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Updated: 12:42 p.m. Thursday, April 7, 2011 | Posted: 6:12 p.m. Friday, April 1, 2011

Spring brings patio fever to Atlanta restaurants

By Bob Townsend

For the AJC

If you have endured a long wait for an outdoor table on a sunny afternoon, you've seen the allure of patio dining.

That’s especially evident at many Atlanta restaurants in spring as temperatures and humidity hover in the comfort zone and landscapes glow with the colors of budding flowers and trees.

It’s the perfect formula for patio fever.

Fleming’s steakhouse in Dunwoody has an L-shaped patio that frequently used to be empty when the weather was too hot or cold or rainy. But a recent renovation added a roof, ceiling fans, heaters and roll-down shades, creating a sophisticated indoor-outdoor space that includes cozy couches and chairs and low cocktail tables.

Fleming’s operating partner Erick Tousek said one the main reasons for the update was the popularity of the restaurant’s budget bar menu, which offers five appetizers, five cocktails and five wines by the glass, priced at $6 each until 7 p.m. nightly.

“Our bar is always packed during that time,” Tousek said. “Covering the patio gave us more space for that kind of casual dining. As everybody knows, if you have a nice patio in Atlanta, people will flock to it, and ours is looking pretty sexy.”

Der Biergarten, which opened in September in the Luckie Marietta District, is one of Atlanta’s newest patio experiences. A contemporary take on the traditional German beer garden, it’s located above the bustle of Marietta Street and features outdoor seating.

Sales and marketing director Greg Rancone said the highlight of the Der Biergarten concept is captured in the name, which combines beer and garden and the convivial atmosphere that evokes.

“People came to Der Biergarten over the winter but there wasn’t as much enthusiasm and electricity as you feel now when the garden is open,” Rancone said. “Coming up to the second floor and into the garden, it’s kind of like an elevated oasis and the big tables make for a lot of lively interaction.”

Canoe in Vinings is a perennial favorite outdoor dining destination. Hugging the banks of the Chattahoochee, a series of patios and gardens, a riverside bar, a big farm table and a stone grill offer multiple choice spots to connect with nature.

Canoe general manager Vincent Palermo said the town and country aura of the restaurant gives diners the illusion of being on vacation. And when the weather is warm, crowds tend to gather and linger.

“Nice weather means a lot to us,” Palermo said. “It brings people out. You have this tranquil setting and you sit down outside with some good food and wine and there’s this gorgeous landscaping and the river meandering by -- you just never want to leave.”

Here are more impressions of Canoe, Der Biergarten and Fleming's, plus a couple of other restaurants where you can catch patio fever:

Canoe: Though only minutes from downtown, Canoe has the air of an upscale country lodge. Lush flower and vegetable gardens add to the serene, romantic patio spaces. The seasonal menu features dishes such as spring asparagus soup, local rainbow trout and sage roasted pheasant. Soak up the sun during weekday lunch or Sunday brunch. Starting April 13, you can hang under the stars for the ongoing Wednesday music series. 4199 Paces Ferry Road, Vinings. 770-432-2663,

Der Biergarten: Join in the revelry at this 7,000-square-foot restaurant featuring an indoor beer hall and an outdoor beer garden, both situated in an airy second story space. The menu hits all the German favorites -- pretzels, sausages, cured meats, schnitzel, sauerbraten and spaetzle. The beer list sports more than a dozen draft selections. But it’s the long Oktoberfest-style communal tables out on the patio that create that festive party feeling. 300 Marietta St., Atlanta. 404-521-2728,

Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar: The Dunwoody outpost of this steakhouse chain occupies a quiet corner of busy Perimeter Place Village. Known for prime aged beef, fresh seafood and a family-friendly atmosphere, it boasts an award-winning wine list with 100 wines by the glass. The recently renovated covered patio offers a casual escape for appetizers and cocktails or a beer and a prime burger. 4501 Olde Perimeter Way, Dunwoody. 770-698-8112,

Holy Taco: The winning atmosphere at Holy Taco in East Atlanta Village is enlivened by a spacious sidewalk patio with a series of light boxes around the perimeter; pretty plantings of flowers, herbs and vegetables; and a pergola equipped with ceiling fans. There's also a surprising variety of adventurous food and drink, including spicy lamb merguez sausage, stewed goat or fried chicken heart tacos and hefty culinary margaritas. 1314 Glenwood Ave., Atlanta. 404-230-6177,

Straits Restaurant: For a bit of glamor and celebrity sightings along with outdoor drinking and dining, a front row seat on the chic patio at Straits in Midtown might be just the ticket. Look for sports and music stars or maybe owners Chris “Ludacris” Bridges and chef Chris Yeo. Yeo’s Singaporean small plate menu is meant for sharing, with the likes of Kung Pao chicken lollipops, honey glazed spareribs and Malaysian roti pancakes. Of course, there are also cocktails and expensive bubbly. 793 Juniper St., Atlanta. 404-877-1283,

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