6030 W. NORTH AVE., WAUWATOSA | 414-312-8968 | $21-$39
The pasteria’s spacious, greenery-encircled patio feels like someone’s cozy, intimate backyard – with the addition of great service and food. Along with heaters and umbrellas shading the tables, owners Zak and Sarah Baker have prepared it for everything. It’s easy to forget that traffic is cruising by on the other side of the fence. The couple debuted the space last summer, dotting it with potted petunias. The wrought-iron tables and chairs are spread out and perfect for lingering over Zak’s menu of handmade pastas. It’s hard to find something not satisfying on this hit parade of a menu, which undergoes seasonal changes. Try the arancini (fried rice balls), tagliatelle with white veal ragù, and the hand-rolled gnocchi with lamb ragù.
2300 N. MAYFAIR RD., WAUWATOSA | 414-867-9200 | $16-$95
This is one of my favorite patios, which is a feat since the Scandinavian-inspired venue is on the grounds of a shopping mall. The attractive birch and plush seating on this breezy outdoor space has an arbor-like roof strung with twinkly white lights. Cushions and pillows abound, setting the stage for comfort. The Swedish meatball sliders, salmon three ways and Faroe Island salmon with rhubarb jam, thyme and watercress are all terrific choices, along with a reykr old fashioned cocktail.
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330 E. MENOMONEE ST. | 414-273-3375 | $11-$25
The summer of 2020 begot many things, including the closing of Menomonee Street outside Bavette. This was a boon to both the eatery/butcher shop and its neighbor, Club Charlie’s, as it allowed their seating to spill out into the street. While you’re eating Bavette’s roasted cauliflower-grape salad, charcuterie plate, pork banh mi sandwich or waiting for the baller Wednesday night grilled burger to land in front of you, you can gaze at peaceful Catalano Square, the Third Ward’s piece of green space.
2238 N. FARWELL AVE. | 414-763-9081 | $6-$20
Because the parklet is on Ivanhoe –the little side street just off of Farwell – it has the balance of being both in the thick of things and a little sheltered. On mild winter days, hardy diners congregated near the heated tables under string lights, dreaming of summer. North Avenue is just feet away and offers all the sounds of the city. The beauty of this patio is how many different cuisines you can enjoy here all at once – eight, and that includes Scratch ice cream. Pro tip: order a plate of empanadas from Triciclo Perú, Lao sausage from Thum, some classic frites from Mina and a couple beers from Crossroads’ Pharmacy bar and you’re all set.
2535 S. KINNICKINNIC AVE. | 414-301-6255 | $12-$27
Late last summer, I dined at one of the high-top patio tables facing KK, enjoying Sorella’s delightful roast pork ribeye with cherry-pepper sauce and a glass of rosé. It was a little brisk, but the re pits kept things comfortable, and with the fenced-in front terrace raised above street level, I could watch the easygoing passage of time on the surrounding streets. Other diners were seated on the patio, too, but it still felt intimate. Sorella is one of my favorite new restaurants by virtue of its unpretentious, delicious menu, which also includes simple marvelous pastas like the cavatelli with Monday sauce and spaghetti with pecorino cheese and black pepper.
6. Odd Duck
2352 S. KINNICKINNIC AVE. | 414-763-5881 | $10-$20
The Duck has long had an attractive, tiled backyard patio (named Waterbird), but its parklet is a COVID-era addition where folks can sit and have a cocktail, snacks and small plates. It captures the urban walkability of Bay View – couples passing by with strollers, other denizens hopping to the other nearby bars and restaurants. It’s casual comfort, an easy place to grab a quick bite and then move on to the next thing. Plus, you can order a global smorgasbord that includes Thai dry-fried pork curry to tempura oyster mushrooms with tofu and purple daikon radish.
2900 S. KINNICKINNIC AVE. | 414-897-0495 | $34-$84
The owners moved the dining room’s old-timey, white tablecloth ambiance out to its courtyard. Tables are elegantly set with china, candles and vases of flowers. Rather than a backyard in Bay View, it feels a bit like you’re out in the country, soaking up the last rays of sunlight. The menu here is European and may include Hawaiian prawns or red deer tenderloin, veal saltimbocca or pasta primavera. A spot to indulge and relax.
5835 W. NATIONAL AVE., 414-488-2948 & 5901 W. NATIONAL AVE., WEST ALLIS, 414-257-9999 | PUBLIC TABLE $9-$17; KEGEL’S $15-$58.
This is a real two-fer. The restaurants share the beer garden space where 59th Street was closed off. It’s copious, with plenty of room to spread out. Over the winter, cozy heated igloos attracted those seeking a beer and a fish fry, some tacos or pulled pork sliders. In the summer, it’s picnic tables topped with umbrellas, establishing a casual, shorts-and-T-shirts ambiance. In the evening, strings of white lights radiate over the tables. Public Table’s nifty not-your-typical-pub fare menu offers some gems, including the power salad, crispy duck tacos and chorizo-goat cheese flatbread. If you’re thinking of more of a German bent, get there on Fridays, for the lake perch fry with potato pancakes and a German beer.
2315 N. MURRAY AVE. | 414-797-1400 | $9-$34
Sidewalk dining has always felt so urban, so vital to me. I love watching passersby walking their dogs and hearing the steady hum of traffic from my seat. Tavolino neighbors two other restaurants (Izzy Hops and Kawa), so there’s a lot of activity and life here, music spilling onto the sidewalk and diners supping on pasta and red wine as the sun fades and the streetlights lend a warm glow. A meal here should definitely begin with an insalata such as the agrumi (with blood orange, grapefruit, fennel, pistachio and goat cheese) and progress to spaghetti with scallops and spinach or the light, citrusy chicken piccata.
10. Honeypie Café
2569 S. KINNICKINNIC AVE. | 414-747-1007 | $6-$15
One of the most anticipated spring events, for me anyway, was the reopening of Honeypie. It moved from its longtime location just a stone’s throw away from the Bay View original, and attention this summer will be focused on the alfresco experience. The patio is tucked off the alley and has 16 tables. It’s completely surrounded and feels quite secluded. One of the added bonuses is a new walk-up order window, because owner Val Lucks doesn’t plan to open for inside dining this summer. But she does plan to serve great food. And the Honeypie menu has some standouts, which includes the pork slaw sandwich on a brioche bun, the Honeypie ground brisket burger with a sunnyside-up egg, the savory hand pies and the super Friday night fish fry.
7616 W. STATE ST., WAUWATOSA | 414-771-7910 | $65 PER PERSON
In summer of 2020, the Tosa Italian debuted La Terrazza, a socially distant courtyard tucked between two brick-sided buildings. Here diners can savor the prix fixe menu that changes almost monthly. The arbor-like “roof ” keeps the space shaded and the walls that surround it on three sides keep the wind from becoming a nuisance. And based on last summer’s experience, it stayed cool and comfortable, also thanks to the red-cushioned chairs. Ristorante’s patio was scheduled to open on May 12, and from June 10-30, Ristorante is running a regional menu highlighting Puglia, the heel on Italy’s boot. Dishes include fava bean purée with chicory and orecchiette with sausage and broccoli rabe.