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Rooftop Bars, Pizza Farms & Other Ways to Dine Outside This Summer

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Dine outside at Red Barn Pizza Farm in Northfield

Rooftop Bars, Pizza Farms & Other Ways to Dine Outside This Summer

By Caitlin Hannah

Here in Minnesota, we’ve always considered restaurant patios and rooftop bars an essential part of summer—and this year, because outdoor dining helps suppress the spread of COVID-19, we mean that literally.

To keep guests and staff safe this summer, restaurants, bars, breweries, distilleries and wineries across Minnesota are flexing their creativity to provide ample outdoor space for diners or cook up unique takeout options for you to enjoy at home. 

Here are a few fun ways to eat and drink outside this summer.

Have a Fancy Picnic Courtesy of Curbside Pickup

Although restaurants may now open to the public (with specific capacity guidelines), many are still offering their meals to-go via curbside pickup. For maximum summer vibes, bring your takeout meal to a nearby park and take your picnic game up a notch with your favorite restaurant’s dishes. Just pack a blanket, place your order for pickup, get your food and find a cozy picnic spot. 

Many restaurants are also offering cook-at-home meal kits of some of their most popular dishes. Local burger chain Red Cow is offering DIY meal kits for the grill that include all the fixings for your favorite burgers. And on the fancy flipside, the award-winning Grand Cafe in south Minneapolis now features luxury kits to make your entire week “tres chic.”

Woman with pizza at Pleasant Grove Pizza Farm

Pleasant Grove Pizza Farm / @ingie.e

Head to the Farm...for Pizza

Pizza farms have always been a popular spot during Minnesota’s warmer months, and they’re perfectly positioned to safely serve you this summer. Pack your picnic blanket, beverages, utensils and napkins, and enjoy the beautiful weather on a farm while you wait for your delicious pie. 

These pizzas are as fresh as you can get and made with ingredients grown right in the fields. Each spot features a rotating menu that highlights whatever’s ripe at the moment. The pizzas are prepared in giant, wood-fired ovens and served piping hot for you to enjoy. While you wait for your dinner, stroll the grounds to see horses, chickens, pigs and other farm animals.

Try Red Barn Farm in Northfield, Pleasant Grove Pizza Farm in Waseca, or Two Pony Gardens in Long Lake.

Sidewalk patios extend into the street on Fifth Avenue in downtown St. Cloud

Fifth Avenue in downtown St. Cloud has been transformed into a massive patio space for local restaurants / Visit Greater St. Cloud

Dine in These Open Streets & Reimagined Parking Lots

Restaurants are putting a big emphasis on their outdoor spaces this year, and many cities are helping out by expanding sidewalk patios into the street with traffic barriers to keep diners and staff safe. 

In downtown St. Cloud, a stretch of Fifth Avenue has been completely reimagined as an outdoor dining area for spots like 7th West Taphouse, Searles on Fifth, House of Pizza and more. 

Main Street in downtown Stillwater is brimming with outdoor dining areas, including plenty of newly expanded patios on sidewalk space. With the opening of its newest rooftop restaurant, Papa’s at the Water Street Inn, Stillwater now boasts 30 spots to dine outside.

Some restaurants are even reimagining their parking lots as outdoor patio space. These expanded areas are extensions of the restaurants with temporary awnings, event tents and even exclusive menu items. Pig Ate My Pizza in downtown Robbinsdale created homemade classic freezer pops made with rhubarb, cherry and other fruit flavors to keep diners cool.

Hit Up Minnesota Breweries, Distilleries & Wineries for Patio Service or To-Go Drinks

Surly Brewing Company is one of Minnesota’s most well known breweries, and their beer garden is always a popular spot. The expansive outdoor area has plenty of space and fire pits for a true summer experience. 

Some other popular outdoor spots include Bad Weather Brewing in St. Paul, Omni Brewing in Maple Grove, Outstate Brewing in Fergus Falls, Little Thistle Brewing in Rochester or Voyageur Brewing Company in Grand Marais. If you’re looking for a spot for you to bring your dog, head to Finnegans Brew Co. or Indeed Brewing in Minneapolis. Or if beer isn’t your thing, try Milk & Honey Ciders in St. Joseph.

Distilleries are also ready to celebrate summer, bringing Minnesota-made spirits and handcrafted cocktails into the, ahem, mix. Norseman Distillery in Minneapolis has a massive outdoor space for in-person imbibing. Or if you prefer to toast at home, Copperwing Distillery and Dampfwerk Distilling in St. Louis Park offer takeout cocktail kits that rotate flavors each week. Both businesses are located within steps of one another for easy pickup. 

Minnesota’s wineries have some of the most picturesque outdoor spaces for guests, with vast tasting areas that overlook lush vineyards and farmland. Schram Vineyards & Brewery in Waconia has 5 acres of outdoor seating including picnic tables and grassy areas to spread out on an outdoor blanket. Or raise a glass at Carlos Creek Winery in Alexandria, where ample grassy areas, pergolas and fire pits welcome wine enthusiasts. Other popular spots for outdoor sipping are Chankaska Winery in Kasota, Four Daughters Winery near Rochester and Cannon River Winery in Cannon Falls. 

Many businesses require a reservation to enjoy a table, have capacity limits, encourage guests to wear masks, and follow other safety guidelines—check with each business before planning a visit.

Caitlin Hannah

Caitlin Hannah is Explore Minnesota's social media strategist and resident Disney expert. She grew up spending summer weekends at her family's lake cabin in Detroit Lakes, and brings that "up north" attitude to everything she does. When traveling around the state, she likes trying new restaurants and taprooms, or watching Minnesota hockey.