20 Best Washington DC Restaurants For Outdoor Dining

The year-long wait for flowering cherry blossoms in Washington, D.C. has so much enthusiasm that you could be fooled into thinking it's the peak of outside activities in the capital city. The appearance of the petals on District sidewalks is just the beginning of outdoor dining season. The area experiences a warm summer season and plenty of clear days, so the place to be at even D.C.'s best restaurants is any seat on a patio or terrace. 

Our nation's capital has had a diverse offering of cuisines since its inception over 250 years ago, and to this day, if there's one thing you have while looking for al fresco dining in Washington, it's options. Flavors of the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, Southeast Asia, and modern America can all be consumed under an unbroken sky. But taste isn't the only selection you'll need to make. Whether you prefer buttoned-up service or a down-to-earth, casual approach, D.C.'s restaurant scene has an outdoor dining section for you.

Le Diplomate

Le Diplomate is a staple in the District's dining scene, often described as a must-visit for first-timers. James Beard-winning restauranteur Steven Starr's French café concept certainly looks the part; on the interior, a marble embrace sweeps around an earnest bread station, and accents of red get deeper the longer you gaze. But on a French summer day, outside is the place to go, and it's the same at Le Dip.

In the summer months, average D.C. temperatures can peak near 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Instead of sweating it out, a cool move is to head over to this 14th Street patio for fruits de mer, a chilled platter of cooked or raw seafood. Clams, crab cocktail, oysters, and half a lobster are all on order.


Yara is the newest addition to D.C.'s outdoor dining options, though the team that's opened the restaurant at Marriot Capitol Hill is not. Chef Yuki Nakandakari has led a few kitchens in the area, including Peruvian-focused Ocopa (D.C.) and Pisco (Baltimore). His hits keep rolling, and now he cooks with a view for the rooftop diners of Yara.

To match the premier, airy atmosphere, Nakandakari prepares refined and approachable Peruvian food. In places, the menu pulls from the chef's three years of experience living and training in Japan, flexing practiced craftsmanship within Nikkei cuisine. There are sushi rolls of octopus, crispy rice crumbs, and 24-karat gold. Ceviche is also plentiful — including a vegetarian option of Peruvian asparagus, mushroom, and a fiery sauce of ají amarillo chiles.

Bethesda Crab House

It takes a lot of panache to keep a restaurant running around the D.C. area for six years, let alone for more than 60. But if you serve Maryland crabs like Bethesda Crab House does, you could probably make it to 600. Hyperbole aside (considering the climate-related questions in that timespan), Bethesda serves crabs in a way that's just like our childhood feasts; wide picnic tables covered in paper and piled high with tasty, steamed bottomfeeders. 

At this D.C. metro area staple, the crabs are well-priced, consistently full of meat, and copiously seasoned. The covered patio isn't as flashy as others, but you're nearly guaranteed to have more fun. If you're not up for picking crabs, there are softshells (seasonal), shrimp, and oysters, too.


A meal at Anju is a special occasion any time you can make it, but when you can also enjoy Chef Angel Barreto's excellent and broadly-inspired Korean menu with the sunshine on your face? Core memory. In the past few years, Barreto has been absolutely dripping in awards. He's prepared meals at the White House for the visiting President of South Korea. All the while, he's kept the kitchen at Anju red hot.

There's not much patio space here, but if you can stake some territory, have a seat. Opt for several items from the anju (food meant to be consumed alongside drinks) menu. It includes dishes with deep bursts of umami (roasted bone marrow and sweet potato mousse, beef tartare with lotus crisp) and tangy, zinging pops (jujube glazed carrots featuring perilla mint yogurt, tomato, and sesame za'atar).


José Andrés is a veritable titan of the Washington dining world, and his eponymous restaurant group has been creating concepts that span the gamut of style, flavor, and ambiance for decades. At Zaytinya, Andrés reflects on Greek, Turkish, and Lebanese foods, some of the world's quintessential sunshine-washed cuisines.  

Although the economic patio at Zaytinya has coverage from too much elemental effect, it also has ample space, heating in the winter, and ergonomic chairs that don't make you feel like you're at a campsite (an often overlooked part of outdoor dining). The food shines bright. Zaytinya's thesis statement is found in the shared mezze plates, Turkish pide bread, rich spreads, and the cheese menu. You'll leave even happier if you bring a few friends to cover more ground.    

Radici Market

Radici Market is the sort of place that's more common in a European town than in many American cities, but the Capitol Hill neighborhood is better off for having it. The word "radici" means roots in Italian, and it's exactly what the business put down into its community. The mixed-use café, eatery, and Italian imports shop is a meeting place for many around Eastern Market (especially on Saturday street fair days). 

The extended outdoor seating area is great for relaxing with a cappuccino or glass of Lambrusco frizzante as you watch shoppers pass by. Scratch-made pasta and sandwiches are there when you need to nosh, but if your sweet tooth is singing, keep an eye out for just-made cannolis. 

Opaline Bar & Brasserie

Opaline Bar & Brasserie is a French-focused eatery in Sofitel Hotel, making it an excellent location to visit if you're looking for outdoor dining around Lafayette Square. Being a hotel restaurant, you can visit Opaline for three meals a day if you want to; there are separate menus for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Each has simple selections cooked with fine details, such as a tart brambleberry compote served along mini buttermilk waffles for first meal or a classic duck à l'orange for dinner.

The outdoor dining at Opaline makes outdoor dining in D.C. all the better. A stretch of tables lined on 15th Street Southwest creates a cosmopolitan atmosphere that's buzzy but not busy, opalescent in the evening, and brightened further with some French bubbly.


Dine in D.C. enough, and you start to see that outside sections generally take a few general forms: along with the food and beer gardens, there's the sidewalk-adjacent patio or the backyard oasis overhung by other buildings. Masseria is a marriage of the latter two. The restaurant's outdoor profile stretches to the sidewalk, but a large fence rises to block off a sightline, secluding diners in a chic, curated experience.

Maryland native Chef Nicholas Stefanelli serves the patio (and dining room) of Masseria Michelin-pedigree Italian cuisine that mimics the flowing meals of his youth and the traditional agrarian approach of Italian farming estates known as masserias. Currently, each plate on the six-course tasting menu represents staples of Italian cooking, moving diners through bread into antipasti, then across the sea, the land, finishing with a sweet dulce ending. 

Blue Duck Tavern

Outdoor tables are first come, first serve at Blue Duck Tavern, and when the sun is out, diners flock for high-caliber modern American food. The market-forward menu is fresh as a breeze. It prominently features the producers and artisans that Blue Duck works with to source dishes such as tea-poached halibut or wood-roasted sunchokes and hay cream for dinner and duck confit hash for brunch.

Blue-tiled steps dip subterraneously from the sidewalk towards a lower-level patio. It permits the brick-lined outdoor section at Blue Duck to feel like a reprieve from the streets above. It also turns the fairly formal experience of eating at Blue Duck a shade more casual. That said, even under an open sky, the air of service remains impeccable.

Colada Shop (multiple locations)

There are now five Colada Shops across the DMV region and nearly each one has a bit of outdoor seating where you can enjoy Cuban eats and coffee in a welcoming, community-centric environment. The operation has two styles of cafés, the full-sized flagship locations (at the Wharf, in Potomac, and on DuPont Circle) or the small-footprint cafecitos (14th Street Northwest or in Fairfax, Virginia).

No matter which Colada Shop you end up in, delicious meals and flavorful java await. For a caffeine hit, go for the Café Cubano — the texture of whipped espresso sugar is what clouds must be made of. Cuban-inspired smoothies threaten to give old vices a rejuvenated reputation (thinking of the Good For You Mojitio), but the guava-BBQ sauce over pork ribs is bad to the bone.

Café du Parc

Despite the classical Athenian influences within Washington D.C.'s prominent architecture, a francophilic current runs even more historically through the nation's capital. Naturally, over two-plus centuries of relations between the District and Paris, a taste for French food has developed here. We'll let this account for the saturation of dining choices. 

Emerging after the downtrend of haute French cuisine in the '80s, Café du Parc, opened in 1997, is now one of the more historic establishments for Gallic eating in D.C. The prominent outdoor section sits on a bustling portion of Pennsylvania Avenue, bordering Pershing Park on one side and the Ellipse Lawn on the other. Café du Parc has the feel of a sincere Parisian café — led by Le Cordon Bleu-trained Chef Gyo Santa, it has the culinary approach of one as well.

Dirty Habit

Sunlight is the best disinfectant, so, despite the name, eating outside at D.C.'s Dirty Habit won't leave you feeling grungy by any means. Instead, a meal at the restaurant — now helmed by 2022's Chopped Champion Anthony Jones — is clean, creative, and of varied influence. Beets with cotija cheese and heirloom tomatoes can be seen alongside French onion pho or watermelon tartare and kombu aioli. Further down on the menu, Jones features a whole grilled branzino and date labneh. All of this can be sampled on an outdoor patio in downtown D.C.

Dirty Habit's outside section is adorned with deep-set couches, contemporarily designed tables and chairs, and tall lamp posts that emboss an idyllic light across evening skies. Prior to Chef Anthony Jones's return to the DMV region (a native Marylander), he worked as chef de cuisine of Marcus Samuelsson's Bib Gourmand Red Rooster Miami. We're grateful to have him bring that experience back home. 


Calico D.C. is a self-branded "urban backyard" with a purr-fectly casual ambiance, enough snacks to qualify as outdoor dining, and interesting drinks that can entertain a curious cat or two. Take the adult juice boxes, for example. Individual pouches are packed with bespoke beverages like gin, cassis, lavender, lemon, and honey. Pair it with a slice of Philly-style pizza or some tachos and you've got a pawty.

All in all, Calico lives up to its reputation. If the bright wooden deck and tall fencing don't convince you that you're really just at a friend's backyard hang, then the welcoming service at the bar will. Make sure to stop over for happy hour but be aware that limited space makes this a tricky seat to grab. 

Thip Khao

When Seng Luangrath opened Thip Khao in 2014, it was one of the first Laotian restaurants in the country. Now, it is one of several in the DMV metro area alone. The full-service concept has plenty of indoor seating, but if you prefer a cooling breeze while chowing on your khao piak sen, getting a table can be harder to come by. With regards to a 90-minute seating window, things do tend to move fast, however. 

For the food sharers, dinner at Thip Khao is peak fun. Dishes are served in family portions and come in the order they're ready. It presents the opportunity for stacking a wide range of food across your meal time. We recommend the pun mieng (collard green rice wraps), which have a stellar pineapple sauce over the top. For meat eaters, the pairing of rice-cured sour pork, makrut lime, and wood ear mushrooms won't be found anywhere else like this.

Dacha Beer Garden (two locations)

There are two Dacha Beer Gardens in D.C., one Shaw location and one at Navy Yard. Both gardens, bountiful and spacious, are excellent places for casual German pub grub and some birdsong. Dacha in Shaw is the older of the two, but for water-adjacent hangs and a casual walk to Nationals Park, it's got to be the Navy Yard. Here, the tree foliage overhangs the long patio tables with rejuvenating green hues and dappled sunlight.

As you might expect, the Dacha beer menu is one of our favorites across town. At times we've found slight variations between the locations, which can either be a bummer or a brief excitement, depending on your spirit of adventure. Even if you don't drink, the food is worth coming for. The menu boasts classic German bar food like currywurst, chicken schnitzel (made into a sandwich), and a good play on Berlin's famous döner kebab

Scarlet Oak Restaurant & Bar

On the weekends, we brunch, and for brunch, the Scarlet Oak always earns a hefty consideration. The Navy Yard restaurant boasts two large patio sections on either side of the restaurant, making it one of the more sure shots for locking down open-air seating. What's tougher to pin down is the Scarlet Oak's menu focus. Modern American cuisine, Detroit-style pizzas, and sushi are all common bedfellows. But since the common thread between them all is top-notch execution, we're not going to waste time trying to pick through it all.

As we mentioned, brunch is why we come. Scarlet Oak has a stratified menu, with one section starting at 10 a.m. for the "early bird" and the second section beginning at 11:30 a.m. for "late risers." We recommend going for one of several breakfast burritos or a stunning passionfruit crepe souffle. 

Iron Gate

The outdoor dining section of Iron Gate embodies the term oasis without displaying a drop of water. The tall brick walls surrounding you create a protected, sheltered environment, while overtop and around the walls are verdant green terraces and trees that usher in a sense of calm. Chef Anthony Chittum's high-minded takes on Mediterranean cuisine fit with the refined aura of the patio. If you book your outdoor dining experience at Iron Gate, consider angling for the three-course meal studded with delights.

On a recent menu, Chef Anthony's spring meal arancini brought a fresh approach to a quick food that isn't always known as herbaceous or refreshing. Similarly, the bison flank steak, tenderly watched with pungent horseradish, shows the potential taste of switching over to a regenivore diet.  

Officina (two locations)

Like Chef Nicholas Stefanelli's Union Market situation Masseria restaurant, both Officina locations (the Wharf and Downtown) have unerring atmospheres accentuated by able access to the outdoors. Officina Wharf is a three-story restaurant that operates like an Italian food collective; there's a specialty Italian import market, an Amaro library, and a large rooftop Terrazza for views, views, views. Both spots include a café and trattoria concept, while dining at the Downtown shop is a more transient experience. Large bay windows can be opened to eliminate the border between indoors and out.

The multiple-concept stores, which can be compared to Eataly Markets, thus offer several different dining options. Grab and go with a quick meal or take it slow with handmade pasta and a glass of white from the Dolomites. 

Walter's Sports Bar

Much of D.C. life seems to revolve around politics, but food and sports come in a close second. Walter's Sports Bar catches the vibe of both as if it were standing behind home plate at Nationals Park. The bar is named after Washington's first World Series pitcher (way back in 1924). Fortunately, neither the food, service, or environment is old-timey. 

Walter's is a casual place to eat, preferably if you're in the area for a ballgame, but certainly any time you're around and hungry. A large draft menu features local brews, some popular national craft options, and a few regular domestics. On the food menu, creative choices like a jerk lamb fusilli pasta can be as surprising as a backdoor slider, but they land with Strasburg-esque accuracy.

Ambar in Capitol Hill

Ambar doesn't have the most abundant seating of your outdoor options in D.C., but in terms of value for your money, it's one of the top eateries out there — especially if you can get one of the exclusive outside seats. The Balkan restaurant, which brought a regional cuisine en force to the District, offers an all-you-can-eat option for brunch, lunch, and dinner.

Although the meal starts at $49.99, the flavors on display at Ambar are enough to inspire any diner to eat their fill. Elevated takes are present, like Istrian gnocchi, beet tzatziki, and lamb lasagna. Traditional dishes, like ćevapi, burek, sarma, and short rib goulash, are also up for order. Whether it's your first time at Ambar or you're returning again, prijatno (bon appetit).