Dining outside. Dining alfresco. Dining en plein air. No matter how you say it, it sounds good. As summer (unfortunately) comes to a close, people look to soak up that last bit of warm-weather goodness and enjoy their meals outside on restaurant roofs, terraces, and back patios. However, some cities have better outside dining options than others.
While some remain fairly obvious–dining outside by the beach is always a fabulous idea–some cities have an amazing summer patio scene that you wouldn’t know existed in colder months. We have rounded up the cities across America with the best outside dining options after sifting through reviews, comments, and photos from commentators across multiple websites.
Use this information to plan your last trips of the summer while you can still enjoy your meals sitting outside watching the sun set, the waves crash, or city life just going by. Before you know it, we’ll all be taking off our coats to dine inside and dreaming of the next time we can visit some of the best U.S. cities for outside dining.
Austin was practically made for outdoor dining. With some of the best food trucks in America and practically year-round amazing weather, there is no reason why you can’t enjoy dining alfresco 24/7 in this town. To really get a dose of that Texas sky, sit out at Fareground’s outdoor area while you munch on any of the dishes from its food hall.
Waterfront views make available outside-seating dinner reservations hard to come by in Charleston. The stunning sunsets and serene boats bobbing the water add mega-ambience to any meal. Whether you’re enjoying seafood or drinks at a rooftop bar, Charleston is one of the best cities in the U.S. for outside dining. Never been? Check out Bowens Island Restaurant for oysters and a Lowcountry sunset worth Instagramming.
Yes, it gets cold in Chicago. Chicagoans know that. That’s why for the three months that it’s warm, Chicago goes hard on outdoor dining. It seems like practically every restaurant in the city busts out patio seating or opens their rooftop for Midwesterners and visitors alike to enjoy the sun. Chicago hot spots like Cindy’s, Big Star, and Parson’s Chicken & Fish typically draw huge lines on weekends for prime outdoor-eating space, so make sure you either get there early or plan on making a reservation.
The best spots to enjoy a meal outside in Dallas just so happen to be on roofs. Harlow MXM offers an extensive cocktail selection, tasty bites, and a view of the skyline. And the multilevel rooftop at The Green Room offers a pool table, two bars (if one gets too crowded), and a nice view on a summer night.
Dining outdoors in Denver means gorgeous open-air views of mountains and rooftops, and delicious food. Whether you choose to dine on Corrida’s rooftop patio with a view of the Flatiron Mountains or survey an uninterrupted view of Denver’s downtown from El Five, you can’t go wrong eating outside in this city. Plus, many Denver spots with patios and rooftops are equipped with heaters and fire pits for colder days and nights.
It’s pretty hard not to dine outside when you eat out in Key West. The laid-back vibe of this Florida key, combined with the stunning views of the ocean, means that most restaurants have an outdoor seating area. There are plenty of places to eat local seafood and sip sundowners on the waterfront, such as Lorelai Restaurant and Cabana and Hog Heaven Sports Bar & Grill. Spot the mermaid at Mile Marker 82, and you have found Lorelai, a casual restaurant open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner that is famous for its mesmerizing sunset views. Tucked in a protected cove, Hog Heaven is a relaxed restaurant by day with seafood and barbecue, and a party place at night with a live deejay and bands helping revelers dance the night away.
One of the best cities to eat the best food and drink in Hawaii is Lahaina. Lahaina is super-pretty, smells incredible, and has tons of restaurant rooftops and patios with views of the ocean, green mountains, and just pretty Hawaiian everything. Plus, with all of its trendy restaurants and bars, it’s one of the hippest cities in the country!
There seem to be infinite reasons as to why Los Angeles is one of the best places to eat outside. With its perfectly sunny weather and amazing food scene, there is no reason you shouldn’t sit on a deck, patio, rooftop, or in an open-air seating area. Whether you’re at Nobu Malibu soaking up the scent of the ocean or eating some vegan Mexican food under the stars at Gracias Madre, you won’t regret sitting outside in the City of Angels.
Unless you can’t stand the heat, Miami is one of those cities where you can dine outside all year-round. With tons of trendy and traditional spots with outside seating, the options are endless. Head to Sugarcane for cocktails on one of the most popular patios on Miami, or grab a seat at Amara so you can see the most stunning views of Biscayne Bay up close.
San Diego is nothing like L.A. Whereas L.A. eateries are all about being seen in the coolest spaces, San Diego wants you to enjoy its perfect weather while gazing at the ocean, palm trees, and chill boats. Places like Hello Betty Fish House offer an outdoor dining experience where guests sit under blue skies near blue waters while they enjoy their meals. Even fancy dinners at places like George’s at the Cove can be had outside in the California sun.
Our third and final best California outdoor dining city is San Francisco. No, the weather in San Francisco is not suitable for year-round alfresco eating, but when it is, you will be hard-pressed to find anywhere more beautiful to be. Whether you’re enjoying Italian food on the sloping streets of North Beach at an outside table or sitting in a quaint garden patio at Nopalito for Mexican food, San Francisco’s en plein air dining experiences are always a gorgeous experience.
Yes, there is a patio season in Seattle, and it is glorious. Once the sun is out, places like Chuck’s Hop Shop get busy with diners and drinkers who are just as hungry for sunsets and ocean breezes as they are a tasty meal. Check out Westward to enjoy your food on Adirondack chairs and Thackeray’s for twinkle lights and shareable plates. Thinking of dining in Seattle when it’s not a great time to sit outside? Better consult our guide to the best food and drink in Washington, first.
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