These 12 Washington, D.C. restaurants nail outdoor dining

BARCA Wine Bar and Pier in the Old Town Alexandria is a Catalonian spot inspired by Spain’s beach bars. | Credit: Emily Hoang
A teal-colored shipping container facade makes up the exterior to BARCA Wine Bar and Pier in the Old Town Alexandria

Nature plays a starring role in Washington, D.C.’s enchanting outdoor dining scene, known for wisteria-lined patios and panoramic river views.

Enjoy Catalonian-style tapas and stone fruit sangria at a laidback waterfront spot in the Old Town Alexandria. Saltfish fritters and jerk chicken fuel Caribbean-inspired parties on the riverside patio at a Navy Yard favorite. A MICHELIN Bib Gourmand recipient in Dupont Circle draws crowds for an outdoor space that changes with the seasons.

Take in the capital’s breezier side at these standout alfresco setups. Read on for a guide to 12 can’t-miss outdoor dining experiences in the DMV region to book right now.

BARCA Wine Bar and Pier (Old Town Alexandria)

This Catalonian spot is modeled after Spain’s renowned chiringuitos, or beach bars. Sweeping river views and a solid happy hour ($6 sangrias, anyone?) add to its unique charm, as does its striking shipping container facade. BARCA’s generous outdoor dining setup features 200 seats spread across tables, a bar, and a lounge area, all covered by retractable awnings. No matter where you sit, you can’t go wrong with an order of crispy patatas bravas with lemon-garlic aioli and the jamón Serrano croquettes drizzled with Aleppo-orange honey.

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Farmers Fishers Bakers (Georgetown)

Tiki cocktails at Farmers Fishers Bakers in Washington, D.C.
Farmers Fishers Bakers’ craft cocktails pair well with charming Potomac River views.

Watch yachts, kayaks, and paddle boards cruise the Potomac River from the waterfront patio at this lively Georgetown spot. The restaurant is owned by a farmers’ collective, so expect plenty of sustainable ingredients in its salad lineup and mains such as lemon herb baked chicken. The restaurant’s signature five-layer pressed sushi rolls with Old Bay crab taste even better outdoors. Consider an in-house barrel-aged cocktail to sip as you take in the charming river views.

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Bammy’s (Navy Yard)

James Beard Award semifinalist Peter Prime explores his Trinidadian heritage at this Navy Yard hotspot. Locals come for the knockout Caribbean dishes and riverside patio, which makes a versatile perch equally suited for all-day brunch parties, date nights, or after-work beers. The family-style tasting menu is ideal for hearty appetites and includes curries and stews, plus chef specials such as saltfish fritters with allspice mayo and pepper jelly and Trini-style fried chicken with collard greens.

Dirty Habit (Penn Quarter)

Bistro lights and cushy black sofa lounges make up the courtyard at Dirty Habit in Washington, D.C.
Dirty Habit is set in the courtyard of the Kimpton Hotel Monaco, D.C.’s first all-marble neoclassical building. | Credit: Taylor Freihl

This secluded Penn Quarter landmark is housed in the square courtyard of the Kimpton Hotel Monaco, the district’s first all-marble neoclassical building (and former headquarters of the General Post Office). Fire pits, oversized lamps, and bistro lights add warmth, while cushy sofa lounges urge you to linger. Expect a globally inspired cocktail and small plates menu with hits such as watermelon tartare and karaage-style fried chicken.

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Dauphine’s (Downtown)

Dauphine’s channels the vibrant soul of New Orleans’s French Quarter. The NOLA vibes come from a 4,000 square-foot outdoor dining space (open year round) that includes a lively sidewalk patio and pretty garden oasis, complete with a tiled Spanish fountain and a 30-seat outdoor bar. Executive chef Kristen Essig’s inventive use of seasonal mid-Atlantic ingredients on the Creole-inspired menu (highlights include scallop amandine and wild fish with grilled artichoke)  earned Dauphine’s several accolades, including MICHELIN Bib Gourmand status and stellar reviews from local food critics.

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Casta’s Rum Bar (West End)

Head to this beloved Cuban spot for a tropical vacation without leaving D.C. Casta’s covered and plant-filled patio is a super comfortable place to knock back classic rum drinks such as mojitos and daiquiris. Graze on Cuban classics including the country’s namesake sandwich—a dish the restaurant takes so seriously that the bread is flown in from Miami.

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The Salt Line – Navy Yard (Navy Yard)

Diners take in New England-inspired fare at the large riverfront patio at The Salt Line - Navy Yard in Washington, D.C.
The Salt Line is known for one of Navy Yard’s most scenic outdoor bar and patio setups. | Credit: The Salt Line – Navy Yard

New England vibes abound at this sustainable seafood spot on the Anacostia River. Feast on oysters, lobster rolls, baked pimento crab dip, and stuffies (baked clams topped with smoked sausage and Parmesan). The Salt Line is also adored for its wide beer selection, best paired with river views from its scenic patio. The lively space is now accessible year-round, thanks to clear insulated curtains that don’t sacrifice water vistas during the cooler months.

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Mi Vida (Southwest Waterfront)

District Pier views await on the covered balcony at Mi Vida. Mexico City native chef Roberto Santibañez (owner of the Fonda restaurants in New York City) turns out home country-inspired dishes such as braised chicken enchiladas, crab and shrimp empanadas, and churros with chocolate and raspberry sauce in a colorful waterside setting. The outdoor experience is enhanced by six types of margaritas and a sizable mezcal and tequila list.

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Le Diplomate (Logan Circle)

Onion soup gratinée at Le Diplomate in Washington, D.C.
Tuck into Parisian brasserie-inspired fare (such as this onion soup gratinée) at Le Diplomate’s expansive patio. | Credit: Le Diplomate

Le Diplomate (dubbed “Le Dip” by locals) comes from renowned restaurateur Stephen Starr and brings a slice of Paris to northwest D.C. All the brasserie classics are here, including steak frites, steak tartare, and escargot. The expansive patio sits next to the bustling 14th Street corridor, with wicker chairs, flower boxes, and shady umbrellas to ensure comfortable dining even in the thick of D.C.’s humidity.

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Residents Cafe and Bar (Dupont Circle)

A regularly revamped patio is one of the main draws at this MICHELIN Bib Gourmand recipient. Pastel pink decor and cherry blossoms adorn the space in the spring. The vibe turns decidedly cozier in the fall, courtesy of overhanging maple leaf vines and sage green blankets to keep things toasty. Residents’ global menu also changes with the seasons but might feature charred octopus with red chermoula and potato croquettes, Turkish eggs with garlic labneh for brunch, and a signature creamy espresso martini with ghee, hints of vanilla, and chocolate.

Evening Star Cafe (Alexandria)

Evening Star Cafe is a neighborhood gem that has remained a Del Ray staple since opening in 1997. Residents come for a seat in the relaxed backyard beer garden or on the buzzier porch, a prime people-watching spot. Both setups make enjoyable backdrops for a wine-themed brunch—Evening Star has nearly 1,500 wines to choose from—or a locally sourced dinner featuring dishes such as roast cauliflower with pumpkin seed pesto and citrus-brined pork chop with braised kale and baked beans.

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Iron Gate (Dupont Circle)

One of D.C.’s oldest restaurants is set in a former stable and carriageway townhouse that dates back to the late 19th-century. Centuries-old wisteria, twinkling string lights, and grapevines charm diners in its storied backyard garden patio. Iron Gate’s menu is heavy on the Italian and Greek flavors and known for seasonal mezze-style dishes such as lamb keftedes (meatballs) and shell bean hummus with Urfa chile.

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Tried them all? Check out other options here.

Christabel Lobo is a food and travel writer based between Washington, D.C. and south India. Find her on Instagram @whereschristabel and Twitter @wheresbel.

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