Going out to eat used to be a big deal for most people. Typically, it was a way to celebrate a birthday or an anniversary. Over the years, the introduction of the fast casual dining restaurants that seem to rely on quantity and not quality have made the choice of dining out so affordable that it is almost an expectation. Now, instead of going out for a special occasion, people go out because it's Tuesday. Not that there is anything wrong with not cooking and cleaning the kitchen once in a while, but the next time you go to dinner, why not try and recapture some of the celebratory nature?
This is the best time of the year to do it, because many casual fine dining restaurants have opened their patio dining sections for the summer. Nobody can really explain why dining outside seems like something special, but there is a different quality to everything when enjoying a meal al fresco. Many people - at least those with not as well-behaved children - feel a little uptight when they are out to dinner, as if they have to be on their best behavior. This is certainly true for a particular style of restaurant or type of meal, and it is not a bad rule of thumb in general, but at the same time, a family meal is something to be enjoyed.
Being outside makes that enjoyment come to life. The atmosphere is constantly changing, helping to provide a welcome distraction for those with short attention spans. There is a casual feel to everyone's mood, no matter how fancy the meal might be. There is even a greater sense of community among the diners. Inside, people would rarely think to talk to their neighbors, but outside it feels less like being at a restaurant and more like a neighborhood block party. People talk more freely, smile more broadly, and with everyone's energy feeding off of each other, the night grows that much more memorable.
Unless you are lucky enough to live in certain parts of the country, which most of us are not, the chance to dine outside only happens for a few months out of the year. Whether you live in Walla Walla, Washington or Appleton, Wisconsin, restaurants that have an outdoor dining patio are the places you should be this summer. It does not matter if the only reason you are taking the family out to dinner is because you forgot to defrost the steaks, or it is the one night all week where nobody has any commitments. Make your next family night out at a casual fine dining restaurant something to celebrate, even if it is just because it's Tuesday.
Jack Terry is a freelance writer who has been covering the food and beverage industry for more than 20 years, unfortunately mostly from where it is cold most of the year. http://www.osorioslatinfusion.com