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In September, restaurants’ and patrons’ thoughts turn to patio dining

By Rod Lee

Call it deck dining. Outside dining. Patio dining. Street-side dining.

Regardless of the term used, taking advantage of the opportunity to enjoy cocktails, lunch or dinner in the open air—weather permitting—is a much more prevalent pastime in the Blackstone Valley, Central Massachusetts, Northeastern Connecticut and Northern Rhode Island than most people realize.

Shown a “master list” of establishments that offer this component as they relaxed on the patio at J. Anthony’s Italian Grill in Auburn the afternoon of August 24th, Stephen and Anna Scavone could not believe their eyes. “Really?” Mr. Scavone said. “I had no idea there were that many.”

“The second we put our chairs and tables out, it doubles our business,” Dakota Tunley, manager at the Cedar Street Café in Sturbridge, said. “Next year we’ll add a bistro and we thought of blankets if they want to sit on the grass!”

The patio at Cedar Street Café was “built for The Barn (at Wight Farm),” Ms. Tunley said. It opened in 2017 and “has been our best feature,” she said.

With September ranking as one of the prime months for outdoor dining, local restaurateurs are happy to accommodate patrons’ desire to eat and drink beneath sunny skies or sparkling evening stars.

“At night it’s pretty popular,” Brittany Berry of Firebrands, in Dudley said, of space at the back of the restaurant, where a handcrafted waterfall embellishes the ambience.

At Anya, an Italian-inspired steakhouse in Thompson, the restaurant’s Rose’ Garden outdoor lounge is the perfect setting for light meals, pre-dinner or post-dinner cocktails or to “sip on spirits”—fireside.

At Gator’s Pub in North Smithfield, six picnic tables on the deck get especially heavy use during the summertime when a volleyball league is in progress, a waitress said. They are an ideal complement to a mac ‘n cheeseburger with sweet potato fires; or an order of wings.

Shae Scanlon and her sister Erin Scanlon enjoy some time together on the patio at Cedar Street Café in Sturbridge. “I am visiting from North Carolina,” Shae Scanlon said. “We have even more outdoor restaurants there!”

At Uncle Ronnie’s Red Tavern in Burrillville, in addition to live bands, special events, chowder, clam cakes, chicken parmesan, meatloaf, baked stuffed shells and the Godfather platter, the patio is “really popular from lunch right through dinner hour,” an employee of the restaurant said.

Dining at the edge of Webster Lake has long been a staple at Waterfront Mary’s in Webster and now it is as well at Samuel Slater’s at Indian Ranch in Webster thanks to a deck off the dining room. Situated at opposite ends of Webster Lake, both restaurants take full advantage of the scenic views customers are able to enjoy.

“85 Main” in Putnam (part of the Green Valley Hospitality group, which also includes The Vanilla Bean Café in Pomfret and Dog Lane Café in Storrs) “opened its outside patio in 2008 and ushered in a new phase in downtown Putnam dining and was one of the catalysts for renewed interest in the Putnam Business Association,” Barry Jessurun, the Group’s president/CEO, said.

“Putnam’s dining scene has been booming since then, with many new restaurants opening and a few with planned openings this year. The PBA has events scheduled from February-December that bring in thousands of people each year, from the Fire and Ice Festival in February (ice carving and fire demonstrations on the patio) and First Fridays all summer long—right through to the Holiday Dazzle Light Parade and the Holiday Stroll,” Mr. Jessurun said.

“The patio is active most of the year, with people dining on it from late April to early November. Our patio was used to host the first oyster festival and shucking contest and remains a central point in [the] downtown Putnam [business district].”

Also part of the bustling downtown Putnam restaurant scene, Jessica Tuesday’s boasts a front patio that seats ten people and a back patio that accommodates about seventy-five persons. “We also have an outside bar,” a restaurant spokesperson said. Jessica Tuesday’s specializes in soups, salads, sandwiches, small plates, pastries and catering.

Putnam is also home to The Crossings Restaurant & Brew Pub with “fries so good they should be the main course,” convenient parking and a covered patio. Preparing for the lunch crowd last Tuesday, an employee of The Crossings said “we have a covered patio with fifteen tables and we host private events out there too. It’s a four-season patio, with little heaters to keep customers warm.”

A handsome, open-sided patio with overhead lighting provides a comfortable setting for customers of Bella, in Glendale, Rhode Island. Opened in 1998, Executive Chef and Owner Gio Calapai’s restaurant’s staples are chicken, veal, steak, pizza and pasta.

Picnic tables along the road at Jimmy D’s Ice Cream & Sandwich Shoppe in Sturbridge and Isador’s Organics in Oxford provide customers of those restaurants with a country-style atmosphere.

Jimmy D’s, a throwback 1950s-era ice cream parlor, was established in 2014. Specialty sandwiches, soups, salads and seasonal goodies are a forte.

Isador’s has been providing a casual and relaxed spot for eat-in or takeout since 2006. Smoothies, juice, green bowls, classic sandwiches and tomato pies are just a few of the favorites on the menu at Isador’s.

“Somebody is out there all the time!” Tricia Mulvey of the John Henry Tavern at Highfields Golf & Country Club in Grafton said, of the bar and patio, overlooking the 18th green, which the club describes as “the hub of our social scene.” An “overhead” offers protection from the elements.

“We actually have two patios, one for banquets and one for the bar,” Ms. Mulvey said. “They are really nice and get a lot of use.”

An outdoor patio also serves Hunter’s Grille & Tap at the Grafton Inn well in perpetuating the “old New England” feel of an historic building right on the Grafton Town Common.

While Brian Treitman’s B.T.’s Smokehouse in Sturbridge can answer the call of clientele for “backyard pig roasts, corporate parties and tailgate parties,” its Southern-style BBQ (brisket, pulled pork, smoked chicken and deli-style offerings) can also be savored inside or out.

Paesano Pizzeria on Grafton St. in Worcester’s covered entrance enables customer to enjoy “a pizza pie” or a chicken cutlet panini “out front.”

Fans of Rom’s Italian Market in Sturbridge flock there for Chef/Owner David Roscioli’s original Rom’s meatballs, sauce and homemade specialties. Tables outside can be used while waiting for takeout. Rom’s also does catering.

Eight tables with umbrellas “to the side” at Mexicali Mexican Grill in Webster are popular with customers of the restaurant’s Southwestern menu.

On their way to a bridal shower, Stephen and Anna Scavone dropped by the patio of J. Anthony’s in Auburn for drinks and a bite to eat.

A fixture in downtown Uxbridge, Mendon Street Kitchen patrons benefit from private space behind the little eatery on Mendon St. Customers are often seen at picnic tables behind Mendon Street Kitchen, enjoying a porketta sub, lobster roll or clam chowder—for instance.

Waterfront dining taken to a whole other level is what makes River Falls Restaurant in Woonsocket a frequent destination. A wraparound patio overlooks the bubbling and churning Blackstone River. Ample seating includes room for twenty-five persons at a full bar.

Just as there are plenty of local restaurants to choose from for lunch or dinner, so too are there many options when it comes to fulfilling a desire to eat and drink out of doors.

Contact Rod Lee at [email protected] or 774-232-2999.