A patio table, a drink in hand, fabulous food and gorgeous Houston weather. It doesn't get much better than that. When the urge to dine al fresco strikes, locals flock to the best patios in H-Town. Read on for the scoop.
A favorite among the theater-going set, Artista is located on the second level of the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts. Offering a sophisticated South American-influenced menu that ranges from churrasco beef tenderloin to seafood paella, Artista's dishes are nearly upstaged by the panoramic view of Downtown's Theater District through the floor-to-ceiling windows. Sit on the large balcony patio for a real big city dining experience.
Housed in a converted residence off of Shepherd and West Gray, Backstreet Café is a New American Café serving eclectic fare from acclaimed Chef Hugo Ortega (the meat loaf tower is a lunch and dinner favorite). For prime people-watching, patrons in-the-know request one of the umbrella-covered table on the front terrace. For a more elegant and intimate experience, ask to be seated on the courtyard-style back terrace.
Seeking a laid back comfort food fix? Head to BB's Café in the Heights for Gulf Coast favorites and New Orleans-inspired fare with a Texas twist (think fried shrimp po' boys and gator tacos). This, the third outpost for BB's, is larger than its predecessors with a bright, airy dining room and a huge patio looking out on the growing White Oak strip of restaurants and bars.
In late March 2013, restaurateur Brian Fasthoff opened his 9,000-square-foot Latin American restaurant,Batanga, just off Market Square Park in Downtown Houston. Located next door to the Original OKRA Charity Saloon, the spot features Latin American tapas, exotic drinks and live music, as well as a large grassy patio that overlooks the park. Customers can expect a mix of dishes from various regions in Latin America, such as Brazil, Mexico, Chile, Argentina, Peru and Colombia, as well as dishes from Spain and Portugal.
Beavers Ice House isn't your typical barbecue joint. With a tongue-in-cheek menu, impressive cocktail selection and some of the best brisket around, this spot just off Washington Avenue has a faithful following. Bloody Marys are a must here and they know how to do 'em right. Also try the fried pickles and the smoky queso. The wooden deck is a chill spot for a leisurely brunch or dinner.
Overlooking the heart of the Washington Avenue entertainment district, Benjy's second-story patio is the perfect spot to watch the sunset. Guests enjoy an ever-evolving menu of Latin and Asian-inspired dishes in this casual, neighborhood restaurant. And beyond a tasty selection of cocktails, there's an award-winning wine list featuring several hard-to-find vintages.
Boheme Cafe is better known as a laid-back lounge and wine bar than it is a restaurant, but the bites certainly don't disappoint. Handmade, lavish pizzas (the Middle Eastern lamb as well as the arugula, Shiitake and goat cheese rock), empanadas with chimichurri and chile chicken curry are just a few of the shareable options on the menu. Outdoor seating here is plentiful and takes a couple forms. People watch from the smattering of tables on the front patio, overlooking Taft Street, or enjoy the huge back patio, which has its own bar and projector playing old movies.
Looking for something a little more refined? Brennan's of Houston has arguably the most elegant restaurant courtyard in the city, with its New Orleans-style architecture and striking landscaping. And with dishes such as turtle soup au sherry, roasted oysters, old-fashioned duck and fois gras, patrons can't go wrong on the menu. It's also a great spot to sip a sazerac or a mint julep.
When it comes to great outdoor views, Brenner's on the Bayou is in a league all its own. Sitting on the back deck, patrons can take in a panoramic scene of Buffalo Bayou and the restaurant's landscaped grounds. There's also a modern patio bar dubbed Blue, an ideal spot to enjoy happy hour cocktails.
With its light-strung patio and weathered clapboard exterior, Cedar Creek in the Heights has a distinctly easy-going attitude. It's a look and feel similar to its sister establishments Dry Creek, Canyon Creek and Onion Creek. In keeping with that approach, Cedar is a popular place on lazy afternoons to watch a ballgame or simply chill with friends under an umbrella, snacking on a fried shrimp basket or hot wings.
Facing a busy stretch of Westheimer, Empire Café's patio bustles most on Sundays, when in-the-know heads locals hit this hotspot for brunch. But Empire has a strong following throughout the week; it's the portabella panini and stuffed chicken roulade that keep them coming back.
Talk about down home. If you're looking for old fashioned, Texas-style barbecue, look no further than Goode Co. BBQ. Tender brisket, succulent chicken breast and of course country sides like jalapeno pinto beans and potato salad make up the menu at this can't miss spot on Kirby. There aren't many places to sit inside, so grab a seat at one of the long community tables on the patio. And be sure to get a bunch of paper towels before you dig in.
The Grove is easily one of the most picturesque eateries in town. Located inside the 12-acre Discovery Green park, The Grove is a light-filled restaurant that draws guests from nearby hotels as well as convention-goers from the George R. Brown Convention Center across the street. Dine on the patio for a great view of the park and the city skyline. Menu items include skewered Texas quail, lamb rib chops and pan roasted Texas redfish.
When it comes to bites and brews, few spots can beat Hay Merchant on Westheimer. This beer bar has it all, from dozens of beers on tap to a novel food menu (Cajun meat pies anyone?) The patio offers great people-watching views of the Westheimer Curve and some big screens for watching the game. Next-door-neighborUnderbelly has an equally appealing, though less raucous, patio for sipping wine or enjoying uniquely Houston dishes.
Alba Huerta set out to create the quintessential Southern cocktail bar along a historic stretch of Washington Avenue. Many agree that with its handcrafted cocktails, polished interior and expansive patio, Julep achieves the goal. Sip different styles of mint juleps and other Southern favorites like the old fashioned and the suffering bastard or pick your way down the food menu that includes mouthwatering hush puppies and frites.
Chef Kiran Verma prepares authentic Mughlai dishes of Northern India that fuse American and French cuisine, at her namesake restaurant Kiran's. Sit outside on the front patio and expanded side veranda for an upscale alfresco experience. The restaurant's wine cellar has more than 300 selections available and the staff is happy to make a recommendation based on your meal.
For a taste of Tuscany, visit the European-style setting that's home to Vincent, Nino and Grappino di Nino. The Mandola family has been cooking up great Italian fare in Houston for decades. Today, the tradition continues at this quaint trio of restaurants surrounding an open courtyard. Every traditional Italian dish you're looking for is here.
Few would call the bustling stretch of Shepherd Drive between Southwest Freeway and Westheimer relaxing. But that's what makes the tree-lined, courtyard-style patio of Triniti all the more intriguing. Separated from the street by a wall and natural shade, the James Burnett-designed patio is dotted by three water features. Chef Ryan Hildebrand's locally-driven menu changes frequently depending on what's available from area farms.
For more restaurants with outdoor seating, click here.
To download high-res images, visit photo gallery.