Dining Al Fresco: Celebrating the Great Semi-Outdoors
By Sarah Todd
There is real alchemy when a fresh-grilled ear of corn and a pot of softened butter make contact with the great outdoors. If you’re in the mood to take a night off the grill and let someone else do the cooking this summer, head to these outdoor spots in Great Barrington, Hudson, Rhinebeck, and New Lebanon. What other joints would you add to the list?
If you can’t make it to the azure-and-ivory coast of Greece this summer, the next best thing is a meal al fresco at Great Barrington’s Aegean Breeze. Choose between the romantic outdoor patio and the screened-in decks that let you bask in balmy summer evenings without worrying about pesky mosquitos. Be sure to order the Aegean Metzedes platter for the table: a bounty of cold dips like taramas, a carp roe mousse, and skordalia (a puree of potatoes, lemon, garlic, and olive oil). Classic dishes like moussaka and spanakopita are faithful to their Mediterranean roots. The Thursday night lobster special veers from tradition, but a pound and a half of tender meat for a bargain price makes it well worth the sacrifice.
327 Stockbridge Rd
Great Barrington, MA 01230
Summer nights at Bell and Anchor have the laid-back feel of an unusually gourmet house party. Diners lounge on the front porch sipping Zingari on draft or get competitive over the ping pong table perched in the fenced-in front yard. A smattering of outdoor tables are the perfect spot to get a little adventurous with your food habits. On a recent night, fried pig’s tail won a over skeptical customer; other walks on the wild side include bresaola (air-dried, salted beef) and crostini with marrow butter. For more conservative diners, there are trusty cheeseburgers and vegetarian dishes that highlight seasonal vegetables like ramps and rhubarb.
178 Main St
Great Barrington, MA 01230
Outdoor seating at this Gallic spot on Warren Street is packed to the gills on weekends during the summer months. Once you land yourself a table, it’s easy to see why. Funky touches are everywhere: café au lait served in bowls instead of mugs, an Esso gasoline sign straight out of an Elizabeth Bishop poem. Delicate crepes come stuffed with smoked salmon and house-made ratatouille; croque monsieurs have the perfect gooey-to-crispiness ratio. Sip a mimosa and watch the world—part Paris, part Manhattan, all Hudson—pass you by.
609 Warren St
Hudson, NY 12534
The oldest dining establishment in Hudson has a loyal clientele of artists, musicians, and other culture vultures. In the summer, regulars flock to the charming back patio, where sunny yellow tables and chairs are surrounded by an urban garden utopia, complete with a small pond, lush ivy climbing the walls, ferns, flowers, and fire escapes. The kitchen serves international fare with a comfort-food flourish. Try the generous piles of mussels served with hand-cut frites in paper cones. Don’t forget to order dessert: Red Dot chocolate pudding is a favorite standby.
321 Warren St
Hudson, NY 12534
All hail the culinary church of Rhinebeck. Terrapin, located in a restored 1825 Baptist church, has a sidewalk patio that’s just as scenic as its high-vaulted ceilings and huge windows. People-watch while you chow down on fusion dishes by chef/owner Josh Kroner. Blue crab ravioli and goat cheese wontons draw rave reviews, and the hamburgers—made from grass-fed Hudson Valley Cattle Company beef—have been voted the best in the Hudson Valley. If you’ve got young ones in tow, check out the all-organic kid’s menu, including the novel watchtower “pizza”—tortillas layered with mozzarella and marina sauce. Swing by between June 22 and June 29 for Hudson’s Eat Drink Local Week; Terrapin will offer up a two-course prixe fixe meal for $29.
6426 Montgomery St
Rhinebeck, NY 12572
This warm-hearted breakfast-and-lunch spot, which opened in 2012, is as American as slab pie. Double-crusted fruit pies are a house specialty, along with homey fare like caramelized onion and mushroom frittatas and pulled-pork sandwiches. To cool off on a hot day, take advantage of the spacious outdoor seating while sipping home-brewed watermelon lemonade or dipping into some creamy soft serve ice cream. Prices are ultra-affordable, so you might as well make dining here a standing date.
515 Route 20
New Lebanon, New York 12125