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Make the most of 'al fresco' dining

Alfresco DiningAl fresco comes from the Italian term for "open air." Restaurants have recognized the draw of outdoor seating and many have expanded their offerings. While many people need nothing more than an outdoor table and some nice weather to enjoy eating outside, there are some ways to make al fresco dining experiences as pleasant as possible.

  • Do your research before visiting. Drive or walk by a restaurant before dining there yourself. Check out how outdoor diners are treated and if the service is as prompt as it is indoors. Pay attention to foot and vehicle traffic near the tables to determine if the spot is conducive to eating. Too much noise or car exhaust can detract from the meal.
  • Look for covered tables. It's one thing to sit outside and enjoy some cool breezes. It's quite another to spend an hour or more directly under the blazing sun. Dine at an establishment that has a gazebo, portico, overhang, or individual patio umbrellas at each table. This way you can be comfortable and avoid sunburn.
  • Call ahead for seating. Because al fresco dining is so popular when the weather is warm, outdoor tables can fill up quickly. For those planning to sit outside, call the restaurant and reserve an outdoor spot. This way you will be guaranteed a table.
  • Dress appropriately for the weather. Plan ahead for al fresco dining by bringing some accessories along. A light jacket or sweater can keep you warm if a breeze picks up, and sunglasses are recommended in sunny conditions. A hat worn indoors may be a social faux pas, but it is acceptable to wear one outside to block the sun.
  • Expand your dining options. Instead of traditional restaurants, try the offerings at food trucks, take-out places and other spots that serve food. Set up your meal at nearby picnic tables or another outdoor place and enjoy.
  • ¬∑Bring a friend or relax by yourself. Eating outdoors is entertaining with a friend or alone. If you are dining with a group, take your time and linger in the fresh air, enjoying the conversation. If you are dining alone, you can still relax and take your time with the meal. One hidden benefit of al fresco dining is that it provides you the opportunity to relax and watch the world go by.