Sun Valley Dining Out(side) is In 

The best places to go al fresco

Artistic tables and a beer-garden vibe make outdoor dining  more fun at Powerhouse in Hailey.

David Seelig

Artistic tables and a beer-garden vibe make outdoor dining more fun at Powerhouse in Hailey.

Bocce at The Powerhouse Pub & Bike Fit Studio in Hailey and ping pong at Rickshaw in Ketchum are not the first things that come to mind for most gourmands contemplating dining options. However, patrons who love to mix mountain breezes with fresh homemade food will thrive on the bounty of the state Highway 75 culinary corridor.

Veteran Ketchum chef Chris Kastner, owner of CK's Real Food (320 S. Main St., Hailey) has perfected the outdoor dining experience. After 17 years with Ketchum's former outdoor hotspot Evergreen, Kastner brought his outdoorsy style to Hailey, where the perennial gardens of his slow food establishment on Main Street, managed by master gardener Mary Ann Wuebker, are responsible for transforming at least a few Hailey visitors into regulars. It is common to see Kastner returning from Croy Canyon on his mountain bike before a shift.

Even a small metal table and chair precariously perched on a curb allows diners to soak up the valley's ambiance, but many substantial patios, decks and porches cater to dining en plein air. The outdoor games, including the chessboard in the Wicked Spud beer garden (305 N. Main St., Hailey), and especially the Sawtooths Putting Course at the Sun Valley Clubhouse (200 Trail Creek Road, Sun Valley), go well with cold beer or a bottle of sake. It is a fitting cool down from a day of outdoor adventure or after dipping into the artistic pursuits that breathe life into Sun Valley.

Between the Timmerman Hill, U.S. Highway 20 and Highway 75 junction and Stanley in the Sawtooth Valley, nearly every restaurateur and coffee shop or pub owner offers some homage to the sun and fresh air, like the tiny but adequate portico at Wize Guy Pizza Pie (460 Sun Valley Road, Ketchum). The Hailey store shares a more spacious raised dining patio with large tables and umbrellas with Ketchum Burritos (126 S. Main St., Hailey) for those with the need to spread out. It also has more shade than some outdoor haunts for those feeling a little sun-weary. KBs offers a summer food cart in Ketchum on the curb by Sturtevants Mountain Outfitters (340 N. Main St.) for a ready meal enjoyed anywhere in the mountains.

Even those sticking to the main drag will find many gastronomic enterprises with outdoor seating. A quick peek at the visitsunvalley.com dining guide opens even the repeat visitor to new tantalizing dining experiences. Take Oak Street Foods (109 Oak St., Bellevue), which has perhaps the quintessential garden patio for a leisurely lunch. The roomy deck at El Pastor (321 S. Main St., Bellevue) is a sunny treat for Mexican food aficionados. Don't be surprised if their taco truck also shows up at any number of outdoor events.

Hailey is a tough nut to crack for the passerby because there are so many choices. The Cowboy Cocina (111 N. First Ave., Ste. 1C, Hailey), secluded in the Meriwether Building, offers some comforting shade with bottomless swamp water for a hot day. The building is also home to one of the two Java coffee houses in the valley (191 Fourth St. W., Ketchum; 111 N. First Ave., Hailey), each with sunny outdoor spots for a morning espresso shot.

Back to bocce, another thing that makes the Powerhouse (411 N. Main St., Hailey) a delight, beyond the homemade ketchup and a beer list so lengthy it is in fine print, are the custom outdoor tables made by artist Nate Galpin--who is also contributing artistic bike racks with a group of other artists for the multi-million-dollar Woodside Boulevard reconstruction. Galpin's contemporary, outdoor table designs and the Powerhouse ambiance smacks of Bavarian beer gardens. It feels proper to plunk a respectable pint on the sturdy wooden planks in sheer appreciation of Mother Nature's finest.

Shorty's Diner (126 S. Main St., Hailey) has dependable umbrella seating that is sunny side up. On an unhurried morning when the orb is a little higher in the sky, another prime outdoor breakfast spot in the county seat is Zaney's River Street Coffee House (208 N. River St., Hailey). It's simply a good place to sip a hot brew, catch up on local happenings and contemplate life.

Ketchum delivers the al fresco goods from the extended sidewalk in front of the sun-focused Coffee Grinder (321 E. Fourth St., Ketchum) to the rooftops of The Roosevelt Grill (280 Main St., Ketchum) and The Sawtooth Club (231 N. Main St., Ketchum), and the newer Sego Restaurant (131 N. Washington Ave., Ketchum)--all are outdoor venues with impeccable views. Back to ping pong, Rickshaw (460 N. Washington Ave., Ketchum) also stokes a fire for cooler evenings. An unrivaled old-world experience is certainly choosing an excellent wine to accompany the cuisine and ambiance of a meal outside at Michel's Christiania Restaurant & Olympic Bar (303 N. Walnut Ave., Ketchum), not to be confused with Cristina's Restaurant & Bakery (520 Second St. E., Ketchum), where a sumptuous outdoor lunch is nationally acclaimed.

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