Pulling Apart Patios

[Some Minneapolis patio details. From top to bottom: Common Roots Cafe, Loring Pasta Bar, Mac's Industrial Bar.]

In many parts of the world, sidewalk dining is the classic urban experience. Here in the US, though, it tends to be a bit uncommon. In New York, for example, it's very difficult to find anything resembling a sidewalk patio. The streets are choked with traffic, and the inevitable sight of garbage on the sidewalk is a bit unappetizing. (I still remember bringing 4 Bulgarian friends to New York for the first time and all of them saying how uniformly ugly the city was.)

While the summer still has legs, I'm kicking off a series about patio dining in the Twin Cities. We seem to have had a patio renaissance in the past 5 years, and sidewalk dining has become more and more common. These days, and during this cool summer, you can see why its so popular.

But not all patios are made equal. You will find patios that are laughable attempts to place tables on skinny, traffic-addled sidewalks. You will find patios that are luxurious, spatious, pleasant places to sit and enjoy the people'd streets.

So, what makes a good patio?

Here are some possible ideas:
  • A sense of separation between auto traffic and tables with food
  • A sense of separation between people traffic and tables with food
  • Nice buildings to look at
  • Nice people to look at (i.e. people watching)
  • A view of some sort of landscape
  • Comfy chairs / tables / awnings
  • Lots of room
  • Quiet-ness
What do you think? Which of these things are the most important? Are we living in the golden age of the Twin Cities' patio?

[The legendary patio at Sally's in Stadium Village.]


Andrew said...

I would agree that there has been a patio renaissance, in fact I remember reading an article from a few months ago about the best roof-top patios in the Twin Cities.
Location, beautiful view, and a reasonable separation from auto traffic are important to me, but not more important than the food or service being provided. Looking forward to your posts on this topic.

xan said...

What's up with the hideous fences some of the patios surround themselves with? Anyone know what the city ordinance is? I assume you have to fence off an area serving alcohol, but does it have to look like a third world zoo. Also the Abu Ghraib/Walmart plastic chairs should be verboten, not just because they are ugly, but because they blow away.