Erica Chats: Savor Summertime

AVA Rooftop Bar makes a great date night spot.

If you’re like me, you’re trying to pack this summer as full as possible, celebrating the warm weather with swimming, cookouts, and road trips. My favorite season is zooming by!

I know it gets sticky around here during a North Carolina summer, but lots of places offer comfortable patio dining that you should experience before the weather turns cold.

Did you know eating outdoors and listening to nature can make you feel more relaxed? It helps to keep your heart healthy, decreases levels of stress hormones, and eases muscle tension. Plus, that vitamin D helps combat diseases. Fabulous food and cocktails with a side of health benefits? Yes, please.

We are frequent flyers when it comes to outdoor dining. Here are a few of our local favorites:

Ruckus Pizza

They are repeatedly voted the best restaurant for kids and best outdoor dining! All their locations are wonderful, but we frequent the Morrisville location and bring our dog, Lucy Lou. The kids enjoy cornhole, and they often have live music. It’s always packed for a reason!

Scratch Kitchen & Taproom

Both its Cary and Apex locations are conveniently nestled in the downtown area — great for a nice after-dinner stroll. The cast iron chicken is outstanding, and it’s one of the only places I know that has black-eyed peas (a personal favorite) year-round!

Erica’s children, Ella and Easton, pose with the jeep outside of Gonza Tacos y Tequila at Waverly Place.

Serendipity Gourmet Deli

This quaint deli on Academy Street in downtown Cary is a local gem with history dating back to the ’40s. It was once a doctor’s office, then the library, and now it‘s the perfect place to grab a delicious lunch (they close at 3 p.m.). I love to enjoy a chicken salad sandwich on the patio and people watch the busy downtown area.

Gonza Tacos y Tequila

Everyone loves tacos, but my favorite dish here is the mole enchiladas! The kids get a kick out of the jeep parked out front, and there’s even a playground steps away for another way to enjoy a nice summer night.

Leo’s Italian Social

One of my newer recommendations, Leo’s is located in Park West Village in Morrisville. I can’t resist their lasagna, and it’s so filling that there’s always some to take home. We enjoy the indoor/outdoor bar, which has a cozy fire pit for chilly nights.

Erica and Diane Wilson from ABC11 dine outside at Herons at the Umstead Hotel and Spa.

Herons and the Bar & Lounge at The Umstead Hotel and Spa

For a special occasion or girls’ gathering, the Umstead has you covered. It has a Forbes Five-Star rating and is frequently named one of the best restaurants in Raleigh. Make reservations early if you’re heading to Herons because it fills up quick, or you can visit the Bar & Lounge with no reservation required. Of course, dining in is always a special treat, but I like to request outdoor because Umstead’s grounds are beautiful. The Umstead Burger elevates a summertime favorite to a new level.

Peck & Plume at The Mayton Inn

Peck & Plume’s beautiful location and modern American menu are the perfect setting for a special occasion dinner or a celebratory brunch. It’s beautiful, and their outside terrace puts you in the heart of Cary’s downtown, which our family loves. Be sure to make reservation in advance online.

Abbey Road Tavern and Grill

Another spot we always bring our dog with us! This family-friendly, family-owned restaurant has three delicious locations: Cary, Apex, and Fuquay Varina. And they have a super affordable kids’ menu.

AVA Rooftop Bar

A rooftop experience truly highlights the best of summer evenings! The craft cocktails, wine, and Mediterranean-inspired small plates are excellent for a date night or a girls’ night out. They have entertainment throughout the week with local DJs. Alternately, you can grab a bite at Sports & Social, which also has a great patio area, then enjoy AVA and swing by the PBR Cowboy Bar on the way out. Reserve a booth at AVA in advance.

TapStation, Apex


With two levels of al fresco seating options, TapStation has a great outdoor atmosphere. Downstairs features an area for the kids to play and a covered rooftop bar with an old car that’s fun for both kids and adults. They don’t have a kids’ menu, but the burgers and hotdogs come with plenty for the kiddos to split one. Great beer options for the parentals! I adore the pimento cheese egg rolls.

If you have a must-visit outdoor spot in the Triangle, please share with me @EricaDeLong. Summer will be over before we know it, so enjoy it while you can!

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