Sometimes, a middling restaurant can be where everyone wants to dine - if it has outdoor seating. Last week, WNBC's Andrew Siff had a story on the rise of al fresco dining in the city and had some interesting statistics. And we also liked that al fresco diners use their laptops during dinner.

The number of permits for sidewalk cafes has increased from 600 in 2002 to 900 in 2007. Tje Department of Consumer Affairs commissioner Jonathan Mintz told Siff that the reason why there are so many more al fresco options is because New Yorkers love 'em so much and the DCA has made it easier for restaurants to get permits. And easy has translated into green: Now small establishments pay $8,000 for a permit (up from $4,000) and large establishment pay about $26,000 (up from $13,000).

The news segment also got the sidewalk dining skeptics, mainly neighbors who don't like the noise and crowds sidewalk dining attracts. Not mentioned: How sidewalk cafes take up precious sidewalk space!

Here's a list of sidewalk cafes (PDF) from the Department of Consumer Affairs. The DCA even held a contest for restaurants to develop drinks for the outdoor dining season - here are the recipes.