Outward Bound: Restaurants and Cafes Ramp Up Their Outdoor Spaces

Al fresco drinking and dining have been on the rise during the last decade, giving customers the popular choice of enjoying the summer weather while they eat and imbibe. 

Now, though, with heightened concerns about the spread of the coronavirus in confined spaces, the outdoor dining experience is poised to get another big boost this season. Many seasonal restaurants, bars and cafes had already made space for guests to spend time outside, but this season we’ll see additional expanded areas and new spaces as business owners get creative with their open-air options.

Husby’s in Sister Bay was one of the early adopters, with its large, outdoor deck being a big draw on mild days. It has since expanded with The Garage, an outdoor bar and stage serving food and drinks. Husby’s is also in the process of remodeling the neighboring building to add a new “filling station” frozen-cocktail bar in what had been the Door County Ice Cream shop. 

Across the street, the Sister Bay Bowl created its own version of the outdoor bar. Down the street, Al Johnson’s jumped on the beer-garden bandwagon, opening the outdoor-only Stabbur, which features plenty of areas to play in front of a large, wrap-around bar. 

CHOP Steakhouse incorporated a stunning, rooftop deck into the design of its new location, built in 2017. Boathouse on the Bay uses glass garage doors to let the outside in, and it offers especially spectacular views during a summer sunset. 

Speaking of sunsets, maybe the epitome of sunset eateries is Fred & Fuzzy’s. It became a leader in the al fresco arena when it opened its kitchen on the shore in 2000. JJ’s La Puerta added the Sugar Shack tiki bar to better share the waterfront with its customers, and diners can also get their tiki time in at The Lodge at Leathem Smith’s outdoor patio area and tiki bar in Sturgeon Bay. 

Taco Cerveza in Fish Creek created an outdoor-only model reminiscent of the previous hot-dog stand that once occupied the property. Door County Brewing Co. made sure to include ample open-air spaces at its second brewery location in Baileys Harbor, giving guests space to play cornhole, nosh at a food truck and gather around picnic tables.

New this season, the Blue Ox in Baileys Harbor has added tables to its lawn space behind the building. Door County Coffee in Carlsville and Kick Ash Coffee in Ellison Bay have added more outdoor seating for enjoying coffee, tea or a meal. Jacksonport’s Island Fever Rum Bar & Grill has taken advantage of its large, grassy outdoor area to add full-service dining tables and a modern fire pit. 

Alexander’s and Whistling Swan in Fish Creek added seating near their parking areas. Get Real Cafe in Sturgeon Bay got creative by adding tables behind its building, and Ephraim Coffee Lab has socially distanced cafe tables in its yard. 

Casey’s BBQ in Egg Harbor now has large picnic tables where diners can enjoy the view and the barbeque. Chives in Baileys Harbor has set up its grill truck and pizza truck next door to the restaurant in a manicured green space that’s perfect for lunch or dinner, plus you can grab a cocktail from the full-service outdoor bar. 

This is only a sampling of existing and new outdoor areas; as the season continues, we are bound to see more adaptive outdoor spaces emerge.