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Best Outdoor Dining

Cool breezes and great food.

Washingtonian > Packages > Best of Washington

The rooftop deck at Perrys. Photograph by Matthew Worden.

For those who enjoy dining under the setting sun or a canopy of stars, here are new outdoor restaurant spaces and some great old standbys.

The owners of Marvin (2007 14th St., NW; 202-797-7171) love outdoor spaces—they’ve incorporated terraces into their first two nightspots, Local 16 and Eighteenth Street Lounge. But the one at their newest restaurant and lounge, a tribute to Marvin Gaye, is the most intimate. The upstairs deck, which serves food Sunday through Thursday, is covered and has its own bar, wicker stools, and flickering lights. It’s like a treehouse hideaway in the middle of the city.

Chef Robert Wiedmaier took advantage of the wide sidewalk adjacent to Brasserie Beck (1101 K St., NW; 202-408-1717) for a patio unveiled this spring. Set back from the street with a row of greenery, it’s spacious and lively, with an outdoor bar and a wooden banquet table for ten.

A wine bar introduced this winter is breathing new life into Mrs. K’s Toll House (9201 Colesville Rd.; 301-589-3500), a Silver Spring institution. The restaurant’s basement opens to a 60-seat patio with views of the historic house’s 11⁄2 acres of gardens. There’s a new menu of small plates to snack on with sips from wine director Spiro Gioldasis’s impressive roster of 45 wines by the glass.

Café du Parc (1401 Pennsylvania Ave., NW; 202-942-7000)—a relatively new addition to the DC scene—has a patio that convincingly evokes a Parisian sidewalk cafe. A cushioned wrought-iron chair beneath one of the blue umbrellas is a great place to enjoy a morning pain au chocolat or bistro fare as the sun sets.

Celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck’s DC outpost, the Source (575 Pennsylvania Ave., NW; 202-637-6100), opened to fanfare in October, but its second-floor terrace was ignored during the cold months. The Asian-influenced fare from Puck disciple Scott Drewno—such as a refreshing roll of paper-thin daikon radish stuffed with lobster—is even better when served on the terrace, which has select views of the Mall from the Washington Monument to the Capitol dome.

When Black’s Bar and Kitchen (7750 Woodmont Ave., Bethesda; 301-652-5525) got a facelift, its rickety front porch was transformed into a sleek patio with a Zenlike vibe. Grab a seat beside the stone-filled pond to enjoy happy-hour martinis and two-for-one oysters on the half shell.

Blue Duck Tavern’s (1201 24th St., NW; 202-419-6755) sunken garden terrace has the feel of a spa oasis despite its location on a busy street in DC’s West End. Warning: After 5:30, the 40 outdoor seats are reserved for dinner guests, so come hungry for chef Brian McBride’s rustic yet refined American fare.

With two picnic tables and seating for a dozen or more, the patio at Alexandria’s Rustico (827 Slaters La., Alexandria; 703-224-5051) is ideal for cooling off with refreshing beer popsicles, available in such flavors as raspberry and peach. Across the street at Rustico’s sister spot, Buzz Bakery (901 Slaters La., Alexandria; 703-600-2899), the outdoor seating area is pet-friendly; pastry chef Josh Short even offers house-made doggie treats.

On Fridays and Sundays in spring and summer, Acadiana (901 New York Ave., NW; 202-408-8848) now hosts crawfish boils that turn the patio of this New Orleans–style spot into a lively, Cajun-flavored party. Classic crawfish and shrimp boils come with potatoes and corn on the cob, and a four-bottle bucket of Louisiana-brewed Abita beer is just $12.

Here are perennial favorites for outdoor dining:

Indique Heights, 2 Wisconsin Cir., Chevy Chase; 301-656-4822. The sweeping terrace—a popular seating area back when this space housed Ristorante Terrazza—offers views of the Friendship Heights neighborhood along with chef K. Vinod’s updated Indian fare.

Ardeo, 3311 Connecticut Ave., NW; 202-244-6750. Looking for a romantic spot after a movie at Cleveland Park’s Uptown theater? Walk across the street and ask for a table on the 24-seat rooftop terrace here. This little-known secret—invisible from the street—is open for dinner and Sunday brunch. With greenery and twinkling lights, it has the feel of a casual, intimate party.

Perrys, 1811 Columbia Rd., NW; 202-234-6218. Founded in 1984, before Washington had even heard of Asian fusion, this is an Adams Morgan sushi institution. The rooftop terrace, strung with lights, remains a lively yet peaceful perch. Weekday happy hours from 5:30 to 7:30 feature $5 small plates and $4 drinks.

Straits of Malaya, 1836 18th St., NW; 202-483-1483. This little-known Malaysian rooftop gem sits across the street from Lauriol Plaza, whose roof deck is perenially packed with birthday-party tables of 20 chowing down on mediocre Mexican food. Peruse the diverse menu, ranging from fragrant curries to poh pia (chicken and veggies to wrap up in pancakes, à la Chinese moo shu), and sip a potent Singapore sling while Lauriol’s patrons wait hours for a table.

L’Auberge Chez François, 332 Springvale Rd., Great Falls; 703-759-3800. Dining outdoors here feels more French countryside than Virginia suburb. Tables on the expansive patio come with views of the bordering meadow and a picture-perfect gazebo.

Indigo Landing, 1 Marina Dr., Alexandria; 703-548-0001. Though management has changed and the menu now features standard “chophouse favorites” rather than Lowcountry fare, Indigo still offers great waterfront views. It sits on Daingerfield Island, adjacent to the Washington Marina, and diners on the 100-seat outdoor deck watch boats set sail on the Potomac.

This article appeared in the July, 2008 issue of The Washingtonian.