5 Tampa Bay restaurants with great outdoor seating

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Dining out in the elements of Florida isn’t always a trip to the beach. In reality, during the summer months it can feel a lot more like a trip to the marshes. But we tend to forget that there is a glorious time of year (ahem, right now) when, for six good months, eating out can be downright enjoyable.

These five restaurants have capitalized on their outdoor dining setups during the pandemic and continue to provide a delicious excuse to enjoy a small meal al fresco.

This story is part of our Top Restaurants 2022 series. Next up: the 10 best dishes our food critic ate ​​in 2021.

Alesia

The alfresco dining room at Alesia in St. Petersburg has a large shaded seating area. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]

During much of the pandemic, this charming French and Vietnamese bistro remained completely closed to indoor dining. It did little to deter diners and, in particular, regular devotees, many of whom have frequented this western St. Petersburg gem for most of the past decade. They come for the banh mi sandwiches, served on crispy baguettes, the pate-filled puff pastry, the steaming bowls of pho anise, and the cheese platters adorned with raw honeycomb.

Although the dining room has since reopened, the best seat in the house is still outside in the courtyard, flanked by lush bougainvillea and dangling lights.

Take out meals available.

7204 Central Ave., St. Petersburg. 727-345-9701. alesiarestaurant.com.

Baba

The large retractable windows that open onto the patio overlooking the central avenue give this St. Petersburg restaurant an airy, open-air feel no matter where you’re sitting. Debbie and George Sayegh’s tribute to their Mediterranean heritage has evolved significantly since it opened in 2019 (there is now a regular lunch and brunch service on weekends) and, under chef de cuisine Sara Jones, the menu is better than ever.

Whether it’s a platter of golden beets and figs with pistachio tahini and whipped labneh, a crunchy salad sprinkled with chunks of creamy Greek feta, or the ever-changing charred octopus platter, you can’t do it all. just don’t go wrong here.

Take out meals available.

2701 Central Ave., St. Petersburg. 727-954-3406. Eatatbaba.com.

Gangchu

Gangchu in Tampa, a Seminole Heights restaurant specializing in Korean fried chicken, has a covered patio with plenty of shaded seating on a wooden patio.
Gangchu in Tampa, a Seminole Heights restaurant specializing in Korean fried chicken, has a covered patio with plenty of shaded seating on a wooden patio. [ Courtesy of Noel Cruz ]

Like other restaurateurs on the verge of opening up new concepts, the pandemic allowed Noel Cruz to take a moment to reconfigure his plans. Gangchu, a Korean fried chicken and cocktail restaurant in Seminole Heights in Tampa, opened in early 2021. It turns out that the takeover of a former auto repair shop on N Avenue Nebraska provided the ideal backdrop for a plan with plenty of outdoor seating. Designed for an increasingly outward-looking clientele, the large covered terrace divides the restaurant space and includes an outdoor bar, several TV screens and plenty of shaded seating on the wooden patio.

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The crunchy and spicy Korean fried chicken wings are the highlight here, for good reason. The boneless fried chicken wings and platters come served with a selection of six different sauces, but my favorites are the buffalo gochujang and the sweet garlic chili. Pair the wings with a bite of sour pickled daikon radish and a dip in the house ranch sauce and it’s not hard to see why this place has built up such a solid fan base.

Take out meals available.

6618 N Nebraska Ave., Tampa. 813-723-4264. Eatgangchu.com.

Gregario Pizzeria

Patrons gather on the patio of the Gregario Pizzeria in Safety Harbor.
Patrons gather on the patio of the Gregario Pizzeria in Safety Harbor. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]

Dining out is always the only option at this Safety Harbor pizza destination, and that’s great because truly, you’re here for one thing and one thing: Gregory Seymour’s yummy yummy pies.

In many ways, it feels like business as usual: Customers always order at the counter from a chalkboard menu, and a small selection of beers, wines, and soft drinks are served. But instead of sitting inside the small indoor dining area (now mostly used for storage), diners find a table on the 18-seat patio outside, a downtown corner of Safety Harbor that imbues a charming neighborhood atmosphere.

The abbreviated menu features a selection of nine pies, all featuring that perfectly crisp and chewy crust made from stone-ground flour the place is known for. There aren’t any sides or salads on offer at the moment, but there is garlic schmoo – a delicious garlic, olive oil, and lemon combo that’s a must for dipping the crust.

Take out meals available.

400 Second St. N, Safety Harbor. pizzeriagregario.com.

two graces

Two Graces, a new largely open-air restaurant in St. Petersburg, has several different outdoor dining areas.
Two Graces, a new largely open-air restaurant in St. Petersburg, has several different outdoor dining areas. [ HELEN FREUND | Tampa Bay Times ]

There might not be a better place to dine out right now than Two Graces, which opened in late October in western St. Petersburg. The restaurant, which has taken over the space that once housed the reading room, has a leafy charm similar to its predecessor, with lush flower and herb gardens lining the entrance. Pendant lights illuminate a large oak tree and the vast outdoor dining room extends under a long pergola.

Owners Marlin Kaplan and her partner Lisa Masterson also run the upscale Grace beach restaurant, and the menu here – though distinct – features a modern, upscale American spread, with several vegan and vegetarian options and a pizza selection. wood fire. The menu right now is particularly seasonal, from the delicious dish of Brussels sprouts sprinkled with chestnuts and grapes to the stuffed baby pumpkin, which arrives filled with a pumpkin risotto and topped with a Parmesan tile.

6001, central avenue, Saint Petersburg. 727-803-6050. facebook.com/twograces.

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