Al fresco in the Valley: 6 spots to try
Living in western Pennsylvania, we don’t always have an abundance of picture-perfect sunny days.
So when Mother Nature cuts us a break and there’s a zero chance of thunderstorms, we really should consider taking our food and drink outdoors.
Seated under a patio umbrella, sipping fruity sangria or a tall glass of iced tea, listening to the sounds of a live band with family, friends or coworkers – it’s almost a day at the beach.
Al fresco dining is the perfect solution for a quick getaway, a leisurely lunch or a relaxing dinner. Some foodies even are convinced that meals taste fresher and better when consumed outdoors.
Several local restaurants and bistros have expanded their dining options to include outdoor patios, porches and sidewalk seating. Some also have outdoor fireplaces, fire pits and heaters for when the temps turn cooler.
These are some of our favorite places:
Hotel Saxonburg, Saxonburg
It’s officially the “Dog Days of Summer.” Judy Ferree, owner and general manager of the Hotel Saxonburg, welcomes everyone in the family – even the pup – to enjoy the hottest weeks of the season by cooling off on her hotel’s inviting, shaded patio. Well-mannered dogs on a leash are permitted on the patio on Tuesdays.
Also during summer, guests can listen to live music Friday nights in the bar – or on the patio, weather permitting – from 7 to 11 p.m.
Executive Chef Alan Green and his staff are dedicated to providing an enjoyable and relaxing dining experience. An extensive, fresh and original menu offers light dishes to beat the heat, such as Tropical Shrimp Almond Pineapple Salad – as well as meat, seafood and pasta dinners.
Hours are 11a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Details: 220 West Main St., Saxonburg, 724-352-4200 or hotelsaxonburg.com
Andora, Fox Chapel
Another pet-friendly summer dining destination is the outdoor patio at Andora in Fox Chapel. Andora offers traditional American dinners prepared by Executive Chef Matt Goebert and his team, featuring a wide range of seasonal entrees, including Andora’s fresh fish of the day.
Happy Hour 4 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday in the bar area features specials on select appetizers, wines, mixed drinks and draft beer.
Lunch hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays-Fridays; 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays; 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sundays. Dinner hours are 4 to 9 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays; 4 to 10 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, and 4 to 9 p.m. Sundays.
Details: 599 Dorseyville Road, Fox Chapel, 412-967-1900 or andorarestaurant.com/fox-chapel
Hoffstots Café Monaco, Oakmont
Chef Brian Leri has worked at Hoffstot’s for more than 20 years. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, he and his staff specialize in American (traditional), Italian and seafood. Decadent desserts, including old-fashioned Italian tiramisu and gluten-free black Forest Torte and Toasted Almond Torte, are available.
Hours are 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday, and 1-9 p.m. Sunday. Happy Hour at the bar is 5-7 p.m. Monday-Friday. A special summer drinks menu features peach, watermelon and red sangria and more.
Details: 533 Allegheny Ave., Oakmont, 412-828-8555 or hoffstots.com
Twisted Thistle, Leechburg
Twisted Thistle’s menu features farm-fresh, American cuisine with a twist. Guests can enjoy classic, seasonal dishes incorporating locally sourced ingredients, including field greens, heirloom tomatoes, eggplant, red and green bell peppers and herbs from local farmers.
Desserts include tiramisu, cheesecake, (gluten free) egg custard, almond torte cake roll, peanut butter cup layer cake and Summer Berry Pite (Hungarian pie).
Twisted Thistle’s decor is inspired by the building’s history and elegant architecture of the early 1900s. Owner Linda Alworth has maintained much of the building’s original craftsmanship.
Seasonal beers and cocktails and Wine Wednesdays (featuring $15 bottles) are perfect to be enjoyed on the outdoor patio.
Details: 127 Market St., Leechburg, 724-236-0450 or twistedthistlepa.com
Eighty Acres Kitchen & Bar, Plum
Chef Don Winkie and Amy Schlonski, co-owners of Eighty Acres Kitchen & Bar, offer a scratch kitchen featuring all homemade, fresh and mostly locally sourced ingredients, a refined, modern approach to contemporary American cuisine with a strong emphasis on local, farm-to-table products.
Hours are 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday; 11:30 am-11 p.m. Friday; 4-11 p.m. Saturday, with Sunday brunch from 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and Sunday Dinner from 3-9 p.m.
Details: 1910 New Texas Road, Plum, 724-519-7304 or eightyacreskitchen.com
JG’s Tarentum Station Grille, Tarentum
Outside seating is available for both lunch and dinner at JG’s Tarentum Station Grille, a historic building that was converted into a restaurant in 1984. Owners John and Sally Greco opened JG’s Tarentum Station Grille in 2008. Tarentum’s first railroad station was built in 1870, near the site of the present structure.
Executive chef Joe Ross has 40 years of experience; his specialties include Italian and Mediterranean cuisine. Weekly Chefs Specials for lunch and dinner are available.
Hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays; 5 to 10 p.m. Saturdays. Happy Hours are 4:30- 5:30 and 7:30-8:30 p.m.
Details: 101 Station Drive, Tarentum, 724-226-3301 or jgtarentumstation.com
Candy Williams is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.