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Cool Patios, Sexy Cocktails

Mother's Restaurant (photos by Rose Mattrey)

Six famous patios for summer drinking and dining

It’s a sure sign of summer in Buffalo when road construction gets underway and politicians begin to argue over funding for public parks.

On the positive side of things, summer is also when the patios open.

Being the hardy bunch that Buffalonians are, the eateries lucky enough to boast outdoor dining open their patios as soon as the sun peeks through the spring clouds. The temperatures may still register in the 50s, but as long as the sun is shining, patios are the place to be.

Summer is when the Elmwood Strip and Allentown teem with college kids in flip-flops, parents pushing strollers, and young urbanites window-shopping at the multitude of boutiques lining the streets. These Elmwood Villagers are hungry and thirsty folks.

Like the diversity of Buffalo’s food-centric scene, patios run the gamut from comfortably cozy to city chic. Beer to champagne, chips and salsa to escargot, there is a patio to suit everyone’s taste.

You just need to know where to look.

Among Buffalo’s best known and most visible patios, Cecelia’s (716 Elmwood) has become synonymous with summer dining on the Strip. After three separate expansions, the patio can seat more than 125 people. While several of the tables are covered and provide a respite from the rays, most allow patrons to bask in the sun.

Ceclia's Ristorante

Dave Barbara, owner of Cecelia’s, credits his nine years of patio success to its ambiance and location. He is, of course, referring to his patio’s perfect view of Elmwood.

“Our patio is more of a destination,” says Barbara. “It draws people to Elmwood.”

While Cecelia’s is well known for its outdoor appeal, it is also known for its martinis. With more than four dozen concoctions on the menu, it is hard to choose just one. Luckily, Monday Night Martini Mania offers two-for-one martinis, doubling the chance of finding the perfect one.

Just down the street, on the opposite side of Elmwood sits the venerable Cozumel (153 Elmwood). Open now for over a decade, the Cozumel’s patio is unique in that it offers an outdoor bar. The outside bar ensures that thirsty guests needn’t walk far to find their next Corona.

“We are generally the first patio in Buffalo to open, and we sit on the sunny side of the street,” says co-owner Christian DiFiglia.

DiFiglia refers to his bar as a city beach and says that the Cozumel is all about a relaxed vibe.

Diners and drinkers can kick back and enjoy one of the Coz’s signature margaritas. DiFiglia recommends the simple, yet perfectly poured Grande Margarita. Mixed with Grand Marnier, Cointreau, and top-shelf tequila, a sip of the potent drink will leave you smiling and perhaps a bit sunburned.

“It’s not crazy to see someone at the patio bar at three p.m. and watch them stay throughout the day,” says DiFiglia with a laugh.

While some patios scream for attention, many of Buffalo’s best-kept secrets are tucked behind old brick buildings and surrounded by tall fencing and well-pruned shrubbery.

It’s a bit like playing hide and seek.

Not incredibly difficult to find, but one-of-a-kind, Tempo (581 Delaware) features one of the city’s most exclusive patios. Located on Delaware Avenue, Tempo’s patio is set with only seven tables and seats a mere 26 guests.

Director of service AmyRae Graves describes the fare as contemporary Mediterranean and made fresh to order. She notes that Chef Paul Jenkins is more than willing to accommodate special requests.

“It’s fine city dining without being stuffy,” says Graves.

Graves recommends stopping in for a fun and fantastic meal while enjoying the sun. With Tempo’s unique and extensive wine list it may be hard to choose which bottle to enjoy. When asked for a beverage recommendation, Graves smiles and says, “If it were me, I’d choose a bottle of Sancerre in the sun.”

Reservations are strongly recommended.

Off the beaten path and relatively obscured from the view of passersby, the patio at Prime 490 (490 Rhode Island) is the perfect place to dine even if the weather turns a bit wet.

Prime’s patio seats approximately 50 people and, unlike many of its counterparts, the patio is completely covered and has clear sides should the weather take a turn for the worse. The patio is also heated and can be reserved for private events.

Known for its steaks and chops, this five-year-old restaurant has expanded its menu to include a variety of Italian specialties. Several of their entrees fall in the under-$15 category.

“We have so much more than just steak,” says co-owner Christian DiFiglia.

Prime 490’s patio offers a relaxed atmosphere and DiFiglia recommends stopping by to share a few appetizers and take in the rays. He suggests complementing the meal with their signature summer beverage, a caipirinha. A popular Brazilian drink made of cachaca (a Brazilian lquor distilled from fermented sugarcane juice), sugar, and lime is a refreshing way to cool off after noshing on an order of Prime’s famous stuffed hot peppers.

Tucked away on a busy one-way street, the patio at Mother’s (33 Virginia Place) is not to be missed. This iconic restaurant has been in operation for nearly two decades. Its claim to fame: full dinner service until 3am. Salads, oysters, steaks, and creative pasta dishes are served with a smile into the wee hours of the evening. Enjoying an appetizer or a three-course meal on the patio at one in the morning is a true Buffalo experience.

Mother’s patio can accommodate close to 100 guests for both dining and drinking. Co-owner Mark Supples recommends making a reservation if you would like to dine in the great outdoors.

“Everyone in Buffalo likes to eat outside,” says Supples. “People call in May to see if our patio is open.”

Mother’s regularly features more than a dozen specials every evening and, their courtyard is the perfect place to enjoy a variety of fresh seafood. When asked what beverage best accompanies these fresh from the ocean catches, Supples casually dismisses the typical answer of white wine.

“I’d go with a straight, cold vodka or a gin and tonic,” says Supples.

Mother’s is a classic.

Also a classic, in the French sense, is Tabree (423 Elmwood). The previous home of Astoria, Tabree has been open for just over one year. And while it may seem like a quaint and tiny bistro at first glance, its initial appearance is deceiving.

The interior of the restaurant has just 22 seats but a short walk down a thin hall, just past the bar, opens up into an entirely different world. The word patio simply does not do it justice.

Best described as an upscale courtyard, Tabree seats an additional 50 guests in their hidden garden. The seating area is decorated with oriental rugs, a deep banquette, crisp white linens, and a spattering of wrought iron chairs with mismatched pillows for extra comfort.

While both the wine list and menu are distinctly French, co-owners Bryan and Tara Bryndle describe their place as a funky, upbeat, come-as-you-are eatery.

“We don’t want to be viewed as a special occasion restaurant,” says Bryan. “We have something to please everyone.”

To accompany a selection of artisanal cheeses and charcuterie, Bryan recommends trying the Culotte Françoise. This sparkling cocktail, served in a chilled flute, is a fluid mix of Lucien Albrecht Brut Rose, Croft Pink Port, and a splash of club soda. If the pronunciation proves too difficult it can simply be ordered by its English translation: Pink Panty.

Relaxing in Tabree’s courtyard, sipping French champagne, can make any restaurant guest forget that they are just feet away from the Elmwood Strip.

With a vast array of culinary delights and an endless list of perfect summer cocktails, Buffalo’s patios serve their patrons with a smile and a splash of sun.

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