Outdoor dining: old favorites, new finds


My how time flies. It is almost August, the days are getting shorter, and the evenings of patio dining will soon be a distant memory. I still haven’t made it back to my all-time favorite outdoor dining spot, the patio at the Black Forest Inn, for a mug of Pilsner Urquell, a pair of bratwurst with sauerkraut and potato salad, and a big slice of Apfelstrudel. Speaking of which, next Sunday, August 3, the Black Forest will be celebrating National Bratwurst Day (who knew?) with brat specials, brat prizes, and a special bratwurst day menu cover contest. Accordionist Mark Stillman will play from 6:30 to 9 p.m., which make it worth the trip even if you are a vegetarian.

But there are more outdoor options than ever these days, including several of my favorite Asian restaurants. Jasmine 26 at 26th and Nicollet has a few sidewalk tables – and a great all-day drink special: your choice of Kirin or Sapporo tap beer, or a glass of Lizard Flats chardonnay or cabernet-merlot blend for $3.

Tin Fish also ranks pretty high on my list of favorites – the seafood is fresh, prices are very reasonable, and the view overlooking Lake Calhoun is one of those quintessential summer experiences. Seafood prices have crept up over the years, but you can still get a fried cod taco for $3.95, or a mini-tin fish sandwich for $2.75.

The view isn’t quite as scenic at Minneapolis’s other seafood restaurant in a park concession stand, the Sea Salt Eatery at Minnehaha Falls, but the food is just as good, and the menu is just a bit more adventuresome, with offerings like a Thai yellow shrimp curry soup or a crawfish etouffe. And if you walk a few feet from the tables, you get a lovely view of the Falls.

My favorite Indian (actually Indian/Tibetan/Nepali) place these days is the Namaste Café, 2512 Hennepin Ave. S., which offers both a shaded porch and a terraced front patio. I am absolutely addicted to one of their appetizers, the paapri chaat, a street snack concocted of crunchy chips, chickpeas, yogurt, potatoes, tamarind chutney, onions, tomatoes, cilantro and more. They also have a great selection of teas and chai – from the family tea plantation in Nepal, as well as wine and beer.

Right next door, duplex has followed suite with its own patio. I stopped by for brunch this morning – the Argentine chorizo hash with poached eggs and tomato béarnaise ($9.49) was no great shakes, but the crab scramble with cream cheese and orange crème fraiche ($8.99) was delicious, and I would gladly go back to try some of the items on their dinner menu, like the house made fettucine with chicken confit, pancetta, shiitake mushrooms, capers, and thyme, ($13.99).