Enjoy fresh air and a bite to eat on these restaurant patios

On balmy summer evenings, it’s hard to resist the allure of patio dining. Cloistered in air-conditioned interiors all day, we crave fresh air at night; it stimulates the senses, making food seem to taste better.

Or maybe it’s just the relaxed ambiance of restaurant patios that draws summers’ bare-legged, casually clad diners. Whatever the reason, ‘tis the season to dine al fresco.

Come July, it could be too hot.

Many outdoor dining spots are impossible to miss – just drive the length of Lower Greenville, where the cafes spill onto the sidewalks. They’re fine for the “see-and-be-seen” crowd, but I’ll take a courtyard over street-side seating any day.

Here are my two neighborhood picks:

Kalachandji’s

This restaurant’s serene courtyard is among the most charming in all of Dallas, and it’s a sleeper. Tucked behind the Hare Krishna temple at Gurley and Graham. Kalachandji’s straddles the neighborhood’s easternmost border. The food and atmosphere are pretty “Eastern” as well – East Indian, that is.

Soothing sounds from fountains make the only background music on this tranquil patio. For the coziest dining, step up into one of the regal “booths,” each framed by a stone arch, columns and a canopy.

Amidst a light rain, you could still enjoy your meal outdoors. Tables are well-shaded by a large, fountain-ringed tree that crowns the courtyard.

The food is a triumph in vegetarian cooking. Skeptics should toss aside their preconceptions about meatless meals and give it a try. Kalachandji’s is a far cry from the old hippie joints that bored diners with blandness.

No naked steamed veggies on brown rice come from this kitchen. Instead you’ll find a hearty buffet featuring intriguing Indian soups, mild curry dishes and a salad bar. You’ll also find occasional non-Indian vegetarian dishes, ranging from Southwestern to Mediterranean.

Be sure to pour a glass of the Tamarind Tea – not really a tea, but a sweet, refreshing cooler (the restaurant serves no alcohol). For dessert, opt for the rice pudding, a sweet and milky throwback to Mom’s.

The all-you-can-eat buffet varies daily and is a bargain at $4.95 for lunch ($1 extra for salad bar) and $7.95 for dinner, when additional dishes are featured.

Kalchandji’s is located at 5430 Gurley (821-1048). Lunch is served Monday-Friday from 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. and Saturday from noon-3 p.m. Dinner is served Tuesday-Sunday from 5:30-9 p.m.

Ozona Westex Grill

This restaurant’s outdoor seating is the mother of all decks. Immensely popular, it drew happy crowds for years as Cardinal Puff’s. Today, you get the same, wonderful deck – but far-better food ranging from Tex-Mex to grilled fare.

Framed by an old brick wall, the multilevel deck seems a world away from busy upper Greenville. Chalk it up to the mature trees, which are shady by day, beautifully illuminated by night.

Although the deck is a popular watering hole, the food alone is worth the trip. Best dishes are the Shrimp Chili Relleno combination platter ($7.95), Salmon Caesar Salad ($7.95), thick spice-rubbed pork chops ($10.95) and burgers.

Appetizers include excellent nachos and quesadillas (ask for a side of the roasted tomato salsa). For dessert, the peach cobbler with ice cream is worth the splurge.

Happy hour at Ozona’s runs daily from 4-7 p.m. It features $1 domestic beers, $1.75 premium beers and $2.50 margaritas. Try the Ozone Rita or the Crockett County Swirl, a frozen margarita swirled with house-made sangria.

Beer selection is vast, with 23 different draft beers and ales, as well as draft root beer. Chips and salsa are complimentary during happy hour.

Ozona’s is located at 4615 Greenville (265-9105). Hours are 11 a.m.-midnight Sunday-Wednesday and 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Thursday-Saturday.


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