Two weeks ago, when the bout of rain and gloom ceased for five days and the temperature spiked from cold to summer, the first thing I told my coworker was, “This is Hot Club weather.”
There’s something inaugural to summer season when you can finally fill the waterfront patios, relax into summer dresses and shorts, and dine and imbibe outdoors for hours. In fact, this pastime is so enjoyable that nearly every restaurant in the state has a stash of tables and chairs they can pull out onto the sidewalk or backyard and call it al fresco dining.
We’re all familiar with the usual “Al Fresco” spots: De Pasquale Square on Federal Hill, the Hot Club and its neighbors (p.s. Tel Aviv moved into Lola’s spot and has revamped the outdoor space), and the Newport waterfront. But there are road-less-traveled-by restaurants that are worth checking out, too — specifically for their outdoor scenes. Here are a few you won’t want to miss this summer.
Tavern on the Water. This is the place to go if you want to pretend you’re floating down the river on a wood flat in the days of Huck Finn. Here you’ll find umbrella-covered tables on a deck that actually extends over a pond, plus an outdoor arrangement of cushioned couches and chairs. Try the Tavern Tower Nachos or a fire grilled pizza. 743 Putnam Pike
Terrazza. Farm-to-table. Mediterranean flavor. And a massive outdoor seating area: This place was made to be a summer hot spot. At night, this place lights up with the funky colors of a nightclub and the vibe of a Hawaiian luau. With heaters and an outdoor fireplace, you can enjoy the patio from summer into fall. 645 Douglas Pike
Chelo’s on the Water. I remember coming here for stuffed quahogs and being completely wow’d by the plethora of outdoor waterfront seating: downstairs patios and decks, upstairs bars and balconies. And there wasn’t an empty chair in sight! Come to enjoy the live music, ocean breezes and RI seafood favorites. 1 Masthead Dr
The Windjammer. Aptly named the “Surf Bar,” you have the luxury of watching the waves roll in but without any of the sand in your suit. Choose from tables, bar stools or brightly colored Adirondack chairs lining the patio’s edge, and — oh yeah — the beach is right there. The food comes in baskets and the Malibu comes in buckets. You may not want to leave. 321 Atlantic Ave
Blount’s Clam Shack. Sometimes simple is better, and Blount’s is the best for a chilled glass of white wine, a cup of chowder and a bag of clam cakes. There’s plenty of picnic table seating, but if you can snag an Adirondack chair facing the Bay — with wafts of Jack-Johnson-esque music from local talent carried by the breeze — you may stay till closing. 335 Water St
Trafford. Originally “Trapford,” Trafford’s name was derived from a word that means: “Where the land and water meet.” You can expect a full menu and a full bar, but it’s the atmosphere that keeps everyone coming back. According to the owners, “We want to make the view a part of the whole experience,” and an outdoor patio with sailboats in the backyard bay does the trick. 285 Water St
The Boathouse. Boasting “One of the Top Scenic Views in the United States” by OpenTable four years in a row, the Boathouse has no problems living up to its accolades. This is where you can catch an award-winning sunset as you dine, or come in for Sunday brunch and join the passing boaters who tie up on the transient slip and hit the outdoor patio for a drink. 227 Schooner Dr
Besos Kitchen and Cocktails. They call themselves little but mighty, and it’s wise to make reservations beforehand. But their seasonal outdoor deck (think: house-with-a-porch-swing sized deck) and dining patio are full of charm: strung with twinkling lights and hanging potted plants, you’ll feel right at home. Plus, their cocktails are almost too pretty to drink … almost. 378 Main St
Ogie’s Trailer Park. You have to love an establishment that owns up its theme, and Ogie’s certainly does that. It’s a tribute to Americana (it has some killer PB & Js and garlic tots) and their outdoor Tiki bar and funky furniture will have you more excited than ever to hang in a trailer park. 1155 Westminster St
Duck and Bunny. A “snuggery” known for their cupcakes and afternoon tea, D&B’s small, cozy winter house gives way to an almost-hidden outdoor garden for the treasured warm summer nights. It’s one of my favorite places to end the evening, with dessert drinks and cupcakes amid a canopy of vines. 312 Wickenden
Rooftop at ProvidenceG. I’d be remiss to not mention this downtown favorite, but you’ll feel underdressed if you come wearing flip flops. The basics: it’s a bar. On a rooftop. And while simple in theory, there’s nothing quite like beholding Providence’s city lights at night. 100 Dorrance St