When I first started covering food in 2007, we did a round-up of the best outdoor dining sites in our coverage area. We listed 10.
It was a short list in part because we wanted to focus on the cream of the crop. But at that time, it was also much harder to think of outdoor dining spots than it is today. When I look back, I am amazed by how many new outdoor dining options have popped up in the past six years.
Part of the boom can be attributed to the growth in downtown Roanoke. We now have outdoor dining at all of the Roanoke City Market Building restaurants, and places that have opened since 2007 — including Beamers, Billy’s and Fork in the City — were built or renovated with patios included.
But I think it has generally become a more popular experience to dine outside, so even established restaurants have caught on and added al fresco seating.
I’ve been working on a new list of outdoor dining places. So far, it’s ridiculously long. It ranges from the sprawling, huge deck of Mac ‘n’ Bob’s in Salem to the tiny handful of tables at places such as Local Roots and 202 Market.
I’d love to hear your input on this topic, including:
1. What’s your favorite place to dine outside (besides home)?
2. What do you think makes an outdoor dining location great?