No one can argue that Los Angeles is home to idyllic weather nearly 365 days a year. However, when it comes to finding a restaurant or beer garden to enjoy these temperate times, the conversation usually goes silent. Strangely enough, outdoor dining in L.A. is surprisingly hard to find in a city that barely needs a meteorologist.
Next time you want to enjoy one of L.A.’s best natural assets and a fine meal, here’s where to do so.
Stephen Kalt, a longtime legendary New York City chef who made the jump to the West Coast, simply recognizes the beauty of year-round alfresco dining, as the restaurant’s seating is predominately outside. The old-school veteran serves up serious Italian dishes like the short rib tortelloni, whole branzino and grilled octopus. The Italian-centric wine menu is stellar as well.
New to L.A.’s food scene, Salazar also has mostly outdoor seating. The Frogtown address serves up delicious Mexican barbecue and tacos paired with agave spirit cocktails like La Paloma, a mix of mezcal and ancho chili liquor with grapefruit, honey and salt. It’s an ideal spot on weekend afternoons to enjoy some sun and Sonoran-inspired eats by chef Esdras Ochoa.
Ray’s & Stark Bar
Housing a restaurant worthy of a best-of list is good publicity for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The onsite dining and lounge space here is almost entirely under the clouds. When the sun goes down, the sleek, 60s-era setting is especially remarkable as a place to marvel at Urban Light, artist Chris Burden’s popular glowing lamppost installation. Helmed by chef Fernando Darin, menu standouts include the wood-fired pizzas, black kale salad and Waygu steak.
Chef Michael Hung’s California-Euro dishes are just as beautiful to enjoy inside the restaurant as they are outside. However, Viviane’s alfresco space, designed by Kelly Wearstler, elevates the dining experience into an oh-so–chic L.A. encounter. The mid-century stylings and dishes like the cast-iron roasted bone-in N.Y. steak could have been ripped straight from the set of Mad Men. From now until September, weekend brunch is also served poolside.
Kris Morningstar’s cooking is the real draw, but for a night of magical ambience and solid gastronomy, reserve a seat at one of the wooden picnic tables on the patio. With strings of sparkling lights overhead and a large tree in the center, it’s like you’ve been invited to one of L.A.’s most exclusive supper clubs. The entrées, aptly labeled “Pièces de Résistance,” are surefire stunners, too. Try the truffle agnolotti as you sit under the open sky.
Plant Food + Wine
The verdantly lush, light-filled minimalistic alfresco seating serves to highlight chef Scott Winegard’s healthy vegetarian and vegan cuisine. In-season pickings sing in dishes like green gazpacho, black pepper kelp noodles and zucchini lasagna. During weekend brunch, people-watch on the patio as you nosh on the seasonal plant bowl. The summer version comes with nourishing ingredients like quinoa, sea beans, charred broccoli and mustard tahini.
Spago Beverly Hills
Spago is as synonymous with L.A. as Mickey Mouse is with Disneyland — and for good reason. Okay, many reasons: 1) star chef Wolfgang Puck still works the kitchen (and the room) on most nights; 2) the cult-followed Salmon pizza is still on the menu from the ‘80s; 3) you’ll probably see a celebrity also dining; 4) the sexy patio has a retractable roof, fireplaces and greenery via olive trees.
The Polo Lounge
Whether you’re signing a movie deal or not, Forbes Travel Guide Recommended The Polo Lounge’s beautiful bougainvillea-dotted patio is undoubtedly glamorous for lunch or brunch. From tables outfitted in perfectly pressed white tablecloths to the ornate wrought-iron chairs, it’s clear that this is the place to see and be seen. The lounge, tucked inside Five-Star The Beverly Hills Hotel, also offers private patio dining. While you’re waiting for your close-up, channel your inner British royalty for a day of dainty high tea.
If you like scavenger hunts that lead to magical places (think The Chronicles of Narnia), Maré is for you. If not, it’s worth it even so. Walk to the back of Greenspan’s Grilled Cheese, up a few stairs, through an office, then finally enter a door that looks like it opens into an industrial freezer and voila! If it weren’t so secluded, most of the city would head to this oasis featuring steaming bowls of seafood stew and soft Spanish music playing in the background. Just in case the journey caused jitters, you can work off the tension at the foosball table near the door.
Carbon Beach Club Restaurant
Even if you haven’t managed to score a membership at The Little Beach House Malibu, Soho House’s newest members-only club, we know a public-access patio view that will soothe the wounds. Malibu Beach Inn’s Carbon Beach Club Restaurant’s sweet, petite patio overlooks the sprawling Pacific. While hovering above the pier’s crashing waves, be sure to order the lobster roll and a glass of rosé. Let any worries about pending club applications melt away.