Monday, March 12, 2012

Dining Al Fresco

The courtyard at Martinique Bistro.
Although it's a rainy Monday morning, these past 2 weekends of beautiful weather have proven that Spring has begun, and with it the countdown has started on the fleeting outdoor dining season. When the sun is shining and the mercury reads 75° or lower, any time spent indoors seems like a missed opportunity, and that includes time spent eating.

Most of my outdoor dining is done on Saturday or Sunday during lunch, and at those times I usually have zero motivation to dress well enough to enjoy the setting of Commander's courtyard or the patio behind Bayona. Luckily, there are plenty of options casual enough to only require throwing on a pair of jeans.

Two weeks ago when I walked my dog through Exchange Alley, I could not believe how many tables The Green Goddess had set up outside. There had to be at least 40 diners enjoying Sunday brunch in the sun, and another 20 or so waiting patiently for the next available table. A few blocks away at Sylvain, the rear courtyard is usually full at all times, and that particular day was no exception. Headed toward Uptown, Martinique is always one of the first restaurants that come to mind during this time of year and is on a surprisingly short list restaurants that offers lunch/brunch on Saturday. Dante's Kitchen is also in that category, as is St. James Cheese Company, which is probably my favorite spot in the city for an outdoor lunch on Saturday.

What are restaurants to do when people are anxious to eat outside but they have no courtyard or patio? Throw a few tables out on the sidewalk, of course. La Petite Grocery and Coquette both offer front row seating to Magazine Street. The sidewalk tables at Cochon are usually full on almost every night during dinner. And although its not open for lunch on the weekends, it seems remiss to write about great outdoor dining spots without mentioning Herbsaint.

Yesterday as I drove down Freret Street, I noticed that Company Burger had set up picnic tables outside, and I had to appreciate the great lengths that restaurateurs will go to accomodate our ever so short al fresco dining season. Whether you are dining on Shrimp Henican in the courtyard at Commander's or scarfing down a roast beef po-boy on a white picnic table in the back parking lot at Parkway Bakery, be thankful that you are enjoying it while you can.

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