Photo Gallery | Patio Dining at Hops and Vines
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As the summer begins to heat up in the Berkshires, so does the desire to dine al fresco. Here are a few local patios that are sure to thaw you out after a long winter indoors. Enjoy a warm summer evening over great food with even better company -- and in the Berkshires, you often can't beat the view.
Hops & Vines Beer Garden & Brasserie
At Williamstown's Hops & Vines, the surrounding eye candy competes with that of the beauty of the patio itself. Flowering trees, a soothing fountain and a fire pit all work to create an insular, connected experience for diners and drinkers, with a touch of romance.
"It's got this great communal vibe," said restaurant manager Michelle Forest, "And it's a nice place to be out in the summer, as opposed to other places in town where you can sit outdoors, but you're sitting on a concrete block. This is more like you're actually outside in a garden."
Forest says that the casual nature of the patio makes splitting entrées popular, particularly cheese plates.
"We have these house-cut potato chips with a blue cheese fondue that are very popular," she said.
Forest likes to have a margarita out on the patio with friends, and the extensive beer and wine lists offer more great opportunities for a good time.
"We also serve five beers for $5, a cool way for a large group to try more of the beers."
Hops & Vines Beer Garden & Brasserie, 16 Water St., Williamstown; Serving lunch Tuesday through Saturday from noon, and dinner from 5 p.m., open Sunday noon to 8 p.m. and closed Monday; (413) 884-1372
Mingo's Bar & Grill
Part of Greylock Bowl and Golf, Mingo's Bar & Grill is the new kid on the block in North Adams. It's popular as a post-game hangout.
The patio has been open about a month, and general manager Jim Shaker said it's a great place to relax, especially during a family excursion. While the kids bowl, the grownups can take time at the golf simulators and then refuge on the porch, where they can gaze at Mount Williams and Mount Greylock.
"You think you would hear the traffic from the highway, but you don't," Shaker said. "You see the mountains all around you. It's just really relaxing -- especially after this winter, people are dying to get outside."
Shaker said that salads and fish sandwiches are the most popular on the patio, and take notice -- you can share a pitcher of Goose Island Honker's Ale with friends.
Mingo's Bar & Grill, 41 Roberts Drive, North Adams; Open 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. seven days a week; (413) 663-3761
Gypsy Joynt Cafe
Gypsy Joynt Cafe in Great Barrington features an unusual corral-style seating patio on the street.
"Instead of tables and chairs, we put little stools around the corral and that way people can sit and look out around them," said Keith Weller, one of the owners. "It's kind of like sitting at a bar. It's right on the sidewalk."
The space features garden growth -- not just flowers, but also peppers and tomatoes -- and offers a nice spot to grab some of the signatures dishes, from salads and pizza to burgers and sandwiches.
There's also the opportunity for a different type of mingling.
"When we have live music, the musicians will go outside and hang around in the crowd a little bit," Weller said. "It's a really cool corral out there."
Gypsy Joynt Cafe, 293 Main St., Great Barrington; (413) 644-8811
Monterey General Store
The Monterey General Store has been in operation since 1780 with only short breaks, and after 200 years, it's going strong with casual outdoor breakfasts and lunches. Seated out on the deck, diners can enjoy breakfast until noon and lunch anytime they want it.
"If somebody wants to come in and get a sandwich at 7 in the morning, that's OK," said Kyle Pierce, who works there.
Pierce points to their specialty, the tarragon chicken salad served either as a sandwich or on greens, as their most popular patio dish.
Monterey General Store, 448 Main Road, Monterey; Open Monday through Saturday, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.; (413) 528-5900
Baja Charlies California Cuisine
Baja Charlies in Lee is the domain of rock and roll chef Chuck Hebler. He's worked for the Rolling Stones and the Beastie Boys, as well as Kurt Cobain. The restaurant's backyard patio dining area is part of Hebler's effort to bring some of his home, Los Angeles, to the Berkshires.
"The Cal-Mex-Baja vibe that we portray, that's our whole energy here," Hebler said. "It didn't start as this. It evolved into this."
And a huge part of that vibe is the popular summer fare.
"Our fish tacos are a summery thing to have," said Hebler. "Or any of our tacos, like chicken mole tacos or tostadas, are a really fun."
Hebler suggests an accompanying margarita with any of those dishes for maximum patio fun.
Baja Charlies California Cuisine, 62 W Center St., Lee; Open Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; (413) 243-4322
Church Street Cafe
The Church Street Cafe boasts the largest patio space in Lenox, adorned with flowers and even a tree growing out the middle of it.
"We custom built an awning with a hole in it so the tree could go through," said Stefan Ferioli, one of the owners. "We didn't have the heart to cut it down."
Ferioli points to a special seating area called the Nook, which seats up to six people, as the prize of the patio.
"It's really the best table in the house," he said. "You have a Japanese maple tree covering it with little lights. It's very romantic and very nice on a summer night."
Ferioli suggests the popular Cafe Sandwich as great outdoor fare -- roasted eggplant, crumbled goat cheese, watercress, red onion, local tomatoes, roasted red peppers, served on a whole grain bread -- and also the baby kale and beet salad. The restaurant's generous wine list is sure to find a tasty accompaniment.
And if you want to be around people, Ferioli said it's the place to be come summertime in Lenox.
"Lots of people enjoy coming here so they can be seen and they can see as well," he said. "It's really one of the most popular spots in the summer. To be honest, I think our success during the summer season is a big part thanks to the porch."
Church Street Cafe, 65 Church St., Lenox; Open seven days a week for lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., dinner Sunday through Thursday 5 to 9 p.m. and 5 to 9:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday; (413) 637-2745