Outdoor dining flourishes in Boston’s western suburbs
By Taryn Plumb | Globe Correspondent
July 19, 2012
It was a hot afternoon, but there was plenty of shade and a breeze as Claude French sat in front of Concord’s Colonial Inn for lunch.
The small granite table he shared with his wife, Doreen, was scattered with the remains of their meal — a half-eaten salad, crumbs from a salmon burger, slices of corn bread, a few neglected fries, perspiring water glasses.
“It’s more open, rather than being confined inside,” French, a retiree from Bedford, said of eating porch-side. “It’s more festive. It’s summer, you’re with other people, it’s something enjoyable.”
There’s just something about eating outside — the fresh air, the breeze, the smells, the sounds — that somehow makes meals that much more enjoyable, the food that much tastier.
But it’s not an experience that needs to be confined to your own backyard or side patio. Even in the swirling hurly-burly of Boston’s western suburbs, you can find many tucked-away oases for open-air eating.
“You forget the fact that you are sitting in MetroWest,” said Tom Peretzian, the bar manager at Allora Ristorante in Marlborough, which has a deck overlooking Lake Williams that can accommodate more than 100 diners. “Everybody just enjoys being out there.”
Parisian, Mediterranean, Asian, or Italian settings, garden-like patios, wrap-around decks, simple sidewalk seating — pick your vibe.
Popular area choices include Spiga Ristorante Italiano in Needham, with a patio swathed in shrubbery and hidden away beyond the rush of Interstate 95’s hotels, businesses, and office parks, and the French restaurant Petit Robert Bistro on the other side of the whooshing highway; the South American La Casa De Pedro in Watertown, with its coconut-laden palm tree and a waterfall nearby; Singh’s Cafe in Wellesley, with Hindu statues overlooking patrons; Bullfinchs in Sudbury; il Casale in Belmont; Tavolino in Westborough; and Taberna de Haro in Brookline.
“It is always nice to have the option to sit outside,” said Kathy Sidell, owner of the Met Restaurant Group, which operates the Met Bar and Grill in Natick, among other establishments. The restaurant offers an 1,100-square-foot patio with clay pots, evergreens, and miniature Japanese maple trees, and can fit about 60 to 70 people.
“With the climate cold nine months out of the year, it’s good to take advantage of nice weather,” said Sidell. “We wanted to create a natural setting that felt like a garden.”
Other restaurateurs, meanwhile, take advantage of the natural scenery and energy of their surroundings.
The Fireplace in Brookline, for instance, has a simple sidewalk patio with tables, umbrellas, and flowers facing looking out on Washington Square with its Victorian clock, boutiques, and businesses.
“You get the relaxing urban bustle that is more subdued than a New York sidewalk, but more lively than an enclosed terrace. It’s very much alive with pedestrians and shoppers,” said chef and owner Jim Solomon. “Washington Square is kind of known as the ‘Paris of Brookline,’ ” he said.
And offering outdoor dining helps keep keeps that reputation alive. “It creates a more lively streetscape,’’ he said, “and more foot traffic to support the local neighborhood shops.”
Meanwhile, in the more bucolic setting of Concord, the Colonial Inn accents its historical aspect. A half-covered porch with granite tables and wrought-iron chairs wraps around the front of the nearly 300-year-old building, which features columns, dormers, black shutters, red doors, and taupe facade.
On a recent weekday afternoon, more than a dozen diners — including the Frenches — were gathered there despite the nearly 90-degree heat; they sat in the shade of umbrellas, watched the traffic rumbling by Monument Square, and admired the surrounding rhododendrons, colorful boxed flowers, and oak trees.
“It’s such a beautiful location,” said Alexandra Lorenzano, the inn’s director of food and beverage, noting that people can “hide” on the porch but, at the same time, still be part of the action in the center of town. “We want people to feel like they’re in an oasis.”
The inn introduced the porch for dining just four years ago, she said, and it’s since grown to accommodate 70.
“There was such a high demand for it,” she said, describing how guests and diners have always gathered on the porch to take in July Fourth events or parades, or to simply people-watch. “People just love to be outside.”
Solomon, at the Fireplace in Brookline, agreed it’s just that simple.
“After braving frequent cold winters, it’s just really nice to be able to sit out in shorts and enjoy a cool summer evening, or have brunch outside on a sunny day,” he said.
“Being a lifelong New Englander, I enjoy taking advantage of the nice weather whenever we have it.”
© 2012 The New York Times Company