The Best Outdoor Dining Experiences Across the U.S.
From waterfront views to slopeside dining, here is where to dine al fresco from coast to coast.
Photo By: Courtesy of Mariposa / Scott Yates
Photo By: Courtesy of Venga Venga / Jeremy Swanson
Photo By: Courtesy of Chemin à la Mer / Christian Horan Photography
Photo By: Courtesy of Lago at Bellagio / OGara Bissell Photography
Photo By: Courtesy of Mariposa / Scott Yates
Photo By: Courtesy of Pelletier's / Mike Tittel
Photo By: Courtesy of Diablos Cantina
Photo By: Courtesy of Brennan's / Chris Granger
Photo By: Courtesy of Pier 6 / Kimberly Park
Photo By: Courtesy of Texas Keeper Cider / Say My Name
Photo By: Courtesy of Odyssey
Photo By: Courtesy of Birdseye
Photo By: Courtesy of Uchi / Shawn Campbell
The Best Views — And the Best Food
There is an indefinable charm to dining among the natural landscape of a picturesque town or under the night sky, with the sound of rushing water nearby. Just like the melodic tunes which set the mood in a restaurant or the romantic atmosphere created by soft, dim lighting, a proper outdoor dining experience can heighten a meal like nothing else. From the sun-kissed beaches of the West Coast and the rugged terrain of the mountainous regions, to the laid-back waterfront destinations which pepper the Gulf Coast, here are some of the nation’s most scenic restaurants offering charming outdoor spaces and unique dining pleasures.
Snowmass Village, CO
In Aspen, there are countless restaurants to consider which offer breathtaking views at every turn, but venture to Snowmass Village for a particularly special one boasting premium slopeside views and modern Mexican cuisine. Venga Vega, helmed by internationally-renowned chef Richard Sandoval, sits on the edge of the Snowmass Village mall, rendering remarkable views of the mountains and the running gondolas which travel from the mall to the base village below. The restaurant is open during winter and summer seasons, and is "ski-in, ski-out" accessible from the Fanny Hill ski slope. The sprawling space, fitted with lounge seating, fire pits and an outdoor bar, is a hot spot among visitors and locals alike looking to kick back with handcrafted margs and cheesy enchiladas after a day of outdoor activities.
Chemin à la Mer at Four Seasons NOLA
Located on the fifth floor of the new Four Seasons Hotel in New Orleans, Chemin à la Mer offers sweeping views of the Mississippi River from its airy terrace. The name, which translates to "pathway to the sea" in French, is appropriate, as the swanky restaurant offers a unique perspective of the crescent bend for which the city is known. The menu draws inspiration from chef Donald Link’s Louisiana heritage and incorporates classic French cooking techniques in dishes like cast iron-seared coulotte and cote de boeuf for two, carved tableside. A grand oyster bar showcases bounty from the Gulf, including fresh oysters, steamed Louisiana shrimp and fish ceviches — all best enjoyed over the sounds of the flowing river below.
LAGO at Bellagio
Witnessing the hypnotic dance of Bellagio’s iconic fountains never ceases to amaze, but few places offer a better view of the attraction than LAGO. The contemporary, Milan-inspired Italian restaurant by James Beard Award-winning chef Julian Serrano offers exclusive patio seating overlooking the world-famous fountains and surrounding Las Vegas strip. The menu, made up of Italian tapas, is substantial, and pastas, pizettas and gems of the sea are represented well. Find classics like linguine and clams and four cheese lasagna with beef bolognese, plus heartier plates like osso buco.
Upon first entry through Mariposa’s resplendent gates, the landscape of Sedona’s extraordinary red rocks is on full display. Panoramic views may be taken in from the dining room, but it’s the expansive open-air patio where the energy is most electric. Led by chef Lisa Dahl, a self-taught talent who has dominated northern Arizona’s dining scene with multiple concepts under the Dahl Restaurant Group, the menu boasts modern American dishes with Latin flair. Start off with handmade empanadas or grilled Spanish octopus with fennel slaw and baby Peruvian peppers, then indulge wholly in the Cubano skirt steak, presented with chimichurri and black beans. When the setting sun illuminates the sky with deep hues of orange and violet at dusk, it is one of the most magnificent times to dine, so make reservations accordingly.
Door County, WI
One of the best parts of traveling is basking in the local food culture, and in Door County, that means attending a real Door County fish boil. The peninsula bordering Green Bay and jutting out into Lake Michigan, is a popular tourist destination for its stretchy shorelines and scenic beauty, but when it comes to dining, experiencing a fish boil at Pelletier’s is a must. The culinary tradition, which has been fascinating visitors for more than 50 years, is offered nightly on the restaurant’s patio from May to October. The fire from the boiling pot of locally caught whitefish, potatoes and onions erupts into the night sky, and indicates with great ceremony that dinner is ready. Platters of fish are served to guests, with bread and butter and a slice of cherry pie, for a most quintessential Door County feast.
Diablo’s Cantina at MGM National Harbor
Oxon Hill, MD
Located within Oxon Hill’s MGM National Harbor, Diablo’s Cantina has a sceney patio with eye-catching views of the Potomac River and a menu of South-of-the-border signatures. The restaurant houses a bar with a grilling component in the center of its picturesque patio where guests can get a ringside seat to all of the culinary action. Spring for street tacos and flaming guacamole, before continuing the evening on the dance floor. The patio is known for its live DJ sets and Latin house-inspired entertainment.
As an added component to its "Bubbles at Brennan’s" happy hour, available all day, every day, Brennan’s performs a ceremonial champagne sabering at 5 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays. The storied New Orleans restaurant houses one of the prettiest courtyards in the French Quarter, which is reason enough to dine al fresco, but wine-lovers will appreciate the bubbly-focused menu during which select bubbles from top Champagne vintners and premiere sparkling wine houses are available. Glasses, bottles and champagne cocktails grace the menu, along with a curated menu of snacks like crispy LA duck wings and shrimp Louie with preserved green tomato.
San Leon, TX
This tiny coastal town outside of Houston is home to Pier 6, a casual, waterfront oasis touting the freshest Gulf oysters along with imaginative seafood plates and beachy cocktails. Helmed by Raz Halil, a second-generation oysterman and vice president of Prestige Oysters which distributes around the globe, the restaurant has access to the freshest seafood for a premium tide-to-table dining experience. With wall to wall windows and hybrid indoor and outdoor dining rooms, there isn’t a bad seat in the house, but opting for a table on the large, covered patio facing out to the calm Gulf waters is the best place to take advantage of the million dollar views and salty sea air.
Texas Keeper Cider
In the town of Manchaca, 10 miles outside of Austin, Texas Keeper Cider is a historic hidden gem situated on 20 acres on the junctions of Onion and Bear Creeks. The property is lush with countless mature Live Oak trees, and has a vegetable garden and an old chicken coop, but the star is the taproom, housed in an attractive 1930s-era ranch house. Ciders are made onsite in a small cellar and kept refrigerated in boxcars. Pull up a picnic table and stay awhile — the Hill Country sunsets are worthy. And, if you want to further roam the area, explore the small family cemetery on the property, with headstones dating back to the Civil War.
Granada Hills, CA
With striking views of the San Fernando Valley from its perch atop Granada Hills, Odyssey is a fine locale for a long, boozy meal. There are craft cocktails, and a "farm-to-fork" approach results in a menu which evolves with the seasons, featuring dishes like wild mushroom pappardelle, herb-roasted prime rib, and mango habanero shrimp. Dine among the lemon trees in the on-site garden estate or gather around a firepit on the large outdoor patio on cold evenings.
Birdseye at Cormorant Hotel
La Jolla, CA
As the name suggests, this rooftop bar offers a "birds-eye" view from atop the chic Cormorant Hotel in La Jolla. Panoramic views of the Pacific and palm tree-lined beaches serve as a welcome pairing with coastal-inspired eats and craft cocktails. The breezy, open-air restaurant serves as the picture-perfect backdrop for a meal of house-made ceviche, empanadas with chimichurri and Mexican wild shrimp tacos. Sunset is the most spectacular time of day to dine, and is enhanced only with a margarita or mojito flight.
This Austin-based restaurant from Hai Hospitality has an outpost in Denver, where it has launched a collaborative garden series, running from July to October. Located in the trendy, up and coming RiNo neighborhood, the restaurant is lauded for James Beard Award-winning chef Tyson Cole’s non-traditional take on Japanese cuisine, sourcing ingredients locally, including from its own rooftop greenhouse. During the garden series, guests may indulge in a 10-course omakase-style dinner curated by local and visiting talent, held on-site in Uchi’s backyard garden. Along with Cole who will man the kitchen on September 15, guests can look forward to collaborations with The Greenwich, Death & Co, Che Cazzo, and Hotel Jerome.