Dining al Fresco
By Katie Gard
The flowers have bloomed and the foliage is lush and green. Along with baseball games and weekend trips to the beach, the official arrival of summer has brought with it a favorite fair weather pastime all over the world, dining al fresco.
While outdoor dining is a fantastic way to connect with nature when enjoying a meal, the reality is that preparing one at home can be a lot of work. There’s the tedious task of brushing pollen from the patio furniture and the precarious shuffle of food and glassware to the deck through cumbersome sliding glass doors. And once the crickets start chirping and the wine bottle is empty, there’s the unavoidable question, “Whose turn is it to wash the dishes?”
The truth is, when it comes to enjoying a great meal outdoors, nothing beats the ease of scoring a table at one of your favorite local restaurants. There, you can relax and watch the interactions of patrons and passersby among the hum of clinking forks and sparkling wine glasses while sighing appreciatively as the food magically appears in front of your face.
In fact, downtown Fayetteville restaurants boast some of the most excellent patio dining available for people-watching and experiencing international fare in our city.
The Blue Moon Cafe, which offers an eclectic menu of gourmet cheeses, artisan sandwiches, and an impressive selection of craft beers, is greeting the summer heat with everything from a crispy Caprese sandwich on a toasted baguette to strawberry and Brie crostini with basil and honey. If you’re in the mood for spirited Asian-inspired fare, try the warm Pork Bánh mì sandwich with pickled vegetables, spicy mayo and jalapeño (recipe on page 46). Of course, it might be wise to counteract the heat with a bottle of Devil’s Tramping Ground Tripel Belgian Ale from the Aviator Brewing Company in Fuquay-Varina, or a cool glass of the eatery’s refreshing signature libation, Peach Basil Sangria!
Further along Hay Street, stop at Pierro’s Italian Bistro’s garden-like patio surrounded by planter boxes and a decorative iron railing for a dining experience that makes you feel as if you’re in Rome. Priding themselves on fresh, made-to-order dishes created with premium ingredients, their revived summer menu will be sure to please, featuring tasty flatbreads and meatball parmesan sliders. Of course, the seasonal beverages are not to be missed, like the Mandarin Mojito and the Summer Sangria.
Another Hay Street favorite, Circa 1800, is debuting a new cocktail “The Elderflower Berry” (page 45 for recipe). Offering a special feature daily for lunch and dinner, Circa’s summer menu boasts a variety of fresh salads and cold soups. Pair a bowl of cucumber soup with featured wines from Medaloni Cellars, a North Carolina winery. Try a crisp, clean Rosé or a smooth, stainless steel barrel Chardonnay, both perfect sips for outdoor dining under the shade of a bright umbrella.
If you’re interested in escaping the foot traffic and looking for an outdoor lounge with a bar, couch seating, table dining, and even an ambient waterfall, head over to The Porch, a brand new covered patio at 195 in Southern Pines. While 195’s internationally inspired fusion cuisine is served on the full menu in their contempo-casual indoor dining room, The Porch features a light, al fresco menu including roasted nuts, hummus, and cheeses, along with a selection of classic and seasonal cocktails. The restaurant’s farm-to-table philosophy is carried to The Porch, as well. Sip a craft mojito with organic chocolate mint grown in their own garden! This unique outdoor dining experience is made even cooler, literally, by the large fan that keeps the air circulating and comfortable during the hottest summer months.
Home-grown ingredients and a farm-to-table philosophy are also prominent at Elliott’s on Linden in Southern Pines. Chef/Owner Mark Elliott prides himself on the relationships he’s built with regional farmers who provide ingredients at the peak of freshness. While many businesses focus on making things “bigger and better,” Chef Elliott’s specialty is a small, intimate dining experience focusing on creative dishes produced from quality ingredients. In fact, much of his produce is grown in a series of raised garden beds right in their own back yard! Even better, Elliott’s on Linden is in the throes of constructing a backyard dining environment with pergolas and a view of the intricate gardens in which they grow their food. Scheduled to open later this summer, the new patio at Elliott’s promises a uniquely tranquil outdoor atmosphere and serves as a back-to-basics educational experience highlighting our intimate connection to nature and the food we eat.
Whether you’re in the mood for people-watching along the picturesque streets of downtown Fayetteville, lounging in style on The Porch, or enjoying a garden view at Elliott’s in Southern Pines, there’s no denying that dining outdoors is a thoroughly enjoyable summer activity made even more enjoyable when someone else does the dishes.