“We were so surprised. We have a tent and a partially covered patio, so that helped. We had four events yesterday and only one moved inside because of the heat. Lots of frozen slushies were had,” she says.
In the Back Bay, Saltie Girl owner Kathy Sidell tells a similar story about her sprawling patio.
“Crazy how many people actually sit out there. The arbor of umbrellas help,” she says.
At Watertown’s Buttermilk & Bourbon, which has a covered patio, owner Jason Santos reports that business has been brisk.
“The patios were packed all weekend and not sure why,” he says. “It was miserable out. On Saturday, our patio was full before the inside was.”
Jamie Bissonnette, who runs the new Faccia Brutta on Newbury Street, as well as Coppa and Toro in the South End, says outdoor diners remain committed regardless of the weather.
“Outdoor diners really want to stay outside,” he says.
And restaurateurs strive to accommodate those needs, even if it means sweaty servers.
“The most challenging part of a heat wave is for the staff to stay cool. Someone has to stand outside in 100-degree heat,” says Alcove’s Tom Schlesinger-Guidelli, who notes that many guests plan their outdoor reservations after dark, when it’s hopefully cooler.
The news isn’t sunny everywhere. Robert Harris runs Cambridge’s cabana-festooned Season to Taste. Despite the relative comfort of those cabanas, he shut down his kitchen last Thursday once temperatures climbed to about 100 degrees.
“The struggle is real … Our kitchen air-conditioning is broken, and it hit 120 degrees in the kitchen,” he says. “I was worried about my staff.”
At Il Capriccio in Waltham, sommelier Jan Novak says only one of her tables opted for al fresco on Saturday, though the 40-seat patio is usually busy whenever temps hover below 80. And Will Gilson, who runs several Cambridge restaurants, says patio business has been down around 50 percent during the heat wave. At the Back Bay’s Uni, chef David Barzigan puts it bluntly: “No one eats outside in the heat.” (He will accommodate those who choose to, though, unless it’s pouring.)
Chris Parsons runs Lily P’s in Cambridge, where the patio gets shade from 11 a.m. on, as well as a slight breeze from the Charles. There are also fun distractions like corn hole and, as of this week, a beer garden menu. All well and good, and yet: “When it’s 95, it’s 95,” he says. “Folks have been moving inside for sure.”
What about COVID?
“There are still some people not comfortable inside,” says Kate Smith, who runs Newton Centre’s Thistle & Leek. “But most prefer the air conditioning at this point.”
Kara Baskin can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @kcbaskin.