Out to dinner
Local eateries open the doors to intimate outdoor spaces
Your next getaway could be a short walk down the street or a quick drive across town. Thanks to the summer season and the opening of patio dining areas, you don't have to pack or book an airline ticket to grab a sense of being someplace else altogether.
At Front Street Cantina in Lemont, general manager Amy Kelly admits to a passion for outdoor dining.
"I love it out there," she said. "You can eat a meal anywhere, but our patio is a dining experience. It's like being on vacation. At night with the lights on and the live music playing you can pretend you are anywhere."
That was just the plan at CiNe in Hinsdale, where a newly-opened outdoor space offers the ambience of Colonial Mexico in the heart of DuPage County.
" We assembled a portion of a Colonial town, circa 1500s Mexico, with narrow alley ways, cobblestones and balconies," said general manager Martin Fitz. "We wanted to make sure it had charm to it."
CiNe in Hinsdale's goal was to create a different dining experience, converting what once was an adjacent alley into a quaint and secluded dining atmosphere, Fitz said.
"The guests love what we have accomplished. They have compared it to their town experiences in Mexico."
At Ivy in Wheaton, a sense of intimacy begs diners to its patio, offering an ivy-covered escape from the buzzing of the busy downtown neighborhood.
"When you're sitting outside you don't see the street," said general manager Jason Sandquist. "There is a lot of privacy with huge canopy umbrellas and all the foliage. It's ivy-enchanted, so it's a little bit magical."
But the close and quiet style at Ivy hasn't compromised its space. You can take as many or as few people along on your getaway as the patio experience is welcoming to couples, families or large groups.
"Because of our neighborhood, we run our live music earlier in the evenings, so families can enjoy our patio as well," said Kelly. "What isn't covered with ivy offers you a great view of local architecture."
With seating for 85, Ivy is the largest outdoor dining area in Wheaton, according to Sandquist.
"We've had wedding rehearsal dinners out there," said Sandquist, "but it's still a wonderful place to take your grandmother to lunch."
For those seeking the camaraderie of a family party, The Irish Times in Brookfield, just steps from the Metra station, offers an outdoor dining experience akin to a backyard soiree in old Ireland.
"We have the whole block here, so our garden runs from building to building surrounded by mature trees," said owner Martin Lynch. "It meanders through the back, with old Chicago red brick, and it's quite unique. The antiques and the lighting and the trees set a nice ambiance.
An old world stone cottage sits adjacent to the outdoor space, perfect for a summer gathering. In the summer, Irish bands fill the air with music.
That combination of sunshine and fresh air, good music and great food lends to the psychology of outdoor dining.
"In Chicago you spend six or seven months in hibernation, so anytime you have a chance to eat al fresco you should, " said Fitz. "You get a little vitamin D from the sun, have great cocktails and a great meal."
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