LOWELL -- Summer wouldn't be complete without a few warm weather staples: trips to the beach, family barbecues and al fresco dining.

Greater Lowell offers a wide variety of outdoor dining options, with venues featuring live music, scenic views and fresh summer cuisine. The outdoor spaces provide an alternative to eating inside on a warm July evening.

At the Athenian Corner on Market Street, a small paved area adjacent to the restaurant features live music every Thursday night.

Enjoying a meal in the great outdoors at Life Alive is, from left, Karen Kirsten of Lincoln, Jim Ray of Groton, Colin Dunlap of Somerville, and Susan
Enjoying a meal in the great outdoors at Life Alive is, from left, Karen Kirsten of Lincoln, Jim Ray of Groton, Colin Dunlap of Somerville, and Susan Winship, also of Lincoln and executive director of Greater Lowell Community Foundation. (SUN/ David H. Brow)

Owner Teddy "Panos" Panagiotopoulos says that he carved the outdoor space out of the restaurant's parking lot in 2010 in order to bring in more foot traffic and combat the summer slump that restaurants often see.

"The al fresco dining has become such a trend and a fad, everybody is doing it now. People want to get outdoors because we only have so much nice weather in New England, and people, when they can, will go outdoors and eat, so we kind of had to get with the times," he said.

Panos said the patio space also gave the restaurant an opportunity to get creative, putting in an outdoor bar and hosting "Concerts on the Corner" every Thursday night in the summer.

He said he recommends the hummus, lamb kebobs and shrimp salad as lighter summer fare.

Also in downtown Lowell, hungry patrons can enjoy infused cocktails and creative meals outside Fuse Bistro, snack on pizzas in Tremonte Pizzeria's shady sidewalk seating area or listen to a serenading mariachi band in front of El Potro Mexican Bar and Grill.

"Having a patio is definitely an advantage in Lowell, especially on this street corner where things are pretty quiet," said Jacqui Brown, the front of house manager for Fuse Bistro on Palmer Street. "It makes people, especially tourists, see a different side of Lowell that the people who live here see every day. It really helps Lowell look better if people can sit outside and see what Lowell is all about."

Outdoor tables  await at Fishbones in Chelmsford.Sun/Bob WhitakerSun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.
Outdoor tables await at Fishbones in Chelmsford. Sun/Bob Whitaker

Sun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.

Brown said Fuse brings people in with both their 38-seat outdoor dining space and their seasonal menu, which features fresh produce from local farms, including Farmer Dave's in Dracut, Herb Hill Farm in Andover and Mill City Grows in Lowell.

Just across the street from Fuse is Tremonte Pizzeria, which Christine and Robert Laviolette, of Haverhill, said is one of their favorite spots in the downtown area due to the good food and shady seating.

"Food always tastes better outside," Robert Laviolette said.

Jim Ray, of Groton, said he enjoys eating outside in Lowell a few times a week. His favorite spot, he said, is Life Alive on Middle Street, where a few tables in front of a fenced garden provide an alternative to the cafe's colorful interior.

Concerts on the Corner at Lowell’s Athenian Corner
Concerts on the Corner at Lowell's Athenian Corner

"This kind of stuff brings a lot of business to town. People work hard all day, and it's nice to sit down on a nice day and enjoy good food," Ray said as he ate lunch at Life Alive Monday afternoon.

Outside of the city, other towns in Greater Lowell offer outdoor options, including spots in Chelmsford, Tyngsboro and Westford.

Fishbones serves up fresh seafood on a small patio in the heart of Chelmsford Center. Assistant manager Lauren Ormsby said the patio offers a good view of the happenings in downtown Chelmsford, while still being far enough off the road.

"Especially with seafood, people associate it with being outside and enjoying the summer weather," Ormsby said. "It's a little more relaxed than sitting in the dining room."

The Laviolette family of Haverhill is served by Susan Texeira at Tremonte Pizzeria in Lowell.
The Laviolette family of Haverhill is served by Susan Texeira at Tremonte Pizzeria in Lowell. (SUN/ David H. Brow)

Bahama Breeze in Tyngsboro has a large deck just off of the Merrimack River. In Westford, the British Beer Company offers covered outdoor tables, while Burton's Grill has a patio complete with tables, couches and a fire pit.

Ryan Dion, the general manager of the Westford location of Burtons Grill, said that in the summer time, the patio is usually packed, with many coming out for live music every Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday, or to partake in summer specials such as dollar oysters on Monday nights.

"I think it's important because winters in New England are just so long and never-ending, especially this last one, that people just want to be outside just to enjoy the quick summer," Dion said.

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Indulge in open-air dining