Alfresco dining takes center stage at Aurora-area restaurants

Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial start of summer, and with that comes the joy of outdoor dining.

During the pandemic, eating out at restaurants has become a necessity due to social distancing guidelines. This time has been a learning experience for many Aurora area restaurants who are now highlighting their outdoor dining options.

Jason Ebel, co-owner of Two Brothers Roundhouse in Aurora, which has one of the largest outdoor food courts in the area, said that over the past few years, “we’ve learned a lot about outdoor dining. and how people eat out and what they want. TO DO.”

“We have doubled this year and have a lot planned outdoors at The Roundhouse and also at the brewery in terms of events and music,” he said. “We do theater at the Roundhouse in the courtyard and we try to involve people more and make (dining out) more than just a dining experience. We have added approximately 50% more patio seating this year outdoors. »

Ebel said he learned during the pandemic that “people want to be outdoors,” which led to other amenities being added to the site.

“As well as adding seating, we created an outdoor bar because not only do people want to dine out, they just want to hang out and enjoy it, so we built a nice outdoor bar to watch a game.” , did he declare. “We also found out at the Roundhouse that we were grilling outdoors because people love that aroma.”

At Ballydoyle in downtown Aurora, owner Phil Cullen said he has also expanded the outdoor space by around 20% and expects the best summer he has seen in the last four years.

“We enlarged to maximize seating and added sails to shield us from the sun. We know the exterior this summer is going to be big and we’ve added a bandshell as well,” said Cullen. “We realize how important it is and we’re going to do a better job improving the whole exterior a bit.”

Sue Sanders of St. Charles had lunch on the patio with a friend at Stockholm Restaurant and Brasserie in Geneva recently and said she was happy to be back outside and eating with others.

“I go eat somewhere once or twice a month and it’s always outside. I like to eat out as much as possible in the summer because we can’t do it all year round,” Sanders said.

St. Charles resident Ruth Kuzmanic, who was dining with Sanders, said she enjoys dining out.

“It’s beautiful,” she said. “Alfresco dining is the way to go.”

She said she liked being able to eat “outdoors”.

“I think Europeans are way ahead of us when it comes to outdoor dining,” she said.

Regardless of the outdoor dining market, staffing remains an issue for some Fox Valley restaurants, though many say the situation is better than it has been in recent years.

Michael Olesen, owner of Stockholm, said the venue, entering its 21st year, has survived thanks to its staff.

“Looking ahead to the summer, people, by and large, are ready to fully come out of the pandemic and experience their favorite restaurants and do it with some comfort,” he said. “In terms of staff, we have been fortunate to keep all of our staff throughout COVID. I didn’t let anyone go. When we were allowed to reopen indoor dining, we were full.

“I have a small group that has been with me forever and they have really become a family,” he said. “Coming out of COVID, I reiterated something to myself – I’ve always believed that staff are your number one asset. Great staff can overcome many other problems, but a bad one will kill everything good you have. The personal is what matters most, and I’ve proven it to myself again.

Ebel told Two Brothers, “Personnel issues have been pretty good lately.”

He said Two Brothers is “well staffed in all of our restaurants for the first time in a few years”.

“A lot of students come back in the summer, so I think the staffing issues are a bit lessened in the summer,” he said.

At Ballydoyle, Cullen said staffing “is going to continue to be an issue for some time to come”.

“We’re going to have to do more business with fewer people,” he said. “You see this (labour shortage) everywhere.”

Claudia Urrutia, owner of La Quinta de los Reyes in Aurora, which has a large outdoor dining patio, said staffing issues look good for the summer season.

“We are blessed we are still here and we have people calling and asking for jobs,” she said. “Last year no one called and so far this year we are doing much better. We get a phone call almost every other day asking for work.

She said the restaurant was “looking for a great summer this year.”

“We had a pretty good summer last year and we hope people are looking for the outdoors because we have the cooks and servers,” she said.

David Sharos is a freelance journalist for The Beacon-News.

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