In Chicago, as soon as the weather turns for the better, restaurants and cafés begin setting up their outdoor dining spaces, often coming up with imaginative ways to cram a few tables outside. Even places with no real outdoor space make the best of it, commandeering sidewalks and alleys to make space. And diners happily choose any outdoor table they can get, because the weather only accommodates this for a short period of time.
Shreveport, however, offers few options for outdoor dining. This is surprising to me, because our weather is so great. Even if it is a little hot at times, a good restaurant patio will provide enough fans and shade to make all but the hottest days of the year comfortable.
This is an attempt to identify the best places to go for a lunch or dinner outside. The ranking may be a bit arbitrary, but here are a few of the criteria that are considered: quality of food, quality of seating, ambiance, view, and whether or not I like the place.
5) Buffalo Wild Wings (Boardwalk location)
First things first: it hurts to put a chain on this list. It really does. I wanted it to be all local places. But when a place does a patio right, I can't deny it. Unfortunately, as a chain, a spot on the list is all BWW can get, not any higher than fifth.
BWW gets its spot on location. Being on the boardwalk, with a patio facing the river and the downtown skyline, this is probably one of the best views you can have while dining in Shreveport. And really, that's one of the main reasons for being on a patio, seeing something other than the inside of a restaurant. The patio also has good shade, ceiling fans, tvs, live music at times (I think, unconfirmed), and decent food.
Eat local if you can, but if you've gotta go to a chain, the Boardwalk BWW patio is where you should go.
4) Stir Tapas
When I first heard about Stir, I was really excited. A good tapas restaurant provides a social experience that almost no other restaurant can match. Get a group, order lots of different tapas and several pitchers of sangria, and share liberally. I was really looking forward to my first visit and anticipated giving it at least 4 out of 5 PBR cans.
Unfortunately, Stir missed the mark. It's less a tapas place and more a casual fine dining restaurant with a small selection of overpriced and underflavored tapas. It's Spanish food that's been adulterated so as not to offend American palates.
Regardless, Stir earns a spot on the merits of a charming patio and excellent cocktail list. The cocktails seem to have picked up the punch that the food was missing. My personal favorite is the caipirinha, a Brazilian cocktail most similar to a mojito. However, rather than a traditional Caribbean rum, the caipirinha uses cachaca, a younger, bolder style of rum. Compared to whiskey, for example, standard mojito rum would be Makers Mark bourbon, and cachaca would be an unaged rye whiskey. It's got a lot of punch, with just enough mint and lime to provide a light, crisp finish. Poured over ice and sipped on a shady patio, it's the kind of drink Hemingway would drink.
Stir's patio is simple, but shady and well lit--not too dark, not too bright--and with its Highland location offers the kind of people watching that only Highland can bring.
Go for the drinks, maybe order a couple of tapas as appetizers, but it's not your best destination for dinner.
3) Rhino Coffee
If you're a regular reader or follower of my twitter (@hpstrshreveport), you've no doubt realized that I'm a fan of Rhino. Can't say enough good things about the place. But I can't put it higher than three on this list, as they don't have dinner and don't serve alcohol (hey, it's a coffee shop).
Enough about what they don't have. What they do have is a sublime patio space, great breakfast and lunch menu, and excellent coffee. The backyard/patio area is beautifully landscaped and shaded, and though very centrally located, the patio is secluded enough to offer a bit of a quiet escape from the city.
Make sure you follow Rhino on Twitter and Facebook to stay informed of all their special events. They recently hosted bluegrass band Foley's Van for an intimate backyard concert, and last weekend hosted their one year birthday party, which featured local artists and crafters and a stacked lineup of local music.
2). Marilynn's Place
You've been to Marilynn's, right? As far as Shreveport lifestyle bloggers go, I'm way behind on discussing Marilynn's. The gas station turned snow cone stand turned Cajun restaurant and bar has been making waves for a year or so now.
The food is top notch Cajun/creole, but usually with a twist. Think catfish curry. Lots of big, bold flavors that all seem to work. The patio is shaded and well covered by fans, keeping it cool even on the really hot days (and if you get hot, hey, they've got snow cones). The location, kind of in between Broadmoor and South Highland, provides the sort of urban neighborhood experience that is hard to find in Shreveport. Sitting outside, you'll see joggers, cyclists, pedestrians, dog walkers, and even golfers.
If you've never been, go next Wednesday (it doesn't matter when you read this--go on whatever Wednesday comes next). Wednesdays at Marilynn's feature live local music and a special ($2?) on Louisiana beers. Sunday brunch is also recommended.
If I had to pick one nit about Marilynn's, it'd be that the music happens inside instead of out on the patio.
1) Abby Singer's Bistro (Robinson Film Center)
It's been two years since I moved back to Shreveport, and I still immediately think of Abby Singer's when I want to go sit outside somewhere. It checks all the boxes for providing a great al fresco dining experience. The food is good. The drinks are good. The wine is good. The service is good. The price isn't steep. But this is about the patio.
Situated on a balcony lofted above Texas Street, Abby Singer's provides a modern urban dining experience that's one of a kind in Shreveport. I could say more, but if you've been there, you know, and if you haven't, you should. Immediately.
What do you think of the list? Got any that you'd like to have added? Any that I should replace? Let me know! Comments, emails, and tweets are all accepted and welcomed.
P.S. There are a couple obvious absences from this list, the most notable being Wine Country Bistro. I haven't been there, so I don't feel right endorsing it. I'm sure I'll go soon, and when I do I'll revise the list, but for now it stays unranked.
Also, like many of my posts, I'm using a few pictures sourced from Facebook, Flickr, and other places, so if I've used one of your pictures and you don't want me to, let me know.