Where to dine in the outdoors this fall

Jenny Adams

When summer starts to wane, there can be a sense of urgency to make the most of the great outdoors before winter hits. We have that same “seize the day (and night)” feeling as August flows into September.

In honor of the urgency, we’ve rounded up nine great food and drink experiences that will satiate your love of wine, cheese, burgers and beer with your need to experience Mother Nature at her finest.

Wine & Dine Surrounded by Breathtaking Nature … with 99 strangers
Where: Locations Around America
When: Dinner scheduled through Nov. 24

Outstanding in the Field is a dinner series, created almost two decades ago by a chef/artist named Jim Denevan. Originally staged in vineyards and open fields near Denevan’s home in California, the idea was to gather strangers to dine where their food was grown. The dinners paid homage to the farmers, fishermen, artisans and chefs who created them, and pretty soon, Outstanding in the Field grew from its California roots to visit cities around the globe.

This fall, you can experience these unique dining opportunities around America, from supper at a small farm in Queens, N.Y., to an affair hosted in a garden in Decatur, Ga. Reservations are $180 per plate, which includes a reception with wine and appetizers, four courses with wine pairings and a guided tour of the property.

Enjoy a Burger Beside a ’57 Chevy
Where: The XXX Rootbeer Drive-in, Issaquah, Wash.
When: Every Sunday, now through Oct. 27

Twenty minutes from Seattle, the little town of Issaquah boasts beautiful, verdant mountain scenery. It also happens to be home to one of the country’s best burgers and the largest classic car shows in America.

The XXX Rootbeer Drive-in has been around since the 1930s. There once were nearly 100 of these drive-ins, scattered around America. Owner Jose Enciso has preserved one of the last, three-story barrel façades, keeping tradition alive with the original burger recipe and classic car shows free every Sunday. The TriFive show will feature ’55, ’56 and ’57 Chevy models exclusively. You can peruse the roadsters while munching the intimidating-but-delicious XXX Burger. This one comes dressed with lettuce, tomato, grilled onions, cheese, pickles and four pounds of meat. Sayonara, swimsuit season!

Hit Up America’s Largest Oktoberfest
Where: Columbus, Ohio
When: Sept. 27-29

If you cannot make it to Germany, Columbus has you covered with hoisting a stein and filling up on bratwurst at America’s largest Oktoberfest. It’s sponsored by the Schmidt family, a clan with 127 years of Columbus sausage-making prowess and German restaurant traditions. Columbus was settled by Germans and has a gorgeous historic neighborhood deemed German Village.

Due to popularity, Oktoberfest has grown so large that they now host it at the state fairgrounds. There’s a Friday keg tapping, live music, German contests of strength (like the stone toss and hoist contest) and lovely German yodeling. Oh, and don’t forget the creampuff-eating contests. The Schmidt family famous cream puffs are roughly the size of a human head and taste far superior when consumed outdoors.

Drink James Beard-Nominated Cocktails by a Pool in Miami
Where: The Broken Shaker cocktail bar, inside The Freehand Hostel in South Beach
When: Anytime after 6 p.m. weekdays, 2 p.m. on weekends

The Broken Shaker bar is tiny, and filled with kitsch and actual antiques the owners have been collecting for years, but the sprawling patio provides a swimming pool, ping-pong tables, a bocce court and a great mish-mash of communal seating options. The bartenders grow their own herbs and citrus, and they get super creative with drinks like their Cocoa-Puff Old Fashioned: bourbon that’s been infused with … yes … cocoa-puff cereal.

Enjoy a Margarita and Architecture at New York’s Best Rooftop Bar
Where: Salvation Taco, located on the roof of Pod 39 Hotel
When: Now until late fall

Sometimes, the best way to experience New York is from a bird’s-eye view. Our rooftop suggestion to visit before winter is Salvation Taco. Outstanding Margaritas and a fun mix of locals and tourists are only half the appeal. The architecture at this apex is both visually stunning and historic.

The landmark building was once the Allerton house at 145 East 39th Street, a hotel/private club for young, single men. In 1956, the Salvation Army converted the building to the Ten Eyck-Troughton Memorial Residence for Women. Crawling ivy, crumbling brickwork and lovely arches showcase one of the earliest examples of the Northern Italian Renaissance style in Manhattan. Drinking up here makes you feel as though you’ve somehow stepped into a time warp, leaving the modern hustle of the city far below.

Shuck a few Oysters at a Classic California Seafood Shack
Where: Tomales Bay, Calif.
When: Anytime

An hour north of San Francisco is the coastal enclave of Marshall, California. The Tomales Bay Oyster Company was founded in 1909, providing generations of guests with picnic tables, barbecues and plenty of fresh-harvested bivalves. For groups under 10 people, it’s first come, first serve. Larger parties can make a reservation. For $75, you and your buddies get one shucking knife, a set of shucking gloves, fresh lemons or limes, ice, your choice of Tabasco or Tapatio Hot Sauce, and one dozen farm fresh oysters to start you off. There’s also a complimentary demonstration on shucking to make sure you don’t lose a finger. Bring your dog, and some beer. Take off your shoes and have a stroll along the bay beach. This is a great way to welcome fall.

Pop a Cork Beneath the Oak Trees in New Orleans’ Ninth Ward
Where: Bacchanal Wine, in New Orleans
When: 11a.m. to midnight, any day before the weather gets too cold

Years ago, when a small wine shop opened in the Ninth Ward, people likely shook their heads in dismay for the poor fools embarking on such a crazy endeavor. Turns out, it was a stroke of genius that’s grown into much more than a wine shop. You step into a 200-year-old, ramshackle building, then a small, quaint wine shop. Coolers are filled with bottles – ranging from cheap to pricey – and you grab a bucket, a scoop of ice and a few glasses.

Beyond the back door, you enter a courtyard that looks like something from a lively, drunken fairytale. Shadows bounce from candles on the rickety tables, and strings of marquee lights are hung haphazardly through the trees. Chef Joaquin Rodas serves seasonal plates each evening and there’s live, local music each night. Don’t forget your bug spray.

Hit Up America’s Most Elegant Tailgate Party
Where: The Grove, at The University of Mississippi in Oxford, Miss.
When: Home games during the fall

There’s an old saying that goes along with Ole Miss football: “We may lose a game, but we’ve never lost a party.” This college town is known for some legendary literary citizens – William Faulkner being the most famous – and for taking tailgating to whole other level. The day before home games, RVs begin to pull into the infamous Grove, a large, central campus green space with towering oak trees and rolling expanses of grass. Football fans hang flatscreen televisions in the trees, deck tables with fine china and candelabras, all to plate up barbecue and Southern fried chicken. The women wear heels and pearls. The men come in seersucker suits. It’s like a wedding, but it’s more important. It’s football. In the South. Forget going into the game. The action in The Grove is a bucket-list party you don’t want to miss.

Paddle to Your Supper on the California Coast
Where: Morro Bay, Calif.
When: Fall is actually the warmest time of the year to do this

Dinner on the Dunes is a kayak/supper trip hosted by Central Coast Outdoors. You suit up for your one-hour paddle in mid-afternoon, gliding through pristine waters in the natural setting of Morro Bay. Your destination is a sand spit, where you enjoy the sunset while your guide and chef prepares a grilled seafood dinner. After supper, you paddle back in deepening dusk – an all-together different way to experience the bay’s waters and wildlife. The price for everything is $110 per person, but there’s a 20% discount for groups of 10 or more.