Turn your patio, deck, or any outdoor space into a private restaurant escape with a little atmosphere and an easy menu. Here’s a few tips to help you create your own perfect patio restaurant at home.
Set a Theme
Are you planning to make pasta? Go for an Italian bistro with a simple white tablecloth, bread and olive oil on the table, and plenty of candlelight.
Feeling like barbecue? Gather around the patio picnic table, lay down some newspapers, and put out plenty of sauces for sampling. Give everyone a kitschy bib to wear and, if you have a fire pit, get a fire going to create a smokehouse vibe.
Add a Handmade Menu
You don’t need to make anything fancy. You could even turn the menu design into an art project for the kids. It’s a nice touch that gets everyone a bit more involved at the table. And your menu becomes a little memento of your special restaurant dinner at home together.
What sets restaurant dining apart from most weekday meals, aside from not having to do the dishes, is the purposeful mood they create. Luckily, this is easy to do on a budget. String up patio lights, light a few candles, put out a vase of flowers, set the table in advance—another great job for the kiddos—and have water glasses on the table with a pitcher for refills.
Make a Playlist
Think about your theme and plan your music accordingly. Or ask everyone in the family to add a song or two to the restaurant playlist.
Make a "Reservation" in Advance
Rather than everyone grabbing a seat as soon as the food is ready, set a time in advance for everyone to be seated, even if the meal isn’t quite finished. This might be harder for families, especially with young kids, than for couples, but having a fixed “reservation” makes your meal feel more like an event. Arriving early to the table also gives everyone a chance to enjoy each other’s company before eating.