The Great Alfresco

Eating out never tasted so good.

It's a known fact: Food tastes better when consumed outside. Ditto for alcoholic beverages. And while sitting on a log toasting marshmallows to the howling of wolves may do it for some, nothing beats a breezy summer night in the city. There's no real competition here: The urban option includes a chef, a waiter, and -- hopefully -- fewer bugs.

Sure, Cleveland is chock-full of outdoor tables and chairs, but we had to draw the line somewhere. The following are among our favorites, designed to satisfy both nutritional and social needs. It's what going out is all about.

Around the Corner Saloon
This is the real West Side story. Around the Corner is a virtual Lakewood neighborhood hub. Kids young and old flock here in droves, just to get a taste of the good life -- lots of booze, cheap eats, and a bunch of people ready to be your best friend for the night.
18616 Detroit Avenue, Lakewood, 216-521-4413

D'Vine Wine Bar
Great tapas and a fairly elaborate wine list make this sidewalk patio an ideal spot for watching the Warehouse District reality show live, so get there early and dress to impress. And since tapas dishes tend to be light, ditch the South Beach diet for the North Coast version.
836 West St. Clair Avenue, Cleveland, 216-241-VINE

Flying Fig
The fast and the furious get first dibs at this tiny Ohio City patio for sidewalk gourmets. Sip fine wine, chow down on culinary delights, and watch as droves of people stroll by, admiring Market Avenue's European charm. This is one of Cleveland's best restaurants, so count your lucky stars that you can sample top-notch grub while watching the sunset.
2523 Market Avenue, 216-241-4243

Great Lakes Brewing Company There's nothing like savoring a fresh cerveza in the great outdoors. Famous for award-winning microbrews, Great Lakes has also garnered some attention for its pretzel chicken and a buzzing sidewalk terrace. People come from far away to see what all the fuss is about, but locals know that it's Ohio City's blend of cultures and shops that makes this street-dining locale a continued success. Oh -- and the beer.
2516 Market Avenue, Cleveland, 216-771-4404

Nighttown/Stephen's Green
A large waterfall is the centerpiece of this sizable patio. A convertible glass enclosure ensures quality "outdoor" dining even when the weather is on the outs, and the music is just the right volume to allow for conversation. Weekend brunches and jazzy nights attract an eclectic crowd that ranges from jeans-clad music aficionados to working stiffs in suits.
12387 Cedar Road, Cleveland Heights, 216-795-0550

Shooter's on the Water
When the mercury rises, this Cleveland landmark in the Flats serves up burgers with sides of bikers, strippers, pretty boys, and crazy girls cruising their way across the always-crowded waterfront deck. It's packed and loud, and the food doesn't really matter that much. This is where the best and worse of C-town come together to party.
1148 Main Avenue, Cleveland, 216-861-6900

The South Side
This is as good as it gets: great food, prices that leave you with enough dough for a second round of drinks, and plenty of eye candy. Young professionals, artist types, and beautiful people canoodle on this stylish, spacious 60-seat patio in Tremont. An iron gate and pine trees all around isolate the deck, protecting your moment of decadence from the prying eyes of jealous onlookers. And outdoor speakers project everything from jazz to Beyoncé, so everyone's happy.
2207 West 11th Street, Cleveland, 216-937-2288

Three Birds
Three birds are just what you might see in this streetside garden courtyard. Trees and flowers occupy half the 5,000 square feet, while classic café tables fill the other half. Owner James Bell describes it as "cosmopolitan and a little Eurotrash," but most people will agree that this gated oasis makes humdrum Detroit Avenue seem very, very far away. Esquire listed this as one of the top new restaurants in the nation, and the fancy-shmancy modern American grub tastes even better with the aromas of the herb garden wafting by.
18515 Detroit Avenue, Lakewood, 216-221-3500

Velvet Dog
If dancing like a star seems a little far-fetched for most, dancing under the stars, on an actual dance floor, is a definite possibility -- provided that you pass the dress code and that the club is not already filled to capacity. Velvet Dog's rooftop patio is a tiki-themed barfly's paradise, complete with full bar and tables. A great skyline view is included in the cover charge.
1280 West 6th Street, 216-664-1116