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Boston Chefs Share Their Favorite Outdoor Dining Spots From the Past and Present

Childhood memories and current picks

Sesuit Harbor Cafe
Sesuit Harbor Cafe
Official Site

With Outdoor Dining Week drawing to a close today, we asked local restaurant industry folks to share a thought on outdoor dining — a childhood memory, a current pick for the best place in the Boston area to eat al fresco, or anything in between. Here's what they said.

"My best childhood memories are from Kalmus Park Beach in Hyannis. To me, it was a special family excursion that brings forth beautiful memories. Food, even at the beach, was a communal experience, as each family would bring a dish to be shared with each other and enjoyed picnic-style. Items from the large metal coolers would consist of baked stuffed clams that were pulled from the very same waters the day before, light pasta dishes (yes, pasta on the beach!), sandwiches of Italian salumi, and an impromptu raw bar if the tides were right and providing quahogs, periwinkles, and other tasty sea creatures. Homemade wine would be sipped from covered containers as to not "break the beach rules," and after the meal, the treat would be ice cream from the snack bar. Nothing of extravagance, but for this migrant Italian family, it was everything." —John DeSimone, co-owner of Mast’

"Early on when I started cooking, I was looking for a job. My dad was working in Boston and would pass a restaurant on his way home, located at the corner of Tremont and Clarendon Street. He did not know the name of it but kept talking about it and its patio. I had no idea where it was. I landed a job at Hamersley's Bistro and invited my parents to dinner. That night we figured out that I was working at the very restaurant that my dad was always referencing, the one without the name...The patio that I have enjoyed the most is Coppa's in the South End. I have great memories of drinking negronis and catching up with friends. The only other patio that I've really appreciated was at Hamersley's Bistro, when it was still open. We would sit outside before work started, having coffee, and I knew then that this was the best patio." —Greg Jordan, executive chef of The Quarry in Hingham

“One of my favorite memories as a child is sailing with my father and docking the boat at Lewis Wharf. During the Feasts, we’d always walk over to the North End and spend the day there eating the delicious street fare. It’s an absolute must.” —Kathy Sidell, owner of MET Restaurant Group

“Upstairs on the Pudding was a classic in Harvard Square.” —Jack Bardy, co-owner of Beat Brasserie and The Beehive

"As a young cook, I could rarely get it together to make plans for any holiday weekend because I would always be working late into Saturday night. As a result, I would usually spend my Memorial Day on the patio at Abe & Louie’s instead of traveling somewhere. Martinis that come with a sidecar, stellar clams casino, carving into a thick NY Strip with some of my best friends, and people-watching in the city made for a pretty great alternative. One year in particular we really threw down and capped our Abe & Louie’s experience off with a few hours on the Rattlesnake roof a few doors down on the other side of Boylston. How I remember that day so clearly is a mystery." —Patrick Campbell, chef at Cafe ArtScience

"Tides at Nahant Beach. Three beers, one oyster, one burger, and a nap on the beach. I've written many a-menu there that probably aren't going to get a James Beard award or nod, but it's beautiful to me even during snowstorms. I still receive the customer appreciation newsletters despite moving three times." —Brian Poe, chef/owner of Bukowski Tavern (Cambridge), Poe's Kitchen at the Rattlesnake, and The Tip Tap Room

"Eating on or near a beach has always been my favorite way to dine outdoors. Especially now with a family of my own, we can pack up and bring the dog with us to Nantasket Beach. While we're walking along the beach, we can call in a takeout order from one of the clam shacks across the street, run over and get it, and sit on the wall and eat our fried clams. Pretty much every beach along the coast offers a similar experience, and that's one of the best reasons to live close to the water.” —Patrick Gilmartin, executive chef at River Bar

"One of my favorite outdoor food memories is grilling with my dad on a hibachi while camping out of the back of his Subaru in the White Mountains, circa 1985. Hoping to recreate memories like these with my own sons this summer!" —Matthew Jennings, chef/owner of Townsman

"I love sitting outside at Dante. The view of the Charles, and of Boston from Dante, is killer. The food is light and delicious. It's a dope spot for a bottle or two of rose and some antipasti and pasta. That view is never old." —Jamie Bissonnette, co-owner of Toro, Coppa, and the forthcoming Little Donkey

"I'll never forget my first clambake, in Little Compton, Rhode Island, when I was a pastry chef at Al Forno. We had an amazing spread of fresh-picked corn, tomatoes, potatoes, clams, chorizo, and lobsters right off the beach in Rhode Island. We dug the pit, lit the driftwood, the whole nine yards. And of course, lots of beer!" —Ken Oringer, co-owner of Toro, Coppa, Uni, and the forthcoming Little Donkey

"My summer go-to is Sesuit Harbor Cafe, everyone's favorite secret hidden spot. You can drive, but it's much more fun to motor over, pull your boat up to the dock, and then climb up the ramp to the bank of picnic tables for a perfect Cape Cod lunch or dinner with a great view through the marshes of Buzzard's Bay. Steamers, oysters, lobster rolls, clam chowder...and on and on." —Jody Adams, co-owner of Trade and Saloniki

"Our first stop [for a "picnic" in the North End] is Bricco Panetteria, tucked away in a tiny alley down a narrow set of stairs. We always pick the parmesan and prosciutto baguette and take turns eating the baguette down the busy tourist streets. Our spot is the green picnic tables in front of Paul Revere's House, where we will snack on lobster tails from Mike's or Italian sandwiches from Monica's." —Kelsey McCallan, assistant manager at Catalyst, with her boyfriend Chris Tenore from The Backroom at Moody's

"The Lookout at the Envoy Hotel is a great spot — the views over the harbor and back in the city are amazing. When you're on the rooftop there, it's like you're in a different world, or maybe the margaritas make it seem that way. I love the Rattlesnake, too. They have a great margarita and a great vibe all day long. Also, it was the first bar I went to the first time I moved to Boston. Unpacked the U-Haul and went to meet some friends. I found myself closing the place down on a Sunday night. I had my first day of work the next day...not fun." —Patrick Mitchell, general manager at OAK Long Bar + Kitchen

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