Patio heaven

As summer draws into fall I am especially appreciative of a growing commodity in Winona, and the thing I might miss the most once the snow flies: outdoor patios.

I swear, it used to be that if you wanted to eat or have a drink outside in Winona you had to sit on your car in the parking lot. It might have been that the city was stingy with permits, or it might have been that restaurant and bar owners were leery about sinking money into square footage that would only get used for half the year, or maybe it was a little bit of both. But for a long, long time in Winona we were relegated to the great indoors when we wanted to get out in public.

But no longer , and I am oh so thrilled to take you on a little walking tour of my favorite patios in Winona:

Green Mill – perhaps the grandfather of outdoor restaurant dining in Winona – offers a lovely view of Sugar Loaf and sunsets on its pretty wrap-around porch. Good food, great wine list, interesting people watching – this place hits the spot more often than not for me.

Signatures – those not golfing at the Bridges might forget that on the back side of this historic restaurant is a breathtakingly beautiful patio that offers about the best views one can get in Winona. With flower beds, expansive views, sunsets and a killer wine list, it is quite possibly Winona’s best-kept secret on the patio tour.

Mangos – my new favorite patio when I want to nosh on something interesting in a festive, friendly place. The people are sweet, the food is great, and it’s hard to beat watching the sun set with a big fat margarita in your hand.

Minnesota Marine Art Museum – kind of like Brigadoon, this lively patio for drinks and a bite to eat only appears on Tuesdays throughout the summer and into September, but this is a stop on the tour worth working your schedule around for. The riverwalk is always available for a contemplative stroll along the banks of the Mississippi, but each Tuesday it springs to life during happy hour, and when it does there isn’t a better spot to get outdoors in Winona.

Jefferson Pub and Grill – a standing ovation for the patio addition at Jefferson’s which is now an awesome outdoor spot for a bite to eat before a movie or after a stroll through Levy Park. And the walleye sandwich is to die for.

Lakeview Drive Inn – of course. Across the street from Lake Park, Lakeview is a fun spot for a burger and an ice cream treat. And while you can eat in your car with the help of a good, old fashioned carhop, they also have some tables if you’d rather just sit outside.

Ed’s [no name] Bar – no secret that’s about my favorite place to see and be seen in Winona, but maybe a little more of a secret that they have a nice, big outdoor space attached where you may even find a fire burning in the outdoor fireplace. And the wine special on Wednesday nights is the best deal you will find in Winona, anywhere, ever.

The outdoor patio walking tour would not be complete without mentioning some of the quicker-fare options like Culvers, Godfathers, Schniepps, even Westgate Bowl has a couple of tables outside.There might be others, and if I’ve missed you I’ll find you, because I’m a junkie for sitting outside on these gorgeous days.

And for the record, I don’t really think you should try this as a walking tour, per say, unless you’ve got all day, because this tour stretches from one end of Winona to the other. But when you’re ready to get outside, no matter where you are in this great river metropolis, there is somewhere to sit yourself down and enjoy the view.

A view from the riverwalk at the Minnesota Marine Art Museum

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