Hartz (left) of Littleton, and Tracey Shafroth, of Douglas, Michigan, enjoy lunch on the patio at Concord’s Colonial Inn after spending the morning walking around Concord. Photo by Abby Kaufman

Outdoor dining makes a comeback at Concord restaurants

By Abby Kaufman  Correspondent
May 24, 2023

As the temperatures climb, Concord restaurateurs are taking their cues from diners wanting to eat al fresco. Tables, chairs, planters, lights – and most important, the people – are heading back to their favorite Concord patios, alleys and sidewalks for the outdoor dining season. 

The pandemic led some Concord restaurant owners to offer outdoor seating options for the first time when the state loosened its regulatory process on outdoor dining. Now, three years later, some restaurant owners say they are happy to again take advantage of the state’s extended easing of outdoor dining rules, likely the final year of such easing. 

The patio of the Colonial Inn Photo by Abby Kaufman

Concord restaurants, with town approval, can this summer set up shop outside with less state restrictions than going through the pre-pandemic months-long state paperwork process. 

Businesses that hadn’t considered outdoor dining before did so out of necessity during the pandemic, said Mimi Graney, Concord’s Economic Vitality Manager. Now, many of those restaurants see the continued benefit of offering outdoor seating, she said. 

Outdoor dining can draw people into some of Concord’s hidden gem restaurants they hadn’t discovered before, Graney said. 

“I think it’s great for Concord because it enlivens the streetscape,” said Graney. “It really helps support all the nearby businesses. “

At 80 Thoreau, owner Ian Calhoun said outdoor dining, which the restaurant began offering during the pandemic, has been popular, and it will be worth any extra paperwork to continue it in the years to come. 80 Thoreau, which received town approval to do so, will start in late May offering 20 seats outside, Calhoun said.  

“Some people are still dining outside because they don’t want to go inside,” Calhoun said. “But more now are choosing outdoors for the pleasure of dining outside.” 

Nosh by Concord Market has a handful of outdoor tables, but with recent town approval, plans to take over a few parking spaces behind the restaurant to extend their outdoor area and make it a beer garden and green space, said General Manager Marisa Limoli. 

Nosh by Concord Market will add picnic tables, and is putting down turf and potted fresh flowers. They’ll also have lawn games, like cornhole and Jenga set up. The new beer garden area will be ready to go in early June. 

“People want to be outside–we want to be outside,” said Limoli. “It’s a beautiful space.” 

Fiorella’s Cucina also recently got town approval to again set up an outdoor dining space behind the restaurant, and will offer al fresco dining during dinner service. The restaurant will have seating outside for 25 to 30 people, and creates a serene space with lights, flowers, planters, and umbrellas, said General Manager Leslie Palola. 

Fiorella’s Cucina began offering outdoor dining during the pandemic, and have applied for it every year since, said Palola. Some people still want to sit outside because of the pandemic, while others simply want to enjoy being outside, Palola said. 

“It’s very popular–we get a lot of calls for it,” Palola said. 

The patio at Concord’s Colonial Inn was another popular choice on a recent sunny afternoon. Littleton resident Shelley Hartz brought a friend visiting from Michigan to see the sights in Concord, and they ended up on the patio for lunch. 

“We were walking around, and this is a nice place to sit outside,” said Hartz.