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Al fresco dining

Dining on South Sound decks and patios

The Social Bar and Grill brings the heat on its patio.

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The saying is true. There is nothing quite like a sunny day in the Pacific Northwest. The people of the South Sound know how to take full advantage of beautiful summer weather, and that includes knowing the best restaurants for outdoor dining. Whether it be a patio or deck, water, mountain or city views, head to these spots to soak up the rays, catch the sunset and get some good grub.

Tacoma's most well-known area for excellent deck dining is Ruston Way. Take your pick from the best options, which include Katie Downs, C.I. Shenanigans and The Ram. All three offer spacious seating areas, umbrellas for shade, and unobstructed views of Commencement Bay.

However, Ruston Way isn't the only option in Tacoma. Skip the crowds at these alternative waterfront destinations. Boathouse 19's views rival any in Tacoma, and it is the perfect place to watch the sunset and the boats at Narrows Marina, as well as take in views of the Narrows Bridge.

Lounge by the outdoor fire pits at The Social Bar and Grill on the Thea Foss Waterway.  "It's a nice view and breeze off the water, with lots of patio seating," says Tacoma resident Aura Mae. With excellent people watching of Museum of Glass patrons walking along the promenade, take in the views of outdoor glass sculptures and marina. It's pretty hard to beat.

Tacoma also has patio dining options off the water for happy hour or otherwise. Tucked into the Stadium district, the Harmon Tap Room's outdoor beer garden features long picnic-style tables and festive lights strung about. Masa's deck high above the street has an indoor/outdoor bar and tables perfect for enjoying their excellent happy hour tacos and a beer.

It's worth it to cross the bridge to Gig Harbor's historic Tides Tavern. "Best outdoor dining is Tides' deck," says Derek Young, Gig Harbor City Councilmember. "Everyone else go home. Contest over." The views of the harbor, with boats of all sizes passing through, as well as a view of Mt. Rainier, it's easily the best place to eat or drink outdoors in Gig Harbor.

Other notable waterfront destinations are found in Steilacoom and Olympia. Steilacoom's Topside Bar and Grill has an excellent rooftop deck perched high above Chambers Bay. Pair the views of the water with their juicy burgers and fresh seafood. Olympia seems like it should be chock-full of excellent outside eating areas, but is actually a little bit lacking. However, Anthony's Hearthfire Grill's views of Budd Inlet and the Olympic Mountains are a fine place to pass the time.

Think there are no places to eat outside in Puyallup? Wrong. Head to South Hill to the Hangar Inn at Thun Field. "It's a little corny, but our son absolutely loves to go eat at the Hangar Inn at Thun Field," says Puyallup resident Amy Crawford. "You can sit on the deck right by the runway and it has an amazing view of Mt. Rainier." Bring the whole family and watch the planes take off and land. "You can take kids without worrying about price, ruining the atmosphere for other diners, or them being bored," says Marti Miller Hall. Downtown Puyallup, Toscanos Café and Wine Bar has a spacious patio with an outdoor fireplace, as well as a bonus - live music outside Thursdays at 7.

No excuses - grab your favorite cocktail, peruse the menu and kick back at any of these South Sound outdoor dining options.

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