Hidden Gems: Unconventional Al Fresco Dining Spots

If you avoid the Waterfront and Back Bay, you may have luck scoring a seat at one of these patios.

Welcome to Hidden Gems, where local food blogger Marc Hurwitz (of Hidden Boston and Boston Restaurant Talk) spotlights off-the-beaten-path, under-the-radar restaurants.

TheLedgeOutdoor dining at Ledge in Dorchester. Photo courtesy of Marc Hurwitz.

After a winter that just wouldn’t quit, it appears that spring is finally here (knock on wood), which means that restaurants all over the Boston area will be getting their outdoor dining areas set up, if they haven’t done so already. And while outdoor patios and decks can get awfully crowded—especially in busy areas such as the Back Bay and the Waterfront—there are plenty more spots where you can easily score a table for dining al fresco, especially on weekdays or weeknights. Four such places are listed below, with each of them also having good food (you’re not just going for the cool breezes, right?).

Ledge Kitchen and Drinks
2261 Dorchester Avenue, Boston, 617-698-2261,  ledgeboston.com

The Lower Mills section of Dorchester is a charming area, with lots of history (including an old chocolate factory) and an attractive main street that is home to Ledge Kitchen and Drinks, a casual spot that is frequented mainly by locals. The interior of Ledge is attractive enough, but walk through the  doorway in the back and you’ll come to a beautiful two-tiered patio with all kinds of greenery and a high wall that gives a sense of privacy. Depending on what day (and what time of year) you go, expect freshly-made comfort food items such as lobster rolls, macaroni and cheese (with ever-changing ingredients), flatbread pizza, steak frites, brick chicken, fish and chips, and an especially tasty burger on a buttery brioche bun.

Mexico Lindo
449 Main Street, Melrose, 781-662-4056, mi-mexicolindo.com

The city of Melrose has plenty of dining options along its main street, including a friendly Mexican eatery called Mexico Lindo that has a lively and colorful interior. And you can’t really see it from the street, but the restaurant also has a relatively spacious outdoor patio that is open during the warmer months. Much like Ledge, the outdoor area at Mexico Lindo is pretty quiet because it is out back away from the traffic, and while it isn’t exactly a gorgeous oasis like that of Ledge,  it is quite comfortable and certainly a good place to linger over food and drink. Speaking of food, expect a mix of authentic and Americanized Mexican fare here, including a hearty chile Colorado, a rich-tasting chicken mole, a tremendous arroz con pollo (their signature dish), and all kinds of burritos and tacos.

Patou Thai
69 Leonard Street, Belmont, 617-489-6999, patouthai.com

Not all outdoor dining areas are attractive or even all that comfortable, but sometimes all you want is a cool breeze on a hot summer night (or a warm breeze on a spring night). Patou Thai in Belmont is just such a place, as the outdoor deck out back is nothing to look at, but it is (once again) completely hidden from the street and overlooks a parking lot behind Belmont Center that is usually pretty serene in the evenings. Very few seem to know that the outdoor dining area even exists, as it is more or less invisible if you enter the dining spot from the front.  The food at Patou Thai leans a bit more toward authentic dishes, with some items being extremely hot (the country-style chicken basil and spicy chicken fried rice are just two meals that are sweat-inducing).

513 Tremont Street, Boston, 617-927-0066,  piccorestaurant.com

Many outdoor dining spots in the South End can get pretty busy, and Picco on Tremont Street in the latter neighborhood is no exception. It isn’t quite the hot spot that some of the other restaurants in the area are, however, especially those on Newbury Street and Boylston Street a few blocks to the north in the Back Bay. And while there is no guarantee that you will be able to grab one of their outdoor tables on a given night, if you get there early enough for dinner, it shouldn’t be too much of a problem. If you do get a seat, you’ll be treated to some excellent people-watching as well as some outstanding pizza (perhaps the best in the city) and house-made ice cream. And yes, if you were wondering about the name “Picco,” it stands for “pizza and ice cream company.”