I’m a sucker for al fresco dining – here are my top 5 picks from across the country.
Would you like a view with your salad? Fall is my favorite time of year, as I love planning weekend getaways around California, my new home state, cruising around enjoying the crisp air. To take advantage of this perfect weather, why not enjoy some meals outside, too? These top five beauties not only feature gourmet menus, but striking scenery. From beachside happy hour to city-centric spots to see and be seen, here’s your go-to seasonal patio dining checklist. Nothing whets an appetite like dining in the very best restaurants with an outside option.
Lago—Las Vegas, NV
Everyone in Las Vegas is buzzing about Julian Serrano’s latest Vegas masterpiece, Lago. Not only does it sit on the manmade lake at Bellagio—one of the most famously beautiful resorts in the world—his Italian small plates are as delicious as the view. Appropriately for a brunch-heavy town like Las Vegas, Lago just debuted a fabulous Sunday indulgence: a three-course spectacle with optional unlimited Bellinis. (There’s also a new prixe-fixe lunch menu.) And just as everything is done beautifully inside the upscale Bellagio, the presentation of food at Lago is bar none—think pretty plates of eggplant parmesan Benedict and insalata di mare. Bright greens, bold sorbet flavors, and rich red tomatoes play off stark white dishes and the dancing Fountains of Bellagio in the background.
Blue Water Grill—New York City, NY
Prime seafood, live jazz, and a view of bustling New York City? Yes please! A sentimental favorite from the years I spent living in the East Village – this was one of my top spots, a real fresh catch. Blue Water Grill is a swanky people-watching spot in Union Square that everyone must try at least once. Grab a patio table for Sunday brunch and let the jazz music serenade you as you dig into seafood everything—from shrimp gnocchi to crab cake Benedict and salmon sashimi. Foodies will love the vast array of unique seafood dishes, such as octopus, barbecue eel, and an impressive assortment of oysters and sushi rolls.
Pinewood Social—Nashville, TN
Pinewood Social’s tagline is “a place to meet,” but you could easily tack on “and drink, swim, game, and party.” A social club you can hit up morning, noon and night, it encompasses a huge, intriguing space. Past the vintage bowling lanes and private event rooms is a sprawling outdoor patio. The courtyard features a chic pool, bocce ball court, and an old Airstream trailer turned into a bar. The tables with umbrellas, pool loungers and little couches beckon an afternoon of lounging in the fresh air, cocktail in hand. Pre-game before braving karaoke inside, or celebrate a lucky strike with a round of shots under the twinkling Tennessee lights. Pinewood also brews a mean coffee and features a brunch cocktails—best enjoyed outdoors.
JRDN—San Diego, CA
JRDN at Tower23 Hotel is the shiny diamond packed among casual beachy shops in the chill coastal town of Pacific Beach, a few miles from Downtown San Diego. It’s the “it” place to have happy hour and a surf-and-turf-style bite to eat, thanks to a prime waterfront location and trendy décor. Floor-to-ceiling glass retractable doors on the waterfront side open to a stunning patio and miles of ocean view. Order up a charcuterie plate, some ahi tuna poke from its raw bar, and a Ginger Pear Sparkler, made with pear, ginger shrub and Prosecco. The best time to go? Sunset.
Maketto 1351—Washington, DC
If you really want to appreciate the glory that is Maketto 1351, sit yourself down in the center courtyard at the communal table. Since this venue is part coffee shop, part restaurant, part retail, you can soak in the comings and goings of fellow patriots while digging into its popular double fried chicken and Taiwanese eats. The outdoor dining area has a rustic vibe, with a brick wall, lights wrapped around a towering tree, iron staircase and some flowering plants—a peaceful gem to relax away from lively H street. If you want to just grab a cup of Joe, there’s an upstairs patio by the coffee bar, too.