Outdoor dining, long a delight, has been a true respite through the pandemic. Restaurants have seriously stepped up their patio games, and the results are varied and spectacular — gardens that feel like a getaway, waterside views, and chic rooftops make outdoor dining all the more special.
From Toronto to Atlanta, New York City to Los Angeles, these 15 restaurants have turned outdoor dining into art. Their spaces are highly decorated, transportive, and often steal the show. These are the coolest outdoor restaurants across the United States and Canada.
Atlanta: Arnette’s Chop Shop
On the second floor of this Brookhaven steakhouse sits a covered patio, twinkling lights, and comfortable seating around fire pits where diners enjoy all the steakhouse classics such as shrimp cocktail, wedge salads, and dry-aged meats. For those craving a little something different, Arnette’s offers distinctly modern twists, like the option to top your chop with roasted shallot bordelaise, or add a side of hearth-roasted cauliflower and peppers.
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Atlantic City: Setaara
Setaara calls itself “the world’s first Afghani/French fusion restaurant,” and it certainly is one of the most unique restaurants in Atlantic City. The menu juxtaposes French classics like escargots à la Bourguignon and Afghani dishes such as mantu, a steamed dumpling filled with ground beef and topped with yogurt sauce. The outdoor seating is located within the inner courtyard, providing a covered but airy space surrounded by plants, flowers, and vibrant colors, and it’s a space that the Philadelphia Inquirer called one of the area’s best.
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It’s hard to know where the outdoors stops and the indoors begin at Contigo, where a large patio area meets a dining room with glass garage doors that can be rolled up to almost double the open air dining space. The East Austin restaurant recreates the feel of its sibling ranch in Jim Wells County, cooking up steak frites, burgers, and chips and queso, which can all be enjoyed under twinkly lights and big Texas skies.
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Porto’s outdoor seating was some of the city’s best long before the pandemic due to its size and design. String lights, throw rugs, couches, and some truly beautiful seasonal craft cocktails make the patio a prime spot to take in the stunning view of Back Bay’s skyscrapers. The Mediterranean is James Beard Award-winning chef Jody Adams’s focus here, with dishes such as a decadent seafood tower, grilled lamb chops with salsa verde, and grilled citrus-braised octopus.
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Calgary: Bonterra Trattoria
Bonterra has become a local go-to because of its consistently delicious higher-end Italian fare, but the trattoria’s most powerful asset is its luxurious Beltline patio, widely considered to be one of the most beautiful in all of Calgary. The outdoor dining area is technically part of an inner-city parking lot, but its clever construction, terracotta tiles, rustic styling, and abundant greenery make it feel like a scene straight out of Tuscany.
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Chicago: Gibsons Italia
Take in panoramic views, so close you can practically touch it, of the Chicago River and the city’s famed architecture from Gibsons Italia’s multiple outdoor options. Steak and Italian food come together here for an extensive menu full of pasta, many meats, seafood, and sides. Warmer weather pairs perfectly with the restaurant’s spritz selection, which includes a classic negroni and a non-alcoholic melon option.
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Las Vegas: PRIME Steakhouse
A trip to Las Vegas isn’t complete without seeing the Bellagio Water Show, and at PRIME, that view is accompanied by world-class steaks at the restaurant’s lakeside tables. Helmed by celebrity chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, this elegant Bellagio establishment serves a classic, well-executed steakhouse menu. While beef is the centerpiece here, the seafood section also shines, offering tins of golden Osetra caviar and chilled platters of Alaskan king crab. Note: patio and view seating is by request only and not guaranteed.
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Los Angeles: A.O.C.
A.O.C. in Beverly Grove has long been a go-to for special occasions, thanks to award-winning chef Suzanne Goin’s refined Californian-French small plates. Dishes include parmesan-stuffed bacon-wrapped dates, fried chicken with romesco aioli and chili-cumin butter, and potato gnocchi with Maine lobster. The wine list is also a standout for its extensive organic, biodynamic, and sustainable selections. Its Spanish courtyard-style patio is a stunner year round, full of ivy, trees, and even balconies.
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Miami: Amara at Paraiso
If you’re looking for a meal with a spectacular view, check out Amara at Paraiso, perched right on Biscayne Bay in Wynwood. Headed up by James Beard Award-winning chef Michael Schwartz, the restaurant serves a Latin American menu that includes Florida yellowtail snapper and locally caught stone crab. For an excellent spot for midweek happy hour or Sunday brunch, snag a scenic seat on the upper deck.
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Montreal: Maison Boulud
Daniel Boulud’s Montreal outpost at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel is a veritable oasis amid the concrete of the city’s downtown. Its veranda, right on the hotel’s landscaped garden, is one of the city’s most beautiful outdoor dining options, and the exquisite food from executive chef Romain Gagnat rises to that ambiance. Expect a French-tinged menu with caviar, oysters, foie gras, and fine Quebec lamb and seafood.
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New York City: Laduree
Experience full-on Paris chic in Laduree’s stunning courtyard, a shaded tree- and floral-filled Soho garden made for enjoying warmer weather. The French teahouse is famous for its macarons and other traditional pastries, but there’s also a full savory menu here with dishes such as quiche lorraine, a chicken club sandwich, and lobster Caesar salad.
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San Francisco: Foreign Cinema
Perhaps San Francisco’s most renowned patio, Foreign Cinema’s outdoor space is still going strong in the Mission, with classic films being projected al fresco onto the garden wall. Nothing beats dinner and a movie under the stars alongside Foreign Cinema’s Californian-Mediterranean menu, which includes dishes such as oysters on the half shell, peppercorn duck breast, and sesame fried chicken with hummus. For those who prefer a matinee, try the famous homemade pop tarts at brunch.
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Toronto: El Catrin
The sprawling, industrial, colorful patio at El Catrin in Toronto’s Distillery District makes this Mexican restaurant one of the city’s most fun for outdoor dining. Beyond Mexican favourites such as tacos, table guacamole, and a huge tequila and mezcal selection, find fire pits, tons of plants, and funky mixed furniture for a patio experience that’s one of a kind.
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Vancouver: Teahouse in Stanley Park
At Ferguson Point in Stanley Park, the iconic Teahouse’s heated terrace has views of both the North Shore mountains and English Bay’s longest sunsets. The patio is partially protected from the elements by sun shades and glass half-walls, and despite the Stanley Park bike lane reopening, cars are still able to access the restaurant. The menu features contemporary classics such as rack of lamb and duck confit, with several gluten-free options, too.
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Washington, D.C.: Casta’s Rum Bar
For a tropical vacation without leaving D.C., head to West End Cuban spot Casta’s Rum Bar. The covered patio offers a comfortable place to knock back classic rum drinks such as mojitos and daiquiris, as well as sample Cuban classics like the country’s namesake sandwich, a dish the restaurant takes so seriously that the bread is flown in from Miami.
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Marion Brewer, Lauren McDowell, Stefanie Tuder, Johanna Read, Lia Picard, Elizabeth Chorney-Booth, Sonja Swanson, Mariette Williams, and Tim Forster contributed to this guide.