sit outside along the Mall and enjoy a hearty pub meal. 1110 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis, 612-332-3908, www.britspub.com

The Liffey, Downtown St. Paul

Inside the Liffey, it’s easy to lose track of time. One of three locations created by West Ireland native Kieran Folliard, this shiny black pub features a maze of antique mirrors, cozy dining rooms and a center bar surging with whiskey and stout. Step up and out however, and you’ll gain a brighter perspective, as the renovated second-level terrace offers views of St. Paul’s historic cathedral and the bustling West Seventh Street. Both inside and out, The Liffey brings an authentic dose of Irish spirit to Minnesota’s capital city. 175 W. Seventh Street, St. Paul, 651-556-1420, www.theliffey.com

Solera, Downtown Minneapolis

This Spanish-inspired restaurant, located in the heart of Minneapolis’ historic theater district, attracts a young, eclectic crowd hungry for tapas, beer on tap and budget wines. Contemporary mosaics and floating light sculptures combined with a friendly staff make Solera a first choice for atmosphere alone. The free Sunday and Monday movie nights are a real hit, too, as some 100 cinemagoers head to the Moroccan-style rooftop at dusk to enjoy dinner, drinks and a movie. 900 Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis, 612-338-0062, www.solera-restaurant.com

Stella’s Fish Café & Prestige Oyster Bar, Uptown Minneapolis

You can’t get much better than chargrilled seafood kabobs under the clouds. Unveiled in summer 2005, this trendy restaurant specializes in fresh fish, oysters, spicy jambalaya, fried green tomatoes and other Gulf Coast staples. It also boasts one of Minneapolis’ most dazzling rooftop decks. The brainchild of local restaurateur Phil Roberts, who launched Buca di Beppo, Chino Latino, The Oceanaire Seafood Room and many other hot spots, the three-story Stella’s is kitty-corner from Calhoun Square, near the corner of Lake Street and Hennepin

Jax Café, Northeast Minneapolis

From this landmark building in Northeast Minneapolis, the Kozlak family operated a furniture store, a funeral home, a dance hall, a billiards parlor and a liquor store before launching their restaurant in 1933. By the early ’50s, the restaurant expanded to fill the entire building, and the family soon added Minnesota’s first outdoor dining patio. The quaint hideaway features a stream from which patrons can catch their very own rainbow trout. A Jax staffer will even snap a Polaroid with you and your soon-to-be dinner. 1928 University Avenue N.E., Minneapolis, 612-789-7297, www.jaxcafe.com

W.A. Frost & Company, Cathedral Hill, St. Paul

Set in the beautiful Cathedral Hill neighborhood of St. Paul, W.A. Frost is a prime spot for dining alfresco. Unlike some of downtown’s sidewalk seating, where you may be forced to talk over traffic, Frost’s patio is its own private garden. Surrounded by trees, flowers, bushes and stone walls, you forget you’re in the middle of a major city. And with the upscale entrées made mostly from organic products, dining out at W.A. Frost seems only natural. 374 Selby Avenue, St. Paul, 651-224-5715, www.wafrost.com


Billy’s on Grand, St. Paul

This Grand Avenue favorite boasts all the pleasures of an easy, breezy afternoon, with baskets of wings and rings, budget brews and pastimes aplenty (including darts, billiards, a premium jukebox playlist and sports coverage on all sides). But the most pleasant highlight of all is Billy’s expansive terrace—ideal real estate for catching a few rays while observing passersby. The patio even features its own menu of seasonal staples, including ballpark hot dogs, lip-smacking salads and fresh lemonade. With sliding glass doors that open to the patio area, the music and laughter echoing from the bar enhances that summertime spirit. 857 Grand Avenue, St. Paul, 651-292-1316, www.billysongrand.com

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The Local, Downtown Minneapolis

Another urban hotspot by Irishman Kieran Folliard, The Local is actually three pubs in one: The intimate Willy Reilly’s with its large windows; the Victorian-style Porter Pub and its 80-foot bar; and the comfy Whiskey Lounge. Adding to this winning combination is a mezzanine-level billiards room, as well as an expansive sidewalk patio around the pub’s exterior. This stretch of outdoor seating is the perfect place to take in all of downtown’s warm-weather happenings—with a fresh Black and Tan in hand. 931 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis, 612-904-1000, www.the-local.com

Zelo, Downtown Minneapolis

From your sidewalk table on Nicollet Mall, you’ll see pulled-back velvet drapes and a spacious dining room of rich wood, high ceilings and colorful art adorning the walls. But Zelo’s opulent vibe also extends outside, as skilled waiters serve fine Italian cuisine to an upscale clientele. After some Saturday night window-shopping or a play in the theater district, Zelo proves an ideal spot to wine and dine your sophisticated lady (or man). 831 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis, 612-333-7000.


The Freight House, Stillwater

From the carousel horses hanging from the wood-beamed ceiling to the friendly bar, this former Burlington Northern train station is loaded with charm. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the restaurant maintains its ties with the past via rustic furnishings, hardwood floors and old photos of Stillwater’s river trading industry. Enjoy open views of the St. Croix River and its surrounding tree-lined bluffs from the large, outdoor deck. Savor traditional fare such as steaks, burgers and gourmet salads and plan on making a night of it: The restaurant also has one of the best nightlife scenes in Stillwater. 305 S. Water Street, Stillwater, 651-439-5718, www.fhstillwater.com

Maynard’s, Lake Minnetonka

Whether you prefer to nurse your martini in the sun or devour your fries in the shade, you’ll have no trouble finding an outdoor table here. On the southeast corner of Lake Minnetonka’s Excelsior Bay, Maynard’s huge patio and wharf area provide close-up views of the sparkling sea and vibrant sailboats. Chill out with a cold beer and watch lake patrons motor their yachts up to the deck before returning to the sky blue waters. 685 Excelsior Boulevard, Excelsior, 952-470-1800, www.maynardsonline.com

Saint Anthony Main, Mississippi River

Great patios equal great views, and the Minneapolis Riverfront District establishments—a quick river crossing from the heart of downtown—supply deck upon deck of them. If you want fish or steak, go with Vic’s; if you crave bistro fare, go with the Aster Café; or if you want American eats, try Pracna on Main or Tuggs Tavern. Each terrace faces the Mississippi, the downtown skyline, historic buildings and wanderers along the Stone Arch Bridge. You can’t ask for more—except maybe some live outdoor music, which they offer as well. Visit www.saintanthonymain.com for more details.


The Muddy Pig, St. Paul

This casual neighborhood bistro features an impressive beer list and surprisingly fancy food—from walnut crusted walleye and drunken flank steak to Mexican Caesar salads and three-garlic pasta, as well as bar food mainstays like burgers and chicken wings. The shabby chic vibe of “The Pig” continues outside on the porch-style patio, where a lively, after-work crowd catches up on office gossip over Belgian microbrews or glasses of Shiraz. 162 S. Dale Street, St. Paul, 651-254-1030, www.themuddypig.com

Psycho Suzi’s Motor Lounge, Northeast Minneapolis

Dubbed a “poor man’s paradise,” Psycho Suzi’s terrace actually draws a clientele of poor, rich and everyone in between. Northeast Minneapolis natives head to the tiki-themed, multilevel patio—complete with wicker chairs, straw-hut umbrellas and bamboo-covered walls—for an affordable menu of sandwiches, salads, beer-battered snacks and award-winning pizza. Belly up to the bar, which is decked with a pink neon sign that reads “Mender of Broken Dreams,” and order one of Suzi’s powerful rum cocktails, served in mugs shaped like pirates, skulls and coconuts. 2519 Marshall Street N.E., Minneapolis, 612-788-9069, www.psychosuzis.com

Sgt. Preston’s, Minneapolis

A favorite U of M campus hangout, Sgt. Preston’s large patio sits perfectly outside its Seven Corners location to catch all of the sun you could ask for. Bring a few friends, grab a fishbowl—100 ounces of your drink of choice—and slurp away. Preston’s is a great place to stop before a Minnesota Twins game, as it’s walking distance to the Metrodome. But if the fishbowl’s gotten the better of you, the Sergeant will shuttle you to the game for free. 221 Cedar Avenue S., Minneapolis, 612-338-6146.