Dining Al Fresco in Harrisonburg, VA

By Lauren Haan on March 26, 2018

Now that spring is upon us, it’s time to start looking forward to and preparing for warmer days. One of the best ways to celebrate this season change is by enjoying meals “al fresco” or outside in the open air. Being conveniently located in the heart Harrisonburg, VA, James Madison University students get to enjoy all that the city has to offer. The Harrisonburg community has a large variety of restaurants all with their own aesthetics and delicious cuisine. No matter what time of day or what kind of food you want to enjoy al fresco, there is a restaurant that will fulfill your cravings.

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1. Jalepeños Southwest Grill

Jalepeños is located just off of Port Republic Rd in Harrisonburg and is a favorite among students for their southwest cuisine and margarita specials. Each day of the week Jalepeños features a different daily “Loco Deal” for $5.95 and on the weekends, they do discounted shareable fajitas.

Every day from 11 a.m.- 5 p.m. their signature 20 oz. margaritas are only $3, then from 5 p.m.- close they are $4. However, on “Margarita Monday” which is every Monday, margs are $3 all day long. When the weather starts to get nice, many people gather on Jalapeño’s patio to enjoy good food, good friends and frosty margaritas.

2. Jack Brown’s Beer & Burger Joint

Located just down the street from JMU’s Main Campus, Jack Brown’s is easily accessible and the best place in Harrisonburg to get beer and a burger. The everyday menu offers everything from a standard hamburger made with their 100% all-natural wagyu beef patty to the famous “Greg Brady” burger.

The Greg Brady is a customer favorite and consists of a standard burger topped with house made mac n’ cheese and Martin’s BBQ chips. Along with their everyday menu, Jack Brown’s also features daily specials, which include a variety of unique gourmet burgers. When the weather gets nice, the best way to enjoy these beefy works of art is by sitting on their patio and experiencing all that downtown Harrisonburg has to offer!

3. Magnolia’s Tacos & Tequila Bar

Also located in downtown Harrisonburg, Magnolia’s Tacos & Tequila Bar is the best place in town to celebrate “Taco Tuesday.” Magnolia’s has a beautiful downtown southwest aesthetic and when the weather gets nice, they open up the rooftop which has one of the best views in Harrisonburg.

Their menu features a variety of gourmet tacos including short rib, masa crusted shrimp, pork marinated in Dos XX and blackened chicken. Their margaritas are delicious and are served in picturesque glasses that are shaped like jars and stamped with their logo.

4. Vito’s Italian Kitchen

If you want to take a trip to Italy, but don’t have the time or money, take a trip to Vito’s Italian Kitchen instead! Vito’s Italian Kitchen is located off of Port Republic Rd near Jalapeño’s and serves amazing Italian food. When the weather is warm, enjoy your meal on the beautiful patio and you’ll think you’re at a quaint Italian café.

The patio has string lights and shrubbery to block out the outside world and the red umbrellas resemble those found in an outdoor Italian café. For the full experience, I recommend ordering a glass of your favorite wine, starting your meal with either calamari or bruschetta and selecting one of their delicious pizzas, pastas or entrees for the main course. However, you can’t go wrong with anything from Vito’s Italian Kitchen!

5. Heritage Bakery and Café

For lighter breakfast and lunch fare, Heritage Bakery and Café is the quaintest café in Harrisonburg. Owned by a mother and daughter, the duo bakes fresh pastries and cook delicious, locally sourced breakfast and lunch items daily. The pastry selection includes muffins, Italian macaroons, sticky buns, cookies, and many more items.

For breakfast/brunch you can order smoked salmon on a bagel, different croissant sandwiches or quiche. The lunch menu features salads, soups and sandwiches. One Sunday a month from 12 p.m.- 3 p.m. you can reserve a table for afternoon tea. When the weather is warm, afternoon tea on the patio is my “cup of tea.” Keep an eye out for their different themed teas coming up and don’t forget to reserve your table!

Whether you’re in the mood for Mexican food, Italian food, American food, or a quaint brunch, the best way to enjoy a meal when the weather gets warm is by dining al fresco. Harrisonburg, VA offers many restaurants downtown and close to JMU’s campus that allow you to do just that. If you’re a current student and haven’t tried one of these places yet, I encourage you to do so. You can’t go wrong with either of these local treasures.

Hi, my name is Lauren and I am a senior at James Madison University. I love good food, the outdoors and my one year-old pup!

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