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Inspired Al Fresco: Outdoor Dining and Drinking Highlights

Bryan Lavery
Written by Bryan Lavery

It is al fresco time! During patio season, you can quaff a craft beer, drink a latte or linger over a bottle of wine. Share a charcuterie board or a full dining experience at a sidewalk terrace, in a private garden or secluded courtyard. Indulge on a patio looking across a vineyard. Although this list is far from comprehensive, we’ve highlighted some of the more interesting regional dining and people-watching venues.

For inexpensive grub, try the patio at El Furniture Warehouse, a popular bar-restaurant concept that bills itself as a “premium dive” on London’s Richmond Row. One of our “secret” London hideaways is the stunning patio at the Ivey Spencer Leadership Centre on Windermere Rd. A new London favourite is the patio at Los Lobos on Talbot St., but more on them later. Our whole region is rich in great patios, including destination spots that are worth a drive. Here is a list of recommendations for inspired outdoor drinking and dining this season.

London

Anderson Craft Ales focuses on small-batch, handcrafted, premium hop-based ales. There’s a taproom and an outdoor patio where you can imbibe by the glass or flight. The atmosphere is convivial and relaxed. The refurbished industrial building is structured for tours and community events. Local food trucks are often part of the mix. 1030 Elias Street. andersoncraftales.ca

Black Trumpet is a prestige spot for al fresco dining in a stunning British colonial Indonesian-inspired courtyard garden. This oasis seats 60 and features wild plantings and exotic foliage. Chef Scott Wessling and the culinary team have a modern take on iconic classics with Mediterranean and Asian influences. 523 Richmond Street. blacktrumpet.ca

Blu Duby North, conveniently located on Fanshawe Park Road just west of Wonderland, features a charming outdoor patio. The restaurant features a menu of updated global classics and bistro-style fare. 745 Fanshawe Park Road, bluduby.com

At Budapest, Marika Hayek has been delighting clients with Hungarian specialties in this traditional old-world tavern setting for 61 years. A local treasure, Budapest has a sidewalk patio filled with overflowing pots of flowers and surrounded by black wrought-iron fencing. 348 Dundas Street

The Church Key Bistro-Pub resides in a prominent heritage building across from the Grand Theatre and beside St. Paul’s Cathedral. Chef specializes in traditional food updated with gourmet flair. The pub features a stylish and popular outdoor courtyard for cocktails, lunch or dinner pre- and post-theatre, and an exceptional Sunday brunch. 476 Richmond Street, thechurchkey.ca

The Early Bird, offering casual farm-to-table cooking, has a retro charm and a 26-seat seasonal patio placed across the sidewalk for outdoor dining. This “fine diner” made its name serving everything from Fat Elvis breakfast to a turducken sandwich. 355 Talbot Street

Idlewyld Inn

Idlewyld Inn is a grand Victorian mansion nestled in London’s quiet Old South neighborhood. A passion for food translates into updated classic cuisine showcasing local and seasonal products. The elegant ambiance of the gracious front porch and hidden 40-seat “Garden Courtyard” create a welcome retreat for diners. 36 Grand Avenue, idlewyldinn.com

Los Lobos, from the creative brothers Justin and Gregg Wolfe, has a fun, funky and eclectic vibe that appeals. The focus here is on platos pequeños (small plates). They predominate on a menu of gourmet Mexican-inspired fare with a modern twist. There is a no-reservation policy but plenty of room outside on the well-appointed and spacious patio. 580 Talbot Street

Katana Kafé & Grill’s menus feature a modern take on the bistro theme. It may be off the beaten path but its patio, located next to the London Airport tarmac, offers an interesting close-up view of air traffic. 2530 Blair Boulevard. katanakafe.ca

London Ale House has a menu that includes many delicious BBQ smoked items, smoked outdoors in the festive beer garden. Everything from duck to brisket to pulled pork. Experience the beer garden for lunch, dinner or late night. 288 Dundas Street. londonalehouse.com

Marienbad Restaurant and Chaucer’s Pub share a sidewalk patio with a smart black iron fence, pretty flower boxes, and comfortable tables with festive umbrellas that exude old-world charm. Chef Klaus Campbell evokes the traditional cooking styles of Central Europe. There are excellent steak tartare and schnitzels, and a superior imported beer selection. 122 Carling Street, marienbad.ca

Craft beer enthusiasts have made Milos’ Craft Beer Emporium a local landmark, part of Ontario’s rich craft beer culture. Chef Matt Reijnen prepares a seasonally-curated menu that reflects their farm-to-table commitment and passion for everything local. There are 23 crafts on tap with excellent style variation, and twin street-side seasonal patios. 420 Talbot Street. pubmilos.com

The Morrissey House is a welcoming, warm, and cozy local. Chef features an innovative from-scratch menu. The 60-seat patio, set back from the street, is an industry and neighbourhood hot spot, attracting a large crowd of regulars and tourists. 361 Dundas Street. themorrisseyhouse.wordpress.com

At Mykonos, on Adelaide Street, Hiedi and Bill Vamvalis have been serving Greek food and traditional English fish and chips for over 40 years. Mykonos has an extensive menu selection of casual Greek fare, and a large covered outdoor patio at the back of the restaurant. 572 Adelaide Street. mykonosrestaurant.ca

The Springs

Mythic Grill is a quaint restaurant is known for traditional Greek cuisine with a modern flare. The street-side umbrellaed patio seats 20. There is a small fountain, greenery and nice shade. 179 Albert Street. mythicgrill.ca

The Springs is one of London’s premier culinary hot spots. The beautifully appointed raised patio seats 40. Chef features locally grown ingredients from farms specializing in sustainable agriculture, organic growing practices, and ethically raised livestock. 310 Springbank Drive. thespringsrestaurant.com

Toboggan Brewing Company was created by restaurateur Mike Smith, owner of 35-year-old London landmark bar Joe Kool’s (which also features a popular patio). Craft beers are brewed below the stylish brewpub. Toboggan’s 519 Kitchen features a wood-burning oven and a large BBQ smoker. An enviable rooftop patio overlooks Richmond St. Smith’s other restaurants — Fellini Koolini’s and The Runt Club — have twin patios with plenty of shade from mature trees at 155 Albert Street, just off Richmond Row. tobogganbrewing.com

Villa Cornelia ranks among London’s finest examples of Queen Anne architecture. Meticulously restored to its original splendor in 1988 it is a comfortable place to relax and reflect upon the gracious elegance of the Victorian architecture. Enjoy the delights of Chef Ryan Hancock’s fine continental cuisine. The beautifully appointed outdoor patio with wrought iron tables and chairs seats 70. 142 Kent Street, villacorneliarestaurant.com

Waldo’s on King and Olive R Twists Food and Beverage House at the Covent Garden Market are desirable choices on event nights at Budweiser Gardens. Both have patios that overlook King Street’s restaurant row and that are perfectly placed for relaxing and people-watching. 130 King Street. coventmarket.com

Wolfe of Wortley is a compact 24-seat restaurant complemented by a 14-seat patio. This is sophisticated farm-to-table dining focused on curing, pickling, fermenting, and preserving, and featuring craft cocktails and a compact wine list. 147 Wortley Road. wolfeofwortley.com

Stratford

The Mill Stone

There is no shortage of great al fresco dining or people watching in Stratford. Favourite spots include Anne Campion’s Revel on the beautifully refurbished Market Square. It is a great place to grab a barista-prepared beverage and some small-batch baking, and soak up Stratford’s charming ambience. Other notable patios include Raja Fine Indian Cuisine’s flower-filled patio on George Street, and The Parlour Inn’s patio (one block from the Avon Theatre). Foster’s Inn has a smart street-side patio, as does The Mill Stone Restaurant and Bar. The HUB at 27 Marketplace boasts the only three-season rooftop patio in Stratford.

The Bruce

Chef Arron Carley at The Restaurant at The Bruce describes his cuisine as “New Canadiana,” using traditional techniques and global influences applied to the good things of this province. The restaurant features a 36-seat terrace and a gazebo that can be booked for private dinners. 89 Parkview Drive. thebruce.ca

The Common (in the space previously occupied by Monforte on Wellington) has a pleasant 35-seat courtyard for al fresco dining. It features an eclectic mix of comfort food from around the world. Chef/owner Tim Otsuki blends and elevates the traditional with the contemporary. 80 Wellington Street. thecommonstratford.com

Keystone Alley’s 40-seat alley terrace is another of Stratford’s gems. The patio features an “edible wall” that contains herbs used in the seasonal dishes. 34 Brunswick Street. keystonealley.com

Madelyn’s Diner has been in business for over 30 years and is an iconic name in Stratford. The mission statement says, “It’s not about making money … it’s about feeding the world, with good food, good service and good fun.” You’ll find an open kitchen, friendly helpful staff, and a 30-seat patio. 377 Huron Street. madelynsdiner.ca

At The Prune, Chef’s cuisine reflects a gastronomic sensibility that is global but finds inspiration in regional producers and seasonal growers. The restaurant operates at a very high skill level and the service is intelligent and responsive. There is a small but charming outdoor patio. 151 Albert Street. theprune.com

Revival House offers great local, seasonal food in the warm atmosphere of Stratford’s former Church Restaurant. Tucked along the Brunswick Street (south) side of the heritage church building, the 40-seat patio is the perfect spot to hide away in the garden and enjoy anytime nosh, craft cocktails, and local beer. 70 Brunswick Street. revival.house

Oxford County

Upper Thames Brewing Co. is large for a craft brewery, and features a handcrafted red maple bar with a canoe suspended from the ceiling overhead and al fresco seating in season. Open six days a week, they offer six core beers on tap and a selection of four to five one-off and seasonal offerings. 225 Bysham Park Drive, Woodstock. upperthamesbrewing.ca

Elm Hurst Inn & Spa

We enjoy Eric Boyar’s farm-to-table cuisine at sixthirtynine and dine al fresco on the small and intimate patio surrounded by attractive flowerbeds. 639 Peel Street, Woodstock. sixthirtynine.com

In Ingersoll, maple and pine trees share space with bubbling cherub fountains along Elm Hurst Inn & Spa’s 33 landscaped acres. Inspired by the seasons, menus change to reflect the local harvest. The gingerbread-trimmed mansion features a large outdoor patio in a bucolic setting. 415 Harris Street. elmhurstinn.com

Port Stanley/Elgin County

Solo on Main

Kettle Creek Inn’s dining options include a gazebo and a stunning garden terrace. Guests can prop up their feet on the porch or balcony, sip a libation, and amble down for dinner in the gazebo. 216 Joseph Street, Port Stanley. kettlecreekinn.com

Solo on Main’s Chef Lauren Van Dixhoorn’s cooking is refined and the presentation modern and thoughtful. There is a stunning patio and an inviting front porch that overlooks the harbour. 187 Main St., Port Stanley. soloportstanley.com

The Windjammer Inn has comfortable seating on the wraparound porch. Innovative Chef Kim Saunders sources her ingredients from the large farm network in Elgin County. 324 Smith Street, Port Stanley. windjammerinn.com

Huron and Lambton Counties

Alton Farms Estate Winery

Alton Farms Estate Winery is a pioneer estate winery and vineyard that was formerly a B&B. Just outside of the tasting room is a beautiful patio strung with lights, with a wood pizza oven. 5547 Aberarder Line, Plympton-Wyoming. altonfarmestatewinery.com

Cowbell Brewery is a destination craft brewery featuring a 50-hectolitre capacity state-of-the-art brew house, restaurant and taproom, with indoor and outdoor seating for 300. Mil’s Verandah is an accessible wrap-around patio named for family matriarch Mildred Sparling. 40035 Blyth Road, Blyth. cowbellbrewing.com

Mil’s Veranda at Cowbell Brewing Co.

Dark Horse Estate Winery is located deep in the heart of the Huron County countryside, next to the Huron Country Playhouse. It is equipped with state-of-the-art winemaking technology and guest areas, complete with an expansive full-service banquet and conference space. The winery comprises a cellar, tasting rooms, and patios overlooking the bucolic vineyards. 70665 B Line, Grand Bend. darkhorseestatewinery.com

Dave’s Pub & Grill at Oakwood Resort

Dave’s Pub & Grill at the Oakwood Resort in Grand Bend has expansive wood beam ceilings and stonework, giving the feeling of a Canadian lodge with the intimate setting of an urban pub. Enjoy a drink or a delicious lunch or dinner on the two-level glass-enclosed patio. 70671 Bluewater Highway, Grand Bend. oakwoodresort.ca

F.I.N.E. A Restaurant

F.I.N.E. A Restaurant features a quaint log cabin-inspired setting with a comfortable patio in Grand Bend. Chef/owner Erryn Shephard elevates “cottage style” to fine dining and, with Chef Ben Sandwith helming the kitchen, has established F.I.N.E as a go-to location for local pickerel, beef and fabulous butter tarts for more than a decade. 42 Ontario Street S, Grand Bend. finearestaurant.com

Hessenland Country Inn honours German culinary traditions, on the shore of Lake Huron between Grand Bend and Bayfield in the lakeside village of St. Joseph. The Ihrig family relaunches their legendary al fresco Mongolian Grill nights in the summer, on the outdoor patio that offers great views of the grounds and vineyard. 72981 Bluewater Highway, Zurich. hessenland.com

Smackwater Jack’s Taphouse overlooks the water on the edge of River Road in Grand Bend, and the sunset view is stunning. An expansive river-view two-tiered patio, canopied by umbrellas and dotted with fresh flowers, will be bustling, even in unseasonably cool weather, until the frost rolls in. 71 River Road, Grand Bend, smackwaterjacks.ca

In Sarnia, Alternate Grounds Dockside affords the best view of the city and the only water-top patio on the Canadian side of the St. Clair River. 97 Seaway Road, Sarnia. agdockside.com

Chatham-Kent

Bayside Brewing Co. sits on the shore of Lake Erie’s tranquil Rondeau Bay, with a great brew pub and generous patio overlooking the water. Enjoy wood-fired pizza and a pint of craft beer. Four popular brews are always on offer, with special seasonal options keeping things fresh. 970 Ross Lane, Erieau. baysidebrewing.com

Tucked in the back of the Italian-inspired Mamma Maria’s Ristorante is a beautiful private dining area perfect for special events or parties. There are streetside tables and a stunning 50-seat patio off the private room overlooks the Thames River. 231 King St W, Chatham. mammamariasristorante.ca

Destination Patios of Note

Wolfhead Distillery, just outside Amherstburg, has a tasting room, a retail store and a 60-seat prohibition-themed restaurant. There is additional seating for 120 on the rustic patio, lined with whisky barrels. 7781 Howard Avenue, Amherstburg. drinkwolfhead.com

Ramblin’ Road Brewery Farm is Ontario’s first and only one of its kind, located just south of the small town of La Salette in Norfolk County — a remarkably fertile part of the province known as Ontario’s Garden. Growing their own hops and producing innovative beers, like their Dakota Pearl Ale, the Brewery Farm also features a beautiful stone patio. 2970 Swimming Pool Road, La Salette. ramblinroad.ca

Burning Kiln Winery

Burning Kiln Winery boasts a striking setting, perched atop the escarpment overlooking the UNESCO-designated Long Point Bay World Biosphere Reserve. Take your rest on a comfortable patio after exploring the hiking and biking trails. The idyllic location affords inspiring views from the winery over lush countryside and vineyards stretching out to adjoining forests, towards the magical sweep of Long Point in sparkling Lake Erie. 1709 Front Road, St. Williams, burningkilnwinery.ca

About the author

Bryan Lavery

Bryan Lavery

Eatdrink Food Editor and Writer at Large Bryan Lavery brings years of experience in the restaurant and hospitality industry, as a chef, restaurant owner and consultant. Always on the lookout for the stories that Eatdrink should be telling, he helps shape the magazine both under his byline and behind the scenes.