No matter how much you like dining outside, it's been a sizzle fest all summer. But with fall on the way, Richmond's prized restaurant patios, terraces and decks will be in big demand again. A few you might not know about include:
- The hidden courtyard at 3325 West CafAc. Left of the building behind a brick wall is the city's prettiest new dining patio, with marble tables, umbrellas, strings of lights, planters and owner William Simon's dearest expectations for busier times. The cafe also has a small street-front patio and indoor dining, totaling nearly 200 seats. It serves pizzas, wraps and salads for lunch Monday through Saturday, and adds nightly specials such as porterhouse steaks, ribs or kebabs for dinner in the $10-$15 range Wednesday through Saturday. Live entertainment, wine and beer specials and other inducements are part of the casual cafe's pitch. 3325 W. Cary St. 353-1145.
- A lovely front patio at Anohka Unique Cuisine of India, a rare independent in Short Pump, seats two dozen. The wood-crafted design is a winner, but the food's the real star. 4015 Lauderdale Drive.
- The street-front balcony at Ettamae's CafAc, 522 N. Second St., a cozy outdoor dining spot in Jackson Ward; house-made comfort specials capped with not-the-usual desserts make this a unique urban hideaway for daylight service.
- Terrace and balcony dining at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Both levels have big round tables, partial shade, and views of the nearly complete water and sculpture garden. The Best CafAc at ground level has cafeteria-style noshes; upstairs at Amuse it's modern fine dining.
- Probably the most lounge-worthy patio is a returning favorite from previous seasons. At deLux, cushy seating, a lively bar scene and Ed Trask murals remind us where we are, lest we forget. 2229 W. Main St.
Smaller, faster, cheaper at Stronghill: We've always adored the food coming out of chef Owen Lane's kitchen. Now he has shifted the menu almost entirely to small plates at Stronghill Dining Co., capturing more flavors for fewer dollars. Some examples: quail stuffed with jalapeno-coconut risotto; roasted chicken tamales with white corn, Hanover tomato and okra sautAc; veal, foie gras, country ham and pistachio pA›tAc wrapped in bacon; Chesapeake crab cake sliders. Nothing's more than $15, except for a few nightly full-sized entree specials. Sunday brunch is one of the best taste and price values going. 1200 N. Boulevard. 359-0202. stronghillrestaurant.com.
Seasonality begets: Menus are adapting to late-summer harvests all over town. At VMFA's fine-dining restaurant, Amuse, chef Greg Haley says he's putting dishes with figs, watermelon and Ayreshire Farms' skirt steak on the menu; he's also adding more tapas to the midday menu to complement wines and to fulfill requests from younger, food-oriented patrons.
At Secco, chef Tim Bereika says he's adding a few new dishes, including hanger steak wrapped in speck with summer truffle sauce and local vegetables, to the seasonal menu. Secco, in Carytown, is the only restaurant in town with a waiting list for a seat at the bar — a necessity in the busy, girl-crazy corner spot. seccowinebar.com.
The Black Sheep has added new items, including the Delta Dawg, to its creative and affordable menu. This sandwich has broiled crawfish tail mixed with deviled egg salad on a buttered hot dog roll. Closed Mondays. 901 W. Marshall St. 648-1300. theblacksheeprva.com.