Food & Dining Headlines Outdoors

Moving on out: Delaware restaurants oblige demand for alfresco dining

Diners have always liked eating outside, but fresh, moving air also helps lower the chances of being exposed to COVID-19.

If you’ve driven down Newark’s recently reopened Main Street, you may have noticed an abundance of flowers outside Caffe Gelato. The longtime restaurant has installed two “gardens” on paved bump-outs between the sidewalk and the street.

Climbers, including clematis, share the space with lush tropical plants and cheerful umbrellas. There is even an Italian statute in each area.

Caffe Gelato already has a covered patio. So, why add more outdoor space?

While many customers like to dine outside in summer, the coronavirus pandemic has increased the demand.

“Nothing is foolproof, but science has proved that it’s safer outside,” said Ryan German, the restaurant’s owner. The open air offers natural ventilation.

And with more patrons eating on the patios, indoor diners can enjoy more space between tables, he added.

Caffe Gelato is not the only restaurant that’s enhanced, expanded or added outdoor dining space for Phase 2 of Delaware’ reopening.

Alfresco diners have never had so many attractive choices.

Big Chill Beach Club at the Indian River outlet has expanded its outdoor dining.
Big Chill Beach Club at the Indian River outlet has expanded its outdoor dining.

Thinking outside the box

German was inspired by the outdoor dining area at the Brew HaHa! in Trolley Square, which emits the air of an Italian courtyard.

The coffee shop’s owner, Alisa Morkides, recently took her green thumb to her Greenville site, where she turned three parking spaces into temporary seating areaa. There are black metal tables and chairs, as well as planters filled with canna lilies and other leafy plants.

“We’re doing what we can to get business and let our customers sit safely,” said Morkides, who is now turning her attention to the Branmar Plaza store in North Wilmington.

Her task will be more difficult given Branmar only has sidewalks. Nevertheless, she can line up tables and still craft an atmosphere.

Offering tables and seats is a plus since Brew HaHa! is only open for takeout; there’s no table service. Now customers can sit in the sunshine instead of sipping their lattes in their car or on the go.

Brew HaHa! has added outdoor seating at its Greenville location.
Brew HaHa! has added outdoor seating at its Greenville location. Photo by Betsy Price

All about options

For restaurants that do offer table service, expanding or adding outdoor areas helps attract customers who are skittish about indoor dining.

SoDel Concepts, which has 12 restaurants in Sussex County, recently installed a new patio to the side of Matt’s Fish Camp in Bethany Beach. In Lewes, the hospitality group partially covered the existing patio at Fish On with pergolas and added a fire pit.

Crooked Hammock Brewery, which has locations in Lewes and Middletown, added about 100 new seats in the grassy area at each site.

The brewery is owned by La Vida Hospitality, which converted the private dining space at its Big Chill Beach Club in Bethany into more room for restaurant guests.

BBC Tavern and Grill in Greenville has expanded outdoor seating to accommodate more guests.

More seats to fill

Given that restaurants must operate at a reduced capacity, outdoor dining is a boon for smaller businesses.

Sonora at the David Finney Inn inhabits an old building with a limited layout. Owner Melissa Ferraro created a quaint courtyard that complements Old New Castle. On Thursday evenings, the New Castle restaurant features live music.

Similarly, Meghan Lee opened Heirloom in a Victorian home with a series of small dining rooms. During Phase 2 of the reopening, she’s banking on the scenic L-shaped patio, which overlooks the Zwaanendael Museum in historic Lewes.

In Greenville, David Dietz has been ready for the alfresco diners. His restaurant, BBC Tavern, underwent a significant renovation in August 2019 that included a new entrance with sliders and a patio awning.

But he’s not done making improvements.

“We’ve added more flowers, put out more fans to move the air, and we’re looking at installing a water-misting system,” he said.

Popular in desert climates like Phoenix, the systems gently push a fine mist into the air to cool it.

Expect more restaurants to follow in these businesses’ footsteps. Said Dietz, “Outside dining is even more vital now to our survival.”

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