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North Hills Monthly

All About Al Fresco: Summer Brings Delightful Outdoor Dining Options

Jul 01, 2017 10:22PM ● By Jennifer Monahan

Outdoor patio at Hotel Saxonburg

Dining in the open air is one of the highlights of summer. Happily, a number of North Hills’ restaurants have outdoor seating for when the weather gets balmy, and it’s too beautiful to stay indoors.

Aviva Brick Oven in Wexford has a highly successful take-out, delivery and catering side, but for dine-in patrons, summer is a great time to enjoy a meal on the outdoor patio. The area seats around 40 people and is open for lunch and dinner seven days a week, although the space is periodically closed for private parties.

Owner Jay Sebes said some of Aviva’s most popular summer offerings include its house-made sangrias–both red and white are available, and each features loads of fresh fruit. A creative summer cocktail list contains martinis such as lemon-basil, cranberry-pear and coconut-limoncello, and Aviva boasts a number of specialty craft beers on tap. On the antipasti menu, a seasonal caprese concocted from heirloom tomatoes, fresh basil and house-made mozzarella is a must-try item. Check out the full menu at

With its rustic, covered-deck pavilion—set on seven acres of land just off of Route 19 in Wexford—guests at Frescos are likely to forget that they are dining so near to a bustling suburban business area. The outdoor space is nestled among the woods and features paddle fans, party lights, an adjoining bar and a wonderful old oak tree, said Susan Sansale, owner.

Frescos hosts live music from 7-10 p.m. on Fridays and 6–9 p.m. on Saturdays throughout the summer. Popular local performers Pete Hewlett and Scott Anderson are performing their acoustic sets on July 14 and 21, and jazz musician Erin Burkett will perform July 29. First-time visitors should be sure to try the black-cherry barbecue ribs or one of the restaurant’s delectable salads. The golden-beet salad with mixed greens, marinated berries and almond-crusted goat cheese is a summer favorite. Frescos’ house-made sangria and its watermelon martini with fresh, pureed watermelon are other highlights of the seasonal menu. Find details and directions at

Judy Ferree, owner and general manager of the Hotel Saxonburg, saw the potential in a vacant lot next to her historic inn and restaurant. She purchased the space and transformed a weedy lot full of poison ivy into an elegant, casual outdoor dining space that has delighted patrons since Ferree completed the renovation in 2014.

The outdoor patio boasts 15 tables and features live music on Friday evenings throughout the summer. Favorite menu items include fresh seafood and steaks, and Ferree said Hotel Saxonburg’s executive chef sometimes grills out on the patio. The restaurant’s seafood boils in August are another big draw and the kids’ menu has a variety of meal options for $8 each. Ferree described the atmosphere as “quaint, casual and just peaceful,” with a large oak tree in the center of the patio and reclaimed gas lamps lighting the area. Whether guests are in the mood for a romantic evening for two or bringing the kids for burgers and some quality family time, Hotel Saxonburg’s outdoor dining experience is a summer treat that should not be missed. Find out more at

Off the Hook is known for having some of the freshest seafood around, sourcing its daily deliveries from the East and West Coasts as well as Hawaii. With retractable doors and windows and three fireplaces, its outdoor covered patio is accessible year-round. During the summer, the open-air patio is the perfect place to enjoy oysters on the half shell and a chilled glass of Sauvignon Blanc, according to co-owner Glenn Hawley. 

The patio is open for lunch, happy hour and dinner, and is located directly off the main oyster bar area of the restaurant. One new menu item that Hawley is excited about for the summer is grilled oysters. Off the Hook features eight to 10 oyster varieties daily, which pair nicely with one of its 32 premium wines. Seasonal summer cocktails include the Raspberry Rose Fizz (Tanqueray, lemon and raspberry sauce are the key ingredients) and a new Weekend Getaway Collins that highlights Boyd & Blair vodka, pineapple juice, lemon and fresh basil. Be sure to arrive early for patio seating. While guests can make reservations for seating in the main restaurant, the patio and bar are first-come, first-serve and fill quickly at happy hour. Check out for details.

OTB Bicycle Café has two locations, both with fantastic food and a fun vibe. While the South Side space is geared more toward the hipster crowd, the venue at the Boathouse in North Park is family-friendly and makes a perfect destination for hungry guests after a day of kayaking, biking or playing at the park. OTB’s spacious outdoor patio offers ample seating and sits adjacent to the lake, offering a lovely view and unique dining experience.

While known for its burgers, OTB has a number of tempting vegetarian items on the menu. Kids’ meals are served on a take-home Frisbee™ that kids are sure to love. North Park House Manager Kristie Wharrey recommended people try the Sunday evening Sunset Happy Hour from 7–9 p.m., where guests can sample local eats, brews and spirits such as Cop Out pierogies and Boyd & Blair Potato Vodka. The North Park location also offers daily breakfast during the summer. What better way to start the morning than celebrating the most important meal of the day next to a peaceful lake with OTB’s signature Bloody Marys and breakfast tacos? Find out more at