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Imagine dining on a terrace with a view of a relaxing sunset. People are walking, sailing, or biking along a shimmering lake. The air is fresh and liberating.

Or perhaps a large deck surrounded by mature live oak trees that rustle in the wind. The restaurant is within the city limits, but the peaceful setting allows guests to feel like they are in a more secluded vacation setting.

Outdoor dining is “in” now more than ever. The pleasant weather and large open spaces in the Upper East Side of Texas offer many opportunities for optimal outdoor dining experiences.

Read on to find a few samples of how the region’s restaurateurs are creating exquisite dining experiences by pairing their cuisine with the natural beauty of the outdoors.

Rustic Ranch

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Triple N Ranch & Winery in Trinidad, Texas, offers an inviting outdoor ambiance near Cedar Creek Lake. Proprietor Michelle Anderson transformed the ranch’s barn into a wine tasting gallery with large-covered patios that accommodate up to 60 chairs on each side.

Weekend dinner service includes wine tastings with bruschetta, charcuterie, pizza, or salads. The venue also hosts special dinners, meetings, seasonal classes and events, and community fundraisers.

Grazing nearby are the ranch’s longhorn steer, visible from the barn and outdoor dining areas. Anderson says she often brings them up to the fence to greet guests.

The barn’s upstairs room — primarily for wine club members — features oversized doors that open to allow fresh air to flow through.

Additional outdoor seating on the large lawn, including picnic tables, allows the ranch to accommodate up to 200 guests. The ranch offers open-air concerts, lawn games, and three outdoor fire pits.

This spring, the ranch is offering tribute concerts covering the music of country artists, the Eagles, Frank Sinatra, and Christian contemporary artists. During concerts, guests are welcome to move tables and chairs out on the lawn for improved social distancing.

Triple N Ranch is located at 5220 Key Ranch Road in Trinidad. Reservations are required. Call (361) 867-9463 or visit www.triplenranchwinery.com.

Lakeside Sunset

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Gloria’s Latin Cuisine features authentic Salvadoran and inspired Tex-Mex dishes at 22 Texas locations. Outdoor dining is popular on warm weather days at the restaurant’s locations in Rockwall and McKinney.

Gloria’s Rockwall location sits on a terrace above Lake Ray Hubbard — a popular dining destination on warm weather days.

“Our Gloria’s Latin Cuisine location in Rockwall is very popular when it comes to outdoor dining, especially at sunset overlooking the lake,” says Brian Penrod, Gloria’s marketing director.

Just yards away from the lake, Gloria’s is also a popular destination for boaters. On warm spring and summer days some boaters dock nearby, pick up their orders, and enjoy dining privately on the lake.

Gloria’s McKinney location opened in 2020 as the chain’s first free-standing restaurant, featuring a large covered patio with several tables. The restaurant also ensures safety by providing contactless menus, which diners access by scanning a code with their smartphones.

Other safe dining options at Gloria’s include curbside service and DoorDash delivery. For information about Gloria’s Rockwall location, call (972) 772-4088. Contact Gloria’s in McKinney at (469) 631-0484 or visit www.gloriascuisine.com.

Wooded Retreat

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Al fresco — or fresh air dining — has been growing in popularity at restaurants like Switch-Brick Oven Pizza & Wine Bar in Palestine, Texas, which takes pride in offering the region’s best brick-fired pizza.

Proprietors Carmen and Regina Santone had outdoor dining in mind when they purchased the former hilltop church surrounded by mature oak trees.

The first outdoor addition — an 800 square-foot deck — was just the beginning. They eventually added a roof to shelter the deck and more recently, an overhead natural gas heater and full-length curtains to provide warmth on cooler days.

Patrons enjoy dining on the deck among the ancient oaks, where they can escape from the bustle of town.

Indoor areas at Switch also provide a connection to the outdoors. The Santones installed large barn doors that open to the outside and large floor-to-ceiling windows that allow guests to view the restaurant’s natural setting.

For information about Switch, call (903) 729-7700 or visit online at www.switchbrickovenpizza.com.

Brick Street Vibe

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Kitchens Hardware & Deli in Mineola, Texas, is a favorite local hangout at 119 East Broad Street, just two blocks from the Amtrak line where the Texas Eagle passenger train passes every day.

Kitchens receives many five-star reviews for its great American food and charming historic atmosphere. It also has a brick patio perfect for outdoor dining with six large tables with enough room to spread out.

Outdoor plants and a large trellis add greenery, scenery, and some shade to the patio. The plants also help reduce noise coming from the town’s main intersection. The patio offers a relaxed setting on warm days for a leisurely weekend brunch with family or outdoor dining with friends.

Gustavo Arango praises Kitchens’ menu variety and its environment on Facebook, calling it “a great environment that makes you feel like [you’re at] home.”

Open seven days a week for breakfast and lunch and Monday through Saturday for dinner, guests can enjoy the outdoors at Kitchens nearly any time of day. For information, call (903) 569-2664.

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