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Under summer skies

Sitting at a bistro table on a crowded sidewalk when gauzy clouds pepper a cornflower-blue sky is all fine and good.

In Portland, it's wise to take advantage of balmy days and nights, lazily watching shoppers and dog walkers hustle past. But dining alfresco can be more attractive when a dedicated patio, deck or courtyard shelters you from exhaust fumes and wheezing buses. These restaurants offer a chance to get away from it all.

Hands on Cafe

Set back from Southwest Barnes Road, the Hands on Cafe is situated on the serene grounds of the Oregon College of Art & Craft. With its small open kitchen and informal aura, the cluttered cafe feels a bit like a home ec classroom, but it opens out to a welcoming patio bordered by white azaleas. Established trees beyond the azaleas create shade and also allow sun to shine on the half-dozen tables. The eclectic menu ranges from simple vegetable curry to quesadillas and changes daily. Be sure to order homemade lemonade with strawberries and the biscuitlike chocolate chip cookie sprinkled with cinnamon-sugar.

8245 S.W. Barnes Road, 503-297-1480

Portland Brewing Co. Tap Room

Adjacent to Portland Brewing Co.'s covered, heated patio is a cheerful front porch festooned with potted plants. This intimate spot benefits from Portland Brewing's obscure location deep in industrial Northwest, an area that falls silent when the working day is done. The Tap Room produces fare that not only pairs well with beer but incorporates it in recipes such as MacTarnahan's fish and chips and Honeybeer steamer clams and mussels. The solid menu includes many snacky appetizers, rotisserie items, bouillabaisse and a terrific tart made from caramelized onions, cheddar and Granny Smith apples.

2730 N.W. 31st Ave., 503-228-5269

Compass World Bistro

On gorgeous mornings and evenings, customers may find the Compass World Bistro's dining room deserted. That's when diners forsake the jewel-box interior for the charming courtyard nestled behind the restaurant. Friends gather amid luscious foliage, pansies and lanterns to sample chef Mike Siegel's revolving regional menu. Currently, the emphasis is on Italy, evident in dishes such as the fennel-, caper- and currant-studded Spinach Penne Sicilian Style (Turkey Ñ the country Ñ is up next). Order the sweet-potato pancakes appetizer when available, and don't miss out on the exotically flavored homemade ice creams and sorbets.

4741 S.E. Hawthorne Blvd., 503-231-4840