We were supposed to have had a blockbuster sunny season of travel and tasting menus, but thanks to the delta variant, 2021’s warm months played out like a morose director’s cut of last summer. Sure, vaccination has meant a hitchy return to normality here and there, but it is hard to avoid the fact that we’re facing another autumn of austerity.

Many Portlanders, especially those of us with vulnerable friends and family, are still holding off on dining indoors. For the past ten weeks or so, that’s been easy, but as the leaves begin to fall, our options seem to dwindle by the day. Don’t despair just yet – Greater Portland still offers plenty of local al fresco dining and drinking opportunities. Here are a dozen of my favorites.

The rooftop patio at Bayside Bowl, pre-pandemic. Photo by Tom Couture Photography

Bayside Bowl

58 Alder St., Portland. 207-791-BOWL
Monday to Thursday, 4-10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 3-11 p.m.; Sunday, 3-10 p.m. (All times are contingent upon weather.)

Let’s get the bad news out of the way first: There is no autumn movie schedule for Bayside Bowl’s rooftop deck. The cinematic portion of this Portland bar/restaurant/bowling-venue’s business stopped a few weeks ago with a contextually appropriate screening of “The Big Lebowski.” But don’t let that deter you. The capacious top-floor patio and its stationary taco truck will welcome guests “at least through mid-October, with the possibility of extending the season beyond that,” according to owner Charlie Mitchell. The roof abides.

Big Tree (The Honey Paw and Eventide)

76 & 86 Middle St., Portland. 207-774-8538
Thursday to Monday, 11 a.m. to approx. 9:45 p.m.

Until at least November, when the sidewalk zoning permit lapses, you’ll be able to throw your hat into the ring for one of the state’s most-coveted tables. Dining at The Honey Paw or Eventide is, for the moment, sidewalk-only on the tented, fully heated patio. Indeed, no diners have eaten inside at either restaurant (or their sibling, Hugo’s) since March 2020. Plans for outdoor seating may evolve as the weather cools down, but “that will very much be a ‘wait-and-see’ decision based on the status of the pandemic, according to co-owner/chef Andrew Taylor.

Private greenhouses at Chaval, shown here last February, are one of several outdoor spaces at the restaurant. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Chaval

58 Pine St., Portland. 207-772-1110
Tuesday to Saturday, 4-9 p.m.

If you’ve ever wondered what a restaurant would look like turned inside-out, stop by Chaval. When the 2017 Best New Restaurant champ first opened, it wrestled with its own architecture, shunting diners into two disconnected rooms. Four years and a pandemic later, owners Ilma Lopez and Damian Sansonetti have turned their West End building’s awkwardness into an asset by creating three heated, soft-furnished dining zones: 16 sidewalk seats (“Chaval en la Calle”), four heated greenhouses, and 26 seats on the private patio. The couple intend to serve outdoors throughout the winter.

Foulmouthed Brewing

15 Ocean St., South Portland. 207-618-6977
Thursday to Friday 4-8 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, noon to 8 p.m.

As a business category, the area’s breweries continue to offer an abundance of outdoor drinking opportunities. But none provides a more satisfying and family-friendly dining menu than South Portland’s Foulmouthed Brewing. Situated on a quiet Knightville street with ample outside seating in the converted auto-repair shop’s parking lot, this brewpub plans to continue serving its outsized, flavor-forward sandwiches and similarly styled draft beers until, as a staffer told me, “we just can’t take it any more … or until we’re forced to go back inside.”

Isa Bistro

79 Portland St., Portland. 207-808-8533
Thursday to Monday, 4-9 p.m.

If you thought that the disappearance of Isa’s enormous canvas tent heralded the end of its outdoor seatings, you’re in for a surprise. A tiny one, at least. The Mexican-European-inflected neighborhood bistro plans to continue serving outside on its narrow-yet-charming patio. Unheated and uncovered, these few tables will remain available for at least a few more weeks: “ … most likely mid-October,” according to co-owner Suzie Perez.

Island Creek Oysters: The Shop

123 Washington Ave., Portland. 207-699-4466
Daily except Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

During daylight hours, The Shop’s sunny patio seating will stick around “deep into fall,” according to manager Kit Paschal. The casual, raw bar’s gigantic garage doors will also remain open, creating an airy, hybrid indoor-outdoor space. And if you show up underdressed for a breezy dining room, The Shop sells the sweatshirts and beanies that have become fashionable on Instagram. Mignonette not included.

The Knotted Apron

496 Woodford St., Portland. 207-805-1523
Wednesday to Saturday 5-9 p.m., Sunday 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

With all that has happened over the past 18 months, you might not have heard about this Brighton Corner newcomer – a classic New American bistro with an expansive, 30-ish seat patio. The Knotted Apron opened just before the pandemic in the tucked-away space once occupied by JP’s Bistro. In normal times, not having an entrance along busy Brighton Avenue might be considered a downside, but its off-drag location has allowed the restaurant to expand dining into its spacious parking lot, a move that helped the business muddle through a brutal first year. According to the restaurant’s general manager, Knotted Apron plans to stay put, keeping its outdoor heaters blazing until at least Halloween, or “until it really snows.”

Leeward

85 Free St., Portland. 207-808-8623
Tuesday to Saturday, 5-9 p.m.

If you’d like to dine at Leeward this autumn, you’ll have to check the weather first. According to co-owner Raquel Stevens, intense breezes during colder months have a tendency to turn Free Street into a bit of a “wind tunnel.” So before you make any plans to dine at one of the pasta-centric, modern Italian restaurant’s 16 sidewalk patio seats, check the forecast. “We’ll keep the patio open throughout October at least,” Stevens told me. “But we’ll also just have to keep our eyes on the skies to make sure the weather cooperates!”

Navis Cafe

56 Thames St., Portland. 207-536-1352
Daily, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

One of the only restaurants in town still offering three (light) meals a day, Navis Café is a restaurant you may never have heard about, even though the waterfront soup, salad and sandwich shop celebrated its one-year anniversary last month. Located in the glass-fronted WEX building, this tiny restaurant boasts 35 outdoor seats. According to owner Renae Roy, the restaurant is in the process of purchasing heaters to allow diners to sit outside “as long possible into the winter to give people a great place to stare at the ocean.”

Diners enjoying eating outside at “Camp Hunt + Alpine” in July, 2020. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Portland Hunt + Alpine Club

75 Market St., Portland. 747-4754
Tuesday to Thursday, noon tp 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, noon to 11 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 10 p.m.

For the second year running, Portland Hunt + Alpine Club plans to serve patrons on its heated, covered sidewalk patio. And according to co-owner Briana Volk, the Scandinavian-inspired bar and small-plates restaurant will continue “indefinitely into the future.” For customers who don’t feel up to braving the chill or Old Port crowds, the restaurant will also continue to offer to-go cocktails as long as the state allows.

Timber Steakhouse

106 Exchange St., Portland. 207-805-1469
Tuesday to Friday, 4 p.m. to approx. 9 p.m.; Saturday, 3 p.m. to approx. 9 p.m.

In years of walking past Timber Steakhouse & Rotisserie’s skinny storefront on Exchange Street, I never guessed what was on the other side. Sure, I had been in the golden-hued dining room before, but at the rear of the building sits what might be Exchange Street’s biggest little surprise. With iron-banded oak barrels along one wall, toasty space heaters interspersed among teak-topped tables and two crackling fire pits, Timber seems girded for inclement weather. According to a staff member, the restaurant plans to keep the charming backyard space open well into October, and then “until things get way too cold or it snows … or maybe both?”

Tipo

182 Ocean Ave., Portland. 207-358-7970
Tuesday to Saturday, 4-9 p.m.

Some people watch for cardinals and bluejays flitting into their yard to mark the arrival of summer. Me? I look for the Aperol-colored umbrellas snapping open on Tipo’s patio. Then I know it’s time for a wood-fired pizza (and yes, possibly a Spritz). Chris Gould, owner of Tipo as well as Central Provisions, told me that this year, those vivid orange parasols aren’t going anywhere. “The goal is to run outdoors at Central Provisions and Tipo all winter,” he told me. Rubble and blockaded streets from neighborhood construction has also kept Tipo largely off tourists’ radar, so securing a patio table at the rustic, Italian-inspired restaurant should be a snap.

(Central Provisions: 414 Fore St., Portland. 207-805-1085. Daily, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. and 5-10 p.m.)


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