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United States of Alfresco
Satisfying your inner foodie and soaking up the sun at the same time
When the skies are clear and the weather’s warm, diners all over America flock to restaurants with sidewalk seating, garden patios, and rooftop decks. Sun-kissed states like California and Florida might have an advantage over chillier states in the alfresco dining department, but luckily, foodie cities all over the country offer incredible places to find open-air ambiance and mouthwatering menus. Here’s what made our list of top destinations with outdoor dining spots too good to miss.
New York, NY: In a city that combines countless restaurants with the need to maximize every square inch of space, the result is endless outdoor dining possibilities. New Yorkers love eating on the go, so explore Midtown's sidewalk-friendly options with a food cart tour from Turnstile Tours. Each tour features different stops depending on the day, so you might get to snack on crispy falafel, or try Belgian waffles drizzled with caramelized beet sugar. If you're looking to venture out of Manhattan, don't miss Gran Eléctrica, nestled in Brooklyn's hip DUMBO neighborhood. Offering a simple menu inspired by authentic Mexican cuisine and an ivy-covered garden patio, this rustic-chic spot has gained a passionate following for good reason.
New Orleans, LA: Many of the hidden courtyards in the French Quarter's historic buildings have been converted into restaurants, and the result is some of the most romantic outdoor dining to be found anywhere. At the picturesque Café Amelie, you can savor shrimp and grits, lightly blackened catfish sandwiches, muffalettas, and more traditional Louisiana fare in a lush garden setting. Spend a memorable evening under the stars at The Court of Two Sisters, which offers a 4-course Creole dinner in a courtyard filled with flowers, fountains, and trellises. Or, grab a patio seat at Sylvain, an 18th-century carriage house turned trendy gastropub that offers a fresh twist on Southern favorites.
Yountville, CA: Nestled among the vineyards of sunny, beautiful Napa Valley, this gourmet destination has an array of fine dining establishments, among them two Michelin-starred restaurants. Gourmet Wine & Food Tours offers a tasting extravaganza in this small but impressive foodie paradise. Afterward, you might try to snag a sought-after reservation at the The French Laundry, the two-time winner of Restaurant Magazine's "Best Restaurant in the World," for seasonally inspired dishes worthy of an "ooh-la-la." Or, head to Bouchon Bakery to sample artisanal breads, handmade pastries, and traditional French desserts.
San Diego, CA: Boasting perhaps the most unbeatable weather in the US, San Diego has no shortage of amazing restaurants where you can take a seat in the sunshine. If you're in the mood for happy hour, head to C-Level to soak up stunning views of the San Diego waterfront in an upscale-meets-casual setting. Seafood is the main event, with a menu ranging from macadamia crusted seabass to decadent lobster truffle mac and cheese. Or, get a taste for the city's craft beer scene with a brewery tour from San Diego Ride & Tours. At favorites like Stone Brewing Co. discover a range of West Coast-style IPAs in an umbrella-laden beer garden perfect for spending a relaxing afternoon.
Chicago, IL: Sure, Chicago may be the Windy City, but on a blue-sky day, you won't find a single local indoors. Join in on a walking food tour from Bobby's Bike Hike, which lets you sample street fare like Chicago-style hot dogs as you stroll past the city's landmarks. The Logan Square neighborhood is home to delicious spots for picnic-style dining. Eat under striped umbrellas at Parson's Chicken & Fish, which serves up grilled and fried versions of its namesakes by the basket. Try their famous Negroni slushy, made with Luxardo Bitter instead of the usual Campari. If you're craving dessert, indulge your sweet tooth with a slice from Bang Bang Pie Shop. Choose from delectable selections like butterscotch meringue and ginger pear, and then take it out to the yard to enjoy.
Austin, TX: Texas’ hipster hotspot has a prolific food truck scene, with more than 1,000 different trucks where you can grab an easy and delicious bite. For a taste of world-famous Texas barbecue, Micklethwait Craft Meats rivals some of the best sit-down spots around. The brisket is tender and perfectly smoked, but specialties like Frito pie topped with homemade lamb chorizo sausage set this joint apart from the rest. East Side King is another local favorite, with a creative menu inspired by Asian cultures and Austin's free-spirited vibe. Make sure you order the beet home fries, which are roasted and then fried to perfection, and then paired with a tangy mayo dipping sauce. If you're looking for tasty libations, hop on Metrocycle Pedicabs' brewery tour to sample the flavors of Austin's up-and-coming microbreweries while you cruise through the sunshine.
Miami, FL: Like San Diego, Magic City's perpetually warm climate means you can eat and drink outside around the clock. At Wynwood Kitchen & Bar, vibrant street art and live music provide an artsy setting for a zesty, tapas-inspired menu. While you eat in the grassy courtyard area, check out the Wynwood Walls, painted by world-famous graffiti artists during the Art Basel art fair. For an exciting evening out, snag a party pass from Rising Advertising & Marketing to check out hot outdoor nightclubs like the Rooftop Lounge at the Townhouse. And, of course, Miami boasts a wealth of waterfront eateries for those craving an ocean breeze with their meal. Dine on fresh local seafood selections under the palm trees at Red Fish Grill, the intimate restaurant where Matt Dillon spied on Cameron Diaz in There's Something About Mary.
Which sunny city will you choose as your next dining-out destination?
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