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Friday, May 16, 2008

Take it outside: The best bets for outdoor dining in Cleveland

Posted By on Fri, May 16, 2008 at 8:16 AM

We can’t guarantee blue skies and balmy breezes. But if fresh-air dining is on your to-do list, we can point you toward a few of our favorite patios, decks, and outdoor dining rooms. In no particular order, they include: The Baricelli Inn (2203 Cornell Rd., 216-791-6500). Short of a trip to the Italian countryside, this Little Italy mainstay can’t be beat for soaking up a summery vibe. Surrounded both by luxurious plantings and the neighborhood’s handsome architecture, an umbrella’d table here is ideal for alfresco noshing. Among best bets, don’t miss the artisanal meat boards, the perfectly appointed cheese plates, or the petite pastas. ... Gamekeeper’s Tavern (87 West St., Chagrin Falls; 440-247-7744). Another long-time fave, this secluded outdoor dining room got a facelift last summer, including new tables, chairs, and a spiffed-up outdoor bar. If there’s a more appealing spot for sipping a summery glass of Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc, or for nibbling on small plates of rustic American fare, we’ve yet to find it. We generally aren’t big fans of street-side patios or decks overlooking parking lots. After all, if we wanted to dine amidst noise, fumes, and grit, we could just stay at home! But sometimes, we make exceptions. On Shaker Square, for instance, both Sergio Abramof’s Brazilian-influenced Sarava (13225 Shaker Square, 216-295-1200) and Doug Katz’ New-American fire food & drink (13220 Shaker Square, 216-921-3473) provide uniquely urbane views; and while there’s no shortage of concrete and traffic, the Square’s mature trees, plentiful landscaping, and historic architecture help to soften the hard edges. Likewise, the small patio at Middle-Eastern Taza (28601 Chagrin Blvd., in Woodmere’s Eton-Chagrin; 216-464-4000) is a charmer, tucked back from the sidewalk and lined with blooming window boxes. The earthy aromas of grilling kebabs and freshly baked pitas waft out of the restaurant and into the outdoor space, never failing to make us feel like guests at some exotic cookout. Great Lakes Brewing Company (2516Market Ave., 216-771-4404). Lacy locust trees line this stub of Market Street, near the West Side Market, transforming GLBC’s outdoor dining area from urban sidewalk to shaded hideaway. Or something like that. After downing a couple pints of the brewpub’s award-winning Dortmunder Gold, sometimes we’re not sure where we are. The only thing that’s certain is, we’re having fun! OK, we’ll come right out and say it: With the obvious exception of Lola, the current crop of restaurants along E. 4th St. don’t generally hold spots on our A list. Still, for those of you who find yourselves downtown on a balmy evening, this urbane entertainment district is clearly worth a stop. With car traffic prohibited, the entire block turns into a festive street party, festooned with strings of lights and featuring some of the best people-watching in the region. Among the E. 4th St. restaurants with outdoor dining areas: House of Blues, Saigon, Zocalo Mexican Grill, Wonder Bar, Flannery’s Irish Pub, and Pickwick & Frolic. Finally, for real outdoorsy types, there’s Twin Lakes’ Mangiamo! (7289 St. Route 43, 330-677-0717), a casual Italian ristorante with a lovely, rustic courtyard. Nestled beneath the sheltering boughs of mature maple, pine, and popular trees; enclosed by a tall wooden fence; and prettily landscaped with roses, holly, and graceful ferns, the brick patio makes an airy, yet secluded, retreat. Combine that with a tempting roundup of craft-brewed beers; a small, but interesting wine list; and a relatively ambitious kitchen that scores a lot more hits than misses, and you have all the makings of a memorable summer’s evening – bus fumes, panhandlers, and traffic noise excluded. – Elaine T. Cicora Read Elaine Cicora's restaurant reviews, food news, and comprehensive dining guide on the restaurant page at

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