Savor patio season by dining al fresco in the East Valley

House of Tricks

114 E. Seventh St., Tempe. (480) 968-1114 or http://houseoftricks.com

There’s a reason this 25-year-old Tempe mainstay earned the Tribune’s 2011 Best of East Valley award for “Best Patio”: Its outdoor space remains the standard by which to compare all others.

An idyllic spot made lush with daisies, geraniums, ferns and grapevine-covered arbors, Tricks’ spacious patio connects two historic bungalows that house the restaurant’s kitchen and dining rooms.

Tables are accented with fresh flowers or candles, and the patio sports twinkly lights, a fountain, a fire pit, a goldfish pond, the occasional lounging feline, and mature trees that make you feel like you’ve stumbled upon an oasis in the desert.

The covered outdoor bar serves a great selection of wines, and the restaurant’s contemporary American fare changes with the seasons.

Dinner prices make it a bit of a special occasion place, but lunch and daily “hours of tranquility” (translation: happy hour) are an affordable way to get in on the patio goodness.

Joe’s Farm Grill

3000 E. Ray Road, Gilbert. (480) 563-4745 or www.joesfarmgrill.com

Eating outdoors is kind of the point at this mid-century modern-styled burger stand situated on a farm turned subdivision. A meal here feels like you’re at somebody’s backyard barbecue — before we all started walling ourselves in with cinder blocks.

You’ll find picnic tables under enormous trees, with lots of room for youngsters to run around before and after eating. (This place is majorly popular with families.)

Views include the restaurant’s garden (part of 12 nearby acres that are preserved for agriculture) and shade and misters keep things bearable on all but the hottest days. When it’s chilly, the place stays toasty with heaters suspended from the ceiling and heated water lines built into the patio.

One word to the wise: Avoid the blue plastic furniture during busy peak meal times; the endless sound of chair legs scraping across the patio drowns out conversation. The noise is a non-issue farther out in the grass or dirt, at a picnic table.

Go early or late, and you’ll also avoid the 45-minute wait in a line that snakes out the door.

The Living Room Wine Cafe & Lounge

2475 W. Queen Creek Road, Chandler. (480) 855-2848 or www.livingroomwinebar.com

Less actual patio than indoor-outdoor hybrid, the Living Room’s open-walled seating alcoves give the best of both worlds.

A roof overhead keeps the sun off your noggin, while long, tangerine-colored curtains can be tied back to let the breeze pass through comfy seating areas. Padded seating, lots of little tables on which to rest drinks, and a two-sided fireplace make it feel like the kind of laid-back outdoor living space we dream of building onto our own back patio someday.

Happy hour is 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Starting at 6 p.m. each Monday, women get a martini and a mini manicure for $14.

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