Outdoor dining in the Midwest
In Missouri, Kansas City’s Country Club Plaza is a hot spot for outdoor dining; table umbrellas dot nearly every block. The Classic Cup has street side and courtyard dining for breakfast and lunch, as well as an outstanding brunch. The buttermilk pancakes are the best, and you’ll find one of the city’s best wine selections here.
Gram & Dun’s patio overlooks the Plaza’s Ward Parkway and Brush Creek. Open for weekend brunch and everything in between, Gram & Dun is a popular spot for late night desserts and specialty drinks. Try the PB&J Pie or a Truffle Shuffle cocktail.
Kansas City’s Westport, another great people-watching destination, is home to Char Bar, which has quickly become one of the city’s more popular barbecue spots. Enjoy burnt ends and Boulevard Beer with a game of bocce ball or cornhole in Char Bar’s beer garden.
Johnny’s Tavern is one of several outdoor dining spots in Kansas City’s Power & Light District. Grab some pork belly sliders or a giant Bavarian pretzel while enjoying the energetic vibe of this entertainment district.
Located in the historical River Market, The Farmhouse patio is one of the city’s cooler spots on a hot summer day. Weekends for this farm-to-table restaurant are very busy. Come for breakfast throughout the week for your best chance of grabbing an outdoor seat.
St. Louis, Missouri, has no shortage of patios with fabulous views and excellent menus. Vin de Set opened in 2006 in Lafayette Square and offers fare inspired by the south of France on its popular rooftop patio. The wine and cheese selections are worth the journey, as are the Crepes Suzette for dessert.
Baseball fans line up for a seat at 360 at the top of the Hilton at the Ballpark in downtown St. Louis to take in its unprecedented view into Busch Stadium, the Mississippi River, the Gateway Arch, and the Old Courthouse, all while enjoying small plates and great cocktails. On game days, it’d be a good idea to check on availability and other pertinent updates.
Few outdoor spaces say St. Louis better than the Boathouse Café in Forest Park. Choose between patio dining with a view of the Post-Dispatch Lake or select something from the café’s takeout menu and eat at one of more than a dozen designated picnic spots. Bring a blanket and dine on Picnic Island in the park.
Located off the Katy Trail in St. Charles, the Bike Stop Café patio is always filled with cyclists and others who enjoy this unique Missouri State Park. Enjoy breakfast all day, pack lunch in a bicycle trunk bag, or simply get carryout to enjoy in nearby Frontier Park overlooking the Missouri River.
Follow scenic state Highway 94 in St. Charles County, also known as Missouri’s Weinstrasse (wine road) to several wineries with lovely patios and picnic spots, including the Sugar Creek Winery, Chandler Hill Vineyards, and Montelle Winery. Never drive after consuming alcohol; designate a driver.
One of the most innovative restaurants in Springfield, Missouri, is also home to a fabulous patio. Progress opened on the city’s southeast side in 2018 and right away, the massive patio overlooking the restaurant’s garden became Springfield’s hottest destination. Try the gnocchi Bolognese for dinner or eggs Benedict with trout for weekend brunch.
The Great River Road in Alton and Grafton, Illinois, follows the Mississippi River, so you’re bound to find restaurants or bars with a view. Sip a summer cocktail or a cold beer with a burger or fish tacos at The Loading Dock in Grafton. Its huge patio has great views of the river, as does The Winery at Aerie’s Resort, also in Grafton. Fast Eddie’s Bon Air with its patio is a legendary bar with satisfying and cheap eats.
Few outdoor dining spots are better than those found at Arkansas State Parks. Beautiful Lake Chicot is the country’s largest oxbow lake, formed from the Mississippi River. Pick up some tamales or other goodies to go at Rhoda’s Famous Hot Tamales in Lake Village and enjoy at a picnic spot in Lake Chicot State Park.
Those who love outdoor dining on Lake Pontchartrain’s north shore in Louisiana should seek out Café Luke in Slidell. Open only on weekends for breakfast and lunch, the shaded, brick-lined patio is pet friendly. Try the muffuletta omelet for an unforgettable treat.
End your day with a shrimp po-boy take-out from Saia’s Meat Market in Mandeville. Add an order of fried green bell peppers just for the fun of it, find your favorite craft beer from more than 100 in stock, then head over to Sunset Point for a picnic as the sun settles behind Lake Pontchartrain.
Check with restaurants for any operational updates. Whether you’re comfortable dining at a restaurant or visiting your favorite takeout place, get creative and enjoy a meal outdoors.
Diana Lambdin Meyer is a contributor from Kansas City, Missouri.
Note: Some photos depicted were taken prior to COVID-19 outbreak and do not reflect the health and safety steps in place at these restaurants.
AAA Travel Alert: Many travel destinations have implemented COVID-19–related restrictions. Before making travel plans, check to see if hotels, attractions, cruise lines, tour operators, restaurants, and local authorities have issued health and safety-related restrictions or entry requirements. The local tourism board is a good resource for updated information.