It’s time. It’s finally time.
We wait all damn year for patio season. The packed decks of local restaurants prove our devotion to drinking and dining in the sun. Too bright? Slap on a hat. Too many bugs? Swat ’em away. Too hot? Suck it up, winter will be here before you know it. We’ll even sit at a sidewalk table, inhaling the exhaust of passing cars for the chance to be outside. Summer comes but once a year.
1360 N. Lexington Pkwy., St. Paul
Hours: 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sun. to Thurs.,
9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Fri.,
and 8 a.m. to 11 p.m Sat.
Perfect for: Beignets and bloodies during sunset
Como Dockside carved out a little pen on the Como Park pavilion for serving Creole food to hungry parkgoers right on the waterfront. The scenery is hard to beat — the golden hour on Como Lake is magical, and that goes double when you’ve got some catfish fritters and a bowl of clam dip on the bench with you. The big knock on Como Dockside is that there’s limited outdoor seating, but this season, the St. Paul parks department has rectified that, allowing anyone on the shore to order beer and po’ boys directly from the bar. That way, you can grub up without even taking off your rollerblades.
1024 E. 38th St., Minneapolis
Hours: 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily
Perfect for: Transitioning from beer to coffee and back to beer
The concept of a diner with a patio is still somewhat odd, but at south Minneapolis’ Tiny Diner, the outdoor seating is the focal point. Sitting surrounded by gardens and planters growing produce, you can feel Tiny Diner’s sustainable mission immediately at hand. It’s also the only place in the Twin Cities where you can sip a champagne cocktail ($7.50) inside a giant wicker beehive. In true diner form, Tiny Diner’s brunch drinks are the magnet. Their wake-up beer (cold press and nitro stout, $6) and cucumber sake bloody mary ($7.50) push the limits of just how good permaculture can taste, especially when there’s a light breeze whistling through the solar-powered pergola overhead.
W.A. Frost and Co.
374 Selby Ave., St. Paul
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Mon. to Fri. and 10:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sat. and Sun.
Perfect for: Classing up your life
What W.A. Frost’s patio lacks in dogs, it makes up for in sophistication, lush foliage, dreamy lighting, quick and professional service, quiet charm — yes, you’ll feel just fine leaving your pooch on the couch. If you decide to elevate your typical casual patio experience, making haste to this St. Paul institution should be your first move. Nibble calamari with a glass of rosé in hand and your finger on the next menu item. Sirloin with a cabernet demi-glace? Rack of lamb? Halibut and Peruvian potatoes? Whatever you choose will be as refined as the surrounds. Don’t fret if you forgot to make a reservation; this extensive patio (which triples the size of the restaurant’s seating area) also features a lounge and bar area that’s first come, first served. All the same amenities are available there, including the full dinner menu and those sun-dappled patio vibes you covet.
Psycho Suzi’s Motor Lounge
1900 Marshall St. NE, Minneapolis
Hours: 10 a.m. to midnight Sun., 11 a.m. to midnight Mon. to Thurs, 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Fri., and 10 a.m. to 1 a.m Sat.
Perfect for: Dogspotting by torchlight
Bikers, heretics, and hula dancers meet down on the banks of the Mississippi at Psycho Suzi’s. The far-flung Northeast tiki joint is a true anomaly, where you can loll in the shade of palm leaves and drink out of a shrunken head. Choose between Polynesian appetizers and deep-dish pizza. Light your cigarette on a bamboo torch and utterly forget that you found yourself there through the doors of an old church. On a Saturday night, the place is a veritable circus of derelicts ducking reality for a few hours on the sprawling riverside patio, a tiki drink in their hand and a wily Maltese at their ankle.
125 SE Main St., Minneapolis
Hours: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sun., 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mon. to Thurs., 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Fri., and 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sat.
Perfect for: Getting drunk to acoustic covers of Katy Perry songs
In the long string of outdoor bars along the Mississippi at St. Anthony Main, Aster Cafe is an oasis. A brick patio set back in a leafy grove, there’s a distinct Old World feel to nighttime at the Aster. That is, until you turn your gaze up from your burrata plate ($8) and notice the silhouette of downtown Minneapolis gleaming in its modernist glory. But sight is not the primary sense Aster appeals to. Almost nightly, the charming courtyard hosts live acoustic music from local and national acts alike. It makes for perfect wine atmosphere on a stretch where tequila and light beers are more the norm.
Red River Kitchen at City House
258 Mill St., St. Paul
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mon. to Thurs. and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fri. to Sun.
Perfect for: Casual hangs when the weather might not cooperate
Nothing gets the modern Twin Citian out of the house like a food truck and craft beer in a spruced-up warehouse space. City House, situated along the Mississippi River, offers all of the above. Snag one of the cafe tables that looks out at the High Bridge, or stay out of the sun (or rain!) under the large covered patio. Food truck Red River Kitchen handles the food service here, offering a menu with more elegance than your average mobile fare. Sure, you’ll find kimchee Philly nachos ($11) and tacos and sandwiches ($8), but also some unexpected healthy options like a lentil and broccoli salad ($8) and a wild rice and walleye bowl ($12). Local tap beers are $5-$7, wine is $7-$8 a glass, or splurge for one of their kegged cocktails (we recommend the orange blossom gin and tonic) for $8. You’ll need the GPS to find this tucked-away spot, but it’s worth the quest.
731 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mon. to Thurs., 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Fri. and Sat., and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sun.
Perfect for: Drag brunch with your best mates
One of the most famous rooftop patios in the Twin Cities, this downtown Minneapolis favorite has a retractable glass roof that allows for year-round enjoyment. Whether you’re catching the breeze in the summer or bathing in sunlight in the winter, you can’t beat this patio for versatility. But by far our favorite way to use it is for Flip Phone’s Drag Brunch, a themed drag show against the downtown skyline with mimosas galore. Then again, catching the sunset from up high with a cocktail in hand isn’t half-bad either.
3501 Nicollet Ave., Minneapolis
Hours: 3 p.m. to midnight Tues. to Fri. and 10 a.m. to midnight Sat. and Sun.
Perfect for: Sunbathing in a tub of queso fundido
When Hola Arepa opens its patio, the capacity of the restaurant nearly doubles. Cramped diners stretch out on a glorious wooden deck while enjoying arepitas and frozen horchata. Hola is famous for its generous happy hour (3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Tues. to Fri. and Tues. to Sun. 10 p.m. to close), but this summer you’ll more than likely see a group of your friends on Instagram drinking from the new Porron Pitchers ($22) — communal Spanish drinking vessels that make imbibing in the Minneapolis sun feel more like jet skiing open-mouthed through the Basque waterfront.
1928 University Ave. NE, Minneapolis
Hours: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sun., 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Tues. to Thurs., 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fri. and Sat.
Perfect for: Fishing your dinner from a burbling stream
This Nordeast patio cloistered behind high brick walls is famous for its water feature: a sweet little brook that runs through the middle of the patio, complete with stepping stone bridges, a miniature wooden mill, and a gently pattering waterfall. It’s an unexpectedly lush oasis in the middle of a staunchly blue-collar neighborhood. Even more unexpected are the stream’s inhabitants: rainbow trout, which you can fish out with a net, hand over to the kitchen for sauteing or broiling, and have filleted tableside for your party. If fishing your dinner isn’t in the cards, opt instead for a table near the outdoor fireplace or nestled among the flowering bushes. Order up a giant platter of pierogi, a steak, and a stiff drink, and marvel at the union of old-school supper club and refreshing, al fresco dining.
1610 Harmon Place, Minneapolis
Hours: 4 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Sun. to Thurs., 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. Fri. and Sat.
Perfect for: Post-work drinks with someone slightly cooler than you
There are worse ways to impress hip co-workers than by gazing out over Loring Park with a round of Negroni slushies filling the table. The rooftop patio at 4Bells is not so fancy that you’ll seem like you’re trying too hard, but the view makes this a definite upgrade from the standard sidewalk table. The menu similarly straddles that line between too basic and too sophisticated, with a nice balance of upscale options like a seafood sampler for $49 as well as a burger, beer, and a shot deal for $12. If the fickle weather gods frown upon your outing, pop inside the upstairs bar area, where ample light offers the next best thing to actually being outside.