One of the great joys of summer is eating outside. Food tastes better, drinks appear larger, and children’s whines dissipate though the filter of a vast environment.
On June 14, 2010, Amendment #610 allowed Westport restauranteurs to scatter tables on their sidewalks and await throngs of outdoor diners.
The most intriguing outdoor dining space was courtesy of now-closed Acqua Ristorante. They eagerly roped off a few parking spots in Parker Harding, threw out a clutch of four-tops, and invited patrons to dine in a cloud of exhaust fumes. People came and ate and pretended they couldn’t extend their arm and touch the tailpipe of an idling SUV. Such was the appetite for dining al fresco.
Nine years later, outdoor dining is a far more sophisticated experience, allowing us to experience our seaside enclave when it’s at its peak. Also, a few more cars are able to enjoy prime spaces in Parker Harding.
Here are a few of our favorites:
299 Riverside Avenue, Westport
Smack-dab on Saugatuck River, Rive’s gracious atmosphere and menu is reminiscent of a Parisian bistro with plenty of windows for admiring the view.
Rive has two outdoor spaces: a patio with clear plastic roll-downs for when the weather misbehaves and Adirondack chairs near the boardwalk for lingering with cocktails on warm evenings.
What you may not know: Avoid the patio’s sunny spots mid-day unless you want to drown in a puddle of your own sweat.
What makes this patio unique: Excellent view of water-loving folk on boats, sculls or fishing off the boardwalk. Plus, you can pretend you’re on a narrow and unpopulated stretch of the Seine.
Overheard: Young son to his mother as he jumps from his chair, “Mom, take your time eating. I’m gonna go swim.”
What you should order: Salmon Rillettes, Chopped Kale And Farro Salad, Moules Frites.
What you should drink: White wine or champagne - the real stuff from Champagne, France.
20 Wilton Road, Westport
Hey, guys - Bar Taco! Ever heard of it?
I know, you’re rolling your eyes and thinking, “Uh, yeah. Everyone knows Bar Taco.” But we’re still including it because, well, it rocks. It’s beachy in a glamorous vacation way, not the sand-in-the-sunscreen/where-are-my-kids kind of way.
What you may not know: They have games like “Corn in the Hole” and “Smash Your Glass on a River Duck.” Oh, wait. The latter’s no longer a game. Glasses aren’t allowed on the railing for that reason.
Also, they’ve teamed up with PureBarre and will be hosting a few weekend classes that will take place on the patio this summer. I have no idea what that will look like. But I imagine many will enjoy the view.
What you should order: Guacamole with chips, Tuna Poke, Tacos with baja spicy tempura-battered cod or glazed pork belly with spicy arbol chili sauce, Charred Corn.
What you should drink: Fresh lime margarita or a fresh lime margarita. Or a fresh lime… you get the point.
19A Bridge Square, Westport
Many know about this tiny, hip Japanese gastropub with unpronounceable ingredients that are delicious. Few know about the patio upstairs, though. With communal tables and cardboard boxes, you’ll feel like you’re having a posh and exotic picnic on a private roof deck on the Upper West Side.
What you may not know: Want hot sake? You’re out of luck. They only serve it cold because that’s how it’s served in Japan: heat changes the taste of this fermented rice drink. But it’s summer so you don’t want it hot anyway.
Overheard: “This is like an Asian lobster shack. On a roof. That doesn’t serve lobster.”
What you should order: You shouldn’t. Ask the server to bring you whatever they want to and stop him/her when everyone is sated.
What you should drink: Cold sake, Sapporo lager, Yuzu bomb (Yuzu, sake, beer). Or the Big Fat Old Fashioned (smoked bone marrow fat washed bourbon, Curacoa, sugar, bitters) because it’s a great conversation starter.