July 17, 2012
Uwishunu’s Alfresco Dining Guide: Where To Dine Outdoors On The Rooftop, Sidewalk, Or Courtyard At Restaurants Around Philadelphia
Outdoor dining is one of the hallmarks of summer, a special ambience-adder that you only get to take advantage of when the weather is warm enough.
Here at Uwishunu we take alfresco dining seriously, weighing everything from shade quality to evidence of bus fumes in our decision where to dine under the sun or stars.
Recently we published our top picks for waterfront dining and garden-side dining, two subsets of dining outdoors that offer extra refreshment courtesy of Mother Nature. But an elegantly manicured patio or sun-dappled sidewalk also make for exceptional summertime dining.
Below, we present our top picks for alfresco dining in Philadelphia, divided helpfully by rooftop, sidewalk or courtyard/patio dining, and further by neighborhood.
Eat up! And let us know if we missed your favorite spot, in the comments.
• Square 1682: Square 1682 at the Hotel Palomar is LEED-certified, hosts fun year-round events and boasts great sidewalk seating on less-trafficked Sansom Street that’s also pet-friendly.
• Twenty Manning Grill: Rittenhouse Square’s Twenty Manning Grill has some of the best outdoor seating in Philadelphia. Sit on Manning Street, a side street with very little car traffic, and enjoy the Pan Asian fare. Did we mention the cooling spray-misters?
• Audrey Claire: Sister restaurant to Twenty Manning, BYOB Audrey Claire sits on a vibrant corner in Rittenhouse with ample sidewalk seating that’s made extra-fun by the bright green apples that serve as table centerpieces.
• Parc: Not only does Parc have the most outdoor seating in the Rittenhouse neighborhood, it’s also arguably the best people-watching spot in the whole city. More than 75 seats wrap around the restaurant, which has an airy and authentic French brasserie feel. Ask for a table on the 18th Street side and the beautiful Rittenhouse Square will be your backdrop.
• Rouge: Rouge started it all back in 1998 when it opened its sidewalk cafe on Rittenhouse Square, the very first in Philadelphia. Today it still offers a great park view, summer breezes, delicious fare and top-notch people-watching.
• Devon: You can’t really beat Devon’s cushy location right on Rittenhouse Square, especially when the weather is nice. Enjoy fresh seafood with a side of people-watching.
• Shake Shack: Newly-opened, New York-imported roadside burger stand Shake Shack happily just opened their sidewalk seating, which means you can enjoy those juicy burgers and tasty shakes alfresco. Don’t fear the lines: they move fast.
• a. kitchen: Philadelphia Magazine recently called a.kitchen the new Rouge, in terms of where to see-and-be-seen in Philadelphia. The tables sit facing out onto the street, so you can literally rub elbows with the Philadelphia elite (and sometimes visiting movie stars) while watching them stroll the streets.
• The Dandelion: Enjoy your tasty British fare — lamb shepherd’s pie, beer-battered fish and chips — with a side of fresh air, outside on Sansom Street.
• Serafina: No one can argue with the quality of the sidewalk seating at Serafina, with numerous tables that line both sides of the corner on which the restaurant sits, huge airy windows that control the claustrophobia quotient for those sitting inside.
Midtown Village/Washington Square West
• El Vez: One of the best places in the whole city to kick back with a tart margarita and a bowl of crunchy tortilla chips, El Vez has conquered the corner of 13th and Sansom, the new “Restaurant Row” in Philadelphia.
• Jamonera: If you’re searching for a sidewalk seat at which to enjoy Marcie Turney’s masterful cooking, opt for Marcie and partner Valerie Safran’s newest venture Jamonera, across the street from strongholds Lolita and Barbuzzo. On this wider and less hectic side of 13th Street, you’ll have much more breathing room, and the food is just as delicious. Plus, there’s a bar; the other two are BYOB.
• Garces Trading Co.: Chef Jose Garces’ gourmet market-cafe Garces Trading Company has excellent outdoor seating if you’re inclined to enjoy your thin-crust pizzas and excellently curated cheese boards under the sun or stars.
• Tria Washington Square West: You have two options: one of the high-top tables that’s set up right against the floor-to-ceiling windows on 12th Street, or any of the sidewalk tables on 12th or Spruce Streets. Neither has the more crowded feel of the Rittenhouse location.
• Mercato: You can’t help but feel pretty cool dining on the walk outside beloved BYOB Mercato, what with all the jealous Spruce Street passersby.
More sidewalk seating, plus rooftop and courtyard picks, below.
• Belgian Café: This Fairmount watering hole boasts more than 200 bottled brews, 12 rotating drafts and great outdoor seating on one of the sunniest tree-lined corners in Fairmount.
• Hickory Lane: Hickory Lane American Bistro’s cuisine, courtesy of former Lacroix and Rouge chef Matt Zagorski, is as great as its sidewalk seating, with bright green chairs and vast open windows.
• Pub & Kitchen: This hot spot offers outdoor seating for up to 40 along 20th Street. There are awnings above as well as generous tree cover. Go for happy hour, available 4-6 p.m. during the week, for $1 oysters and discounted draft beers.
• Meritage: Just across the street from P&K, Meritage offers sidewalk seating that’s extra pretty at night, when the Christmas lights in the trees twinkle.
• SoWe: SoWe (the name is short for Southwest Center City), the new Graduate Hospital bistro and bar that opened at the end of April serving extensive pub-inspired brunch, dinner, bar and drink menus, has a lively and tree-lined sidewalk patio open seven days a week.
• Supper: There may be nothing better than brunching at Supper (red velvet waffles, anyone?) outside on South Street on a Saturday or Sunday. The tables are wide, and widely spaced.
• Percy Street Barbecue: Just down the street from Supper is barbecue haven Percy Street, offering casual sidewalk seating with ample legroom and great people-watching without the passersby being too close.
East Passyunk Avenue
• Izumi: The cool thing about Lynn Rinaldi’s Izumi (just down the block from her other property, Paradiso), is that they place chairs and tables across the street next to East Passyunk’s iconic Fountain. How’s that for a refreshing summertime dinner?
• Stateside: The wine-whiskey-small plates spot on East Passyunk offers sidewalk seating that wraps around the corner for great people-watching.
• Birra: Located at the crossroads of Passyunk Avenue, 12th Street and Morris Street, Birra is a casual 85-seat brick oven pizza and craft beer joint with outdoor seating for 28.
• Bar Ferdinand: Bar Ferdinand is stylish, sophisticated and fun with an infusion of authentic Spanish flare. The outdoor seating is spacious but covered to fend off too much sunshine and summer breeze.
• Cantina Dos Segundos: The younger sibling of East Passyunk’s Cantina Los Caballitos, Cantina Dos Segundos (video sneak peek inside it here) has floor-to-ceiling windows plus tables on the sidewalk outside.
• North 3rd: Just a handful of blocks from the Piazza at Schmidts, North 3rd’s sidewalk seating is pleasantly shady.
• Amada: Amada serves authentic Spanish tapas based on the Mediterranean flavors that have long been the passion and expertise of founder and executive chef, Jose Garces. There’s nothing like trying his award-winning food under the stars outside. There are only seats for 12, so make sure you allow enough time to wait for your table.
• Pizzicato: Delicious pizza is paired here with comfy couches and tables outside on Market and 3rd Street, wrapping around the sizeable property.
• Landmark Americana: Landmark Americana has a few things going for it: specials during Phillies games, a daily rotating happy hour and spacious sidewalk seating, including firepits perfect for cooler summer nights.
• Tria Wine Room: The former Biba, Tria Wine Room just over the bridge in University City, has a quaint little front patio perfect for breezy sipping.
• Rittenhouse Tavern: Rittenhouse Tavern, a new venture inside the Philadelphia Art Alliance, features a quaint courtyard out back for outside dining sheltered by trees, the perfect alternative to dining on the Square, if you’re looking for proximity to Rittenhouse with a little more privacy.
• The Plaza Cafe at the Comcast Center (by Table 31): Orange umbrellas provide shade at Table 31′s Plaza Cafe while dancing fountains offer a bit of visual entertainment, to say nothing of the tallest skyscraper in Pennsylvania standing just 50 feet away. A new roof has partially enclosed the cafe, so you’re also protected against rain.
Midtown Village/Washington Square West
• Effie’s: A courtyard tucked along an alley off of Pine Street twinkles at night, making for a magical summer meal setting.
• 13 Restaurant at the Marriott: The Patio at 13 — Center City’s “outdoor living room” — is open for the summer with a great small-plates menu and specialty cocktails offered exclusively on the outdoor patio.
• Opa: Midtown Village’s popular Greek restaurant has just opened a completely awesome Drury Street backyard beer garden featuring a nicely priced beer list and summery eats (crabs, pretzels, chicken fingers). Foobooz has the details.
• Raw: Step outside into Raw’s private outdoor courtyard and lounge under the stars, sake in hand. In fact, the fifteen feet glass bar inside houses an impressive shelf of exotic sakes that caters to new tasters as well as sake connoisseurs.
• Sampan: Sampan’s outdoor Graffiti Bar is a favorite Center City watering hole. Philadelphia-area graffiti artists layered the walls and counters with custom street artwork. A plasma screen is suspended overhead so you can catch the Phillies game, and a clear plastic overhang covering the outdoor area means the rain is no deterrent. Word of warning: Chef Schulson’s bright Asian fare and refreshing drinks mean you may never leave.
• Route 6: Stephen Starr’s coastal spot on North Broad offers a new-for-summer happy hour in the bar, lounge and outdoor patio which runs Mondays-Friday, 4:30-6:30 p.m. The outdoor picnic tables might actually convince you that you’re at the beach.
• Alla Spina: Head to Marc Vetri’s casual Italian gastropub Alla Spina on North Broad, which has opened its huge windows in honor of the spring and summer’s warm temperatures. Treat yourself to a delicious beer on tap (there are 20 total and some 50 more in bottles) at a table by the windows.
• Silk City: The setting at the Silk City beer garden-like courtyard is part island oasis, part junkyard. It’s filled with colorful wooden tables, empty-kegs-turned-chairs, string lights aplenty and garden ornament-like objects likely salvaged at many a yard sale. And to that an awesome beer selection, favoring local brews, and you have a recipe for a great summer outing.
• PYT: Sun yourself out on the Piazza or lounge in the breezeway at this burger and shake stronghold located in Northern Liberties.
• SquareBurger: SquareBurger offers juicy burgers and the famous Tastykake Cake Shake courtesy of Mr. Starr, all outdoors in one of the city’s most lush courtyards in Franklin Square park. Bonus: work off the meal with a round of Philly-themed mini golf.
• Positano Coast: Across from Ritz Five, Positano Coast offers three fun and foodie-friendly outdoor atmospheres perfect for summer dining: a sidewalk café complete with comfy couches and bright turquoise pillows; an outdoor patio that boasts great second floor views; and the beautiful Sopra Lounge, an open air space with a terrace-like feel.
• Bistrot La Minette: Enjoy French movies in the Bistrot back courtyard, with tables lit by romantic lanterns, Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays through September.
• Crosswalk Cafe: The Independence Visitor Center’s outdoor cafe is the perfect warm-weather hangout in Historic Philadelphia, situated on the gorgeous Independence Mall with a great view of the National Constitution Center, National Museum of American Jewish History and Independence Hall. Bonus: bring your dog!
• Jack’s Firehouse: Jack’s offers some great outdoor dining in their side garden, with American food and exclusively local craft beer offered up as the perfect complement to the tucked away alcove.
• La Calaca Feliz: The patio out back of this new Mexican spot in Fairmount is huge by Philadelphia patio standards, with plenty of space between tables and big glass doors that make it easy to move inside and out.
• Bridget Foy’s: Check out the South Street passersby from the safety of this elevated sidewalk cafe. Bonus: every Monday is Mussel Night; head to the bar from 5-10 p.m. for a bowl of steaming mussels paired with a Belgian style ale or a glass of house wine for just $12.
University City/West Philadelphia
• Zocalo: Zocalo has a nice backyard, plus complimentary chips and salsa and nachos on Mondays and Tuesdays.
• Dock Street Brewery: Relax on the sidewalk or up on the deck at Dock Street with a cold craft beer, brewed right indoors, and a hot-from-the-oven pizza (our favorite is the Brie with mozzarella, sliced pears and toasted walnuts).
• In Riva: Admire the Schuylkill from the patio of this East Falls pizza spot (In Riva means “along the river”).
• Cantina Los Caballitos: The outdoor seating area set up on a giant grassy triangle of space adjacent to the restaurant is the perfect setting for margaritas and nachos.
• Manayunk Brewery: The Manayunk Brewery and Restaurant is situated right on the mouth of the Manayunk Canal and its sprawling outdoor deck boasts amazing views of the Schuylkill River. It’s arguably one of the city’s largest and best alfresco dining areas. Bonus: the beer is brewed on site.
• City Tap House: This place has serious outdoor dining real estate: the upper terrace has five stone fire pits, and the lower terrace overlooks stately Walnut Street.
Midtown Village/Washington Square West
• The Corner: The private roofdeck at The Corner, coupled with expertly mixed drinks and satisfying bites to eat, offers a well-rounded outdoor drinking or dining experience. Get $4 beers, $5 wines, $6 cocktails and $5 apps during happy hour, 5-7 p.m. Monday-Friday.
• Continental Midtown: The rooftop courtyard at Stephen Starr’s Continental Midtown is its pièce de résistance. Go for happy hour or a full-on dining experience: accompanying the eclectic cuisine is an extensive martini list that boasts several interesting combinations (and even more interesting names).
• Vango: No matter your opinion of the scene, Vango has a rooftop lounge with a great skyline view.
• Standard Tap: An excellent spot for weekend brunch, the large roofdeck at Standard Tap is also a great place for after-work drinks and/or dinner. The food has always been one of the reasons it sets itself apart from other bars in the city, and the beer on draft is all local.
• Revolution House: This Old City restaurant features a spacious second floor outdoor patio, decked out with colorful foliage and with a scenic view of historic Old City landmarks like Christ Church plus the Ben Franklin Bridge.
The following places boast huge open windows that open to let in the breeze. You can sit practically outside without having to worry about your toes being stepped on by brisk passersby.
• Il Pittore: Stephen Starr’s Italian venture in the former Noble American Cookery spot has the same airy front windows that afford a great summer street view.
• Vernick: Aside from the fact that we’re obsessed with the food and cocktails at this fairly new spot two blocks off Rittenhouse Square, the second floor has a genius outdoor dining solution: a wide-open iron terrace lined with fresh flowers with tables overlooking Walnut from a second-story vantage point. The breeze coming in reaches all the tables on the floor, so even if you’re not lucky enough to nab a window table, you still get a shot of fresh air.