The Scene: No, that’s not a magic flame at the far side of Bistro 83’s generous patio. The firepit is a custom-made, granite-top cylinder filled with glass beads and lit by a gas flame. “We wanted nothing to interfere with our guests’ enjoyment of their food,” explains Bistro 83’s event planner and assistant manager of marketing, Christine Cirigliano, “and that includes smoke.” The stone patio has a permanent awning and removable sides, so if even a little rain falls, you’re covered.
The Food: Lunch includes sandwiches and wraps that feature Ohio chicken, Ohio pork and locally made bread. Dinners feature inspired small plates, such as the Wonton Tacos with local micro greens or gluten-free Crispy Calamari. The soups of the day are thoughtfully categorized into “carnivore” and “vegetarian.” As an entrée, try the pork chop with local maple, rosemary and salt glaze with buttermilk and brown butter mashed yukons, or indulge in the bistro’s signature dish, the locally lauded scallops with creamy risotto, grape tomatoes, bacon and portabella mushrooms with a red-wine tomato broth.
Insider Info: Grab one of the bar-height chairs at the far end of the patio and settle in for the evening. You’ll have a front-row seat to the glorious Lorain County sunset.
36033 Westminister Ave., North Ridgeville, 440-353-2828, bistro83.com
The Scene: This gem is located within the Miller Nature Preserve, and the patio is surrounded by the external gardens of the Conservatory. You’ll want to linger on this generously sized patio at the banks of French Creek, so consider wandering the more than 80-acre Nature Preserve before you sit down to lunch. On the second and fourth Thursdays of the summer months, the café stays open until 8 p.m. for live music.
The Food: Chef Mario Izzo takes the “conserve” in “conservatory” to heart by using “as few ingredients as possible in as many ways as possible.” This commitment results in less waste and more taste (the Café used to fill a dumpster every week and now only fills two a month). Izzo’s wife is a French teacher at Strongsville High School, and the couple has taken students to Europe in the past. That influence runs through the menu in items such as the Turkey Raspberry Brie, a customer favorite. This sandwich, served atop a toasted ciabatta roll, is based on baguette sandwiches sold on the street corners of Paris.
Insider Info: The Conservatory charges $2 admission to see the indoor gardens, but for just $10, a yearly membership provides unlimited indoor visits.
Miller Nature Preserve, 2739 Center Road, Avon, orchidcafecatering.com
The Scene: Dinner on the front porch at Nemo Grille feels like dinner at a friend’s house — if that friend happens to be a killer cook. This Avon mainstay is housed in an actual house, built in 1850. The stone porch feels as sturdy and permanent as a Midwestern friendship, and the staff is equally so. Owner Bob Nemo views friendliness as a basic trait required to work here.
The Food: Be sure to read the item descriptions on Nemo Grille’s menu, because many of its offerings have unexpected additions that set them apart. The popular Maple Leaf Duck Breast, for example, has an unexpected black mission fig-Marsala sauce. And the lobster flatbread features just a touch of truffle honey.
Insider Info: Stop in the bar area while you’re here and take a look at the show-stopping tin ceiling, which Bob Nemo installed one panel at a time. The humble do-it-yourselfer also built the bar.
36976 Detroit Road, Avon, 440-934-0061, nemogrille.com
The Scene: Jackalope’s large deck overlooks the Spitzer Lakeside Marina, with the picturesque boardwalk stretching out below. The boat-filled marina is to the left of it, with a free guest dock that is first come, first served. To the right is the Black River Diked Disposal Bird Sanctuary, a marsh-like stretch where you may catch a glimpse of a bald eagle or two. An added summertime bonus is that the sun sets at the end of the pier. Jackalope owner Jim Andrews says that, even after 18 years, “I still stop and look at the sunset, no matter what I’m doing.”
The Food: This is pier-side, boardwalk-style dining all the way, including the whole Maine lobster roll and the jumbo clam strips. The Lake Erie perch and local walleye are popular entrées, as are the Coca-Cola-braised short ribs.
Insider Info: On Tuesdays during the summer, Jackalope offers a four-course wine dinner in the Lorain Lighthouse, which is a brief boatride from its pier. Call to reserve a spot; only 12 seats are available each week.
301 Lakeside Ave., Lorain, 440-288-2051, jackalopelakeside.com
Parker’s Grille & Tavern
The Scene: If it’s a laid-back, quiet patio you’re looking for, Parker’s is a great choice. It’s a simple space with potted plants, white lights and a large outdoor bar. Co-owner James Mowbray wants guests to be able to chat, not shout, so even on the Friday nights when there’s musical entertainment (check the website for schedule and details), Mowbray promises it will enhance, not overwhelm, the dining experience.
The Food: Steaks and burgers are popular here. The steaks are aged Angus Reserve, and the burgers are Executive Chef Paul Kalberer’s special blend of brisket and prime rib. For a starter, try the Underground Chips, an assortment of root-veggie chips with blue cheese, walnuts, sage and balsamic glaze.
Insider Info: The summer cocktail list promises to be as no-nonsense as the relaxing patio: It’s an assortment of classic, pre-Prohibition cocktails.
32858 Walker Road, Avon Lake, 440-933-9400, parkersgrilleandtavern.com
The Scene: The stunning patio features white lights in the trees above and LEDs in the concrete below. Arrive early to have a drink in the soft seating area, with cushioned, modern wicker couches and chairs. Hang out on the couch for your meal, or move to one of the tables on the other side of the large, attention-grabbing stone fountain/firepit.
The Food: Owner Ron Larson also runs nearby Stone Eagle Farm, so some of what you’ll be eating is about as locally grown as it gets. Stone Eagle also has a 1-acre breeding pond and 5-acre lake, so be sure to get the yellow perch when it’s on the menu. As the name suggests, steaks are a real draw here, with the USDA prime cut specially to Larson’s specifications. Try the tater tots, which are smashed baked potatoes blended with blue cheese and bacon, breaded and deep fried.
Insider Info: Strip is at the center of Olde Avon Village, a historic community of boutique shops, antique stores and eateries. Larson had the historic buildings moved to the spot from outlying areas of Avon.
36840 Detroit Road, Olde Avon Village, Avon, 440-934-9900, stripsteakhouse.com