Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Patio Project: Northern Utah Restaurants For Great Outdoor Eating

What Northern Utah restaurants have great patios? During June and July, I worked on a story for the Standard-Examiner about where to eat outside during the summer -- restaurants with nice patios, decks, courtyards, sidewalk tables, verandahs, whatever you choose to call them.

I spent many hours driving and walking around Davis, Weber, and Morgan counties with an eye out for oversize umbrellas and outdoor tables and chairs. And I put away a few calories too.  The current heat wave made it a little uncomfortable to check out some of these places, but it's still been pretty interesting. I found a lot more places than news space would allow. Some of those that I wrote about didn't make it into the paper. But, that's what blogs are for!  If you notice that your favorite patio place isn't listed here, please post a comment. I'd love to hear about places I might have missed.

Slackwater Pub's patio is next to the Ogden River Parkway.

My Top Pick:
Slackwater Pub & Pizzeria (1895 Washington Blvd., Ogden): This was probably my favorite of all the patios I visited. Time stands still when you're sharing a plate of nachos or a Margherita pizza with a friend, while the Ogden River drifts lazily past.  It's easy to forget that you're a stone's throw from the busy traffic of Washington Boulevard.
 I first assumed that Slackwater's main customer base would be athletic tree-hugger types, since it's located on the Ogden River Parkway and its neighbors are Bingham Cyclery and Peak Performance Running Store. 

The view of Ogden River from Slackwater's patio.
But there was a diverse mix in the dinner crowd — hipsters, oldsters, dressed up, dressed-down — and it was all good. Several bikes were parked in racks along the patio, and we watched a group pedal off down the parkway when they finished their meal. And one of my friends, Susan Snyder, said it's a favorite spot for her birdwatching group. 

Should the weather turn windy, rainy or simply too hot, the glassed-in porch offers shelter from the elements.
As a nightlife bonus, the restaurant often hosts live music around 7:30-10 p.m. on weekends. But if you'd rather stick to quiet conversation, you can always eat earlier.

2. Dancing Waters Fountain, Station Park in Farmington 
Station Park has created a pedestrian plaza that's become a great gathering spot. Every hour on the hour, the fountain spurts out a light-and-sound show, choreographed to songs such as "Rollin' In the Deep," by Adele, "Jump!" by Van Halen, or "Celebration" by Kool and the Gang. Park Stone Wood Kitchen (905 W. Promontory, Farmington) and Settobello Pizzeria Napoletana both offer a nice view of the fountain. 
You can sit outside, shaded by umbrellas; or inside, where the glass walls can retract, giving the feeling of al fresco dining with indoor comforts. All the while, the heady aromas of wood-burning stoves, baking pizza and sizzling steaks waft through the air.If you're eating at Park Stone Wood Kitchen, you'll want to sit on the east side patio to avoid the noise from the nearby kids' playground.  The fountain area has a number of outdoor tables, so another option is to get take-out from Bandidos Mexican Grill, Sugar Daisy Bakery or Orange Leaf Frozen Yogurt, and sit on the plaza.
Live concerts take place around the plaza area every Saturday in the summer, from 7-9 p.m. But if you'd rather avoid the crowds, you may want to eat earlier. We were at the concert last weekend, and it was packed with at least 1,000 people. 

3. The Junction, (site of the former Ogden Mall, from about 23rd &Washington to 24th & Kiesel) is another patio haven. 

Sonora Grill's patio at The Junction in downtown Ogden.
A restaurant destination is growing around The Junction's nicely manicured garden plaza. Sonora Grill   Santa Monica Pizza & Pasta Company, Five Guys Burgers and Fries, Iggy's  and All the Perks Espresso Café all have outdoor patios facing the pretty flower beds. Most of them are shaded with umbrellas, and Santa Monica Pizza & Pasta Company has overhead shades on the west side that can be lowered for shelter from the afternoon sun. Heading south, Brixton's Baked Potato ( has a couple of umbrella-topped tables, too. So if you've spent some time at the Children's  Museum or Salomon Center, of it you're on your way to a movie or Raptor's Game, you've got several options where you can pause and refresh. 

4.  Rooster's Brewing Company and Corbin's Grille in Layton (748 W. Heritage Park Blvd., Layton) These two (separately owned) restaurants share patios that overlook a waterfall pool with pretty pond lilies — a refreshing oasis on a summer day.  During the day, the umbrellas shade the tables, and during dinner, the east-facing space is shaded by the building.
The space is put to good use on the Rooster's patio, growing hop vines used for beer making, and mint for mojitos, mint lemonade and a garnish for Triple Chocolate Mint Mousse Cake, according to Nathan Layton, a Roosters manager.
Some Roosters guests can sip one of the house-brewed beers, while teetotalers can chill with a mug of micro-brewed Roost Beer.
The patio is especially popular for Roosters' weekend brunch.  "We'll have open tables inside, but people will be on a wait list to sit outside."
And it isn't just a summer thing. In spring, customers start migrating to the patio once the weather hits 55-60 degrees, and keep coming until October, he said. 
"There's a married couple that comes in often, and they would sit outside all year long if we kept tables out there."

5. Ogden's Historic 25th Street is like Patio Alley. You'll find:

Tona Sushi's new patio on 25th Street, Ogden
Tona Sushi: The backyard patio is new this summer. Husband and wife Tina Yu and Tony Chen have installed a mister with a light spray of water from the shady tree limbs above.
"Sometimes when it gets up to 100 degrees, the mister really helps," said Tina Yu.
The patio is flanked by planters of herbs and vegetables such as tomatoes, basil, peppers, and zucchini, that offer a nice ambience, as well as fresh-picked ingredients. There are also edible flowers such as nasturtiums that are picked and used as edible garnishes.
They've owned the restaurant since 2004, "it's an on-going project; we do a little here and there."
There are five black wrought-iron tables.  "Sometimes we're busy enough during the nighttime that people will still want to come out heare and eat," she said.

Lucky Slice has some tables on the west side of the building, and a large picnic table in the back.

Union Grill's patio in downtown Ogden.

Union Grill: Eight tables with a vintage vibe overlook the Union Station fountain.  The chairs have an intentional antique-rusted look.
When I visited a few weeks ago, a waitress told me it was still a work in progress, and umbrellas were going to be added soon.

Two-Bit Street Cafe's sidewalk tables on Historic 25th Street.
Two Bit Street Cafe has set up a few dark green metal tables with matching chairs in front of the restaurant, bordered by petunias in purple, red and white.

Good Life Cafe & Juice Bar have a couple of sidewalk tables with umbrellas .

Jasoh! has a nice view from the second-floor screened-in balcony.

Two tables on the sidewalk in front of Grounds for Coffee.

Roosters' patio, Historic 25th Street, in downtown Ogden.

Roosters' patio is positioned between two buildings, so you don't have west-facing sun in your eyes.
It's shaded with canopies that are strung with lights for festive nighttime dining. A tall red wrought-iron fence encloses it from the sidewalk.
This patio has a special place in my heart. My farewell lunch took place here in August 2000, when I left the Standard-Examiner to become the Deseret News food editor.  I guess I've come full circle because I'm back as a correspondent for the Standard-Examiner.

Great Harvest Bread, Historic 25th Street, Ogden
Great Harvest Bread has a few tables on the sidewalk, sheltered under bright green and yellow umbrellas.

Angelica Sweet, general manager of Bistro 258.

Bistro 258:  "We added the fencing last summer for privacy," said Angelica Sweet, the general manager of Bistro 258. "My favorite part is the lilac bushes that surround it; the scent of lilac is so great in the spring."
There's also a grape arbor and climbing ivy.
"If it's too hot, they don't like to be out here, but once the sun goes down it fills up, and it seats about 25 people."
"People really love their patios here in Ogden," she said.
"They are cooped up indoors all winter, and it feels so good ot be outside."

Bistro 258 and The Athenian patios, Historic 25th St., Ogden

Right next door, The Athenian has a similar patio.

LaFerrovia's brick-surfaced courtyard seems more secluded with the bordering bushes and pine trees.

Taggart's Grill, I-84, Exit 108. 

6. Taggarts Grill (1105 Taggart Lane, Morgan, Utah)
It's known for its rich history and even richer desserts, but this popular diner is also great for outdoor eating.
Although the address might say that Taggart's is in Morgan, you actually need to stay on I-84 about five miles past the town of Morgan, and get off at exit 108 .
The patio at the back of the log-cabin-style restaurant overlooks a grassy area with a koi pond and waterfall. Hanging baskets of colorful flowers add to the summery charm. There's a satisfied buzz of happy, hungry customers kicking back with chicken enchiladas or Taggart Burger on a Friday night.
The koi pond at Taggart's Grill.

Since the building is nestled up against the mountainside on the west, the patio is shielded from the setting sun at dinnertime. East side trees, a partial roof, table umbrellas and the canyon breeze all help cool things down in the daytime. 

But be forewarned: at 6 p.m. on a recent Friday night, there was a long waiting line out the door. I came, I saw, and I decided I'd better find somewhere else if I wanted to get dinner that night. 

Harley & Buck's chef, Craig Bonham.

7. Harley & Buck's, at the Wolf Creek Golf Course in Eden, Utah.

Ironically, the night we visited Harley & Buck's happened to be the only stormy day in June! We tried to sit out on the patio, but gusty wind changed our minds, so we sat in the sports-bar room that divides the two balcony patios.  But the picture windows gave us the same beautiful view.  The smaller patio has elegant wooden tables. The bigger side, which wraps around the building, uses black wrought iron furniture, with colorful padded seat cushions on the high bar chairs.

Both sides offer stunning views of  the Wolf Creek Golf Course, Pine View Reservoir, and the surrounding mountains. It's a nice backdrop for a Kona Coast ribeye steak that Kim ordered, served with creamy mashed potatoes (I stole a forkful!). I started out with a half-size Eden's Best Salad, a sweet/savory mix of spinach, apple, raspberries, feta and almonds. And then I went for the Monday night Burger Bar.  
Although the menu can get pricey, you can stay on budget by paying attention to chef Craig Bonham's nightly specials, at Monday night is a Burger Bar, with prices starting at $7 for a quarter-pounder that you can pile high with caramelized onions, sautéed mushrooms, chiles, lettuce, tomato slices and other toppings.  It comes with "endless" fries too, although if you can eat more than the original pile on the plate, you'd probably need to walk home from Eden to work it off. 
Harley & Buck's is open from 5-9 p.m., seven nights a week. Should you want lunch, the Blue Coyote on the ground floor below is from 9 a.m. to 30 minutes after sunset, serving Wolf Creek's golf crowd. Its patio, shaded with canvas sails, offers a nice view of the valley as well.

8. Bella's Fresh Mexican Grill (2651 North 1850 West, Farr West) When I asked to sit on the patio on hot June afternoon, the hostess at Bella's talked me out of it, saying it was too hot. I asked to see it anyway, and found that she was right.  With a temperature of 103 degrees, the large canopy sails can't offer enough protection against the blazing sun.

But in the evening, when the heat subsides, the stucco-and-brick-walled courtyard has just the right ambience for sizzling fajitas and other Mexican specialties. You can add to the festive feeling by with an order of Guacamole Fresco made right at your table in a molcajete (mol-ca-hay-tay), a very heavy, mortar-and-pestle type tool made of lava rock.

The courtyard seats about 150, according to owner Joe Cottam, and is sometimes booked for concerts, high school reunions, weddings and quincineras. But if you want to sit there for lunch, wait until the summer heat wave subsides.
"We put it on the wrong side of the building," he told me. "That west side gets so hot." 

"We've been here since 2003, and we've always had the patio," said manager Terri Strand. "We've tried to make it shadier; we've even tried a mister out there to cool it off, but it didn't work when it's this hot."

9. The Oaks (750 Ogden Canyon)
If you're willing to put up with the road construction in Ogden Canyon, the chances are good that you won't have to wait for a table on this popular patio. Business is down by about 30 percent since the construction began, according to owner Belinda Rounkles.
The patio is an idyllic setting, next to the Ogden River and the mountainside. And when it's hot in the valley, it's ten degrees cooler than downtown.
"It's so nice and quiet, you've got the river and birds chirping," said Rounkles. "You don't even realize you're just off the highway."
When she and her husband bought the restaurant in 1981, it only offered a takeout menu. They built the patio a few years later.
"That was the best idea," she said. "People love to come out here.  Sundays are our busiest day, and people will wait for an outside table even though we'll have the majority of our indoor tables open."
Large groups often reserve the two big covered tables next to the river. Since The Oaks opens at 8 a.m. every day, guests can come for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

1 comment:

Ruth said...

Great article, Val.