Finally, patio season is here again, and that means it’s time to hit a few of the best al fresco dining and drinking destinations in Southern Minnesota. If you’re starving for sunshine, to be romanced by the sidewalk sounds of a city, be pampered by the peacefulness of a patio garden, or be mesmerized by the view of a soothing lake, look no further. Whether you seek a brunch in the breeze, a sunset supper, or a long lunch, all of it tastes best outside. Visit a few of these top, casual hot spots for some excellent outdoor dining.
Dan’s Bar & Grill (New Trier) Constructed ten years ago, the patio at Dan’s is a wonderfully unique extension of the interior space. A truly intimate, cozy milieu, the patio space includes real, thriving trees among the seating and provide a good amount of shade for customers. Set behind the outside, multi-seat bar is a picnic/garden area. Danielle Durow is head chef and daughter of owner, Danette. “We connected it with our existing, outside bar/patio and the two areas really complement each other. It allows a space for games like bean bags and Jenga, and it is a perfect setting for private parties,” explained Danielle. Dan’s menu selections are very comprehensive and can be classified as upscale bar food. They offer unique burgers, gourmet appetizers, sandwiches, salads, and an entrée list that includes blackened salmon, an 8-oz. filet mignon and Cajun chicken alfredo. Every Thursday is Stuffed Burger Night, which highlights one of seven different gourmet, stuffed burgers. Too, children’s and senior’s menus are available. Among the beverage offerings are extensive lines of domestic and craft-tap beers. “We also offer a fun, specialty-drink menu that we change up seasonally, and we are proud to present a house Sangria and Maple Old-Fashioned,” Danielle said.
Reads Landing Brewing Company (Reads Landing) RLBC’s patio boasts numerous, unique features, like unobstructed views of the Mississippi River; great for pleasure boat and barge watching, or just lazy river gazing. The deck is adorned with Adirondack chairs; and picnic tables in the lawn area are self-serve; setup for beer, wine, cocktails and appetizers. Even leashed and owner-supervised dogs are welcome in the yard. “The ambiance of our outdoor space is always laid back and casual. We want people to relax and enjoy themselves. It’s nice to just sit and watch the river go by, with one of our hand-crafted beers to sip on! As the sun sets over Lake Pepin and begins to glow red and purple, it illuminates the sandstone bluffs across the river, with a soft, pink glow that warms the heart…it is a must see!” exclaimed Karla. Although the patio is not open during the winter months, there is still plenty to absorb. Reads Landing is known as the best place for eagle, swan and pelican watching on the Upper Mississippi. They are known for their hand-crafted beers, including six on tap, ranging from a light, cream ale to a hearty stout served, on nitro. The food is not the typical bar-fare; however, burgers and fries, or soft pretzel sticks, are available. RLBC’s Cordon Bleu-trained chef has fashioned a far-ranging menu that includes fresh salads, flatbreads, sandwiches, steaks and entrees. The Schedlbauers serve up signature dishes like shrimp & grits appetizers, mahi-mahi fish tacos, jerk chicken tacos, cranberry/butternut squash risotto, pulled pork sandwiches (smoked in-house), and delicious home-made soups.
Whistle Binkies on the Lake (South Rochester) Whistle Binkies on the Lake (South) is located at 247 Woodlake Dr. SE. “Our patio at the lake location is unique in its large size, which gives us an ability to host larger groups. We also utilize a Beer Garden in a portion of it for hosting parties. It’s a permanent structure with glass, garage doors for the walls; that we can open-up on nice days,” General Manager Craig Kangas said. The most unique part of the patio is the lake view (Wood Lake). Set among beautiful flower arrangements, a sand beach, and a fire pit, the patio offers a casual and relaxing feeling. Some of the popular food choices include varieties of appetizers, burgers, sandwiches, wraps, and home-made desserts. Additionally, WB prepares traditional British/Scottish dishes, including Shepherd’s Pie, Fish & Chips, Bangers & Mash, and Scotch Eggs. Their beer selection exceeds 400 and the Binkie’s bartenders whip up some awesome home-made Bloody Marys. “We are fortunate with the support we receive from area residents and the visitors to the area who take some time to stop by to see what we have to offer. We couldn’t do it without the tremendous support of everyone,” Kangas added.
High Court Pub (Lanesboro) Paul and Louanne Hamann own the popular two-deck establishment. “Our covered deck is right outside our back door. The river deck directly overlooks the Root River South branch. Folks can enjoy sunshine or shade. The deck has tree cover and umbrellas with fairy lighting for evening enjoyment. Of course, tunes play in the background; but for many, the sound of the river is the best music,” said Louanne. Open MIC and weekend performers use the river deck whenever weather allows. The deck area displays numerous bird feeders that attract a great variety of birds. Yoga classes are offered on the deck on Sunday mornings, from June through September. Watch fly fishing in action in the nearby stream, directly below the deck. A pub garden and beautiful landscaping surround the deck, which easily seats 50 people. The Pub offers a variety of tap beers, from sours to Imperial Stouts; in addition to daily flights, an extensive wine list, Bloody Marys, martinis, Old-Fashioned cocktails, and much more. Paul and Louanne present in-house crafted flatbreads, wings, and pretzel bites. Some favorite flatbreads include Krab Rangoon, Chicken Bacon Ranch, BLT, and Spinach Artichoke, Classic Cheeseburger Flatbread, and a Blueberry Crumble Dessert Flatbread. “Our staff is knowledgeable, friendly, and they will treat you right. Catch live music on weekends. Our indoor stage floats just above the first floor for a great view of the performer. Outside, we sponsor events with other Lanesboro Arts initiatives; Trivia on Tuesdays; Open MIC on Thursdays. Players include musicians, poets, and karaoke singers. We even have a Ukulele Club!” Louanne exclaimed. This is the ultimate community gathering place…it would be wise to make an appearance in the High Court Pub.
Torge’s Live (Austin) The spacious patio has a capacity of 75, and with the pavilion-style set up, it can be used during rainy weather. Joe Chidester is the Food and Beverage Manager of Torge’s Live. “It also creates a more laid-back environment for people to gather in when we have live music on the weekends. The window drapes and the heaters also allow it to be used during “chilly” weather,” commented Chidester. Torge’s Live offers typical sports-pub food, like wings (with in-house prepared sauces) and burgers (fresh, daily hand-patted and cooked over an open flame). The bar features 14 beer tap lines and the best happy hour in the area (Monday through Friday from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. – all tap beers are half-off; appetizers are half-off; and all wings are $7.00). “I highly recommend the Hangover Burger. It’s an 8-oz. beef patty topped with bacon, hash browns, American cheese, an over-easy egg, and smothered in hollandaise sauce,” suggested Chidester.
Brewskie’s Bar & Grill (Utica) A family-friendly small-town bar & grill, Brewskie’s is owned and operated by Tim Schultz and Greg Swenson. The guys feature an airy, casual and comfy patio section for all to enjoy; complete with bean bag games, background music, and party spaces if necessary. Too, live music is featured occasionally throughout the summer. Offering eight tap beer lines, Brewskie’s also offers bottled beer, mixed drinks and sodas. Enjoy a perfectly prepared hamburger or have a scrumptious pizza (any type of pie and a plethora of toppings from which to choose).
Kelly’s Tap House Bar & Grill (Red Wing) Kelly’s vaunts the ultimate in patio dining, with a circa 100 capacity seating arrangement. The spacious area features a full bar, 12 rotating tap beers, and two 10-foot brick fire tables. It can accommodate parties of 20-25 at the two tables; 3/4 of the deck has a roof; the deck has TVs, live music during the summer; and most importantly, there are spectacular views of the boat harbor, boat houses, and the Mississippi River. Kelly’s Tap House Bar & Grill (in-house), sports 73 rotating taps, a full bar with over 60 kinds of bourbon, and wine on tap. You can find summer slush drinks and a full menu, ranging from house-ground burgers to prime steaks, and stone-fired pizzas. A popular house favorite is the Butcher Burger; a combination of short rib, sirloin, brisket and chuck. Another highly requested choice is the awesome bone-in rib eye.
These are, of course, just SOME of the great outdoor dining options available in the region. There are countless more to try – from Froggy Bottoms in Northfield to 3rd Street Tavern in St. Peter to Boat House Grill and Bar in Waseca – so go out and see Southern Minnesota the way it’s supposed to be seen: in the sunshine!
By Pat Garry