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DINING ALFRESCO

Enjoy a meal or cigar on Ernie’s brand new patio

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DINING ALFRESCO

Chef Michael Midgley prepares dishes at Ernie’s Food & Spirits in Manteca.

HIME ROMERO/The 209


POSTED August 1, 2014 7:32 p.m.

Ernie’s Food & Spirits has built a reputation as one of the finest dining experiences in all the Central Valley, but the best seat in the house may not be in the building at all.

The Manteca restaurant has expanded.

Executive Chef Mike Midgley, ye of Top Chef Season Two and Cutthroat Kitchen fame, recently announced the addition of a patio, affording patrons the option of dining alfresco. The patio is located just off the lounge, and features four high-top tables, a garden and landscaping, a cedar backdrop, rock wall, and in the evening, views of the Central Valley sunset. 

“It’s nice in the evening, especially when it’s cool in the summer,” said Midgley, whose herb garden is home to rosemary, lavender and chocolate mint. “It’s nice to be outside. I like it outside. It’s a great atmosphere.

“I think everyone’s been surprised. When they come in, they’re not aware that we have a patio. So people have been generally excited about it.”

The patio has been open for about a month.

Ernie’s also recently received its tobacco license, which allows them to sell cigars. The humidors have been filled with the owner’s favorite, Padron, “Best Cigar of the Year” in 2009 and rated the 45th-best cigar by cigarafficionado.com. 

“We’ve got a nice selection of high-end cigars,” promised Midgley.

Dining alfresco is rare in the Family City. 

Many of Manteca’s fast food restaurants and coffee shops feature outdoor seating – think: In-N-Out, near the Yosemite Avenue exit along Highway 99 – but many of its established dine-in restaurants remain indoors. 

Taquerias La Estrella’s new location at the corner of Louise Avenue and North Main Street features a few tables overlooking the busy intersection. There are five tables outside of the Matsu Sushi Japanese Restaurant at the Promenade Shops at Orchard Valley, where patrons can cozy up to a fire pit or people watch after their meal.

Ernie’s will offer a private, intimate setting.

Midgley said outdoor seating was part of the initial plans, but triumvirate that runs Ernie’s, which includes owner Dennis Williams and manager Bryan Soria, opted to wait until the restaurant had established itself first. 

Two years later, Ernie’s is thriving and that patio is open for business.

The patio is seated on a first-come, first-serve basis and can accommodate up to 24 guests. The restaurant will not take reservations for those tables. 

“From the get-go, we were always looking to have some kind of outdoor seating. It was always about doing it right and making it look the best we could,” Midgley said. “Everything is going well right now, so we said ‘Hey, let’s get that patio finished.’ 

“I think it’s a sign that we’re thriving and that we’re successful.”

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