There's no such thing as al fresco season in L.A., a city where outdoor dining can be done year-round. One of the things that first happens when you move here is that you quickly realize most meals can be enjoyed outside, whether you're at a coffee shop, a taco truck or a fine-dining restaurant. But the very best outdoor dining? Those are the spots where you can hear the waves crashing from a rooftop or get lost in the walls of ivy that surround your patio table. Here are the best restaurants for outdoor dining in L.A..
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Best patios and outdoor dining in L.A.
When you step into this mechanics shop turned Mexican restaurant in Frogtown, you instantly leave L.A. and enter a world a little more south of the border. A world where cacti and bougainvilleas encompass you during a meal of Mexican favorites like tacos al pastor, rainbow trout and kick-ass margaritas. By day, plenty of trees and umbrellas offer shade, and the front open space allows kids to play while you await one of their many wooden tables with colorful chairs. By night, a romantic atmosphere takes hold of this place, but not to worry because the tasty food remains the same.
French countryside meets Napa at AOC, where the outdoor patio channels the best of both worlds. The restaurant and wine bar on West 3rd Street isn't entirely outside, but the indoor dining room spills out onto a gorgeous open-air space, where a small balcony peeks out over diners and foliage creeps up the restaurant's walls. Wide umbrellas shade visitors on sunny days, and heat lamps warm people up at night—though the wine does a good job of that, too.
A cross between Mexican chic and Palm Springs casual, Gracias Madre in West Hollywood is where you want to take visitors from out of town to prove that, no, not all Mexican food in L.A. comes from a truck. It can, in fact, be vegan, delicious and enjoyed outside on a beautiful patio lined with 80-year-old olive trees. Plenty of umbrellas shade diners from the afternoon sun, while at night the space warms up with heat lamps and a small fireplace. Dip into a bowl of guacamole, a couple sopes con mango and one of bartender Jason Eisner's phenomenal cocktails.
Housed in two historic bungalows, this cottage-like cafe serves up large plates of gourmet American classics. Breakfast items are served until 5pm, and you can expect to find diners filling up the beautiful garden patio at all hours of the day, whether they're here for a stack of pancakes or one of Big Bar's (the adjoining bar) fantastic cocktails. At night, twinkling lights line the patio, and from June to September, Alcove turns its outdoor space into a theater, hosting dinner and a movie under the stars.
Formally a private home, Aroma Coffee & Tea Company in Studio City has transformed itself into a restaurant and cafe where you can grab a coffee to go or order a full meal to enjoy in one of the many seating areas. The inside of the restaurant boasts a homey, library-like ambience, but the wraparound patio holds the best seats in the house. Calming fountains trickle in the background, while at night, the outdoor space ignites with fairy lights—the perfect setting as you tuck into that giant piece of chocolate cake.
Museum food and drink have never been much to Yelp about, but that changed with Ray's & Stark Bar, a sleek outdoor restaurant and bar at LACMA. The 1960s-style aesthetic offers clean lines and the impetus to order an old-fashioned, along with chef Fernando Darin's market-driven dishes like roasted cauliflower, Mediterranean seabass and wood fired pizzas. The backdrop, of course, is the museum, and from your seat in the open-air space you can look out onto Urban Light and the throng of people that come to visit this L.A. institution. The lounge is an especially vibrant place to grab a drink at night when Chris Burden's installation lights up for all to see.
Chef Michael Hung (Faith & Flower) is serving beautiful American and European cuisine with a California twist at this picturesque Beverly Hills restaurant inside the Avalon Hotel. Well, sort-of inside—Viviane actually spills out into the pool area, offering diners a seat by the sparkling water amid a Kelly Wearstler-designed atmosphere. The restaurant also allows diners to use the pool throughout brunch service—hello, mimosas in a bikini.
Throw a stone in Venice and you'll likely hit a vegetarian restaurant—or at least an incredibly health-conscious eatery. Plant Food + Wine is no exception, though its breezy patio seating and communal aesthetic is a definite bonus. Open for lunch, dinner and weekend brunch, the restaurant offers healthy vegan and vegetarian cuisine from chef Scott Winegard, featuring seasonal items like harissa cauliflower wraps, mixed grain bowls and potato parsnip soup. A hefty wine list rounds out the menu, and you can take advantage of Plant Food + Wine's happy hour while you people watch from the patio.
Even if you're not a Hollywood VIP trying to score a deal over your eggs Benedict, you'll probably find your Sunday brunch at the Polo Lounge pretty glamorous anyway. It's a little on the cheesy side (spotless white tablecloths and live jazz music and all that), but there may be no finer place to enjoy blueberry ricotta pancakes or frittata than on the Polo Lounge's beautiful outside patio. Dainty, wrought iron chairs and bougainvilleas fill the space—if Alice and the Mad Hatter came to L.A., they would undoubtedly meet here for tea.
A retractable roof, two outdoor fireplaces, olive trees and white tablecloths make the patio at Spago one of the sexiest—and most coveted—places to dine outdoors in the city. True, it's also a place where you'll probably see the odd celebrity (and accompanying paparazzi) or two, but you'll be too involved with your plate of handmade agnolotti to notice. It's not a bad problem to have.
Firefly may be the closest thing to a modern day secret garden in L.A., walls of tangled ivy included. Found on a more popular stretch of Ventura Boulevard in Studio City, the fine-dining restaurant offers modern American cuisine from chef Perry Pollaci in a romantic, cozy setting—the heated patio is decorated in candles and twinkling lights, where you can dig into exquisite plates of Pollaci’s carefully constructed dishes. On Monday nights, live jazz music fills the outdoor space.
Put your name in at the front desk for an outdoor table—trust us, it's worth the wait. You'll be dining on delicious food from a seafood-heavy menu with the waves of the Pacific Ocean crashing along the shore below you. Kincaids is a great spot for a sunny day brunch, especially if you love bloody Marys since they have a pretty epic bloody Mary bar, or grab an early dinner to watch the sunset in one of the South Bay's most beautiful settings.
Cecconi's is a classic Italian restaurant in West Hollywood serving breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as cicchetti (Italian tapas), seven days a week. Specializing in Northern Italian cuisine, the menu covers everything from pizza to fish to exemplary pastas. The wine menu is just as diverse: choose from more than 50 varieties on hand (hint: test the waters at Cecconi's happy hour, serving $4, $7 and $9 bites and drinks).
Approaching the imposing orange door to E.R.B. (Everson Royce Bar, technically speaking), it’s hard to know what to expect behind it. The concrete exterior of the Downtown Arts District haunt seems intentionally non-descript. A bold neon sign above the door reads simply “BAR”—the small plaque beside it, “everson royce bar, est. 2015,” verifies the bar’s identity. Inside, the bar is not only bustling, but bright; the large, elegant space is bathed in soft light, illuminating its features in a way that feels warm and inviting. Out back, a spacious patio offers ample seating for drinking, dining and stargazing through the twinkle of overhead light strings—it's the perfect way to spend an afternoon with friends.
Most restaurants on the Sunset Strip don't have to try very hard—they have a built-in tourist/booze market that doesn't know good food from bad. So, it's refreshing when a restaurant opens up on the Strip that's actually really good. The Eveleigh is that restaurant. Lamb meatballs, Dungeness crab pasta, hanger steak with romesco sauce—the kitchen keeps it simple and gets it right. Brunch is a relaxed affair frequented by people who probably never visit the Strip at night. Most of the seating is outside, either on the front patio, which is covered in shaggy Astroturf, or the enclosed back terrace, which offers views of the city.
Nobu Malibu is one of those places that is so stunning, it almost begs the question: "Um, excuse me? Is this real life?" Helmed by chef Nobu Matsuhisa, the restaurant—overlooking Surfrider Beach and the Malibu Pier—is so close to the beach, you can see the footprints in the sand. Its minimalist aesthetic creates an understated feel that complements its environment, and the menu is just as stellar as its surroundings. Mini tacos are filled with deliciously creamy uni, and Nobu's signature tiradito—thin slices of whitefish dotted with chili—are wonderful. Just be sure to ask for patio seating when you make a reservation.
Home, which has locations in both Silver Lake and Los Feliz, is all about making visitors feel like they're lounging on their own outdoor patio with friends. Comfortable, welcoming and, well, homey, both outposts are shrouded in trees that provide shade on sunny mornings when you're here for comfort food like mac and cheese, a turkey Reuben and fried chicken and waffles.
True, sometimes the view from the patio of Neptune's Net is more bikers than beach—is that a problem? But when bikers aren't racing down PCH and showing off their tricks (swoon), diners at this beloved Malibu spot can get a good look at the Pacific Ocean that stretches out before them. The seafood restaurant, which first opened in 1956, is a solid place to come for a basket of fried shrimp and some clam chowder before heading across the street to watch the sunset. It's California living to a T, and one of the best places to dine outside by the beach.
The two-level patio at Cliff's Edge, which somehow shelters itself from Sunset Boulevard at its doorstep, is its own little island in the middle of Silver Lake. In the center grows a gnarled tree that rains down miniature figs in the summer; at night, twinkling lights twist around the centerpiece to light up the space. The modern American-focused menu offers plates of crispy octopus, foie and wild boar terrine, while the inventive cocktail list guarantees a night of satsified sipping.