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Starry, Starry Nights

Outdoor patio dining in Charlotte

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Eating in the dark isn't as alarming as it sounds. Though Charlotte's light pollution doesn't allow many of us to eat in the dark with only star-filled skies anymore, there's still something to be said of the smell of jasmine, magnolias and gardenias in the Southern night air. A number of the first eateries to stake out the outdoors (yeah, I know, it's to imagine that not too long ago the health inspectors and ABC had problems with bird poop and outdoor alcoholic consumption) are still the best.

300 EAST, with its small outdoor tables on a corner lot of East Boulevard, has always had that urbane historic attitude that older eateries in city neighborhoods have. At night, Dilworth walkers and runners rush by while diners enjoy friends and good food. 300 East is open until 10pm Monday through Thursday and until 11pm Fridays and Saturdays.

300 East, 300 East Blvd., 704-332-6507.

I MAY BE PARTIAL to the Brixx terrace in Dilworth since I became engaged there (three or four venues ago), but this patio is open until midnight most nights and is another place where you can have small bites, a salad or a pizza late into the evening.

Brixx, 1801 Scott Ave. (corner of East Boulevard and Scott Avenue), 704-376-1000.

SECLUDED in an out-of-the-way side garden is the patio at downtown's Palomino Restaurant. On some Fridays you can hear live music from 5:30pm until 8:30pm. Chose a seat around the fountain and order some late-evening espresso with a decadent pot de crème or a refreshing glass of strawberry lemonade. The patio closes at 11pm most evenings.

Palomino Restaurant, 525 N. Tryon St., 704-373-9499.

I'M NOT SURE WHY people are still so surprised by the exceptional quality of the cuisine offered at the Waldhorn Restaurant. This is a second-generation restaurant with trained culinarians. Not only are its schweine lendchen mit jägersosse (pork tenderloin with hunter sauce), sauerbraten and wiener schnitzel dishes stellar, the beer list offers 12 German drafts and 17 bottles. All can be enjoyed in the beer garten until 10pm most nights.

Waldhorn Restaurant, 12101 Lancaster Highway, Pineville, 704-540-7047.

TWO NEW PATIOS recently opened in SouthPark. The first is at Upstream in Phillips Place. This patio is covered and has ceiling fans for those motionless summer nights and also heaters for early spring and late fall evenings when diners still want to enjoy the night air. The terrace is open until 10pm Sunday through Thursday and until 10:30pm Friday and Saturday.

Upstream, 6902 Phillips Place Court, 704-556-7730.

THE SECOND new patio provides welcomed additional seating at Chef Bruce Moffet's Barrington's. With the inside incurably "cozy" and full of patrons, the outside allows for a few more seats at this popular SouthPark restaurant.

Barrington Restaurant, 7822 Fairview Road, 704-364-5755.

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