This post was originally published in July 2020 and was most recently updated in May 2023.
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.
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 Vietnamese coffee pot de creme or 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; haihaimpls.com
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; smack-shack.com
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; lakeandirving.com
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; nightingalempls.com
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; holaarepa.com
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; meritage-stpaul.com
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; moscowonthehill.com
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 chef's tasting menu is a lovely special-occasion splurge, and the a la carte menu includes small plates, burgers, seafood, classic entrees like steak and pork chops, plus a handful of vegetarian entrees. The cocktail list features a nice balance of classic and house options, with a thoughtful selection of no-proof and low-proof drinks.
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; wafrost.com
Red Rabbit offers a nice selection of appetizers, salads, 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 cheese and PB & J (pineapple, bacon, jalapeno) pizza is good too. There's also a nice selection of craft cocktails.
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; redrabbitmn.com
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