Atlanta patio picks: Treat yourself to alfresco elegance

Among the offerings from Willow Bar at Kimpton Sylvan Hotel are, clockwise from top left: the Cypress G&T, Willow cocktail, charred cauliflower and cucumber avocado,  beets and feta, and hummus. CHRIS HUNT FOR THE AJC
Among the offerings from Willow Bar at Kimpton Sylvan Hotel are, clockwise from top left: the Cypress G&T, Willow cocktail, charred cauliflower and cucumber avocado, beets and feta, and hummus. CHRIS HUNT FOR THE AJC

Credit: Chris Hunt

Credit: Chris Hunt

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s dining team has been ordering takeout, rather than eating on-premises, during the pandemic. Now that COVID-19 vaccines are available readily and virus cases have decreased dramatically, the AJC’s dining critics are resuming in-person visits, marked by today’s launch of a weekly Patio Pick series. We’ll share our experiences dining on metro Atlanta restaurant patios online each Thursday, and in the print edition of the Friday Go Guide.

The Chastain, overlooking Chastain Park, is a counter-service cafe by day and new American bistro by night. Ligaya Figueras/ligaya.figueras@ajc.com
The Chastain, overlooking Chastain Park, is a counter-service cafe by day and new American bistro by night. Ligaya Figueras/ligaya.figueras@ajc.com

Credit: Ligaya Figueras

Credit: Ligaya Figueras

The Chastain

Jealousy hit me when I first set foot on the Chastain’s gorgeous stone patio in January. I’d been hunkering down at home for months, all the while pining for a real night out, instead of one more takeout meal.

As I walked by smiling, happy people sitting around a fire pit and sipping fine wine out of fancy stemware, I hated them all. I hated them for their dresses and sports coats, heeled shoes and makeup — heck, for showering. I hated them, because I wanted to dine under stars and twinkling lights, too.

Four long months passed before a vaccination made it possible to plant my pandemic-softened butt on one of the most beautiful additions to Atlanta’s alfresco dining scene.

Since opening in November, in the former Horseradish Grill space, the Chastain has drawn crowds hungry for the creations of a highly talented culinary team led by chef-owner Christopher Grossman.

The Chastain is a counter-service cafe by day and New American bistro by night. Evenings — especially weekends — bring brisk business. However, mornings (particularly 7-10 a.m.) are calmer, with neighbors catching up while remote workers nurse coffee as they peck away on laptops.

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The Chastain makes all of its breads in-house, including English muffins for savory ham, egg and cheese sandwiches. Courtesy of Hannah Michelle Photography
The Chastain makes all of its breads in-house, including English muffins for savory ham, egg and cheese sandwiches. Courtesy of Hannah Michelle Photography

Credit: Hannah Michelle Photography

Credit: Hannah Michelle Photography

The foliage-heavy setting is only half the daytime draw. The food is the other, thanks largely to pastry chef Christian Castillo. He and his team are baking crazy-good morning eats that range from croissants (go on a Friday to try the strawberry flavor) to quiche, with a caramelized onion and Gruyere filling that holds just the right weeble-wobble consistency.

Breads made with local DaySpring Farms organic flour deliver terrific flavor and whole grain goodness: baguettes, sourdough toast piled with sweet or savory toppings, sandwiches of both the biscuit and English muffin variety.

Weekends bring a brief to-go lunch menu (think: a burger, pesto chicken salad on house-made focaccia, a couple of salads), but more extensive midday offerings are in the works.

20 Powers Ferry Road, Atlanta; 404-257-6416, thechastainatl.com.

Ligaya Figueras

Friends Lindsay Sport (left) and Debbi Downs toast on the patio at Delbar in Inman Park. (Chris Hunt for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Friends Lindsay Sport (left) and Debbi Downs toast on the patio at Delbar in Inman Park. (Chris Hunt for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Chris Hunt

Credit: Chris Hunt

Delbar

For his first restaurant, Fares Kargar summoned memories of his grandmother’s village in Iran. Now, when diners ensconce themselves on Delbar’s flowing patio, which unfolds like a set of outdoor rooms, they may nibble their repast in an evocative space decorated with potted trees and sun-bleached walls.

Yes, Persia has come to Inman Park.

Kargar, who planned to study architecture before he fell in love with hospitality, seems to have invested as much thought in the design of his restaurant as he did in his menu.

While the bar is the beating heart of most restaurants, at Delbar, it’s the backbone. Cleverly, Kargar has opened up one wall of the main room to create a glass-covered, greenhouse-like sunroom, where diners can enjoy access to both the lively bar and the breezy patio — while shielded from the elements.

Delbar offers Persian delights, including, clockwise from top: herb cheese and bread, stuffed trout, hummus with lamb and za'taar (center), koobideh and grilled veggies. Chris Hunt for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Delbar offers Persian delights, including, clockwise from top: herb cheese and bread, stuffed trout, hummus with lamb and za'taar (center), koobideh and grilled veggies. Chris Hunt for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Chris Hunt

Credit: Chris Hunt

After a year, Delbar has settled comfortably into itself, with a relaxed, confident staff and a fairly sure-footed kitchen.

We ordered drinks (I’m partial to the El Diablo, a refreshing cocktail of mezcal, pomegranate, lime and ginger); folded complimentary flatbread around salty white cheese, walnuts and herbs; and grazed on a bowl of hummus with lamb and za’atar.

We liked the classic koobideh kabobs; a fluffy basmati rice dish with raisins and fried onions (but no tahdig to speak of); and a platter of spice-rubbed grilled veggies. But, it was the trout — flaky, tender and stuffed with aromatic herbs and pomegranate — that transported us to another place and time, just as Kargar intended when he dreamed up the place.

870 Inman Village Parkway, Atlanta; 404-500-1444, delbaratl.com.

— Wendell Brock

Banshee in East Atlanta Village has a covered patio with a full bar, plus additional seating on the deck. Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Banshee in East Atlanta Village has a covered patio with a full bar, plus additional seating on the deck. Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Wendell Brock

Credit: Wendell Brock

Banshee

This deliciously quirky restaurant made a splash the minute it arrived in 2018. Diners were turned on by Executive Chef Nolan Wynn’s intuitive way with pasta and seasonal produce; the edgy cocktail list (Stately Hag, Blackest Heart); and the sheer novelty of unfussy fine dining in the historically hipster haven of East Atlanta Village.

Last winter, borderline-Gothic Banshee decided to let some light in: It converted a bare-bones wooden deck into a gracious and inviting open-air room, with hardwood floors, a full bar and table service. Alas, COVID-19 had other plans. The spiffy new space lasted a week.

A year later, Banshee has pushed the restart button, making good and proper use of its breezy, wrap-around wing. At one end, it has added a lunchtime weenie wagon, where you may try traditional New York- and Chicago-style links, or one of Wynn’s more cheffy creations. (How about a dog with duck-egg pimento cheese and sweet pepper jelly?)

This strawberry salad (with cucumber, fennel and yogurt) is a highlight of the spring menu at Banshee. Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
This strawberry salad (with cucumber, fennel and yogurt) is a highlight of the spring menu at Banshee. Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Wendell Brock

Credit: Wendell Brock

Evening is a good time to catch Wynn in spring mode. Big-ups to the strawberry salad with fennel, cucumber and a drizzle of yogurt; rich black-garlic fettuccine with rabbit ragu; and — my fave — gently prickly Szechuan noodles with broccoli, radish and peanuts.

If you like, you may request a contactless experience. The staff is happy to put dishes on the bar, for you to fetch. Said Wynn: “We will cater to your comfort levels.”

1271 Glenwood Ave. SE, Atlanta; 470-428-2034, banshee-atl.com

— Wendell Brock

Charred cauliflower and cucumber is among the plant-forward, shareable plates on the menu at the Willow Bar at the Kimpton Sylvan Hotel in Buckhead. Courtesy of Andrew Thomas Lee
Charred cauliflower and cucumber is among the plant-forward, shareable plates on the menu at the Willow Bar at the Kimpton Sylvan Hotel in Buckhead. Courtesy of Andrew Thomas Lee

Credit: Andrew Thomas Lee

Credit: Andrew Thomas Lee

Willow Bar at the Kimpton Sylvan Hotel

Upscale bar-restaurant the Betty and rooftop bar St. Julep offer boisterous fun at the new Kimpton Sylvan Hotel in Buckhead. For a more subdued affair, head out back to the Willow Bar.

Meander past the rows of tables under a retractable roof to a gravel pathway that winds around clusters of patio chairs and soft lounge seating. Surrounded by lush foliage and string lights — and with plenty of distance from your neighbors — this secluded garden is an excellent spot for an intimate date night or meet-up with pals you haven’t seen since pre-pandemic days.

A brief menu designed by Executive Chef Brandon Chavannes is intended for sharing: finger nibbles, such as olives and nuts, oysters on the half shell, a cheese and charcuterie plate, and even a chef’s picnic basket of fried chicken, rounded out with plenty of fixin’s. The handful of dishes in the Flora section feature creative, plant-forward plates, like red-hued beet and feta hummus with pistachio dukkah, served with toasted pita points, and an unexpected combination of charred warm cauliflower and cooling cucumber.

The wine and craft beer options are a welcome upgrade from the stuff you’ve been buying from the grocery store this past year, but, if you haven’t had a properly mixed cocktail in ages, treat yourself. The Cypress G&T, made with pink-tinged grapefruit- and lemon-infused Malfy Gin Rosa, is a fine summertime match for the floral setting.

374 E. Paces Ferry Road NE, Atlanta; 470-531-8904, thesylvanhotel.com.

— Ligaya Figueras

The open-air Willow Bar at the Kimpton Sylvan Hotel features a winding gravel path through soft seating choices underneath a canopy of old oak and palm trees. Chris Hunt for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
The open-air Willow Bar at the Kimpton Sylvan Hotel features a winding gravel path through soft seating choices underneath a canopy of old oak and palm trees. Chris Hunt for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Chris Hunt

Credit: Chris Hunt

OTHER PATIOS YOU MIGHT KEEP IN MIND

A mano. Plopped down in the middle of a residential area in the Old Fourth Ward, this lovely Italian spot captivated its homebound neighbors by adding an outdoor bar, tables and tents during the pandemic. Even before that, the walled courtyard was a sought-after romantic hideaway. 587 Ralph McGill Blvd., Atlanta; 404-549-7727, amanoatl.com.

The Curious Pig. The expansive front lawn has undergone a massive upgrade that includes additional tables, fire pits with lounge seating, an outdoor bar and more — with elbow room galore. 114 Huddleston Road, Peachtree City; 678-545-6327, thecuriouspigptc.com.

DAS BBQ. The new Grant Park outpost of this terrific restaurant has some very welcoming outdoor spaces, and a screened-in porch vibe, with close-up views of the smokers, named Cledus, Smokey and Bandit. The pork barbecue sandwiches are jumbo, the creamed corn mandatory. 350 Memorial Drive SE, Atlanta; 404-850-7373, dasbbq.com.

Lake & Oak. Enjoy the relaxed vibe on the patio at this neighborhood barbecue joint run by chefs Todd Richards and Josh Lee. A waist-level wall around the perimeter keeps diners safe from busy road traffic. 2358 Hosea L. Williams Drive NE, Atlanta; 404-205-5913, lakeandoakbbq.com.

Osteria Mattone. The beautiful stone patio at this Italian fine-dining destination in the heart of historic Roswell is in high demand. Those in the know reserve a spot in the pandemic-birthed Oak Room — three tables on the lawn under the shade of an oak tree, complete with fancy dining room rugs. 1095 Canton St., Roswell; 678-878-3378, osteriamattone.com.

Wrecking Bar Brewpub. Patrons of this Little Five Points landmark always have savored the ambiance: a basement bar in an old mansion. But, times have changed, and the pub has added alfresco seating under its canopy of trees, a swell spot for beer and bites. 292 Moreland Ave. NE, Atlanta; 404-221-2600, wreckingbarbrewpub.com.

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