It seems that plein air dining has become all the rage in recent years, especially in Central Pennsylvania. Just think back to a decade ago, and we hardly had all the options that we do today. However, I often find the most relaxing decks and patios to be a little off the beaten path.
There’s no knocking some of the obvious choices, like Wormleysburg’s riverside trio: Duke’s Riverside Bar and Grille, Dockside Willies and RockBass Grill. After all, it’s hard to compete with dining on the banks of the Susquehanna. But don’t forget that those aren’t the only places along the river.
Cross over to the East Shore, and you’ll find Big Woody’s Beach Bar & Grill, formerly Morgan’s Place. While I wasn’t quite sure what to think from the name, the deck appears much larger in this reincarnation, and an awning was recently added so you won’t burn to a crisp. You also have a great view of the Rockville Bridge.
Follow the river downstream to the John Wright Restaurant in Wrightsville, where the expansive patio features wood-fired pizzas, salads, paninis and burgers. The water’s so close you can practically skip stones into the Susquehanna from your table.
For the ultimate dining experience at the water’s edge, I highly recommend Stony Creek Inn, located in Dauphin. You’ll be serenaded by the rushing waters of the Stony Creek catapulting over the falls while feasting on a mélange of seafood, sandwiches, salads and authentic Greek fare.
If you’d rather be closer to beer than water, opt for the Biergarten at Bube’s Brewery in Mount Joy. Stay doubly cool while drinking an ice-cold, hand-crafted ale under the shade trees of this drinking garden that’s simply overflowing with Bavarian charm.
And you can’t forget the deck off the second-floor Abbey Bar at Appalachian Brewing Company in Harrisburg. It successfully bypasses the hustle and bustle of downtown but also has a lovely view of the state Capitol. Plus, the nutty fruity and steak and portabella salads are quite tasty.
Are you more of a wino? The deck at Hauser Estate Winery, near Gettysburg, is not to be missed! Perched atop a lush hillside, this winery has prime views of the surrounding orchards forest lands. It’s almost like being in a treehouse, only now you’re enjoying housemade wine instead of juice boxes.
Lately, I’ve been on a Café Magnolia kick. Aside from the fact that my meals have been consistently excellent, this quaint yet elegant restaurant also features peaceful outdoor seating. But be sure to reserve a table on the deck ahead of time, as it’s very popular! The menu is refreshingly creative and extensive, and while not a steakhouse by any means, Café Magnolia cooks beef expertly and frequently has filet mignon on special. Bonus: This place is BYOB.
Here are some other decks and patios made for relaxing:
-- Annie Baileys, 28 E. King St., Suite 30, Lancaster
-- Blue Bird Inn, 2387 Cornwall Road, Cornwall
-- Bogey Macaws American Grille, 601 Chestnut Hill Road, York
-- The Brewhouse Grille, 2050 State Road, Camp Hill
-- The Colonial Lounge, 580 N. Mountain Road, Harrisburg
-- Knickers Pub, 2700 Mount Rose Ave., York
-- Loxley’s, 500 Centerville Road, Lancaster
-- Mt. Gretna Hide-a-Way, 40 Boulevard St., Mount Gretna
-- T.J. Rockwell’s, 800 Mt. Gretna Road, Elizabethtown; 896 W. Grantham Road, Mechanicsburg
-- The Wharf, 6852 Derry St., Harrisburg
Where’s your favorite place to dine outdoors?