Alfresco dining in Napa is the secret ingredient that makes a meal taste even better. Since dining and restaurants topped the list of visitors' favorites as surveyed for the , eating outside takes it one step better.
Near-perfect Mediterranean weather serves as an ideal table setting for locals and visitors to dine outside. Eating outside gives diners a relaxed, natural atmosphere while enjoying their meal.
Several eateries even cater to man's best friend — their pooch. at Bel-Aire Plaza is one of them, serving customers who bring along their canine companions to enjoy lunch or dinner outside, according to Kelly Sherman, general manager and operating partner of the north Napa restaurant.
Dogs that accompany their owners are served a bowl of water. Sherman said some pet owners order their four-legged friends items on the menu. “Pulled pork and the grilled brisket are popular with many dogs — but is done without the sauces. They love anything that has been smoked.” Sherman said.
New this year the barbecue eatery framed its outdoor dining area with tall shrubs to block views of the parking lot. Patio umbrellas help shade customers. At BarBersQ the floor to ceiling glass windows fold to bring the outdoors inside.
Why the popularity? “We live in the most ideal climate. It makes sense to have an outdoor dining environment so locals and tourist can enjoy the weather we have in our own backyard,” Sherman said.
The space is used whenever weather permits — from January through December. “As long as it’s not raining, it can be used,” Sherman added. With the outdoor area, seating capacity of BarBersQ increases from 60 to 80.
, adjacent to Veterans Park, offers three kinds of outdoor seating. There is a tent-covered patio facing Main Street, a second area includes umbrellas at each table with views of Veterans Park, and the newest alfresco dining area offering fdup-close views of the Napa River. Inside Downtown Joe’s, the back dining room also offers river views.
Owner Joe Peatman said when he and his wife travel they enjoy sitting outside. “It made sense to take advantage of that idea here," he said. “There’s something about having nature and the fresh air as visitors plan their (excursions). It makes you feel relaxed,” he said.
Peatman said during the winter, heat lamps on the tented patio keep customers comfortable. Outdoor capacity can accommodate about 85 more customers.
At spokesman Curtis Steen said outdoor dining is a good selling point for attracting customers. “People love to sit outside — especially this time of the year,” he said.
Ristorante Allegria is in a historic bank building on First Street that was built in 1916. The modern-day alfresco dining area is a marked contrast to its former use. The fenced-in outdoor area is surrounded by lush greenery, making diners nearly invisible to pedestrians and traffic.
With limited outdoor seating along Second Street, brings the outside in with folding floor-to-ceiling glass windows.
“The whole feeling of alfresco dining is proving a feel of bringing the outdoors inside,” said chef Mauro Pando. “We try to not over-think (alfresco dining),” the chef said.
Pando said some customers ask to sit outside or for a table close to the retractable windows. “(With the windows) folded back, there is a different feel inside the restaurant. Especially in the afternoons and evenings, people like to sit outside,” Pando said.
He believes if Grace’s Table didn’t offer the alfresco experience, some customers would go elsewhere for the outdoor experience.
At on First Street, a roof overhang offers enough alfresco space for about 14 customers, said Jona Mendoza, general manager. Music from stereo speakers inside Bistro Sabor is also enjoyed by outdoor diners.
Mendoza described the eatery as basic service where customers order at the counter. Servers then bring the food to them.
At , also on First, the outdoor dining experience has been offered the two years they have been open downtown, and for 10 years before when the restaurant was in Browns Valley, said co-owner Teresa Johnson.
There is outdoor dining weekdays for about 25 people. Alfresco dining on weekends can accommodate about 50 people, according to Johnson.
Sunday brunch is one of the most popular time when customers come with their dogs, according to Johnson, who owns the restaurant with her husband. She said they have two white German Shepherds, “so I guess that makes us dog lovers.”
A hand-printed laminated sign welcomes diners and dogs to enjoy the alfresco experience.
The canines are served up a bowl of fresh water and dog bone. “We don’t get a lot of owners ordering off the menu for their dogs,” Johnson said.
Zinsvalley is open until midnight. “We actually have people come in with their dogs that late,” Johnson said.