The restaurant and bar industries have been turned on their heads this year, and when it comes to dining as usual, nothing’s going to go back to “normal” anytime soon. Fortunately, L.A.’s service industry is nothing but innovative.
At the start of July, Governor Gavin Newsom outlawed indoor dining for the region, spurring a new wave of alfresco options throughout Los Angeles—a city fortunately blessed with temperate year-round weather and a wealth of patios to choose from. Some restaurants weren’t so lucky to have outdoor dining already up and running, but local legislation—whether it be temporary sidewalk permits or complete street closures to set up tables and chairs—helped these restaurants (and bars serving food) get back into dine-in business.
Over the last few months hundreds if not thousands of new patios have sprung up across L.A. County, from completely new spots to creative pivots by stalwarts. Here are just a few of our favorites in case you feel like dining in, outdoors.
One of L.A.’s most famous gay bars and gathering spaces is shaking things up with a new alleyway café in ode to both its name and the Beatles’ Abbey Road. The Abbey recently converted its alley into a plant-dotted “Eurocentric bistro café” featuring plenty of the West Hollywood spot’s classic dishes (including, yes, brunch—obviously), as well as the bar’s full drink menu of more than 200 cocktails and alcohol-free concoctions. And, wouldn’t you know it, you can even find a replica striped crosswalk from the Beatles’ album cover for a few photo ops.
With an intimate setup that feels a little closer to an alfresco chef’s table than full-blown patio seating, Anajak’s Sherman Oaks alleyway table is exclusive and incredibly private most nights of the week. The family-run Thai restaurant opens up the alley for plenty of bulb-lit distanced tables during Thai Taco Tuesday nights—where seating is first come, first served—but from Friday to Sunday there’s only one table out there, and only two seatings (5–6:30pm and 7–8:30pm). Book a reservation over Instagram DM for as few as two people and as many as six, and note the two-bottle-of-wine minimum (though you can either enjoy them there or take them home), then settle in for one of the most delicious—and distanced—meals you can have in L.A. right now.
A Downtown stalwart from one of our favorite chefs in town, Josef Centeno’s Tex-Mex haven Bar Amá took things out back. Now when you want Bar Amá’s famed queso, enchiladas and tacos dorados for dine-in, you can find them in the alleyway under colorful papel picado. The menu even sports a B-side list of hits from the sadly shuttered Bäco Mercat, a sibling concept from Centeno that was, until this summer, located just down the block. Centeno’s Michelin-starred restaurant, Orsa & Winston, recently added a few items to the new alleyway scene, too, meaning a daily-changing, beautiful five-course menu is on offer outside with optional wine pairing if you’re looking for something a bit more formal.
Chic and a little off-the-walls, the same restaurant that brought us (phenomenal) moules frites with curly fries also reimagined its dining situation creatively. What was once Bar Restaurant’s valet parking area is now a socially distanced patio situation, complete with menus found via QR code and employees in all-white uniforms, face visors and masks. There are bulb lights and bushes and plenty of bottles of wine to be found, as is chef Douglas Rankin’s wholly creative take on French cuisine. Find it all, along with a rotating cast of specials, in Silver Lake from Wednesday to Sunday.
When it comes to our Best New Restaurant of 2018, owners Ori Menashe and Genevieve Gergis are giving you three options: “Stolen and non stolen,” the restaurant posted to Instagram. “You can play it safe and go on our original patio, or you can be a renegade and go on either our stolen Verve patio, or the patio that wouldn’t have been approved by the city before this.” The phenomenal Middle Eastern restaurant didn’t first open with patio seating near its entrance but eventually added some, and that’s currently a dine-in option in the Arts District, but Bavel also “stole” the patio of neighbors Verve Coffee Roasters for dinner service. They also added another new space to dig into hummus and roasted meats and succulent tagines: tables set out along a walkway. Given how terrific Bavel is, you probably can’t go wrong with any of the patios (or dishes).
OK, so it’s not the same as sliding into a big red leather booth, but red-sauce and West Hollywood institution Dan Tana’s adapted to bring us more parms and martinis in the era of outdoor-only dining—they’ve even got gratis bottles of hand sanitizer. The all-red-everything decor moves outside with a deep-red carpet, wood chairs and umbrellas and hedges for privacy from the rest of the parking lot. (The classic red-and-white checkered tablecloths are the same though—c’mon, how could they not be?) You can find all the Italian-American menu greats here, and per usual Tana’s booking, you’re going to need a reservation.
Employees Only’s Summer Social Club
One of West Hollywood’s best cocktail bars just launched a full-on celebration of summer by way of their new astroturfed patio next door. Now through the foreseeable future, Employees Only is serving killer cocktails alongside food pop-ups from some of our favorite names in town. (Breakfast by Salt’s Cure? Don’t mind if we do. Italian-coastal–inspired crudo bar from Michael’s chef Brian Bornemann? We’re there.) There’s even a mobile haircut truck, because we’ve all gone a little too long without a trim, plus programming on the way such as distanced outdoor yoga, all set amongst summery picnic tables and umbrellas.
The absolute newest of the new, the beachy Aussie café Great White just launched its new outdoor seating on Tuesday. Taking over part of their parking lot and setting up fencing, trees and picnic tables, the new space offers a more robust dine-in option for all of your smoothie bowl, sandwich, breakfast burrito, grain bowl and coffee shop needs. The darling café with a view of the iconic V-E-N-I-C-E sign also just started a natural wine program, giving you even more reason to linger on that new patio.
L.A.’s James Beard Award-winning Oaxacan treasure flipped its parking area to give us “Corredor Guelaguetza,” a new patio that’s populated with picnic tables, colorful umbrellas, bulb lights, and of course Guelaguetza’s signature moles, braises, tlayudas and more. The Koreatown gem’s new patio is open from Tuesday to Sunday.
Guerrilla Tacos knows how to have fun, and that’s especially true on the new patio. They’re turned their parking lot into a dinner-only “block party,” complete with lotería, wood-grilled dishes, their signature wildly creative tacos, and raw oysters all to be washed down with beer and cocktails every Friday and Saturday night. Go big with family-style plates or order à la carte, and if you want to do it up, you can even add uni to any taco or snack for $5. Make your reservations online.
You can take the Southern food out of Hatchet Hall’s dining room, but you can’t take the dining room out of Hatchet Hall’s Southern vibes. The Culver City restaurant’s new patio in the parking lot features old-school–American and Southern food as ever: In addition to the restaurant’s classics—we’re talking cornbread, Edwards smoked country ham, chopped steak tartare with fried oysters, and smoked wings with Alabama white sauce—you can now pop by on Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 3pm for a Low Country boil where the corn, shrimp, sausage and drawn butter get served up by the tray.
This artful, Michelin-starred Larchmont spot just expanded with outdoor service thanks to a romantic new patio. Hiding the rest of the view of the parking lot with trellises and hedges, Kali’s California cuisine now gets served under umbrellas and bulb lights as opposed to the restaurant’s usual modern, minimalist setting. Find chef Kevin Meehan’s black barley risotto, uni pasta, gazpachos and dry-aged steaks from Wednesday to Sunday.
When it comes to innovation, few sprung into action like Echo Park’s new café. Lady Byrd opened in spring right into an era of social distancing and uncertainty, and immediately flipped the parking lot into a garden patio. To take things a step further, they added clear glass greenhouses to provide a barrier between guests, offering some of the most private (but still social) dining in L.A., where you can nosh on sunny salads, sandwiches, burgers and pastas, and sip fresh juice, wine and a full espresso bar.
Can you still find Josiah Citrin’s fine-dining tasting menu in Santa Monica? Thanks to a new patio, you absolutely can. The chef’s sibling restaurants, Mélisse and Citrin, share a building and now they share a breezy new “outdoor terrace” where the valet was, too. You can find a combined four-course tasting menu available, as well as plenty of à la carte options including the chef’s signature lobster spaghetti, egg caviar, and dirty chicken, with wine pairings and dessert on offer as well.
Venice’s newest restaurant just opened with a colorful, verdant and sandy patio featuring distanced tables and a modern Mexican menu. Nueva’s cantina goods involve wood-grilled branzino with mole rojo; uni-topped ceviche; pork belly tacos; and a few Middle Eastern-inspired plates such as chicken with garlic toum and falafel tacos. Finish the breezy dinner or brunch experience with an array of frozen margaritas and other summery cocktails from a NoMad bar vet, plus a fresh churro or two for dessert.
“Olivetta on Holiday” at La Peer Hotel
One of 2019’s hottest new restaurants is bringing the heat to another West Hollywood location: Kimpton’s La Peer Hotel. Olivetta’s new patio pop-up means you can now nosh on chef Michael Fiorelli’s wood-fired pizzas on the hotel rooftop, which overlooks the Hollywood Hills. Into more of a summery pool vibe? There’s a separate poolside dining area and menu for that, complete with fresh house-made pastas, grilled branzino, wood-fire peaches with duck salami, and other Italian-leaning fare. Finish with some bubbles or fruit-forward cocktails, naturally. The fun runs Wednesday to Saturday.
Miss going out for KBBQ? One of the city’s top spots just moved its operation outdoors, and while you won’t get to see the meats sizzling before your very eyes—all the cooking is done in the kitchen, for now—Park’s BBQ’s high-end galbi, wagyu rib eye, brisket and beyond can all be yours. It’ll just happen in the parking lot, flanked by dividers and potted bamboo trees. The K-town KBBQ legend is also serving all its usual, incredible banchan, plus ungrilled entrées as well, such as the chilled noodles and tteokbokki.
Now with twice the patio than before, Dave Beran’s stunning French gem newly features outdoor dining in two locations. Pasjoli sports both a front patio and a back patio, the former a part of the Santa Monica hustle, bustle and sidewalk, and the latter a more private affair flanked by greenery. Whichever you choose, you’ll be treated to Beran’s intricate and technique-driven dishes such as the quenelle et caviar and the famed duck press, as well as lighter lunch fare (especially during weekend lunch) like crab tartines and quiche.
What might just be the most dependable, consistent restaurant in all of Los Angeles just reconfigured both the front and back of the restaurant to ensure alfresco seating. La Brea’s République first added a few tables to their sidewalk, opening for café fare at lunch only, then built out an entirely new shaded and fenced-in patio for lunch as well as dinner service from Wednesday to Sunday. The reimagined parking lot area now serves as the setting for Walter and Margarita Manzkes’ award-winning pastries and California-French cuisine, day and night. Make your patio dinner reservations online here.
What happens when one of L.A.’s Michelin-starred chefs can take over a nearby patio? In the case of Dave Beran, it’s a limited-run wine bar and restaurant overlooking Third Street Promenade. The Pasjoli chef has temporarily added Tidbits by Dialogue to the lineup at Gallery Food Hall—which is also home to his tasting-menu restaurant, Dialogue—now serving wine and hyper-seasonal dishes to match, with food sourced primarily from the nearby Santa Monica Farmers Market. You can read more about Tidbits by Dialogue here.