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
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).