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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Ten Best Outdoor Dining Spots in St. Louis

Posted By on Tue, Apr 24, 2012 at 3:00 PM

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click to enlarge The stunning view from the patio at Cielo - LAURA MILLER
  • Laura Miller
  • The stunning view from the patio at Cielo

Cielo (999 North Second Street; 314-881-5800)

You could, of course, go up in the Arch if you are seeking out a great view of the city, but you might notice a couple important things missing from your view, specifically, our iconic skyline landmark, the Gateway Arch, a gentle Midwestern breeze and an out-of-this-world meal. Cielo, on the eighth floor of the Four Seasons, not only feels miles away from the overstimulating sights and sounds of the casino floor, but it also fills in those missing pieces of a perfect St. Louis scene. The inside of the restaurant is lovely, of course, but the real treat is the sprawling patio, which provides the perfect setting for cocktails with the gals or a romantic date night. Cielo serves breakfast, lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch, in a lavish, inspirational setting. Executive chef Fabrizio Schenardi delivers a refined, Italian-inspired menu for all meals.

click to enlarge Duff's, a classic Central West End hangout inside and out. - LAURA MILLER
  • Laura Miller
  • Duff's, a classic Central West End hangout inside and out.

Duff's Restaurant (392 North Euclid Avenue; 314-361-0522)

Patio dining is no new phenomenon, but somehow, in St. Louis, where it just might snow, rain, hail or be more humid than a Finnish sauna on any given day, patio dining becomes a special occasion. And Duff's rises to the beautiful-weather occasion by providing a perfect patio for diners to pull up a chair and enjoy a little alfresco time. The changing menu features plenty of options for both carnivores and vegetarians alike, including a tofu substitution in some items, such as the Thai red curry or jerk chicken sandwich. On weekends, Duff's serves brunch, and the crowds can get thick, but don't be deterred by a wait. Just grab a mimosa or a bloody mary and enjoy a relaxing day in the Central West End.

Molly's in Soulard (816 Geyer Avenue; 314-241-3200)

Soulard isn't only about beads, beers and partying till you puke. The neighborhood also holds some of the city's great restaurants. Molly's is one shining example, and the enormous patio sets it apart from the others. Unlike so many patios that feel confined by their surroundings, Molly's patio feels like a part of the landscape, cut right into the expansive greenery of the manicured landscape. The Creole-inspired menu features all the faves, from oysters - available fresh, baked or fried - to po' boys to fried green tomatoes. Patio guests can also enjoy live music on occasion, and there's even an outdoor bar to make summer day-drinking even more convenient.

click to enlarge The Boathouse in Forest Park - RFT PHOTO
  • RFT photo
  • The Boathouse in Forest Park

The Boathouse (6101 Government Drive; 314-367-2224)

When the weather begins to break, and warm sunshine defeats the harsh cold, every St. Louisan knows that it's time to hit the park, and Forest Park is the crown jewel of St. Louis parks. It's got it all - a zoo, museums, golf and the perfect place to grub before or after a day of frolicking: the Boathouse. This kid-friendly restaurant allows folks to kick back, relax and enjoy a meal while taking in the greenery. The straightforward menu contains something for all taste buds, with burgers, fish and chips, and pizzas among the options. Still got energy to burn? The Boathouse also offers paddle boats to those who want to take a trip around Post-Dispatch Lake.

And the winner for "Best Outdoor Dining" is...

Bar Italia (13 Maryland Plaza; 314-361-7010)

There are, generally, two types of good outdoor dining: the leafy green oases, and the sidewalk tables that are ideal for seeing and being seen. It's a rare restaurant that manages to combine the two -- which brings us to Bar Italia. Located barely a stone's throw from one of the busiest pedestrian hotspots in the city, the Euclid/Maryland nexus, there's great people watching from the street-side high tops and modern orange couches along the perimeter. But if you're feeling romantic, the quieter corners of Bar Italia's lush garden of a patio won't fail to delight. Graceful old trees provide shade and privacy; the mellow hum of grown-up conversation is the only soundtrack. There's a small outdoor bar, too, for alfresco solo dining.

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