The only thing that's better than a good dining-out experience—with all of its comforting pomp and circumstance—is a good dining experience outside in the first blush of spring. There are a variety of restaurants in the Hudson Valley that offer al fresco dining, from chic waterfront patios to street-side tables that are great for people watching. Here are our top five picks:
1. The Crimson Sparrow, Hudson
Recently, Chronogram Editor Brian K. Mahoney said, "Crimson Sparrow is one of the most delightful and interesting places to eat in the Hudson Valley right now." Food & Drink Editor Peter Barrett describes the innovative atmosphere as on par with the restaurant's exciting cuisine: "Four old iron radiators have been turned into benches for the large communal table outside. At the back of the large courtyard sits the carriage house, now transformed into a big, beautiful kitchen (easily the size of many city restaurants) with a huge window allowing al fresco diners to watch the cooks at work. There is a row of counter seats in front of the glass for people who want an intimate view of the kitchen in action while they eat."
2. Bywater Bistro, Rosendale
Like most of the store and restaurant fronts along Rosendale's sleepy main street, Bywater's front exterior is unassuming—blink and you might miss it. The backyard, though, is a whole other story. The wrought-iron walls are complemented by colorful gardens of annuals and perennials, which border the idling Rondout Creek. On a rainy day, you can sit beneath the covered porches that are situated next to a koi pond. In a Chronogram review of Bywater, Harold Jacobs says, "On summer weekends, the restaurant offers a light fare menu in the garden, prepared on a charcoal grill. On a clear night, this is one of the most pleasant locations in the Hudson Valley to enjoy a bite or cocktail."
3. The Patio at the Roundhouse at Beacon Falls, Beacon
The Patio at the Roundhouse offers a stunning view of a waterfall in the Fishkill Creek, and it boasts its own menu (separate from its indoor counterpart, Swift), with meals prepared in an outdoor kitchen. A New York Times review rated the Patio as "above-average alfresco dining": "Seated in racy black Italian wicker chairs under a wheat-colored market umbrella, we sipped tinto de verano—tempranillo wine refreshed with orange-and-vanilla soda—and ate smart appetizers of tuna ceviche with pistachios and crispy shrimp with spicy pink mayonnaise. A hundred yards away, beyond tumbling rapids, a single-story drop in Fishkill Creek created a glistening scrim, like a mini-Niagara."
4. Boitson's, Kingston
The new American restaurant offers a space with a lot of geometric diversity: The long, narrow dining room is lined with a room-long banquette that runs parallel to the bar. When you reach the end, it opens out into a spacious, multilevel deck with red couches, a patio bar, and views of the Catskills. There are even space heaters near the tables in case of an evening chill. Relax on an outdoor couch with one of their New York City borough-named cocktails and some Blue Point oysters from their raw bar.
5. The Bear Café, Woodstock
A cherished local spot since Bob Dylan's manager Albert Grossman opened it in 1971, the Bear is part of the trifecta that consists of the Little Bear, a Chinese restaurant, and Bearsville Theater. Its New American cuisine is consistently regarded as among the region’s best, and happily, you can enjoy your meal next to a trickling stream surrounded by trees wrapped in twinkling lights.