alfresco favorites


The month of May—midway between winter’s bluster and summer’s blister—leaves most of us craving a cool breeze and a cold drink at the end of the day.

Baltimore has a surfeit of outdoor seating, from usual suspects like Gertrude’s garden, the sublime Ambassador and the waterside Rusty Scupper, to destinations like Oregon Grille’s bluestone patio and Petit Louis’ chic new terrace in Columbia.

I’m enchanted by McFaul’s IronHorse Tavern’s (2260 Cromwell Bridge Road) treetop deck above the Gunpowder Watershed. When warm weather sets in, the deck sheds its vinyl cloak to become a lively aerie with seating for 70. Along with fruit crush specials, craft beers and cocktails, you can order daily oysters, or chef Evan Orser’s Irish-influenced gastro pub specials.

Who knew you could sit outdoors at Michael’s Café on busy York Road? The time-honored crabcake spot with its appeal to suburbanites of a certain age, has expanded its already 16,000-square-foot space to add an outdoor patio with a covered bar and plenty of comfy chairs.

If the weather is too hot (or too cold), after-work revelers can retreat to what general manager Mark Fischer calls the “new patio”—a climate-controlled space with floor-to-ceiling glass and a sleek new bar.

The rooftop at Blue Hill Tavern (938 S. Conkling St.) has a West Coast vibe and a sprawling view of the city from its Butchers Hill stanchion. There’s no better place to enjoy a Blue Hill Mojito, kaffir lime muddled with lemon grass-infused rum.

Liv2Eat (1444 Light St.) is a charming secret garden, with potted trees and twinkle lights walled off from the real world. The family-owned restaurant is a pleasure to the senses anytime of year—and great for small wedding receptions.

The dining room at Waterfront Kitchen (1417 Thames St.) feels like the inside of a yacht without the seasickness, so why shouldn’t the outdoor dining area, which juts into the harbor, feel the same? You can up the ante with drinks in an actual floating vessel by signing up for cocktail hour on the skipjack Sigsbee or the pungy schooner Lady Maryland, followed by a wine dinner at the restaurant.

Another waterfront option is Wit & Wisdom (200 International Drive) where Michael Mina protégé Zach Mills keeps the wood fires burning, even when the outdoor temperature is high, so the entire restaurant smells like a summer barbecue. Order a $6 happy hour cocktail, a fruit- or herb-infused concoction to sip as the sun begins to set over the harbor.

Sweeping back to North Baltimore, check out Mt. Washington Tavern’s (5700 Newbury St.) new second-floor “sky bar” that opens onto a deck overlooking Mount Washington Village. The neighborhood fave held a summer drink contest last year with the winner a coconut-pineapple-rum concoction submitted by a customer. While a similar contest is planned this season, last year’s winner, Sweet Summatime, may remain on the menu, says co-owner Rob Frisch. “We ordered 1,000 cups with the recipe printed on them. I think we have about 600 left.” —Martha Thomas

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