Blame it on Los Angeles’ near year-round perfect weather. Whatever reason you might have, the city boasts many of the finest al fresco dining venues anywhere on the map. From people-watching at classics like The Ivy, The Polo Lounge and The Roof Garden at Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star The Peninsula Beverly Hills to power lunching at downtown’s Café Pinot, Dominick’s West Hollywood or Spago in Beverly Hills, eclectic patio scenes abound.
Lucky for foodies, the dining — and even the cocktails — is as impressive as the surroundings at our favorite outdoor spots. A mix of mainstays and newcomers are heating up L.A.’s late summer days and nights. The air (and an afternoon toast) just feels a little better at the following places.
Chef Eric Greenspan’s Maré is the talk of the town for good reason. Encapsulating the man’s joie de vivre and joy of cooking, this almost secret, outdoor-only hideaway combines revelatory seafood dishes, a twinkly-lit romantic setting and good times. (A foosball table graces the front of the space.) The entrance is tucked behind the unassuming Greenspan’s Grilled Cheese shop. Saunter through and behold a garden of earthly delights, featuring a tightly curated, fresh-ingredient-focused menu — shellfish in broth, whole Branzino in fig and pomegranate sauce, and quenching fruit-muddled cocktails. Even with all the buzz, the restaurant remains unpretentious with amazing service — the chef’s signature style — that keeps customers front and center.
Few things in life can compete with the bliss of a bottle of chilled rosé paired with a brimming, well-organized cheese or charcuterie board. A visit to a.o.c. wine bar’s quintessentially Cali-chic-meets-Mediterranean patio delivers that and more with a selection of divine pickles, cured meats and other famous snacks to share — the Spanish fried chicken with romesco aïoli and chili-cumin butter is a standout. The downstairs dining room connects to the outdoor space, giving the whole area an airy feel.
The Little Door
The Santa Monica outpost offers two, candle-lit patios and fresh, seasonal fare. While its older sister restaurant in West Hollywood remains an icon for its dramatically romantic open-air courtyard and retractable roof, this west side edition turns up the charm with an intimate, French feel and a menu highlighted by dishes like not-so-basic steak frites (grilled filet mignon, cippolini onions, balsamic demi-glacé, fingerling frites). Champagne cocktails and seasonal margaritas are a hit, too.
Since Terrine opened last December, its intimate patio has been one of the most coveted reservations. Diners here can sample the handiwork of star chef Kris Morningstar under the umbrage of a 20-foot Javanese bishopwood tree draped in stringed lights. The restaurant’s rich, flavor-packed showstopper — the Assiette de Charcuteries — is a true carnivore’s delight, with rillettes, Andouille sausage and other meats done in a true French style.
E.P. & L.P.
Beautiful people, modern Asian eats, a 5,500-square-foot rooftop deck and vast panoramic city views have made E.P. & L.P. a formidable summer scene. Decorated like a sleek, well-appointed, Hollywood Hills patio, the fresh-feeling L.P. Rooftop Bar is dressed in light wood tones, pink and aqua blue. Discreetly tucked away in the deck’s open plan is Frankie’s Private Bar, a space that serves craft cocktails and boozy bubble tea and also doubles as a private dining/special events area. Chef Louis Tikaram dishes clean, mostly Southeast Asian plates to share, from the craveable, aromatic L.P. Nachos (cassava crackers served with chicken cooked in coconut cream, lemongrass and chili) to wood-grilled, ginger-infused Aspen Ridge short ribs and stir-fried seasonal Californian vegetables. Be warned: The scene is a bit loud, but it’s still an honest taste of L.A. set in a perfect, al fresco setting.
Also on the west side, the all-prime-beef focused Baltaire in Brentwood reinvents the image of a traditional steakhouse. Rustic with subtle nods to mid-twentieth-century modernism, the outdoor terrace is earthy and grounded but also quite airy. By way of some of Chicago’s most esteemed steakhouses, executive chef Travis Strickland keeps the menu straightforward, with all eyes and taste buds on specialties such as A5 Japanese Wagyu, lobster mac and cheese and perfectly grilled artichokes. Rare, top-shelf spirits and a wine list expertly selected by sommelier David Vaughn make for life-altering pairings for those who love steak with all of the trimmings.
In Downtown L.A.’s piping hot restaurant scene, outdoor space is a real bragging point — especially when it’s as breathtaking as Redbird, which is adjacent to St. Vibiana’s Cathedral, a deconsecrated Catholic church that opened in 1876. Housed in the former rectory, the main room is a patio packed with drama in the form of soaring white walls and a retractable roof. Chef Neal Fraser has accomplished a feat of elegance here, fusing fine dining, a beautiful wine selection and fun, classic cocktails. From the lovely bitter-and-sweet amuse booze, a whimsical mini cocktail that kicks off your meal, to the impressive 32-ounce porterhouse, every aspect of this memorable experience will make you swoon.
When this Mexican winner moved into a chic little stretch of Melrose anchored by Craig’s on one end and Cecconi’s on the other in early 2014, it refreshed the block with its California-casual take on healthy, plant-based fare from executive chef Chandra Gilbert. Simply stunning, the patio is a sweeping space that’s washed in white and sprinkled in verdant plants, hanging lanterns and the occasional touch of striped Mexican textile. Be it brunch, lunch, cocktails or dinner, patrons are loyal. Here, they’ve found their happy place.