Dining Outdoors: ‘Tis the Season!

The Italians call it dining al fresco, the French dining en plein air. Whatever you call it, it's time, and we've got places where you can count the stars...in the sky and in the kitchen.

When you consider the number pf special occasions coming this time of year–graduations, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day–there are plenty of reasons to dine under the heavens. Here are some enticing places to try:

Café Matisse
167 Park Avenue

Behind this intimate, colorful restaurant stands a lush patio garden full of fountains and sculptures. Chef Peter Loria’s platings are as exquisite as the décor inspired by the paintings of Henri Matisse.

168 Passaic Avenue

A handsome outdoor patio is scheduled to open May 1, featuring a waterfall and seating for 60. The outdoor seating has a view of chef/owner Anthony Pucciarello’s 300-yard-long herb and vegetable garden, supplying freshness to his Italian-American fare.

2 Main Street

Perched on the edge of the Hudson River south of the George Washington Bridge, Haven treats diners to expansive views of Upper Manhattan from the 65-seat patio. The restaurant serves weekday lunch and dinner, weekend brunch and dinner.

Highlawn Pavilion
1 Crest Drive
West Orange

From the top of Eagle Rock Reservation, on the cliffside terrace, the views of Manhattan seem close enough to touch. Executive chef Mitchell Altholz’s New American dishes are served with flair. Mother’s Day at Highlawn will bring a special fixed price four-course menu for $59.

Liberty House

76 Audrey Zapp Drive
Jersey City

With the restaurant located in Liberty State Park, views of Ellis Island and Lady Liberty, as well as downtown Manhattan can be seen from the waterfront patio. Lunch, brunch or dinner can be enjoyed by one of the fire pits or in an intimate cabana.

Maritime Parc

84 Audrey Zapp Drive
Jersey City

The sleek and contemporary restaurant stands beside the yacht-filled Liberty Landing Marina in Liberty State Park. The outdoor bar and seating offers views of the marina, Jersey City and Lower Manhattan and Chris Siverson’s outstanding cuisine.

Mohawk House

3 Sparta Junction

Behind what looks like a stately stone mansion, the covered patio at Mohawk House joins the large outdoor fireplace and bocce courts. An outdoor bar and lounge feature extensive draft beers and dancing to live music.

16 Fairground Road
Hamilton Township

The restaurant on the 42-acre Grounds for Sculpture offers diners a replication of Monet’s famed water garden at Giverny. Looking out at the pond and lilies from the deck in this whimsical setting is like taking a virtual vacation in France.

Red Knot at Galloping Hill Golf Course
3 Golf Drive

Greatest misconception about Red Knot is that it’s "just a golf clubhouse restaurant." No, it’s really a surprisingly good restaurant, period. Add a good beer list and cocktail program and outdoor seating under the roof overlooking the course, and you don’t have to be a golfer to get your money’s worth and be glad you came. A Mother’s Day brunch will be served May 11th.

Springs Bistro at Crystal Springs Resort
3 Wild Turkey Way

The stone terrace at this comprehensive golf resort looks out at the links and rolling hills. In addition to a la carte items, a special four-course Mother’s Day Weekend menu ($55, $85 with wine pairings) features salt-crusted branzino with leek-and-wild-mushroom ragout and bone-in veal chop with white and green asparagus.

Sirena Ristorante

270 Ocean Avenue
Long Branch

Part of the upscale Pier Village shopping and living complex, Sirena’s deck overlooks the beach and ocean. Classic Italian cuisine is chef Kenneth Mansfield’s specialty.

The Gables

212 Centre Street
Beach Haven

Dining is available on a shaded porch and in the Victorian Garden at this historic inn. Dinner is served nightly in the summer and on weekends in spring and fall. There is a prix-fixe tasting menu as well as a la carte selections.


SUZANNE ZIMMER LOWERY is a food writer, pastry chef and culinary instructor at a number of New Jersey cooking schools. Find out more about her at suzannelowery.com.

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