With the passing of Labor Day weekend and the start of a new school year, summer is drawing to a close -- but chances are, the warm weather plans to stick around, treating the Peninsula to another month of comfortable outdoor dining. Choosing an outside table shouldn't have to mean hugging the restaurant wall or dealing with pedestrians brushing by. Here are 10 places to dine outdoors (and off the sidewalk) in Palo Alto, Mountain View and Menlo Park -- before the weather starts cooling down.
A star of the Palo Alto dining scene since its opening early last year, Terún features a lively yet humble back patio that compliments the restaurant's authentic Italian cuisine. A white roof covering and white wooden fencing shelter and brighten the dining area, while trellises festooned with lights add cheer to the relaxed atmosphere. Even on cooler evenings, the patio remains comfortable thanks to greenhouse-like heat retention, which can take your outdoor dining revels well into autumn.
448 S. California Ave.; 650-600-8310; terunpizza.com
INDO Restaurant & Lounge
Don't be deterred by its unusual location at the front of a motel parking lot. INDO, an Indonesian fusion restaurant with sophisticated dishes and craft cocktails, is the definition of hidden gem. Curved walls of translucent glass squares transport you from the hubbub of Silicon Valley -- and the noise of El Camino -- to a meditative patio in the South Pacific, adorned with string lights and sheltered by slender lattices. Potted plants and a trickling fountain make for a refreshing dining experience, while a cushioned lounge area lends a trendy vibe.
3295 El Camino Real; 650-494-7168; indorestaurant.com
Imagine dining out at a backyard garden party -- except no imagination is required here, because Vino Locale operates out of an updated Victorian home and backyard. The charming Kipling Street spot, a wine bar with food offerings that change daily, offers a unique garden atmosphere with plentiful flowering plants and vine-covered arches. String lights here and there along the wooden fence add a subtle glow to an evening meal or wine tasting, while a large canopy offers shade in the afternoon. Plus, it's converted into a venue for live music performances every Tuesday night.
431 Kipling St.; 650-328-0450; vinolocale.com
One of four locations of the ever-popular San Francisco-born establishment, Palo Alto's Delfina brings something new to the table: a large street-facing patio combining traditional brick-and-ivy with modern openness. On the Empire Tap Room patio, mature vine coverage on both walls is enhanced by a high wooden arbor on which young vines continue to climb. The hanging pods and winding tendrils of wisteria lend the space a whimsical note. The only thing that keeps the dining area out of enchanted forest territory is the surprisingly powerful heat lamps -- jackets optional here.
651 Emerson St.; 650-353-2208; pizzeriadelfina.com/paloalto
Joya Restaurant & Lounge
Joya unfolds its wooden shutters and slides open its tall glass doors to an ideal indoor-outdoor dining area on University Ave. Chic indoor seating coupled with wide-open airflow creates a modern cabana feel -- the perfect complement to Joya's contemporary Latin cuisine. Natural light enters in as well, filtering through the room's colored glass accents and reflecting off mirrored panels to make your tapas that much more dazzling.
339 University Ave.; 650-853-9800; joyarestaurant.com
Next door to Joya, La Strada Ristorante Italiano also features an indoor-outdoor dining area. Partitioned from the busy sidewalk, the patio area is outside the front door of the restaurant, yet covered by a ceiling. The sheltered, alcove-like design makes for comfortable dining that feels like lunch or dinner on the porch and pairs well with La Strada's authentic Italian dishes.
335 University Ave.; 650-324-8300; lastradapaloalto.com
Steins Beer Garden
A sea of business shirts and day-to-night attire, Stein's patio area is packed on Thursday nights from the start of happy hour well into the evening. Long, dark wooden tables offer communal and relaxed-yet-sophisticated dining for small and large groups, while standing tables and open patio space offer plenty of opportunities to mingle at this popular addition to Mountain View's downtown.
895 Villa St.; 650-963-9568; steinsbeergarden.com
Savor lively Latin cuisine on Cascal's large, open patio area, far removed from any sidewalk bustle. While the patio tables themselves are rather humble, energy from the vibrantly colored dining room -- which boasts high stone arches, palm leaves and cool blue glassware radiates into the outdoor seating area. Invite summer to stay a little longer with the popular house sangria and an array of tapas offerings. Cascal's happy hour is hard to beat: it runs Monday through Friday, 3:30 to 6:30 p.m., with slashed prices on cocktails, draft beers and tapas. Stake out a spot on Friday or Saturday to hear live music.
400 Castro St.; 650-940-9500; cascalrestaurant.com
Agave Mexican Bistro
Agave's outdoor dining area brings relaxation and California-style Mexican cuisine to one of the busiest corners on Castro Street in downtown Mountain View. Seated in the subtly enclosed back patio, you might forget you're in the middle of downtown, thanks to neutral walls, bold umbrellas and canopies. A simple wooden bar with string lights transports you to the Cabo beachside, complete with rattan couches and chairs perfect for happy hour or a night out.
194 Castro St.; 650-969-6767; agaveca.com
Cafe Borrone is the perfect place to soak up the sun and unwind next to a big, bubbling fountain. It's a neighborhood and regional go-to spot for meeting up with friends, grabbing a quick bite to eat after your workout or planting yourself for hours with a good read from Kepler's Books next door. Plastic patio chairs and simple metal tables embody Borrone's friendly, come-as-you-are atmosphere, but the food is no ordinary meal; gourmet breakfast classics, sandwiches, salads and dinner entrees consistently receive rave reviews from locals and tourists alike. Even if you choose an indoor table, the floor-to-ceiling windows slide open, inviting in the fresh air and gentle breeze as you peruse the paper or catch up with an old pal. (Psst: For special occasions, head next door to new sister restaurant Borrone MarketBar, where you can slurp down fresh oysters and inventive, quality cocktails.)
1010 El Camino Real; 650-327-0830; cafeborrone.com