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August 2, 2013

Roundup: Our Guide To Dining Alfresco At Top Sidewalk Tables In The Neighborhoods Of Philadelphia

Outdoor dining is one of the hallmarks of summer, and Philadelphia makes it easy to enjoy a street-side summer meal alfresco. (Photos at top, from left by K. Ciappa for GPTMC, courtesy Starr Restaurants; photos at bottom by R. Kennedy for GPTMC)

Dining alfresco is one of the sweet joys of summer. Somehow, food and drink just taste better when consumed in the great outdoors.

As lovely weather sweeps over the city, don’t miss the opportunity to indulge in eats and drinks under the sun or stars.

In Philadelphia, the quickest way to take advantage of this warm-weather delight is by snagging one of this city’s plentiful street-side tables and moving seamlessly from pedestrian to diner in a flash.

Whether you’re seeking a happy-hour brew, a farm-to-table dinner or a cool cocktail amid the city’s bustle, Philadelphia’s sidewalks hold a table for you.

Now, read on for our top picks for sidewalk-side alfresco dining in Philadelphia, divided by neighborhood.

Rittenhouse Square

Parc: From the first signs of spring to the final fallen leaf of autumn, the abundant wrap-around outdoor seating at Parc never fails to fill. Be it for breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner or cocktails, the more than 75 seats that wrap around the restaurant populate with diners seeking French-brasserie style fare and airy environs. Plus, 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 thanks to its proximity to Rittenhouse Square and Walnut Street.

a. kitchen: Adjacent to AKA Rittenhouse Square, a.kitchen offers up prime see-and-be-seen outdoor seating. On temperate days, wide open ground-to-ceiling windows give way to street-facing dining. A sophisticated crowd tends to occupy the outdoor seats, with small plates, lovely charcuterie and boutique wines topping tables.

Rouge: Known as the original Rittenhouse sidewalk cafe, Rouge debuted back in 1998 as a chic cafe on Rittenhouse Square, and its sidewalk seats are still some of the most sought-after in town. More than 15 years later, the perfect park view, delicious fare and top-notch people-watching draw loyal crowds.

Devon: You can’t really beat Devon’s cushy location right on Rittenhouse Square, especially when the weather is nice. Sandwiched in between Parc and Rouge, it’s another park-facing dining experience. Enjoy fresh seafood with a side of people-watching.

Shake Shack: New York-imported burger stand Shake Shack was founded in a park, so excellent alfresco seating is a natural embellishment to its casual dining room. Plentiful sidewalk seating on Sansom Street means you can enjoy juicy burgers and tasty shakes alfresco. And keep an eye out for another Shake Shack to debut in

The Dandelion: Though the majority of The Dandelion’s seats are indoors, a handful of pub-goers can snag a seat on the few picnic tables situated on Sansom Street. Enjoy tasty British pub-style fare — a brilliant burger, beer-battered fish and chips — with a side of fresh air.

Continental Midtown: The rooftop lounge is Continental Midtown’s pièce de résistance, but there’s plenty of sidewalk seating, too. Grab a table outdoors for global fare, cocktails and killer people watching on Chestnut Street.

Both of Tria's locations offer sweet sidewalk seating. (Photo courtesy Tria)

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.

Tria: Wine, beer, cheese and sunshine play very nicely at the smattering of outdoor tables at the Rittenhouse location of Tria. Snap up a seat along Sansom Street for sophisticated refreshment. Some tables offer shade, too, in the way of umbrellas.

Square 1682: Recently renovated Square 1682 at the Hotel Palomar serves casually refined fare both indoors and out.The LEED-certified restaurant boasts great sidewalk seating on the less-trafficked Sansom Street, and is also super pet-friendly.

Twenty Manning Grill: Rittenhouse Square’s Twenty Manning Grill sets up super outdoor seating on 20th Street and Manning Street, both with low car traffic. Enjoy the seasonal internationally influenced fare, or just sip a glass of wine among the locals that tend to return here again and again.

Audrey Claire: Sister restaurant to Twenty Manning, new American BYOB Audrey Claire sits on a busy corner in Rittenhouse, with ample sidewalk seating on both 20th and Spruce streets. Bonus: Big windows let the breeze filter through to the dining room, making for an alfresco feel indoors, too.

Midtown Village and Washington Square

El Vez: When the weather is sweet, the tables at El Vez on the corner of 13th and Sansom overflow with revelers. Kick back with a potent margarita and a bowl of fresh guacamole and tortilla chips, and take in the colorful sights and sounds of bustling Midtown Village.

Jamonera: The dynamic doyennes of Midtown, Marcie Turney and Valerie Safran, know Philadelphians want to sit outside. At Spanish eatery Jamonera, Turney’s masterful menu changes seasonally, so light summery fare can pair perfectly with breezes and bustle at the outside tables.

Barbuzzo: On 13th Street, Turney and Safran’s empire takes over serious sidewalk real estate in front of Barbuzzo, the pair’s Mediterranean eatery. Always in demand, score a table early or late for summer eats like pizza, salads and ever-changing small plates.

Garces Trading Co.: Chef Jose Garces’ gourmet market-cafe Garces Trading Company has excellent, but somewhat limited, 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 option at Tria’s west-of-Broad locale: 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 always-hopping BYOB Mercato, what with all the jealous Spruce Street passersby. Dig in to fresh, light Italian fare and let folks walk on by.

• Kanella: The distinctive Cypriot fare of BYOB Kanella whisks diners away to the Greek isle. Sit at one of the handful of alfresco tables propped on the sidewalk, wait for a breeze, and it’s an instant vacation.

Varga Bar: When the weather is fine, beer bar and gastropub Varga offers abundant outdoor seating, as well as breezy spots by wide-open windows. Tuck in to chipotle wings, oysters or a killer burger paired with one of the more than 20 drafts for fine summertime dining.

More choice alfresco dining options, below.

Fairmount and Spring Garden

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.

Fare: With sweeping views of Eastern State Penitentiary, Fare offers up both sweet sights and seasonal, eminently grazable cuisine. Outdoors tables sit both directly in front of the restaurant on Fairmount Avenue, and just off the street on the side of the restaurant.

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.

London Grill: A neighborhood staple since 1991, diners at London Grill can enjoy ample sidewalk seating outside for an evening of people watching on the lively main drag of Fairmount.

Graduate Hospital

Pub & Kitchen: In Graduate Hospital, the alfresco tables at Pub & Kitchen offer outdoor seating for up to 40 people along 20th Street. Plenty of shade is available, too, with awnings above, as well as generous tree cover. The elevated pub fare — burgers, oysters, crudite — goes down easily in the great outdoors.

Meritage: Just across the street from P&K, Meritage offers sidewalk seating, too, and its; extra pretty at night, when the strands of lights in the trees twinkle.

South Street and Queen Village

Supper: On colorful South Street, Supper seats outdoors at just a handful of tables when the weather shapes up. For brunch, dinner or a weekday happy hour, the farm-fresh ingredients on the menu feel right at home when eaten outside.

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.

• Bridget Foy’s: Near historic Headhouse Square, Bridget Foy’s is a reliable South Street favorite and has fed crowds since 1978. The family-friendly spot is fit for crowds outdoors with front-deck style alfresco tables in abundance.

Snag a table at Pizzeria Stella on South Street overlooking the historic shambles at Headhouse Square. (Photo by R. Kennedy for GPTMC)

The Twisted Tail: A bourbon-fueled “juke joint” overlooking Headhouse Square, The Twisted Tail offers live music multiple nights a week, with plenty of craft beer, whiskey and charcoal-fired food making things merrier. Out front, a number of umbrellaed tables make for a sweet spot to sit on a sunny day.

Pizzeria Stella: Stephen Starr Restaurants’ Pizzeria Stella is a gourmet-minded, neighborhood pizza shop. Enjoy the ‘za outside at one of the many cafe tables that flank the restaurant on two sides.

• Bistrot La Minette: Chef-owner Peter Woolsey brings a true taste of Paris to Queen Village with Bistrot La Minette, his charming bistro. Sample decadent duck-leg confit, coq au vin, escargots, tarte tatin and more French classics street-side on the front porch, or within the secret garden out back.

• Creperie Beau Monde: At corner bistro Creperie Beau Monde, sample traditional Breton-style crepes in endless savory or sweet combinations, preferably at one of the outdoor tables along Bainbridge Street.

Village Belle: One of the rare spots with a view of the Delaware River, Village Belle flings open its floor-to-ceiling windows to give way to fresh air indoors, and sets up tables on the patio for true alfresco dining. The Mediterranean menu stars homemade crespelle, meatball sliders and, at brunch, eggs Bendetto.

Bella Vista

Sabrina’s: Nestled just a block from the Italian Market, Sabrina’s brunch is legendary. Sure, the stuffed French toast is epic, and the huevos rancheros stick to your ribs for days, but plenty of appeal comes from the outdoor seating option. Around a dozen, mostly shaded tables provide an ideal spot for brilliant brunching (or lunching, too).

Monsu: Another Italian Market BYOB, Monsu prides itself on its Sicilian roots, and serves both traditional (eggplant parmigiana, osso buco) and adventurous (sweet-and-sour tripe) fare for brunch and dinner. Snag an outdoor table, open the bottle of wine you brought and enjoy a leisurely, Euro-style dining experience.

Anthony’s Italian Coffee & Chocolate House: Though just a coffee, dessert and chocolate shop, Anthony’s outdoor tables offer all the sights and sounds of the Italian Market — the tables sit among produce vendors right on the sidewalk.

The Industry Bar: Located on the outskirts of the Queen Village neighborhood (technically in Pennsport), the Industry Bar provides fine bites and drinks to the masses. Enjoy brunch, dinner or a few drinks at the outdoor tables along Moyamensing Avenue and Reed Street. The bar and restaurant also offers a solid lineup of craft beer and varying special discounts every day. Insiders tip, while you’re there don’t sleep on the burgers.

East Passyunk Avenue

Izumi: The cool thing about chef Lynn Rinaldi’s Asian eatery 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.

• Sophia’s: Chef Christopher Lee opened Sophia’s earlier this year, and the refined American brasserie offers patrons dressed-up sliders, note-perfect seafood and a couple of sidewalk tables from which to enjoy the contemporary fare.

Northern Liberties and Fishtown

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 (which has great off-street seating), Cantina Dos Segundos has floor-to-ceiling windows plus tables on the sidewalk outside.

Darling’s Diner: Berry cuvée with guava and bananas foster are two of several exotic cheesecake flavors available ’round-the-clock at this retro-themed diner that’s credited with inventing the Philly cheesecake, a lighter version of the New York classic. Indoor and outdoor seating, Piazza room service and breakfast anytime explain why Darling’s has established itself as a Northern Liberties staple.

El Camino Real: Texas or Mexico? Seitan or sirloin? Local brew or Dos Equis? The menu options seem endless at El Camino Real, Bar Ferdinand’s progeny that splits allegiances as a barbecue post and border bar with plenty of seating on the sidewalks of Liberties Walk.

Honey’s Sit ‘N’ Eat: Each plate served at this homestyle Southern-Jewish spot is like its own U.N. summit. Latkes nestle grits, and challah French toast hugs drop biscuits with sausage gravy. To wash it all down: orange juice that’s squeezed fresh upstairs. Snag one of the umbrellaed tables outside for warm-weather brunching.

North 3rd: Just a handful of blocks from the Piazza at Schmidts, North 3rd’s sidewalk seating is pleasantly shady.

Kraftwork: In Fishtown, locals know the welded tables outside at Kraftwork are prime spots to dig in to elevated pub fare and an incredible craft beer list.

• Cedar Point Bar & Kitchen: Kale makes its way into veggie burgers and martinis at Fishtown Southern comfort foodery Cedar Point Bar & Kitchen. Food scene alums Shannon Dougherty and Liz Petersen came up with the relaxed brunch-through-late-night concept, and offer up a great front deck where locals and stop, eat and chill.

Old City

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.

In Old City, Continental is a great destination to sit along the sidewalk. (Photo by B. Krist for GPTMC)

Farmacia: With fine farm-to-table fare and farm-to-bar cocktails, Farmacia draws diners for fresh lunches, brunches and dinners. Snag one of the few charming sidewalk tables to enjoy the lively flavors outdoors.

Red Owl Tavern: Overlooking Independence Mall, there are few sidewalk tables with better scenery than Red Owl Tavern. Adjacent to the Hotel Monaco, the all-day, all-night menu dishes a wide range of elevated American comfort fare.

Continental Old City: Continental’s original Old City location offers up a great deal of sidewalk dining, with tables on both the Market Street and 2nd Street sides of the restaurant. The huge menu of global fare, cocktails and more is certainly crowd-pleasing, as is the proximity to historic Philadelphia attractions.

• Monkey Bar: Monkey Bar has a great location going for it. With a number of umbrella-shaded tables and a nice beer list, it’s a great spot for an alfresco pit stop while touring the area.

Pizzicato: Satisfying, standard pizza and pasta is paired at Pizzicato with comfy couches and tables outside on Market and 3rd Street, wrapping around the sizeable property.

The Franklin Fountain: For old-fashioned, freshly churned ice cream, few places beat Franklin Fountain. Have the amiable scoopers craft a Banana Split for My Baby sundae and share it alfresco at a cafe table with your sweetie before it melts.

University City

Dock Street Brewery: At Dock Street, a brewpub housed in a converted firehouse, craft beer-lovers can order up the pub’s popular pizzas and brews from a slew of outdoor tables that look out onto Baltimore Avenue.

Green Line Cafe: Just across from verdant Clark Park, the Baltimore Avenue location of Green Line Cafe offers up a few coveted outdoor tables, which make perfect spots to sip coffee and relax in sunshine.

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Bob says:

Rembrandt’s in Fairmount has outdoor seating, and it’s not right up against the traffic of Fairmount Ave. A plus over some of the others in my book.

Joe says:

Queen village’s most abundant outdoor seating under canopies is Bainbridge St. Barrel house.
6th and Bainbridge.