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Take out

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Restaurants offer outdoor dining as a way to soak up every second of summer's rays

Call it a respite from cabin fever or the urban version of the traditional picnic, but there's nothing quite like a meal under the trees, a drink under the stars or an ice cream cone while basking in the sun to banish winter from your memory.

For folks in the Fox Valley area, the al fresco dining options are myriad. From patio gardens to sidewalk cafes to tree-covered picnic benches, if you want to grab a slice of the great outdoors, your choices range from haute to humble.

"I think (the appeal) is a little bit different for every person," says Jimmy Bergeron, owner of Jimmy's Grill at the corner of Washington Street and Jackson Avenue in downtown Naperville. His 2,200-square-foot patio, enclosed by a low brick wall, can seat as many as 180 or 200 people.

"Winter is so fun here in Illinois, where we face what feels like overwhelming obstacles, that we're just dying to get outside," Bergeron says.

That is no exaggeration, says J.B. Foster, manager of The Department in downtown Joliet. Don't expect to get a seat on his restaurant's second-story, 56-seat deck if you arrive later than 6 on a beautiful summer night.

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