Patio weather is a season all its own in Texas, those precious few days after Soggy And Cold and before Unbearably Hot.
Now is the time to investigate patios old and new, before they get crowded with strollers and schnauzers during all the spring holidays and festivals.
The nexus of patio party scenes this year is the Shops at Clearfork. Three new restaurants have helped turn Gage, Marathon and Monahans avenues into an outdoor dining venue with 200 tables, full of patrons and also pooches from the nearby dog park.
Here’s a look at the new and holdover dining scenes in the Shops at Clearfork:
▪ Doc B’s Fresh Kitchen is the newcomer near the corner of Marathon and Gage avenues, where Mesero’s margarita drinkers wave across the street at B&B Butchers’ steakhouse crowd and across the plaza at CRÚ Food & Wine.
Doc B’s, a half-block west at 5253 Marathon Ave., is a Chicago-founded general-menu restaurant serving everything from a habanero-honey fried chicken to a double-cut pork chop or a family-recipe chocolate cake.
The patio overlooking Marathon Avenue is big — with 60 seats, it’s the center’s second largest — and it will have more shade than other patios this summer.
It’s a beautiful spot at brunch or happy hour, when Doc B’s has an $11 cheeseburger with fries, a $13 rib dinner and a $10 habanero-honey chicken sandwich.
▪ B&B Butchers has the anchor patio on the plaza, and it’s busy at brunch most weekends.
If you haven’t gone since B&B opened at 5212 Marathon Ave., the Houston-based prime steakhouse now has a happy hour menu with sliders and pizza, and a 9 p.m.-close “late night” menu with a $14 burger, steaks, salads and desserts.
You’ll see this elsewhere, but right now it’s Rangers baseball season at B&B. A special March 28 menu will offer upscale hot dogs and complimentary rides to Globe Life Park.
▪ Mesero’s patio crowds rival B&B’s, and the wraparound patio has a full view of all neighbors.
Go have a drink and the cinco leches cake; 4955 Gage Ave.
▪ If for nothing else, go across Gage to CRÚ Food & Wine because it’s next door to the Kate Weiser Chocolate store.
Dallas-based CRÚ, 5188 Marathon Ave., continues to surprise guests. it’s the best pace to enjoy a $12 bottle of wine and $8 pizza or lemongrass mussels while you look across at the steak diners dropping big bills.
The filet mignon in a rosemary-Chianti sauce is one of the city’s unexpected steak finds.
On Mondays, the pizza is free if you buy a bottle of wine.
▪ Grimaldi’s Coal Brick-Oven Pizzeria, 5276 Monahans Ave., is in its first spring and has added sidewalk tables to liven up what had been a quiet strip of shops between the Paris-based Amorino gelato shop and the City Works sports grill.
Grimaldi’s watermelon-arugula salad is back on the spring menu, along with a watermelon-white sangria.
New desserts include a caramel-coconut cheesecake on an Oreo crust and the holdover chocolate cannoli. (The main menu features pizzas, calzones and salads from Grimaldi’s in Brooklyn.)
At “social hour,” Grimaldi’s discounts cocktails at $3 off and wines at $3 off per glass or $15 off per bottle
City Works has added tacos, a grouper entree, pan-seared or Kung Pao cauliflower and upgraded brunch items like short-rib verde hash or onion-cheddar biscuits with sausage gravy.
▪ Around the corner on Trailhead Bend Way, Pinstripes Bistro is drawing surprising crowds for its country-club-style Sunday brunch buffet or Saturday brunch menu.
For $22 ($28 holidays), the Pinstripes Sunday buffet is a good value. It includes a carving station with prime rib or ham, an omelet station, a waffle station and a selection of entrees, breakfasts and flatbreads.
Chicago-based Pinstripes opened last summer, but the big, handsome patio and Sunday buffet have recently begun to catch on. There’s also a big menu of happy-hour specials.
▪ Nearby restaurants such as Malai Kitchen, rise nº3, Fixe Southern Bistro and Twigs also offer outside seating.
(Press Cafe is the all-day cousin to Cork & Pig, Pacific Table and The Tavern.)
▪ Mutts Canine Cantina, 5317 Clearfork Main St., is a busy dog park-bar-grill that draws thick crowds on weekends.
The go-to here is the chicken sandwich with a Sichuan-peppercorn sauce, but you can’t go wrong with the grilled cheese-and-pickles or anything with crinkle fries. On weekends, there’s a crinkle-fries-and-egg breakfast taco.