Welcome to Patio Season

Warm weather means spending as much time outside as possible — including at our favorite restaurants.
Hugo’s baha mahi tacos from yum! kitchen and bakery

For three (four if we’re lucky) short months in Minnesota, we get temperatures above 60 degrees, sunshine and fresh air. In short: patio weather. Restaurants have pulled the bistro tables out of storage and the sidewalks are bustling with diners and their four-legged companions (often welcome to grab some shade under the table).
So if you’re picking a brunch/lunch/dinner spot with friends and the one requirement is “must have outdoor seating,” we’ve done some brainstorming for you. The City South area is rich with beautiful patios and delectable eats, and here are just a few to get you started.

Hola Arepa
Stepping onto Hola Arepa’s patio filled with greenery and umbrellas in their signature tropical teal, you are transported far from this northern state. The Latin cuisine screams summer, and eating in the fresh air just feels right. To start, yuca fries are a must: salty, crisp on the outside and soft on the inside, and served with aioli verde or chimichurri sauce ($5.50). For the main event, pick the arepa (cornmeal griddle cake sandwich) with your favorite fillings and you can’t go wrong. The shredded beef and plantain arepa is the savory-sweet combo of braised beef, sweet plantain, black beans, Hola sauce, cotija cheese and pickled onion ($13.50). But if you’re on the patio, what you really need is one of their cocktails. For a real summer treat order the Locked Up Abroad: Coconut-washed Plantation 3-star Rum, falernum, lime, pineapple, angostura bitters (contains almonds) ($9). Take a sip and knock on wood that the sun will stick around.

Amazing Thailand
Flowers and lanterns dangle overhead this alleyway patio, and just enough shade is offered that even a peak-Minnesota summer day, humidity and all, is pleasant (with an assist from a frosty cocktail). Here, dive right in with an order of spicy noodles. Pick your protein and spice level (1-5), and enjoy the stir-fried noodles with egg, onion, tomato, cabbage, holy basil and spicy sauce. I recommend upping the spice level with the summer heat, as the extra kick will actually cool you down (science!). Or, go with the tried-and-true cool-down method of a cold beverage. Options range from classic tropical treats (pina colada anyone?) to the more adventurous basiltini (vodka, orange and thai basil with a splash of grenadine). Just follow your taste buds and you’re sure to enjoy this little oasis on Hennepin Avenue.

If you only step into Yum! to grab the occasional cupcake, readjust your plans. The patio along the side of the building is separated from Minnetonka Boulevard by a row of overflowing flowers, giving you a garden-like vibe as you dine. If you don’t know what to order on the main menu, the veggie sandwich is a top vegetarian pick ($9.25). It’s loaded with avocado, cucumber, sprouts, tomato, spinach, cheddar and muenster cheeses, and honey mustard all on whole grain bread (which obviously was baked in-house). And if you’re more of a meat-eater, try the ultimate summer dish: Hugo’s baja mahi tacos ($14.95). Mahi tuna, romaine lettuce, spicy baja sauce, pico de gallo, cotija cheese and corn tortillas will make you question whether you’re in St. Louis Park or a coastal town on the pacific. And for dessert? Stick with the tropical theme and grab a coconut cupcake to-go.

Eat Street Social
At this Eat Street establishment, the patio feels more European than Midwestern, offering up a sophisticated, elegant atmosphere where you’re still comfortable laughing with friends over cocktails and small plates. Local celebrities whose songs frequent the Current’s airwaves have been spotted here, so keep your eyes peeled as you share the duck tacos ($13) and steak tartare ($16). They have a cocktail menu that changes with the season, but for a summer day on the patio, what could be better than punch? Ask about their daily punch and for just $6 you get a little taste of sunshine to go along with your meal.

Chef Tales: Lemon Shakers

Sometimes, the best patio is the one right outside your door. For those moments when you don’t want to travel far for outdoor dining, or are hosting your own garden party, Rachael Perron, culinary and branding director at Kowalski’s, has a solution. The lemon shaker is a perfect summer cocktail, and can be interactive for guests as well. Just provide the ingredients and let guests shake away!

    ⅔ cup chilled simple syrup
    2 oz. light rum
    2 oz. Cointreau or triple sec
    2 lemons, halved
    club soda, to top drinks

Divide simple syrup, rum and Cointreau between 2 glass canning jars filled ⅔ full of ice. Squeeze 1 lemon (2 halves) in each jar; toss a squeezed lemon half in each jar for garnish. Tightly cover jars with screw top lids; shake vigorously to combine. Top beverages with club soda and serve immediately. Makes 2.

Combine 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water in a small saucepan over medium-high heat; bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar. Remove from heat; cool 30 min. Store, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Makes about 1 cup.