Rox City Grill
Wine with Dinner
My love for eating in the out-of-doors likely
started when I was barely old enough to remember. It seemed as
if we were always going on a family picnic, or sitting at the back yard picnic
table enjoying a light snack with neighbors... at least in the months warm
enough to do those things. And, as I have gotten older, I have been
fortunate enough to have sampled the patio offerings in numerous locations
around the country and, no matter the state, venue or menu, there is just
something about that outdoor meal that is irresistible. Living in the
Midwest does have its perks... and its drawbacks, too (read: the weather!).
So outdoor dining is necessarily limited to the warmer months.
OK... so March this year was historically the
warmest March on record, and now April feels like we're back in February.
(My mother always told me that "spring is never officially here
until the mellow breezes of May are
blowing...") And it looks like she was right again, because the
forecast -- at least according to Intellicast.com -- doesn't even show
another 70-degree day until the end of April! But hey, we're almost there.
So it is definitely time to give outdoor dining another look. Why?
Because the Fox Valley offers an incredibly diverse set of opportunities for
I'm not certain when or where the first
outdoor dining became available in the Fox Valley; my first recollection though,
goes back to about 1974. I was working at the Mill Race Inn in Geneva and
then managers Bobbi and Tim Mooney got an idea to set up an outdoor "bar"
(really no more than a table, glasses and a few basic brands of alcohol and
mixes) so I could serve the overflow crowd during a Mother's Day brunch on what
was to be a warm spring day. It was hugely successful, and eventually led
to Tim's vision to create the rudiments of what would years later become the
famous Gazebo that most folks in the area remember: a place to get some great
food and listen to great music near the Fox River. I departed the
Fox Valley for a job in the restaurant business on the west coast, just as things
there were really getting going at the Mill Race...
It may not have been the first outdoor dining,
but it seemed like it to me. And it certainly was a popular place to go.
In the 80s and 90s though, competition stiffened and restaurants in the area
popped up like pimples on a teenager; many of them included an outdoor patio
area where dining became almost a way of life during the warmer months of
the year. Just off the top of my head, I came up with at least a
dozen or more places offering everything from coffee and a roll to a full-on
fine dining experience. Any time of the day is a good time of day
when it comes to patio dining!
Unfortunately, the economic Grim Reaper has
come calling on way too many restaurants over the last few years; in January of
last year, he paid a visit to the Mill Race Inn, taking the life of a dining
legacy at which generations of Fox Valley residents (as well as those from
far beyond its borders) have celebrated births, weddings, anniversaries and
numerous other events with a fine meal. The glorious Gazebo is, at least
for the time being, only a distant memory.
On a brighter note, the weather is warming --
finally -- and the patio dining season is ready to begin anew. St.
Charles, Geneva and Batavia all offer plenty of outdoor dining possibilities.
Some are directly adjacent to the river; others are not far away from it.
The list is long and I couldn't possibly name them all here. But the one's
shown below should at least give you a heard start. If you or your favorite spot
would care to send me more names, I would be happy to create another page
linking to this one to keep the ball rolling. In the meantime, I've got my
fingers crossed that the coming months will be filled with warmer days and
plenty of meals on the patios of our favorite spots in the area. Enjoy!!
Old Towne Pub
Claddagh Irish Pub
Fox's on the River
Gammon Coach House
Do you have a favorite outdoor dining venue?
Be sure to post it at our
On the Fox Facebook
page or let us know by