14 Cozy Fall Restaurant and Bar Patios That Feel Like Urban Escapes

Fire pits, hot drinks, and fondue to get you in the autumnal mood.

Date night destination: Masseria's courtyard and covered pergola. Photograph by Scott Suchman

Whether you’re in the mood for a pumpkin beer or splurge-y tasting menu, there’s one thing everyone seems to want right now: outdoor space (the prettier the better). These escapist venues fit the bill, from casual to formal, with heaters, warm drinks, and plenty of greenery (or in some cases, orange-ery).

Casual Eats and Drinks

Beer lovers can rent one of Wunder Garten’s private Oktoberfest cabanas. Photograph courtesy of Wunder Garten

Wunder Garten
1101 First St., NE
NoMa’s huge outdoor beer garden is in full, socially distanced Oktoberfest mode with a big lineup of German brews, local Oktoberfest releases from the likes of Port City and Devil’s Backbone, and weekly events. You can hang under heaters or by fire pits, sip hot cocktails, and reserve German-style cabanas for you and your pod (up to six guests, prices vary by day and time).

Make it an outdoor happy hour at Bar Charley. Photograph courtesy of Bar Charley

Bar Charley
1825 18th St., NW
If you’re deal hunting, the lush garden courtyard of this Dupont cocktail bar and steak spot is a good find. Happy hour runs nightly until 6:30—and all night on Mondays—with lots of food and drink specials like $8 Korean wings and $7.95 cocktails. Sunday is steak night—all cuts are 25 percent off, and you can warm up with a nice bottle of red at your distanced picnic table.

Denizen Brewing Co’s pumpkin beer garden in Silver Spring. Photograph via Facebook

Denizens Brewing Co.
1115 E W Hwy, Silver Spring; 4550 Van Buren St., Riverdale Park
Forget a pint of pumpkin beer—Silver Spring’s brewery usually plans a “gourdegeous” pumpkin beer garden for fall with hay bale seats and fire pits. You should also literally forget the pumpkin beer (the brewery doesn’t currently make it). But! Order autumnal sips like a bourbon-barrel-aged stout, along with gastropub fare, and you won’t miss a thing. The new Riverdale Park location also boasts outdoor seating and plenty of gourds for fall fun.

Electric Cool-Aid’s pumpkin spice slushies. Photograph via Facebook

Electric Cool-Aid
512 Rhode Island Ave NW
Cooler temperatures aren’t putting a damper on Shaw’s outdoor frozen drink garden. Like your fall knits, boozy slushies change with the season—we’re in for a frozen pumpkin-spice concoction spiked with rye, or a honey-and-gin “bees freeze.” BYO blanket and warm up by a heater with eats from rotating food trucks. Think towering Dirty South Deli sandwiches, Horace n’ Dickie’s fried seafood, or Timber Pizza.

The Back Yard at Evening Star Cafe in Alexandria. Photograph courtesy of Neighborhood Restaurant Group

Evening Star Cafe
2000 Mt. Vernon Ave., Alexandria
Pick between two homey outdoor areas at this Alexandria mainstay: the Front Porch, where you can sip a bourbon slush by a fire-pit table, and roomy back yard. The latter is set with a green turf lawn, string lights, and umbrella-covered picnic tables. Chef Jonathan Till turns out eclectic plates like Hawaiian-style kalua pork alongside a bacon-chevre cheeseburger. 

Fight Club
623 Pennsylvania Ave., SE
No dank basement here—chef Andrew Markert’s sandwich-and-booze pop-up in the Beuchert’s Saloon space boasts two lovely outdoor areas: a rear “punch garden” protected with a string-lit awning, and a patio tent hung with paper flowers that reminds us a little of an urban wedding—perfect for celebrating the happy union between a smash burger and Campari-soda.

Backyard bar Calico in Blagden Alley. Photograph by Evy Mages

50 Blagden Alley, NW
The backyard-inspired bar tucked in Blagden Alley has plenty of outdoor nooks and tables for meeting up with friends over adult juice boxes and casual eats like loaded tots, shrimp rolls, and brisket sandwiches.

Lena’s Oasis
401 E Braddock Rd., Alexandria
The Yates family went above and beyond when reimagining the outdoor space at Lena’s Wood-Fired Pizza & Tap during the pandemic. The 5,200 square-foot set-up has cabanas—hung with Moroccan lanterns—for parties of ten or less; pergolas glowing with string lights; and a new beer garden ringed around a fire pit. All-day and brunch menus are filled with Italian-American antipasti and homemade pastas, parmigianas, and thin-crust pies.

Dining Outdoors

Dauphine’s newly opened patio. Photograph by Jennifer Chase

1100 15th St., NW
The New Orleans hotspot from the Salt Line team boasts two outdoor patios, including an atmospheric outdoor bar. They also just launched a speedy happy hour—available on weekends—indoors and out from 5 to 6:30 PM with snacks like crab deviled eggs ($6) and $9 specialty cocktails. Some of our favorites on the dinner menu: a pig ear salad, gumbo, and a creamy oyster pasta. 

Compass Rose’s private patio. Photograph by Jennifer Chase

Maydan and Compass Rose
1346 Florida Ave., NW (Maydan); 1346 T St., NW (Compass Rose)
Sure, we’re drawn like moths to the huge flaming hearth inside Rose Previte’s wood-fired Mediterranean/Middle Eastern restaurant. But the transportive patio lined with carpets and set with glowing tents is just as charming—and a great place to dig into the family-style “tawle” menu, a prix-fixe feast of dips and fresh baked breads, fire-kissed vegetables and kabobs, and platters of whole fish or lamb ($65 per person). Globe-trotting sister restaurant Compass Rose has an equally atmospheric outdoor nook: a private patio with a “tour of the world” menu ($65 per person) that can be omnivorous or vegetarian.

Dine by a fire pit at Iron Gate. Photograph courtesy of Neighborhood Restaurant Group

Iron Gate
1734 N St., NW
One of DC’s prettiest patios is ready for fall with fire pits and seasonal libations under the century-old wisteria vines. Chef Tony Chittum’s locally sourced, Mediterranean dinner and Sunday brunch menus boast warming dishes like caramelized ricotta gnocchi with pork-sausage ragu or charred baby broccoli with whipped ricotta and breadcrumbs.

Book a private gazebo for a French feast at L’Auberge. Photograph via Facebook

L’Auberge Chez Francois
332 Springvale Rd., Great Falls
Chef/owner Jacques Haeringer’s elegant Great Falls restaurant feels more like a French country escape than ever. A lovely garden and koi pond is ringed with patio tables as well as private gazebos set with a fan and string lights that can seat up to seven guests ($75 per gazebo, call for reservations). Produce from the garden makes its way onto the lunch and dinner menus, filled with French classics such as lobster bisque, beef bourguignon, and chive crepes with mushrooms.

The pergola at Masseria, where diners can enjoy multi-course Italian tasting menus. Photograph by Scott Suchman

1340 Fourth St., NE
Outdoor date night, solved. The gorgeous courtyard at chef Nick Stefanelli’s Michelin-starred Italian restaurant near Union Market feels like you’re dining  in a faraway villa. A seasonal tasting menu ($135 per person) is served in the pergola, equipped with a retractable awning and temperature controls. For a more casual experience (or a full evening), guests can reserve courtyard seats around fire pits for canapés and drinks ($45 per person).

Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.