Best Outdoor Dining
Chicken Scratch (pictured)
Chef Tim Byres’s fantastic new fried chicken restaurant shares its sizable backyard with his new bar, The Foundry, where bands play live music every weekend.
Mansion Restaurant at Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek
Chef Bruno Davaillon, formerly of Alain Ducasse’s Mix in Las Vegas, serves luxurious dishes like wagyu beef tartare and foie gras with pistachio butter on the restaurant’s elegant, oak tree-shaded red-brick terrace.
The NoMad Rooftop (pictured)
At his new restaurant The NoMad, “F&W Best New Chef 2005 Daniel Humm reinvents dishes like fruits de mer, creates new classics and borrows favorites from his Eleven Madison Park,” writes F&W editor in chief Dana Cowin. The restaurant’s rooftop has quickly become a coveted reservation, both for its phenomenal food and its view of the Empire State Building.
Restaurateur Danny Meyer’s take-out kiosk in leafy Madison Square Park has spawned 15 locations over the past four years. Its fantastic burgers have a cult following among Gotham burger geeks.
Everyone from local artists to Victoria Beckham congregates at this hot spot for chef Travis Lett’s rustic but meticulously prepared Cal-Med food—much of it cooked in a wood-burning oven. A fire pit burns at the center of the red-brick-floored courtyard, surrounded by vintage tables.
The BLVD Restaurant at Beverly Wilshire, Four Seasons Hotel
Located in the white-hot center of Beverly Hills, this restaurant’s alfresco tables offer primo people-watching and celebrity-spotting on the corner of L.A.’s iconic Wilshire Boulevard and Rodeo Drive.
At his second L.A. brick-and-mortar restaurant, Roy Choi (an F&W Best New Chef 2010) serves superb Korean-inspired pub food like spicy beer can chicken. The restaurant’s tree-flanked patio has long communal wood tables and a supercozy bonfire.
Chicago Cut Steakhouse
With a 120-seat bi-level terrace that boasts views of the Chicago River and the Loop, this is the legendary steak town’s ultimate outdoor spot for superjuicy dry-aged beef.
Big Star (pictured)
Highlights of this supercool “honky tonk” taqueria from Paul Kahan (an F&W Best New Chef 1999) include excellent pork-belly tacos and greasy-good queso fundido (a glorious melted-cheese appetizer studded with chorizo). Dim lighting, fashionably disheveled bartenders and country music encourage down-and-dirty drinking of highbrow and lowbrow beers, but there are also exceptional cocktails by Violet Hour mixologist Michael Rubel. Both are best sipped on a large patio that has sleek metal tables and cheery bright yellow chairs.
When the weather gets warm, the congressmen and senators who dine at superstar chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Capitol Hill steak spot can opt for the sidewalk café instead of the restaurant’s discreet indoor private dining areas.
Co-owner Tad Curtz built his seasonal (March-December) barbecue spot by hand, from the wooden bar to the outdoor patio’s blue picnic tables. The menu features classics like pulled pork and brisket sandwiches as well as made-to-order doughnuts and craft beers.
Eastern Standard Kitchen & Drinks (pictured)
At this popular Boston hotel restaurant, chef-restaurateur Jeremy Sewall highlights East Coast seafood in dishes like New England haddock with spaetzle. The awning-covered sidewalk patio is flanked by colorful flowering plants in white wainscot flower boxes.
Temazcal Tequila Cantina
Helmed by two-time James Beard Award-winning chef Todd Hall, this taqueria-tequileria’s 60-seat terrace overlooking Boston Harbor has become a Liberty Wharf summertime hotspot.
At the decade-old Oleana, chef-owner Ana Sortun serves her Eastern Mediterranean menu in a honey-colored dining room and a foliage-covered 50-seat yard in residential Cambridge.
Slanted Door (pictured)
Chef Charles Phan’s vaunted Vietnamese restaurant at the Ferry Building has a large terrace with a view of the bay and the Bay Bridge.
Rhum agricole-lover Thad Vogler, who designed the cocktail menus for Beretta and the Slanted Door, co-owns this airy, rustic-industrial tavern with a supermodern outdoor patio. Chef Brandon Jew sources ingredients from local farms for seasonal dishes like sweet yellow corn soup with charred peppers.
Although it’s located inside the members-only Soho Beach House, this restaurant and its tropical courtyard are open to the public. Italian-born Sergio Sigala uses his wood-burning pizza oven to make small, football-shaped pies with toppings like goat cheese and black truffle.
Sugarcane Raw Bar Grill (pictured) At this Latin restaurant with an 850-square-foot outdoor terrace, chef Timon Balloo (an F&W People’s Best New Chef 2011 nominee) juxtaposes unlikely ingredients to create phenomenal dishes like scallop crudo with apple, truffle and jalapeño.
Laura Sawicki (an F&W Best New Pastry Chef 2012) uses herbs, chiles, corn and tropical fruits to put brilliant Mexican twists on classic desserts at this modern restaurant and tequileria in downtown Austin. With its classic white Eames Eiffel chairs and cantilevered wood awning, the patio is one of the city’s most stylish outdoor spots.
Co-owner Ben Edgerton aims to re-create the spirit of his family’s hunting ranch at this small-plates spot in fast-developing East Austin. A meal in its cedar elm-shaded sprawl of picnic tables feels like an escape from the city. The meat-heavy menu features charcuterie made with chicken, beef, pork and quail from nearby farms.
At this longtime local favorite in the French Quarter, Susan Spicer (an F&W Best New Chef 1989) serves globally oriented dishes, including her famous grilled shrimp with black bean cake. Open almost year-round, the fruit tree-lined courtyard has a charming water fountain.
Bacchanal Fine Wine & Spirits
This hole-in-the-wall wine store/tasting room/restaurant lives up to its name. Every night, a live band performs in its lush courtyard, and winemakers host free tastings on Saturdays.
Bartolotta at Wynn (pictured)
Diners who choose to eat outside at chef Paul Bartolotta’s Italian seafood restaurant are seated in gorgeous private cabanas beside a pristine pond that’s studded with trompe-l’oeil silver ball sculptures.
Bouchon at The Venetian
A magnificent three-tiered stone water fountain is the centerpiece of the enormous alfresco Venetian courtyard at Thomas Keller’s French bistro.
Comme Ça at The Cosmopolitan
The superhip terrace at chef David Myers’s French brasserie overlooks the Vegas Strip.
Alma (pictured) Seating is first-come, first-served on the rooftop terrace of this Mexican favorite in Brooklyn’s trendy Carroll Gardens neighborhood, but it’s worth the wait for spectacular views of the East River, the Manhattan skyline, Governor’s Island and the Statue of Liberty.
In the casual, gravel-laid backyard of chefs Frank Falcinelli and Frank Castronovo’s flagship restaurant, diners are surrounded by flowering plants as they eat spectacular Italian food like chewy house-made cavatelli with spicy sausage and browned sage butter.
This urban locavore pizzeria, helmed by F&W Best New Chef 2010 Carlo Mirarchi, may have the city’s most unique alfresco dining area. In addition to standard wooden tables, the backyard holds an antique Mercedes-Benz and is surrounded by converted shipping containers that staff use as a greenhouse for ingredients. On Sundays from May to September, the yard becomes a day-party spot with a DJ, a mini pool and umbrellas.
Chef Jennifer Jasinski, a protégé of Wolfgang Puck, serves Mediterranean-inspired dishes at her lively downtown restaurant. Its patio is perfect for people-watching on busy Larimer Square.
The coolest feature of this hip spot’s new 100-seat patio isn’t the view; later this month, it will be the first rooftop in the country to have a food truck.
Hau Tree Lanai
A spectacular Hawaiian hau tree shades the stone porch of this popular Pacific Rim beachfront restaurant.
Azure at The Royal Hawaiian (pictured) Chef Jon Matsubara wakes up before dawn to hit the Honolulu fish auction, then roasts the day’s catch simply with Meyer lemon, herbs and white wine. The restaurant’s beachfront cabanas have fantastic views of the Pacific Ocean and the iconic Diamond Head volcano.
Little Water Cantina
On the last Sunday of the month, this popular Mexican spot hosts “Snouts & Stouts,” a pig roast with local beer and live music. The restaurant’s 2,200-square-foot terrace overlooks Lake Union.
Ponti Seafood Grill (pictured)
Chef Alvin Binuya, a protégé of hometown hero Tom Douglas, serves local wild fish at this classic seafood restaurant. Its two patios have views of the Aurora Bridge and the Fremont Bridge, one of the most frequently opened drawbridges in the country.