This probably wasn’t how Patrick McIver imagined celebrating the 90th anniversary of Ruth’s Diner.
To meet Utah’s COVID-19 guidelines, the general manager of the popular Emigration Canyon restaurant reduced the number of tables on the famed patio in half. He then eliminated the back waiting area to make room for live music. Now he’s looking to invest in snow-proof bubble tents so he can keep the patio open in winter.
Yet, despite all the changes and fewer patrons filling the space, McIver said the patio remains enchanting.
“There’s still times when we slow down and it’s night and the lights are on, I can still feel the magic in the place,” said McIver, who has worked at Ruth’s Diner for 18 years, starting right out of high school to bus tables.
One0Eight co-owner Amy Leininger shared a similar sentiment.
Although the coronavirus pandemic ushered in an era of social distancing, Leininger said the view from her Salt Lake City bistro’s patio provides her with a sense of community.
“The neighborhood’s very walkable,” she said, “and so people are always walking their dogs, they’re walking their children, they’re out for a stroll. ... It’s just a great little community.”
Ruth’s Diner and One0Eight are among dozens of area restaurants with patios — the safest option for diners right now, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Indoor spaces with less ventilation increase the risk of spreading the coronavirus.
Restaurants must follow the same COVID-19 health guidelines for both indoor and outdoor spaces, such as spacing tables so they are at least 6 feet apart, requiring patrons to wear face masks until seated and limiting groups to no more than 10 people.
Our list of seven Salt Lake City patios tells you which ones are the most spacious and allow the business owners to really go the distance to spread tables beyond what is required under state guidelines.
No matter which one you choose — the new Chinese-Vietnamese bistro, the dog-friendly brewery or the fine-dining favorite — remember that outdoor seating is in high demand. Patrons should visit early or make a reservation.
This patio is a perennial favorite, and for good reason. The Italian restaurant’s outdoor dining space features a bubbling lion head fountain, myriad flowering and nonflowering plants, and a canopy for shade.
The landscaping sets apart Caffe Molise’s patio from other downtown establishments.
“There’s quite a bit of lush vegetation, and it just has a nice outdoor feeling,” owner Fred Moesinger said. “You’re actually sitting in an environment that was designed to have outdoor dining.”
It also is large enough that Moesinger was able to ensure plenty of space between each table. Between the main patio and the deck on the second-story balcony, 15 to 20 tables are available.
Caffe Molise • 404 S. West Temple; caffemolise.com, 801-364–8833; 5-9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 5-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday.
Tucked into Mill Creek Canyon, Log Haven’s patio stands out for its winding drive, scenic views, mountain air and woodland acoustics.
“The best feature is just the all-in-all ambience with the waterfall flowing right down to the patio, the view of the mountains across the street, all the foliage,” said Ian Campbell, co-owner and general manager. “It’s just idyllic.”
The natural beauty is complemented by a menu focused on seasonal ingredients like the garden gin and tonic with cucumber and basil or the grilled bison steak with sweet potato orzo, roasted poblanos and queso fresco.
With 11 tables on the main patio, which features a retractable canopy and heat lanterns, Campbell recommends diners arrive before 6 p.m. or make reservations to guarantee a spot outside. After 7:30 p.m. might actually be the best time — soon night will fall, the string lights will start to glow against the log cabin and the forest will come alive.
Log Haven • 6451 Millcreek Canyon Road; log-haven.com, 801-272-8255; 5:30-9 p.m. daily.
The One0Eight patio, which wraps around the American bistro, exudes sophistication, from the decor to the landscaping. No matter where you sit, you’re surrounded by trees, shrubs and other greenery.
“It’s like sitting in a little garden,” co-owner Leininger said. The bifold doors, however, might be the best feature — and not just for patio diners.
“You’re still very connected to the inside of the restaurant, even when you are sitting on the patio. You can hear the kitchen noises because we have an open kitchen,” Leininger said, adding that music also flows between the two spaces.
That music includes live jazz performances by the John Flanders Trio every other Sunday during brunch.
If you’re looking for a good time to visit, Leininger recommends 7:30 to 8 p.m., when a light breeze often kicks up. About 22 tables, spaced 7 to 8 feet apart, are available and in high demand.
One0Eight • 1709 E. 1300 South; one-0-eight.com, 801-906-8101; 5-9 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday. Brunch restarts Saturday, Aug. 8; hours will be 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday-Sunday.
Red Lotus Bistro
Red Lotus Bistro opened about three months ago — just as the pandemic kicked into high gear — so the patio at the Chinese and Vietnamese restaurant has always been set up to social distance. Luckily, there’s plenty of room to spread out and enjoy the charbroiled pork vermicelli noodle salad and a kumquat ginger basil seed refresher.
“People feel a lot safer outside than inside,” said manager Anthony Chung, who noted that he hopes to soon add live music to the patio. “It’s more calming to eat out there.”
Diners also will appreciate the canopy, a few planters filled with flowers, and dedicated parking lot, often hard to come by downtown. With only nine tables, all patio seating is first-come, first-served with the exception of large parties.
Red Lotus • 329 S. State St.; redlotusbistro.com, 801-363-1977; 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Monday-Friday, 1-9:30 p.m. Saturday.
Although the vintage Salt Lake City trolley car is the showpiece of Ruth’s Diner, the patio is the heartbeat of the Emigration Canyon restaurant, offering the best seats.
“You get mountain views with a beautiful box elder tree, string lights,” said Patrick McIver, general manager. “The live music, of course, helps, and each musician brings a different atmosphere.”
Between the centerpiece maple and other trees, a leafy canopy provides shade over much of the patio, and umbrellas do the rest of the work. McIver strategically placed 19 tables so the diner could continue its live music nights (starting at 7 p.m.). As always, seating is first-come, first-served.
The short but scenic drive is worth it. So is the pulled pork Benedict, with poached eggs on green chile cheese cornbread and hollandaise.
Ruth’s Diner • 4160 Emigration Canyon Road; ruthsdiner.com, 801-582-5807; 8 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 8 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday. Breakfast is served daily until 4 p.m.
On a 100-degree day in the middle of Sugar House, the Tea Zaanti patio can feel like an oasis, especially with a cup of iced tea in hand. Umbrellas lend each table some cover until 3 p.m., when the patio starts to receive a good bit of shade.
Owner Scott Lyttle said he and his wife had desired to create a comfortable, family-friendly space where they can foster community.
“The experience we’re trying to create is one that we’re always looking for,” he said. “It’s just kind of sit down and relax and have a good conversation with somebody.”
There is a variety of tea and wine — but it’s not a full-service restaurant, he added. “It’s kind of just a casual spot to catch up with a friend or family member.”
The lower patio has five tables, leaving plenty of space to comfortably socially distance — and enjoy a blueberry matcha iced tea. Limited seating is available on the porch and grotto.
Tea Zaanti • 1944 S. 1100 East; teazaanti.com, 801-906-8132; 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday-Wednesday, 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, and 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday.
If you’re less interested in eating and more interested in imbibing, T.F. Brewing’s patio might be the place for you. The pebble-studded patio has about 10 tables with benches and Adirondack/other wooden chairs, as well as two barrels that double as fire pits, where people can huddle or pull up chairs.
“It’s a massive patio with the ability to spread out and feel safe,” general manager Brittany Watts wrote in an email. “We have shade, speakers. ... It’s more of a feeling that comes over you when you head out there; it’s relaxing, clean, and you truly feel like you are in the Templin family’s backyard.”
Building off that vibe, patrons can bring their own food, order some from a visiting food truck or have it delivered to the taproom, which serves mixed nuts and pretzels from Vosen’s Bread Paradise.
Leashed dogs also are welcome. Seating is first-come, first-served.
T.F. Brewing • 936 S. 300 West; tfbrewing.com, 385-270-5972; noon-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, noon to midnight Friday-Saturday, and noon-9 p.m. Sunday. Food trucks most Fridays and Saturdays.