Best places for patio dining in the Twin Cities

May 6, 2024
Bowl of rice topped with pickled onions, egg, ground pork, pork floss, and sausage
Hanoi Sticky Rice, Hai Hai

This post was originally published in July 2020 and was most recently updated on May 6, 2024.

It's time to savor the all-too-brief Minnesota summer by dining outdoors at a local restaurant patio.  Here's a roundup of my favorite restaurant patios in Minneapolis and St. Paul, with restaurants listed alphabetically within each geographical category.  I update this post periodically with new finds—there are dozens of excellent spots for outdoor dining in the Twin Cities, and this is only a sampling.

Coconut milk dessert soup with fruit, tapioca pearls, and jellies
Che with coconut milk, Hai Hai


For a wimp like me, the heated, enclosed patio at Hai Hai is perfect for chilly evenings (uncovered patio seating is also available).  The menu features small plates and entrees evoking the flavors of Southeast Asia—my favorites are the salt and pepper fried tofu with lime leaf sauce and Hanoi sticky rice, plus the che with coconut milk for dessert.  Many items can be made vegan or gluten-free by request, and there's a interesting selection of refreshing craft cocktails and rum-spiked slushies.

Hai Hai is open for dinner Tuesday through Sunday, and reservations can be made online.

2121 University Ave. NE, Minneapolis; 612-223-8640;

Lobster roll and fries
Lobster roll, Smack Shack

Minneapolis—North Loop

If you're in the mood for seafood, you can't beat the sunny streetside patio at Smack Shack.  They're open daily for lunch and dinner, with a comprehensive menu that includes peel and eat shrimp, crab cakes, a New England-style seafood boil, oysters, and lobster in every imaginable variation, from lobster guacamole and lobster poutine to a lobster cobb salad and lobster mac and cheese.  I'm partial to the original lobster roll, made with chilled lobster salad and served with Cajun-seasoned fries.

Smack Shack takes reservations online, although patio seating is available on a first-come, first-served basis when you arrive. 

603 N. Washington Ave., Minneapolis; 612-259-7288;

Sesame crusted ahi tuna with potatoes and asparagus
Sesame crusted ahi, Lake and Irving


The patio at Lake and Irving feels a little bit under the radar: despite its central location, it's shady and is nestled alongside the restaurant, away from the hustle and bustle.  The restaurant's menu is influenced by chef and owner Chris Ikeda's years spent cooking in Hawaii, with Asian-influenced flavors and preparations and Hawaiian specialties like loco moco.  I especially love the Asian slaw salad with tofu and the Korean-fried cauliflower.  The summer cocktail menu has some nice seasonal drinks—whatever I've tried, it's always been refreshing. 

Lake and Irving is open for dinner daily and lunch and brunch Friday through Sunday.  Reservations are available online.  Added bonus: the restaurant has a parking lot, with an entrance on Irving Avenue.

1513 W. Lake St., Minneapolis; 612-354-2453;

Hand holding a cocktail garnished with a dried orange slice with a board of pickled vegetables in the background
Smoky and the Bandit cocktail and pickle plate, Nightingale

Although the patio at Nightingale is right on Lyndale, it's surrounded by boxes overflowing with greenery and flowers, giving it a romantic, tucked away feel.  The cocktail menu is a highlight for me, with a fascinating selection of drinks that feature unexpected ingredients and creative names.  The food menu has snacks, small plates, and entrees—obviously I love the (excellent) fries with malt vinegar aioli, and I also like the pickle plate, which has some unique items like pickled shiitakes and house cultured butter.

Patio dining is by walk-in only.  Dinner is served daily, with the full menu available until midnight.

2551 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612-354-7060;

Serving dish with three types of salsa, chips, and menu
Chips and salsa, Hola Arepa


Hola Arepa is one of the best local options for soaking up some vacation vibes.  The menu features Venezuelan-style stuffed arepas (cornmeal griddle cake sandwiches), Latin American-influenced small plates, and tropical cocktails.  The chips and salsa are a must—you pick out your own assortment of salsas, with a variety of heat levels.  For brunch, I like the fried egg breakfast arepa (add the guacamole, it's well worth the surcharge).

Covered and uncovered patio reservations are available, and Hola Arepa serves dinner Tuesday through Sunday and weekend brunch.

3501 Nicollet Ave., Minneapolis; 612-345-5583;

Patio surrounded with partial brick walls and decorated with garden furniture and fairy lights
Saint Paul Brewing

St. Paul—Dayton's Bluff

Tucked into the crumbling walls of a historic brewery, the patio at Saint Paul Brewing is enormous, but it's arranged into a bunch of nooks that give it an intimate feel.   The furniture looks like it came from your artsy friends' yard, there are flowers everywhere, and the food menu includes tasty wood-fired pizzas, sandwiches, and appetizers.  The battered fries and garlic cheese bread are excellent.

Patio seats are first-come, first served, and Saint Paul Brewing serves lunch and dinner Tuesday through Sunday and weekend brunch.

688 Minnehaha Ave. E, St. Paul; 651-698-1945;

Glass dish of chocolate mousse with greenery in the background
Chocolate mousse, Meritage

St. Paul—Downtown

For a taste of Paris without leaving St. Paul, spend the evening on the streetside terrace at Meritage, complete with the twinkle lights, flowers, and French music.  The classical French menu varies with the seasons, but the moules frites and anything chocolate on the dessert menu are always delicious choices. 

Dinner is served Thursday through Sunday, and reservations are available online.

410 Saint Peter Street, St. Paul; 651-222-5670;

Cheese-filled bread and plate pickled vegetables
Khachapuri and pickled vegetables, Moscow on the Hill

St. Paul—Cathedral Hill

Moscow on the Hill has always been one of my favorite patios in the Twin Cities: a shady, leafy escape with hearty fare and house-infused vodka shots.  Their menu features Russian and Eastern European appetizers, dumplings, and entrees.  Yes, there are substantial plates of meat and potatoes, but they also have house-pickled vegetables, salads, and vegetarian options.  Be sure to try the khachapuri, a Georgian cheese-stuffed bread that puts stuffed crust pizza to shame.

Moscow on the Hill takes reservations online, although patio seating is not guaranteed.  Lunch and dinner are served daily.

371 Selby Ave., St. Paul; 651-291-1236;

Hand holding a purple cocktail garnished with a cherry
Aviation cocktail, W.A. Frost and Company

The patio at W.A. Frost and Company is a perfect setting for romance, surrounded by greenery and with leafy branches and fairy lights overhead.  The dinner menu combines classic American and global influences, with a handful of vegetarian options.  The cocktail list features a thoughtful selection of no-proof and low-proof drinks, as well as craft cocktails featuring spirits from local distilleries.

W.A. Frost is open for dinner Wednesday through Sunday and weekend brunch.  Reservations can be made by online. 

374 Selby Ave., St. Paul; 651-224-5715;

Pizza topped with tomato sauce, fresh basil leaves, and burrata
Margherita pizza, Red Rabbit

Multiple locations

Red Rabbit offers a wide-ranging selection of appetizers, salads, sandwiches, and pastas, but I always order a Neapolitan-style pizza.  There are a handful of vegan and vegetarian options, with gluten-free crust available by request.  The margherita, topped with red sauce, fior di latte, and fresh basil leaves, is my all-time favorite, but the quattro formaggi and PB & J (pineapple, bacon, jalapeno) pizzas are good too.

A brunch menu is available on the weekend, and lunch and dinner are served Tuesday through Sunday.  Reservations are available online.

788 Grand Ave., St. Paul and 201 N. Washington Ave., Minneapolis; 651-444-5995 and 612-767-8855;

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Chips and salsa with text reading "Best Places for Patio Dining in the Twin Cities"