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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Natural Ambience Outdoor Dining Shows Off Naturally Beautiful Settings

In the summer months, eating out means eating outside.

After spending the winter - and spring - cooped up inside, dining al fresco is mandatory this time of year.

Fortunately, this region is flush with restaurants sporting decks, patios, verandas and picnic tables.

As much as I enjoy eating outside, you should be aware that many eateries with outdoor seating use their open-air tables as one big smoking area. In researching this story, I endured the stench of standard smokes, cigars and cigs stuffed with cloves. Yuk.

When choosing your seat, you might want to check the direction the wind is blowing and position yourself accordingly.

That said, here is a list of some of my favorite spots for munching amidst the elements. If nothing on this lineup sounds tempting, swing by any drive-thru window, pick up a burger and head to the nearest park for a picnic.

It’s fun to watch diners arrive by boat at The Cedars in Coeur d’Alene. For cocktails and appetizers, pull up a chair on the dock and drink in the view. (Unfortunately, they don’t do dinners outside.) While there are portable heaters to ward off the evening chill, you should bring a sweater. The wind off the water is cool, even on the warmest days.

Another North Idaho restaurant that sits on the water is only open for the summer season. The Floater, as it’s affectionately known to its legion of loyal regulars, specializes in steaks, prime rib and pasta dishes. They also do a bang-up job with Sunday brunch. The Floating Restaurant is located on Lake Pend Oreille in Hope.

In Coeur d’Alene, The Beachouse has more seats outside than inside. Located on Silver Beach, this gem offers a good combination of classic dishes like steaks and ribs tickled with a sweet-savory huckleberry sauce. Specials show the kitchen’s creative flair. A bonus: if you’re staying at The Coeur d’Alene Resort, you can hop a water taxi to this lakeside venue.

Though the falls slow to a trickle in the summer, Salty’s still has a dandy view of Spokane’s skyline. The restaurant has recently started offering sunset dinner specials between 4 and 5:30, though, I believe the sun is setting about 9 these days. I can’t fathom dinner that early, but if you think of it as a late lunch, you might find you have the deck to yourself.

Just up the river, Clink’s continues to pack diners in customers with its mix of traditional and trendy menu items. The deck bakes in the afternoon, so bring your number 15 sunscreen if you want to do lunch outside. After the sun goes down, this is a great place to hang.

The patio at C.I. Shenanigan’s has expanded over the years to run the entire length of the restaurant. The park-like setting attracts a wide variety of guests - diners clad in cutoffs as well as people spiffed up for special occasions. A small part of the deck is set aside for guests who just want to order drinks. Here’s a tip: be sure and check in with the hostess inside. If you wander out on your own, the servers will send you back in and spoil your big entrance. The best thing about this place: watching the traffic on the Centennial Trail. The worst: the loud Canada geese who seem to demand you share your meal.

The patio at Ripples has a lot of style. I like the wrought iron tables and chairs and the view of the Spokane River (especially if you sit with your back to the Division Street traffic). The menu has recently changed to feature some of the most popular dishes in the Cavanaugh chain’s dining rooms. If there’s nothing that appeals to you foodwise, it’s still a nice place to sip a glass of affordably priced wine and watch the clouds drift by.

It’s hard to find a better view than off the deck at Indian Canyon Golf Course. You don’t have to be a duffer to appreciate the glorious vision of green off the 10th tee with the bluffs of Five Mile in the distant background. Lunch is strictly burgers and sandwiches, so I recommend heading out for a morning meal. The home fries are tasty and the platefilling pancakes are a bargain at $3.25.

Espresso Delizioso has done a laudable job of transforming its tiny courtyard into a tranquil setting with a gurgling fountain, trees shading the tables and a European ambiance. It’s just the spot to savor some of the best chilled soups in Spokane or to indulge in one of the decadent treats from the restaurant’s huge pastry case.

Lindaman’s Cafe North on Monroe also has an inviting courtyard. French doors in the restaurant open onto the stylish setting, where diners might be overwhelmed by the urge to linger over a morning coffee or dawdle over an entree off the ever-changing menu.

At Luna, they’ve added a pretty covered arbor this summer to extend the outdoor eating season. We’re not going to let a few raindrops keep us inside, are we? Despite the road noise from 57th, this is Spokane’s most romantic outdoor venue in the evening. And the food’s not bad, either. During a recent dinner, I marveled at a flavorful duck breast dinner served with a sweet-tart apple salsa and an unlikely combination on a dinner-plate size pizza - black beans and goat cheese topped with a slaw spiked with fresh, pickled ginger. The new summer menu makes its debut this weekend.

The Park Bench at Manito has a fairly short menu with lots of deli items like soups, sandwiches and salads. But the gorgeous surroundings are what makes it special. In the morning, savor Cobblestone Bakery goodies and espresso. The Park Bench is undoubtedly the only restaurant in Spokane to offer doggie biscuits on its menu. There’s also a water bowl available for hot dogs.

O’Doherty’s might not have the largest patios, but it’s certainly one of the most popular. If you can nab a table, order a Black and Tan (Harp Lager atop inky Guinness stout) and a plate of the best French fries in town. Then, vicariously enjoy the goings-on at neighboring Riverfront Park.

Other restaurants that serve food outside include both locations of Luigi’s, Harry O’s Roasted Chicken, Cucina!Cucina!, Hill’s Resort on Priest Lake, Frank’s Diner, Savage House Pizza in the Valley, Makena’s, The Scrapbook in Lincoln Heights (love those tiki torches), The Olive Garden, Rock City, Fugazzi and Romeo’s.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 2 photos

MEMO: Is your favorite spot missing? Call 459-5486 and let me know. Leave your name and phone number if you want your vote to count. If there’s any response, selections will appear in an upcoming Behind the Menu column.

Is your favorite spot missing? Call 459-5486 and let me know. Leave your name and phone number if you want your vote to count. If there’s any response, selections will appear in an upcoming Behind the Menu column.

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