On balmy summer evenings, it’s hard to resist the allure of patio dining. Cloistered in air-conditioned interiors all day, we crave fresh air at night; it stimulates the senses, making food seem to taste better.

Or maybe it’s just the relaxed ambiance of restaurant patios that draws summers’ bare-legged, casually-clad diners. Whatever the reason, ‘tis the season to dine al fresco.

Come July, it could be too hot.

Many outdoor dining spots are impossible to miss – just drive the length of Greenville, where the sidewalk cafes brush up against the traffic. They’re fine for the “see-and-be-seen” crowd, but I’ll take a courtyard over street-side seating any day.

My pick for the best patio dining in Lake Highlands is ST Café.

ST Café

You’d be hard-pressed to find outdoor seating in our neighborhood that rivals this classy café’s. (I scoured the neighborhood and found views of parking lots at most area restaurants.)

ST Café’s patio features a string of cascading fountains, each encircled by a swirling sculpture of jumping fish. Although the restaurant is located in a strip center close to LBJ Freeway, you feel a world away seated on the back patio. The fountains muffle the street noise and give the café a European feel.

The lunch menu features soups, salads, sandwiches and quiche, as well as hearty entrees such as chicken breast in pecan crust ($6.25) and angel hair pasta with shrimp and salmon ($7.25).

Look for the crab cake special on Fridays (One Lake Highlands resident told me it would be her choice for a last meal.) The tender crab cakes bear a thin, pan-fried crust drizzled with a tarragon cream dressing. It’s served on a bed of baby spinach salad.

The dinner menu offers more upscale, bistro-fare, such as pork tenderloin in rosemary sauce ($12.95), broiled Atlantic salmon ($13.95), and crab cakes with angel hair pasta ($11.95). All entrees come with a choice of soup or salad.

Desserts are outstanding. Try the chocolate indulgence ($3.00), a pecan crust layered with chocolate fudge, toffee and Kahlua cream.

ST Café, which includes Sweet Temptations Bakery, is located at 9090 Skillman (503-6007). Hours are 8 a.m.-9 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 8 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 8 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Sunday. The café is closed Monday.