Dining “al fresco,” that is to say, “outside,” has become the pandemic-preferred method of mangiamo. “Mangiamo” means “let’s eat,” and “al fresco,” in Italian, translates literally to “in the cool air,” which will come to Lansing soon enough.
In the meantime, Okemos Italian restaurant Spagnuolo’s has added umbrella-covered outdoor tables under which their popular pizza and pasta can be washed down with Pellegrino or pinot grigio. Just up Grand River the previously enclosed patio at Dusty’s Cellar’s Wine Bar has been opened up to greatly expand outdoor seating for the Tap Room and its favorites such as its spicy feta dip and sauvignon blanc.
Fiesta Charra, on Park Lake Road, has a spacious back deck which used to overlook a golf course (but is now a view of Costco), so for a change of scenery, and dare I say a peek at fall colors in that “cool air,” Arcadia Bluffs Golf Club, near Manistee offers the region’s most astonishing outdoor restaurant perch.
The porch on the classic seaside mansion (with lodging upstairs) and the sunroom of its Lakeview Grill and main dining room present views down over the dunes from more than 150 feet over the shoreline. Your eyes drink in a vast expanse of an indigo Lake Michigan that stretches into sunset – when an actual bagpiper plays nightly in the gloaming. It’s difficult to divert your eyes from the visual dessert down to the Arcadia Bluffs lunch or dinner menus, but do so, because you’ll find local beauties such as baked brie with Michigan apples and Sleeping Bear Farms honey or warm whitefish pate.
“It’s just magnificent. The food and drink I’ve had thanks to Bill Shiver and his culinary team at Arcadia Bluffs has always been of the highest quality. I love the place,” said Ben Wright, the Emmy Award-winning British broadcaster who celebrated his 80th birthday consuming a custom serving of haggis created in homage to his heritage.
Mexican heritage is honored and celebrated at historic Mi Tierra Restaurante which embraces the phrase: “Tu Mexico, Tu Chicago.” Ricardo Flores manages what is essentially a daily fiesta in the Windy City’s Little Village area.
“It’s Mexico in Chicago,” said Flores, who added to the existing outdoor dining by tenting a courtyard parking lot to create a colorful, cultural festival environment with plenty of room to spread out and enjoy the music and magic, not to mention the traditional food. When was the last time you saw albondigas zamora or chuletas chilangas (a recipe used by the Aztecs) in your standard Mexican restaurant? “Mi Tierra” translates to “my land,” and Mi Tierra is part Disneyland in the way the property displays culture and fun like an Epcot Center experience.
Another delicious, drivable diversion within the Great Lakes region for fresh air food is Firestone County Club in Akron. The famed PGA Tour at which Tiger Woods won eight times now welcomes overnight visitors seeking to enjoy a country club experience – without the presumed stuffiness. This is especially evident in the menu on the purpose-built patio, a relaxing gazebo natural area serving fried chicken frites, sweet corn succotash, kung pao cauliflower, crunchy cream pie, and Caymus by the glass. Firestone’s 55th Hole bar is a second story, covered veranda with rocking chairs providing a panorama of Firestone’s holes and putting green which is lighted for, as suggested in the movie Caddyshack, “putting at night.”