Alfresco Ambiance (And darn good food, too!)

Story by: Janice Shay

Photography by: Hadley Henry

Spring is a fleeting, fragile season in the South—all the more reason that we love it so. We barely have time to enjoy living with open windows (gasp—what a concept!) before the heat of summer is upon us again. When the air is warm with the promise of flowers (and fewer clothes), what better place is there to enjoy the sun than dining at an outdoor table with a view? South offers our picks of the best spots to dine al fresco, plus eight outdoor bars that offer the best sun and suds of the season. BELFORD’S SAVANNAH SEAFOOD & STEAKS Not strictly outdoor dining (there is a roof), Belford’s was nonetheless one of the first restaurants to offer outdoor tables for diners’ enjoyment. The historic building was constructed in 1902 and features arched windows and an exposed-brick style that serves to remind diners of times past. The covered front section of the restaurant is fenced off from the foot traffic that surrounds it but open to all the elements and energy of City Market. Tourist traffic is heavy in City Market, so stake out your table early. Belford’s restaurant is popular for its excellent shrimp, greens, grits and their Sunday brunch menu, but you will find great food at this quintessential Savannah eatery any day of the week. If you prefer steak to seafood, Belford’s offers excellent rib-eye, filet mignon and petite filet mignon; or if you prefer to lighten up for the warm months, opt for the black and blue steak salad. Don’t forget dessert—try the popular white chocolate cheesecake, classic creme brulee or the fried-banana cheesecake. CITY MARKET, 315 W. ST. JULIAN STREET, SAVANNAH, GA; BELFORDSSAVANNAH.COM LEOCI’S TRATTORIA When Roberto Leoci first opened in the tiny space that was a former barbecue spot, we were impressed with the Italian food. But when Roberto expanded by adding a deck on the back, available through the lane, we were overjoyed. Partially tented but open to the air—with twinkling lights, a large abstract painting on an adjoining wall, huge fans for hot days and space heaters for the cold—Leoci’s deck is the closest thing I can imagine to enjoying a picnic at a circus. This picnic, however, will linger, as most Italian meals do, through plates of some of the best Italian food in the South. Lively and bright at lunch and romantic and fun in the evening, this outdoor hideaway is a gem. Reservations are suggested. 606 ABERCORN STREET, SAVANNAH, GA; LEOCIS.COM