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Decked Out and Delightful

If you only try 18 patios this summer, here's where to go

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Time was, eating alfresco meant brown-bagging it to the neighborhood green. Those days are long behind us, thanks to a bountiful crop of restaurant patios that seems to expand by the year. Here are some of our favorite places to eat, drink, meet, and repeat.

ALFRESCO BARS

A new operator at an old location gives diners the best of both worlds. When Chris Hodgson opened Hodge's (668 Euclid Ave., 216-771-4000, hodgescleveland.com) this spring, he brought global comfort food to one of the city's best outdoor bars and patios. Now, along with the sun and stars, diners can savor lobster corn dogs.

Felice Urban Café (12502 Larchmere Blvd., 216-791-0918, coolplacestoeat.com) is best known for its Craftsman-style home setting. But it's the outdoor bar, built within a converted wooden garage, that has people talking all summer long. Located near the restaurant's huge kitchen garden, the posh carriage house also boasts a great view.

Long before L'Albatros (11401 Bellflower Rd., 216-791-7880, albatrosbrasserie.com) ever opened, locals were enjoying the resplendent patio of the erstwhile That Place on Bellflower. Now, both the food and the view have improved. This leafy urban retreat is outdoor dining at its finest, with sturdy tables, casual sofas, and a granite-topped bar.

Described as "urban Zen," the multi-level patio at Luxe Kitchen (6605 Detroit Ave., 216-920-0600, luxecleveland.com) is an oasis from the urban landscape all around. Wrested from a parking lot, the lively perch boasts an outdoor bar, cypress trees, and outsized sailcloth canopies to block out the hot summer sun.

What good's an outdoor bar if the beer's lousy? That will never be the case at the Tremont Tap House (2572 Scranton Rd., 216-298-4451, tremonttaphouse.com), which always offers two-dozen draft crafts — many available nowhere else but here. Opened five years ago, the Tap House is Cleveland's original gastropub.

NEW AND NOTABLE

We never need an excuse to visit SOHO Kitchen and Bar (1899 W. 25th St., 216-298-9090, sohocleveland.com) for chef Nolan Konkoski's New Southern cuisine. But if we did, the Ohio City restaurant's brand-new patio would be reason enough. Roomy and sporting a great view of the vivacity of West 25th Street, the alley-side perch is prime for people-watching.

Market Garden Brewery's (1947 W. 25th St., Ohio City 216-621-4000, marketgardenbrewery.com) beer garden is proof that proprietor Sam McNulty loves us and wants us to be happy. A beer geek's nirvana, this hideaway sports enough communal seating to accommodate an entire home brewer's convention. And the beer — handcrafted by seasoned pros — makes an appropriate refreshment every time.

Apart from the name and some vague physical attributes, the new and improved Club Isabella (2175 Cornell Rd., 216-229-1111, clubisabella.com) holds few similarities to the old joint. What it does have in common is a great patio. Here, diners can practice their putting swing in between courses of frog legs and wild striped bass.

While not technically new, we are still thrilled every time we make the short climb to the rooftop bar at Greenhouse Tavern (2038 E. Fourth St., 216-393-4302, thegreenhousetavern.com). Where else can you grip and sip Grüner Veltliner while peering down on East Fourth? Well, legally anyway.

CUTE AS A BUTTON

806 Literary Road, long home to 806 Martini and Wine Bar, is now home to Barrio, a taco restaurant. Little remains from the former tenant other than the layout and the adorable pint-size patio. We can't imagine a better way to spend an afternoon in Tremont than by sitting here, knocking back margaritas and tacos.

Summer in Rocky River doesn't officially commence until John McDonnell swings open the wide French doors of his lovable Tartine Bistro (19110 Old Detroit Rd., 440-331-0800, tartinebistro.com). The compact brick-paved courtyard becomes the restaurant's front porch, uniting neighbors in food, wine, and conversation.

There's something so authentic about the sidewalk dining at Le Petit Triangle Café (1881 Fulton Rd., 216-281-1881, lepetittrianglecafe.com) — it just feels so Parisian. This quaint assemblage of red bistro seating makes a natural setting to enjoy a savory crêpe and a glass of Côtes du Rhône.

Players on Madison (14523 Madison Ave., 216-226-5200, playersonmadison.com) waited two decades to install a patio, making fans of this Lakewood hotspot very happy. The sun-dappled space may not be huge, but it is tasteful in design, and a pergola offers protection from the blazing sun.

SIZE MATTERS

On a picture-perfect summer evening, it's tough to beat a patio seat at Harpersfield Winery (6387 Rt. 307, 440-466-4739, harpersfield.com) in rural Geneva. Sitting adjacent to the apple grove and grape vineyard is a roomy patio with picnic tables, where guests sip recent vintages of estate-bottled chardonnay, riesling, and pinot noir. A light menu of cheese boards, sandwiches, and savory flatbreads are available, and on weekends, live bands perform on the deck.

They say things are just bigger out West, and that surely is the case at Market (1137 Linda St., 440-799-4292, marketbeer.com) in Rocky River. Boasting both covered and open-air seating, this spacious side patio literally has you covered in case of emergency. Good beer, hearty comfort food, and a festive fire pit round out the amenities of this popular spot.

Owner Eric Williams was forced to tear up his entire patio at Momocho (1835 Fulton Rd., 216-694-2122, momocho.com) thanks to an overly aggressive mulberry tree. The silver lining in this tale is the improved and expanded spread — complete with new landscaping, cedar fencing, industrial lighting, and crisp umbrellas. One thing hasn't changed: The fabulosa mod Mex food.

Cropicana is gone, Sunset Grille (2800 Whiskey Island, no phone, sunset-grille.net) is back, and Whiskey Island remains one of the only places in town with bona fide lakeside dining. Hugging the shores of Lake Erie, this hedonistic summer getaway has enough open-air lawn seating for every boater in town.

Countless restaurant owners have been seduced by this sprawling front patio on Clifton Boulevard. But where Velocity, Giovanna's, Mise, Jeso ... all have failed, Clifton Martini and Wine Bar (10427 Clifton Blvd., 216-965-0221, cliftonmartini.com) is thriving. This young but maturing wine bar inherited one of the roomiest and most beloved verandas on the West Side. Like those who've been charmed into launching restaurants there, you too will be seduced by the setting.

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