Celebrate Patio Season with Al Fresco Dining in Edina

Al fresco dining at its best.
Marinated, wood-grilled beef tenderloin anticuchos are perfect for the patio at Cocina Del Barrio.

One of our most treasured warm-weather privileges is outdoor dining. For those of us who live on the frozen tundra, perpetually aware of the diminishing days of light and warmth, eating al fresco is practically a birthright. Edina eateries are equipped with many a welcoming outdoor dining space. It may not be scientifically provable, but we are fairly sure that fresh air makes food taste better. We’ve rounded up a few local spots to enjoy open-air tastiness.   TAVERN BLEU CHIPS Tavern on France Tavern on France wins “best patio” awards every year, and it’s no wonder: The place is always abuzz with a celebratory feeling, not to mention the mesmerizing after-dark fire pits. It can get crowded, so if you want a table right away, play it safe and get there either very early or sort of late. Shareable finger food is a good idea here; you’ll want an excuse to linger over conversation and a few rounds of cocktails. The Tavern Bleu chips are a sophisticated twist on the ubiquitous nacho; we loved the house-made potato chips on their own. Topped with smoked bacon, mozzarella, bleu cheese crumbles and fresh basil, they’re downright orgiastic. Dip into seasoned sour cream or another dipping sauce of choice. $8. 6740 France Ave. S.; 952.358.6100; tavernonfrance.com   BEEF TENDERLOIN ANTICUCHOS Cocina Del Barrio Cocina Del Barrio offers a host of small plates that are ideal for casual patio dining. The patio itself is small but better for it; it feels as festive and exclusive as a backyard get together. We swooned over the beef tenderloin anticuchos, skewers of marinated, spiced and wood-grilled meat. Flavors of chile, cumin and cilantro enliven the dusky beef; an accompanying heart of palm salad with tangerine vinaigrette adds a welcome dash of brightness. $14. 5036 France Ave. S.; 952.920.1860; barriotequila.com CSA HASH Brunch at Wise Acre CSA (community supported agriculture) is what Wise Acre is all about. The food they serve comes from their 100-acre farm in Plato, Minn., which is about as field-to-fork as it gets. The CSA Hash brunch special changes depending what’s growing, and ordering it is a bit like Christmas morning—you never know what gifts will appear in front of you. A tender egg and herb scramble, herb aioli and hearty slabs of toast supplement the veggie mélange. The patio is expansive and peaceful, filled with plants, blooms and cheery red umbrellas. $13. 5401 Nicollet Ave. S.; Minneapolis; 612.354.2557; wiseacreeatery.com   BBQ PULLED PORK SANDWICH Pinstripes “Barbecue” is practically synonymous with summer; the barbecue pulled pork sandwich at Pinstripes is a no-brainer for a patio meal. The barbecue sauce gets a bump of sophistication from the addition of balsamic vinegar; the fennel slaw and semolina bun are also brilliantly inspired twists. The two-level patio overlooks Centennial Lakes and offers a view of the Minneapolis skyline. Make an afternoon of it and test your prowess at the on-site bowling lanes or bocce ball courts. $10.95. 3849 Gallagher Dr.; 952.835.6440; pinstripes.com   CROQUE MADAMESalut Bar Américain The French are known for their sidewalk cafés; Salut offers a charming approximation with their seasonal spill onto France Avenue. The seating feels congenially close rather than irritatingly crowded; nearly every seat is a prime spot for people watching. A croque madame is a quintessential Parisian café dish, an open-faced grilled ham and cheese sandwich napped with a creamy béchamel sauce. The best part is the fried egg on top; spear the yolk and soak it up with Salut’s good French bread. $14. 5034 France. Ave. S.; 952.929.3764 salutbaramericain.com   THE FORAGER Pizzeria Lola We admire the no-nonsense vibe of Lola’s patio; the focus justifiably rests on the superlative wood-fired pizza. The forager pie is a riot of mushrooms—crimini, shiitake, and portabella—with a liberal application of pungent taleggio and fontina cheeses and a drizzle of funky truffle oil. Add some peppery house-made fennel sausage for an additional three bucks. Enjoy the evocative aroma of wood smoke and pretend you’re in Tuscany. $15.50. 5557 Xerxes Ave. S.; 612.424.8338; pizzerialola.com   WARM BRIE WITH MACADAMIA NUT CRUST Kincaid’s The only word for this outdoor dining space is lovely. There are copious planters spilling colorful blooms, jaunty red umbrellas, well-spaced tables, leafy trees and dappled sunlight. We recommend you order something that will take some time to eat in order to maximize your patio time; the warm brie is a delight to nibble at leisure. It comes with orange-blossom honey, crisp apple slices, a tangy balsamic reduction and fruit compote. Take your time trying different combinations of cheese and fruit, and bask in utter loveliness. $12.95. 8400 Normandale Lake Blvd.; Bloomington; 952.921.2255; kincaids.com   VEGETABLE SPINACH WRAP Picnic at Centennial Lakes with Jason’s Deli Takeout A picnic is about as al fresco as al fresco gets. We’ve got killer parks in Edina—why not take advantage while the weather permits? Pick up some chow at Jason’s Deli and head to the nearby Centennial Lakes Park where you can snag a bench, table or even a corner of the Hughes Pavillion. There’s built-in entertainment: You might watch a model yacht club, mini golf, paddleboats or happy families gamboling in the sun. A wrap makes perfect picnic fodder—easy to handle and full of good stuff. Jason’s Deli whips up an addictive spinach veggie wrap that will please vegetarians and carnivores alike. The organic whole wheat tortilla encases scads of mushrooms, organic spinach, Asiago cheese and a good smear of creamy guacamole. Sides of pico de gallo and salsa are included so you can spice it up at your discretion. Comes with a side of chips or fruit. $6.59. 7565 France Ave. S.; 952.358.9900; jasonsdeli.com; edinamn.gov   SMOKY ROADSIDE PLATE Rice PaperRice Paper’s patio debuted last summer, and it must have worked, because it’s back. The most charming thing about this place is that every dish harkens back to the owner’s childhood in Vietnam; the fact that it is all eye-openingly delicious is mere frosting. The “smoky roadside plate” is based on a childhood memory of street vendors; we slurped up every custardy fried tofu cube drenched in the sweet-hot rice vinegar-based “roadside” sauce. The crunchy-fresh red and green cabbage salad was a smart match in its clean simplicity. Throw in some delicate fresh spring rolls wrapped in translucent rice paper and stuffed with shredded romaine lettuce, bean sprouts, mint, cilantro, roasted peanuts, crispy shallots and whatever meat is on special. They sell out quickly so put your order in as soon as you sit down. Smoky plate, $15; spring rolls, $7. 3948 W. 50th St.; 952.288.2888; ricepaperrestaurant.com