Where to Dine Outdoors this Summer
We’re well into outdoor dining season and even though the idea of eating en plein air when it’s 95 degrees during the day might seem unexciting, there’s nothing quite like a summer night out of doors, sipping a cocktail or a seasonal salad. We’ve updated our 2009 outdoor dining guide with new spots (you’ll find them in green) that we think are worth a visit.
Sampan specializes in dressed-up Pan Asian street fare, like rabbit dumplings and bao bun “Philly Cheesesteaks.” Nosh on satay and sushi in two different outdoor seating areas — at the sidewalk café in front of the restaurant, and in the backyard Graffiti Bar. The backyard spot’s best — it’s a private open-air patio surrounded by street art.
Sampan, 124 South 13th Street, 215-732-3501
Yes, the baguettes and onion soup are justly praised, but it’s the open-air approach to dining at Parc that makes this Rittenhouse Square bistro feel so authentically French. Nab one of the rattan seats lining the 18th Street sidewalk — or just one of the tables closest to the windows looking out on the park — order a carafe of the house red wine, and commence lingering.
Parc, 227 South 18th Street, 215-545-2262
Tuck into a rib-eye steak frites in the hidden courtyard behind the restaurant. The closed-off dining area faces the garden of the St. James building and is a peaceful respite from the hustle and bustle of Chestnut Street.
Chops, 700 Walnut Street, 215-922-7770
Raw Sushi & Sake Lounge
We’ve always loved dining inside Raw: the long black-marble sushi bar; the paper lanterns strung at varying heights; the comfy high-backed booths. Then we sat in the sleek outdoor courtyard. This completely private outdoor lounge is even more cool, more trendy, more New York, than inside. Once seated at one of the low black tables, order the rock shrimp tempura and one of the house specialty rolls — they’re always packed with the freshest catches and affordably priced.
Raw, 1225 Sansom Street, 215-238-1903
Jamaican Jerk Hut
You can’t shake the island vibe at this Caribbean eatery. Sit at one of the painted red, blue or yellow picnic tables on the Hut’s fenced-in lawn and listen to Bob Marley while you wait for your waitress. At just $1.82 each, the (vegetable, beef or chicken) patties are mandatory, as is the made-for-sharing jerk chicken platter — with leg or breast meat, fried plantains, and a heaping pile of rice and beans.
Jamaican Jerk Hut, 1436 South Street, 215-545-8644
Terrace at 13
At 12th and Market, the Downtown Marriot has recently opened The Terrace at 13, a pretty veranda that serves drinks and their entire contemporary menu.
Thirteen, 1201 Market Street, 215-625-6795
Aged wine barrels are used as tables at Zinc, a quaint and genuinely French full-serve restaurant. Share cheese and charcuterie, or dig into something heavier like trout or steak frites.
Zinc, 246 South 11th Street, 215-351-9901
Not for the faint of heart, the sky-high Nineteen, that tops the Bellevue Park Hyatt, has opened their veranda for some heavenly dining.
Nineteen, Park-Hyatt at the Bellevue, 215-790-1919
Chef-owner Chris Scarduzio opens the outdoor Plaza Cafe component of his Comcast Center restaurant in the warmer months. The Plaza — which offers ample, umbrella-covered seating among greenery — serves casual house-made pizzas and creative salads.
Table 31, 1701 JFK Boulevard, 215-567-7111
Koo Zee Doo
This rustic Portuguese BYOB in NoLibs has a small outdoor dining area. Trust us and try the braised chicken gizzards — they’re surprisingly tender.
Koo Zee Doo, 614 North 2nd Street, 215-923-8080
The Swift Half’s 50-seat outdoor patio overlooks the main stage at the Piazza at Schmidt’s. The perfect spot to sip a beer, munch on charcuterie and cheese, and take in whatever’s playing on the big screen.
Swift Half, 1001 North 2nd Street, 215-923-4600
Queen Village/South Philly
Hoof + Fin
The outdoor patio at Hoof + Fin secludes diners from Queen Village hustle and bustle. Bring a bottle of wine to this simple, home-style restaurant, and pretend that you’re in the urban backyard you wish you had.
Hoof + Fin, 617 South Third Street, 215-925-3070
This Italian trattoria boasts a menu of homemade pastas that transport you from East Passyunk to Abruzzo. If lamb ragù sounds too heavy for summer, sample the $10 grilled specialties offered in the garden dining area all summer long.
Le Virtu, 1927 East Passyunk Avenue, 215-271-5626
Bistrot La Minette
French La Minette has two options for dining like a Parisian, on their new front porch or in their back-bricked garden courtyard. On Wednesday nights during the summer, the restaurant will offer $10 Bistrot Bites — a menu of snacks and beverage pairings — on the sidewalk terrace.
Bistrot La Minette, 623 South 6th Street, 215-925-8000
Izumi, a trendy sushi spot that is one of non-Italian eateries that now proliferate along East Passyunk has added seats around a pretty fountain.
Izumi, 1601 East Passyunk Avenue, 215-271-1222
Susanna Foo Gourmet Kitchen
This suburban Asian eatery is now the only place where we can dine on the famed Philly chef’s food — Foo’s original Walnut Street spot closed in June 2009. And while the entire restaurant feels modern and cool, the outdoor courtyard, with its string lights, insulating brick walls, oversize umbrellas and ample greenery (including, of course, bamboo), makes lunching or dinner-ing here feel very L.A. Which means that donning your largest shades, noshing on sashimi and sipping a sauv blanc is mandatory.
Susanna Foo Gourmet Kitchen, 555 East Lancaster Avenue, Radnor, 610-688-8808
There’s no mistaking the casual summer vibe at Gullifty’s outdoor offshoot, the Gaarden. On the walled-in, umbrella-ed patio, waitresses wear tank tops and jean shorts, and the affordable menu consists of some delicious grilled-only eats — like a $9 grilled pizza with bourbon BBQ sauce, prosciutto and pineapple, and a Mexican burger topped with cheddar jack cheese and salsa for the same price. In fact, all the cooking is done outside, on the patio — that’s the Gaarden’s grill back there behind the bar. Which means that minutes after you order that burger, you’ll smell it hit the grill.
Gullifty’s, 1149 Lancaster Avenue, Rosemont, 610-525-1851
Johnnie’s Dog House
This hot-dog chain just off Lancaster Avenue is a Main Line go-to for the quintessential — and cheap — summer eat. No matter your taste, Johnnie’s got you covered. There’s the New York classic, with brown deli mustard and kraut; a Chicago-style dog; and even a Philly iteration, a play on the cheesesteak with sautéed onions and melted cheddar cheese. Whichever you choose, the two wooden picnic tables nestled up against the side of the restaurant are the best spots to enjoy. Psst: If you come after 4:30 p.m., you’ll get a free beer with your dog.
Johnnie’s Dog House, 11 Louella Court, Wayne, 484-582-0151
Azie There are a lot of rooms in this sprawling Asian restobar, and on weekends, all of them are filled with spirited, well-dressed imbibers as well as minimalist white chairs and modern light fixtures that double as art. But step out onto the rooftop seating area, overlooking quaint State Street in downtown Media, and you’ll rediscover the charms of small-town dining. Split one of chef Takao Iinuma’s signature sushi rolls, and order the Kobe hot rock appetizer — you cook slices of beef on a hot stone, tableside.
Azie, 217-219 West State Street, Media, 610-566-4750
Iron Hill Brewery
It doesn’t really matter that this expansive spot in Media accommodates upwards of 300 people. The best and most sought-after seats are the nine tables on the small, tree-lined patio along busy State Street, because the brewery’s seasonal beers (try the Belgian Witbier, with refreshing citrus tones) and the something-for-everyone menu of pizza, salads and burgers are perfect for out-of-doors. Oh, and the people-watching ain’t bad, either.
Iron Hill Brewery, 30 East State Street, Media, 610-627-9000
We suggest you bypass those old-school red picnic tables outside Folsom’s outpost of blast-from-your-past chain Nifty Fifty’s, and instead do like the local teens: Order cheeseburgers (the “Royal” is topped with a homemade onion ring) and milkshakes (we like the mint Oreo) at the takeout counter, head to the parking lot, and enjoy on the hood of your car.
Nifty Fifty’s, 1900 MacDade Boulevard, Folsom, 610-583-1950
The multi-room dining areas of this 20-year old Cherry Hill restaurant may show its age, but the outdoor patio, complete with overhead tent and mature greenery, invites savoring La Campagne’s classic cuisine and the chilled bottle of white you toted along. Appetizers like lavender-cured salmon with grainy-mustard-tossed baby potatoes are nice, light complements to the pleasantly charred rack of lamb and rabbit Bolognese entrées.
La Campagne, 312 Kresson Road, Cherry Hill, 856-429-7647
The narrow but spacious patio of Aldo Lamberti’s Milano Modo is the best way to enjoy the surprisingly affordable food here. Try not to fill up on the bread, so you’ll have room for one of the many pasta options — perhaps littleneck clams with linguine, or lobster ravioli — or the vast veal parmesan entrée. Designate a driver; drinks here can be pleasantly strong.
Milano Modo, 1643 Route 38, Mount Holly, 609-261-2345
Weber’s is fun for the whole family. Lower your window and flash your lights, and a smiley waitress hops on over, takes your order — super-affordable burgers, fries, dogs, cheesesteaks and, of course, a lip-licking root beer — then brings it back on a tray that hooks onto your car window. Open that sunroof and crank your favorite tunes.
Weber’s Drive-In, 6019 Lexington Avenue, Pennsauken, 856-662-6632
Through the main dining room and up the steps is Slate Bleu’s delightfully tiny deck. There are just five tables, which means dinners here are always private and service is plenty attentive. The French-bistro menu boasts seasonal specialties; on a recent summer night, we noshed on a cold pea soup drizzled with crème fraîche, pan-roasted halibut with spring veggies, and a bowl of red-wine-soaked berries topped with a scoop of homemade hibiscus ice cream.
Slate Bleu, 100 South Main Street, Doylestown, 215-348-0222
The Knight House
The new lighter-fare menu at this historic-house-turned-restaurant is perfectly suited to its wrap-around patio. The best seats are in back, where, at tables anchored on one side by an ivy-covered wall and on the other by the long bar, late lunches and early dinners of dressed-down (and price-adjusted) versions of the restaurant’s classic dishes — the lightly seared ahi tuna from the dinner menu is now served with a bed of grilled romaine hearts — are enjoyed amidst the happy clamor of young families and groups of college students home for summer vacation.
The Knight House, 96 West State Street, Doylestown, 215-489-9900, theknighthouse.com
You’ll know local fave Dilly’s Corner by its minivan-and-motorcycle-lined parking lot. (This family-owned burger, hot-dog and ice-cream joint sits just across the bridge from Stockton, and a mere five-minute drive down River Road from New Hope.) Newcomers catch on fast: Give the girl at the window your order and money — cash only! — and she’ll deal you one of a stack of beat-up Harrah’s playing cards. Wait for your card to be called — you might be “Ace of Spades” or “Jack of Diamonds” — then pick up your piled-high tray and head to one of the super-size picnic tables on the covered porch. Oh, and don’t forget to stop at the do-it-yourself condiment bar.
Dilly’s Corner, Routes 263 and 32, New Hope, 215-862-5333
Ten minutes from downtown West Chester is the charming and romantic Dilworthtown Inn, where dining alfresco is like supping in a private garden. Two large evergreens mark the entrance to the inn’s open-air courtyard, pots of pink and purple petunias dot the short stone walls that surround the glass-topped tables, and blades of green grass poke up from beneath the slate floor. Relax, and wait for your server to deliver plates of butter-poached lobster, seared scallops and perfectly cooked filet.
Dilworthtown Inn, 1390 Old Wilmington Pike, West Chester, 610-399-1390
It’s three flights up to Coyote West’s roof deck (the original Conshohocken location has a large, tree-covered courtyard for outdoor eaters), but the margaritas (on the rocks, with salt) and top-of-the-city view of downtown West Chester are worth the trek. Sit at the marble-topped, red-lantern-lined bar to sample chef Carlos Melendez’s Mexican fare. Portions are more than generous, so get appetizers, then split an order of grilled chicken with house-made mole sauce.
Coyote West, 102 East Market Street, West Chester, 610-429-8900
Three Little Pigs
If it’s lunchtime in West Chester, get yourself to one of the mix-and-match tables on Three Little Pigs’ fenced-in patio and nosh on the affordable (not a one over $6.75) gourmet sandwiches, all served on house-baked bread. This little piggy likes the Matlack (turkey, New York cheddar and herb mayo on sourdough), and this little piggy likes the High Street (honey ham, brie and a kicky mustard on multi-grain).
Three Little Pigs, 131 North High Street, West Chester, 610-918-1272