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  3. These 12 Washington DC restaurants crush the outdoor dining game

These 12 Washington DC restaurants crush the outdoor dining game

A photo of Red logo
by Christabel Lobo
Updated May 28, 2024

Washington DC’s top-notch outdoor dining scene goes all in on nature, from wisteria-lined patios to panoramic water views.

Grapevines add to the old-world charm at a historic Mediterranean spot. A leafy and nearly hidden courtyard draws crowds for signature cocktails. The Potomac River takes center stage on the waterfront patio at a farm-inspired favorite.

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

A photo of Barca Wine Bar & Pier restaurant
4.6
4.6 (1687)
$30 and under
Mediterranean
Old Town Alexandria
About the restaurant

This Catalonian spot takes cues from Spain’s renowned chiringuitos, or beach bars. Sweeping river views and a solid happy hour ($6 sangrias!) add to its unique charm, and so does a 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 jamón Serrano croquettes.


Top review
ValerieFvip
Dined 7 days ago
Lovely atmosphere even for a very hot night. The fans help a lot. We always enjoy our meals here. The chocolate cake was great too!
A photo of Dauphine’s restaurant
4.5
4.5 (1337)
$31 to $50
Contemporary American
Downtown
About the restaurant

Dauphine’s channels New Orleans’s French Quarter. The NOLA vibes come from a 4,000 square-foot outdoor dining space that includes a lively sidewalk patio and garden oasis, complete with a tiled Spanish fountain and a 30-seat outdoor bar. Executive chef Kristen Essig gives mid-Atlantic ingredients the Creole treatment, resulting in dishes like scallop amandine and wild fish with grilled artichoke—it’s no surprise Dauphine’s has scored multiple honors, including MICHELIN Bib Gourmand status.


Top review
KakealW
Dined 3 days ago
Awesome food and service. The noise level was typical for a dinner setting. The ambiance was very nice. I will return.
A photo of Dirty Habit | The Glass House restaurant
4.4
4.4 (2146)
$31 to $50
Global, International
Penn Quarter
About the restaurant

This secluded Penn Quarter landmark is set 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 stay awhile. Expect globally inspired cocktail and Creole-accented menus with hits like crawfish stuffed chicken and barbecue shrimp.


Top review
CatherineB
Dined 3 days ago
Enrique our waiter was amazing and very nice. We like the vibe and the food
A photo of The Salt Line - Navy Yard restaurant
4.5
4.5 (2552)
$31 to $50
Seafood
Navy Yard
About the restaurant

The New England vibes are strong at this sustainable seafood spot on the Anacostia River. Tear into oysters, lobster rolls, and baked pimento crab dip on its scenic patio. The Salt Line is adored for its wide beer selection, best paired with river views. The restaurant’s lively outdoor space is now accessible year-round, thanks to clear insulated curtains that let you take in water panoramas even during the cooler months.


Top review
kdillon1956vip
Dined on Jul 13, 2024
Excellent food -- enjoyed the crab roll and tuna tartare very much!
A photo of Founding Farmers Fishers & Bakers DC: Georgetown restaurant
4.3
4.3 (13608)
$30 and under
American
Georgetown
About the restaurant

Watch yachts, kayaks, and paddle boards cruise the Potomac River from the waterfront patio at this lively Georgetown spot. The restaurant is steered by Dan Simons’s Farmers Restaurant Group (known for a first-of-its-kind farmer-owned structure) so expect plenty of sustainable ingredients in the salad lineup and hearty mains, like lemon herb baked chicken. Consider an in-house barrel-aged cocktail to sip as you take in the postcard-perfect river views.


Top review
OpenTable Dinervip
Dined 7 days ago
The food was fresh and amazing! The service was good. Diamond was super friendly and fun to have as a server. Would definitely recommend
A photo of Mi Vida, District Wharf restaurant
4.5
4.5 (2302)
$31 to $50
Mexican
Southwest Waterfront
About the restaurant

Washingtonians love Mi Vida for its covered balcony and District Pier views. The colorful waterside setting is a great match for vibrant Mexico-inspired dishes by Roberto Santibañez (owner of the Fonda restaurants in New York City), like braised chicken enchiladas, crab and shrimp empanadas, and churros with chocolate and raspberry sauce. Level up your outdoor experience with a tropical cocktail—Mi Vida’s drinks menu includes six types of margaritas and a large mezcal and tequila list.


Top review
OpenTable Diner
Dined 3 days ago
From the ambiance to the service to the food, we were very happy with our experience and I will definitely be visiting again! We sat outside because the weather permitted, but sitting inside on the third floor would have still had a beautiful view.
A photo of Opaline Bar and Brasserie restaurant
4.1
4.1 (289)
$30 and under
French
Downtown
About the restaurant

Parisian sidewalk cafe culture comes to DC at Opaline via an elegant wraparound patio. Here, you can savor French bistro-inspired food like escargot in puff pastry and duck à l’orange while you watch the city buzz around you. Old-world architecture and charming flowers make this one of downtown’s most prime outdoor dining spots, just steps from the White House.


Top review
JoBe
Dined 6 days ago
The staff here went well above and beyond. We surprised them with a larger than expected party and they were gracious and accommodating of all of us. Thank you! Great experience!
A photo of Evening Star Cafe restaurant
4.4
4.4 (1600)
$30 and under
Contemporary American
Alexandria
About the restaurant

Evening Star Cafe is a neighborhood gem that’s been a Del Ray staple since opening in 1997. Residents come for a seat in the laid-back backyard beer garden or on the action-packed porch, a prime people-watching spot. Both setups are fun backdrops for a wine-themed brunch—Evening Star has nearly 1,500 bottles to choose from—or a locally sourced dinner featuring dishes like Brussels sprouts with stracciatella and duck pot pie.


Top review
sgreenla
Dined on Jul 12, 2024
We went to ESC more of less regularly several decades ago. We decided to return to celebrate our wedding anniversary. The food was excellent across the board; neither my wife nor I could choose which course we thought was best. The service was a bit slow. We weren't in a hurry so it wasn't a problem, but it was noticeable. We plan to return when we're not celebrating.
A photo of The Grill restaurant
4.6
4.6 (1382)
$31 to $50
American
Southwest Waterfront
About the restaurant

The Grill, another restaurant by celebrated chef and restaurateur Roberto Santibañez, is an ode to wood-fired food. Set along a pedestrian-only promenade on an especially scenic stretch of the Potomac River, its elevated patio is the place to watch the area’s boats. Dig into expertly grilled steaks and fresh seafood, which take inspo from Santibañez’s Mexican heritage and French training.


Top review
OpenTable Diner
Dined 3 days ago
Great atmosphere, excellent service. Remarkably not very loud which was a very nice surprise. Overall an excellent experience, highly recommend.
A photo of Iron Gate restaurant
4.7
4.7 (2926)
$50 and over
Mediterranean
Dupont Circle
About the restaurant

One of DC’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 backyard garden patio. Iron Gate’s menu is heavy on the Italian and Greek flavors and known for seasonal mezze-style dishes such as roasted pork gyros and shell bean hummus with Urfa chile.


Top review
OpenTable Diner
Dined 7 days ago
Special anniversary thank you Iron Gate team! Can’t wait to go back
A photo of Tonari restaurant
4.6
4.6 (289)
$31 to $50
Italian
Penn Quarter
About the restaurant

If the green-and-white checkered tablecloths and delicate glass vases that line Tonari’s cozy outdoor space evoke an old-school red-sauce joint, it’s no coincidence. The quaint setting is a tribute to the Japanese-Italian restaurant’s Mediterranean roots and a great match for dishes like tempura-textured pizza and pasta—made using Hokkaido flour—with a Japanese curry paste sauce.


Top review
ChaseB
Dined on Jun 15, 2024
Food was excellent. So much more on the specials than what we expected too. We’ll be back for sure.
A photo of Bourbon Steak - Four Seasons Washington DC restaurant
4.5
4.5 (3783)
$30 and under
Steakhouse
Georgetown
About the restaurant

For a secret garden-like atmosphere, head to Bourbon Steak in the historic heart of Georgetown. Its outdoor dining space is shaded by greenery and decked with crackling fire pits and plush, comfy sofas. Whether you’re sipping on a manhattan made with the restaurant’s signature barrel bourbon or savoring a seafood platter stacked with hot miso-buttered lobster, shrimp, and more, the best seat in the house is definitely outside here.


Top review
OpenTable Dinervip
Dined 6 days ago
Food and service was outstanding but I’d have to say the prices were exorbitant, which is why I dinged them on the value.
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