The ‘al fresco’ experience

Local restaurants offer outdoor options during summer months

Ah, summer. Finally, most of us can safely wear our lighter clothing and shoes for more than one day in a row. Of course, with the nice weather comes an opportunity to take part in something most Northwesterners don’t get to do a lot of during the winter months: Get outdoors and soak up the sunshine.

Many local eateries in Camas and Washougal have responded to that need by providing outdoor dining options. On a bright, warm day last Wednesday, several local residents could be seen enjoying their cuisine at different local restaurants in the great outdoors.

At Natalia’s in downtown Camas, Renee Sanders enjoyed breakfast with 7-month-old daughter, Ellen, and her parents.

“I love the fresh air and not being cooped up inside,” Sanders said.

At The Puffin Cafe in Washougal, Steve Brown and Karen Smith enjoyed a mixed drink in the warm sunshine, with reggae music playing in the background. The restaurant is unique in the area, in that it is actually a floating restaurant and features as much outdoor dining as indoor.

“We love the fish tacos here,” Smith said.

Added Brown, “It’s nice when the sun finally comes out and you can be outside.”

Tulla and Bob Burke of Camas visit The Puffin Cafe on a monthly basis. Usually, they order the fish tacos, but last week tried the new fish taco salad.

“I love the ambiance here,” Tulla said. “It is very tropical. When we travel to different places, we always look for outdoor dining and this is an option close to home.”

Added Bob, “Being on the water is so refreshing. We get so few sunny days here that we need to seize the opportunity when we can, and it’s important to support the local restaurants.”

Owner Rob Guetter joked, “I’m the closest to the water, so I win for a true waterfront dining experience. I’ll get you so close you can stick your toes in.”

He said first-time visitors to The Puffin Cafe usually compare it to something they’d find in a tropical locale.

“The proximity to the marina and water is great,” Guetter said.

A recent addition to the restaurant’s summer offerings is a wine list.

“We’re mostly a seasonal restaurant, but we hope our customers remember us during the winter,” Guetter said.

At Papa’s Ice Cream in downtown Washougal, Cheryl VanAkker and her son, Camden, of Washougal, enjoyed their sweet treats outside. Cheryl selected the pralines n’ cream, while Camden ate bubble gum ice cream.

“It’s fabulous to be able to sit outdoors,” she said. “It’s the first time this summer it’s been warm enough to sit outside.”

Camden, whose favorite ice cream flavors include root beer and cotton candy, also enjoys eating outside.

“We can play games and be noisier,” he said.

Owner Ivan Gering also enjoys the outdoor setup.

“I love it,” he said. “I ate my lunch outside today. It’s nice because you get to watch the traffic go by and the wind is blowing lightly. It’s very cool and quiet.”

At Oliver’s in downtown Camas, Patti Hubbard and Joy Young sat outdoors to enjoy their lunch.

“I just enjoy being outside,” Young said. “There’s a nice ambiance here.”

Added Hubbard, “We get so few glorious days here, if you can sit outside you should.”

Todd Moravitz owns Nuestra Mesa, a Mexican eatery located in downtown Camas. Currently, he has four tables set up for outdoor dining.

“I think that other potential customers enjoy seeing people outside,” he said. “It feeds on itself, so to speak. Once the first group goes outside, others follow. The other advantage is that people can actually see the food before deciding whether to eat here. A lot of times, they’ll want to look at the menu before committing but when others are dining outside, it gives them a chance to look at the food, too.”

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