Food & Drink  //  October 2020

Autumn Dining Al Fresco
By Amanda Dudek

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     Restaurants across Upstate New York, and in fact the nation, have been hit hard by COVID-19 shutdowns. Now, as many fine dining establishments have finally been able to reopen their doors to a mere 25-50% of their capacity, restaurateurs are facing a worrying nip in the air. From the Downtown areas of Greater Rochester to our historic small-town Main Streets, solutions are being sought for the upcoming fall and winter holidays, important seasons which could spell the difference between success and closed doors.

     A few area restaurants have long embraced outdoor dining but are stepping it up a notch this fall. Local restaurant owner, Massimo Albano of Lemoncello in East Rochester, offers outdoor seating atop their glassed-in garden room. A cozy courtyard to the side of the building offers additional seating. Farmer's Creekside and Tavern on quaint Main Street in LeRoy is known for its outdoor dining as well. Overlooking Oatka Creek, they boast an outdoor bar and dining area complete with heaters and a potbelly stove. These amenities keep guest warm and toasty well into the Fall.

     One answer to the cold weather quandry is to construct additional spaces outdoors:
          • Warm outdooor igloos (Think Roc Holiday Village)
          • Temperature controlled smart glass boxes
          • Personal yurts
          • Ice bars (whick provide natural insulation)
          • Converted buses
          • Turning thoroughfares into pedestrian friendly winter wonderlands

     A chill in the air is inevitable, but the cooler weather brings opportunities for innovation and creativity, a sure recipe for success. Creating novel and safe environments, thanks to continued outdoor dining, can give families the dining fun they crave. It also provides local restaurants with the revenue they desperately need.


Simple ways restaurants are warming up to fall:

Cozy up with a Blanket
One of the latest fall trends we’ve seen at outdoor restaurants might seem odd at first glance, but it’s been happening at fine dining locations for quite some time: customers being provided with warm, cozy blankets! While it might sound off-putting at first, restaurants are working to keep their guests warm and comfortable as the temperatures dip into the cooler months, adding to a cozy atmosphere and a new level of hospitality. These soft, plush blankets
(despite the relatively low risk of transmitting COVID-19 through sharing them) are laundered between each use, providing peace of mind to customers as well as warmth!

Ambient Lighting & Outdoor Fire Pits
Your outdoor space should provide a different experience that guests will seek out on crisp, cool nights. Lighting plays a huge part in the overall feel of an outdoor dining experience. Hot stone bowls and plates would add to the ambiance while combating the cold. Chairs with heated cushions—and reusable chemical heat pads—could be set around tables with small fire pits in their centers, providing additional light for diners while warming them from top to bottom. Add in a little extra flair with strings of bistro lights or lanterns.

Bring on the Comfort Food
As the weather starts to turn chilly and leaves start to change colors, local restaurants are looking to provide warm, comforting dishes, beverages and desserts to go with their al fresco dining.
Slurp up a bowl of Kaino's delicious Greek House Soup called Avgolemono (Chicken Lemon Rice). Is there anything better than a big dish of warm pasta on a cold fall evening? Try their mouth watering Mama’s Makaronia, a huge serving of eggplant, portabella mushroom, tomato, roasted red peppers, capers, zucchini and fresh basil, sautéed in a Metaxa brandy cream sauce and tossed with penne pasta.

Pair Tony D's signature Sicilian Chicken topped with olives, tomato, rapini, garlic, pickled peppers, and olive oil with a glass of red wine to keep you cozy for fall. End your night with their delectable Flourless Chocolate Espresso Cake or an Espresso Martini.
Looking for a classic, down home comfort dish? Try Bathtub Billy's famous wood fired mac and cheese oozing with cheesy goodness. Another fall favorite is their chili (served vegetarian as well) and their fresh, out-of-the-smoker smoked brisket.