If you’re feeling fancy
Forget date night—we’d love a day-date sipping bubbles over a shellfish plateau and burger on the 14th Street patio at Le Diplomate. (Pro tip: if it’s booked, try the midday menu, offered from 4 to 5 PM.) You also can’t go wrong with steak n’ eggs—or a ribeye and salmon collar—at sister St. Anselm in NoMa, which has an outdoor streatery (and less packed reservation book).
We could easily spend an afternoon on the Georgetown waterfront at Fiola Mare. In addition to a la carte there’s a festive “sparkling brunch” ($85) that includes three courses, bottomless prosecco, and a pastry basket. For a French country escape try L’Auberge Chez Francois in Great Falls, which serves an elegant weekend luncheon. Classic dishes like lobster bisque and beef bourguignon can be ordered a la carte or as part of a generous prix-fixe in the lovely garden ($48 to $54 for three courses, plus amuse, salad, and coffee/tea).
In the mood for a tasting menu? In addition to a la carte Sunday lunch, Rasika West End offers a three-course menu ($68 regular, $60 vegetarian) with wine pairings for an additional $40.
If you’re with the kids
The patio at Millie’s in Spring Valley is often packed for a reason between the something-for-everyone coastal American menu (we love the lobster quesadilla), kid’s specials, and tasty drinks. At Patsy’s American/Randy’s in Tysons Corner, adults can splurge on raw bar fare and steak frites while kids under 12 have their own menu—all offered on a large outdoor patio.
If you’re all about pretty patios
Iron Gate’s wisteria-lined courtyard in Dupont has long been touted as one of the prettiest spots to dine in DC—for a good reason. Chef Anthony Chittum’s wood-fired Greek/Mediterranean brunch menu is as good as the place looks. At Mercy Me, the new “sorta South American” spot from the Call Your Mother team in Foggy Bottom, a roomy al fresco courtyard is the place for Argentine grilled pizzas and breakfast sandwiches.
Over in Navy Yard, the greenery at Shilling Canning Company isn’t just decorative—some of the garden’s herbs and produce make their way onto the menu and into the cocktails. A generous brunch prix-fixe is $35 for three courses with options like deviled eggs, a crab cake Benedict, and homemade cider doughnuts (add a carafe of mimosas for $25).
If you’re brunching with friends
Pods can split pitchers of sangria and Spanish tapas on the patios of Jaleo Penn Quarter and Crystal City (or if you’re in the mood for Med, try DC sister restaurant Zaytinya). French brasserie Convivial in Shaw caters to a mixed brunch and lunch crowd on the patio with menus for both (one thing everyone can agree on: profiteroles come dessert). Nearby seasonal American restaurant Nina May boasts two pretty outdoor spaces for brunching—a patio and terrace—plus plenty of yummy dishes like latkes with smoked salmon. Another group favorite: Hank’s Oyster Bar, where friends can fill up on lobster rolls or shrimp n’ grits on spacious patios at the Dupont and Wharf locations.
Want to try something newer? Check out Makan in Columbia Heights, a Malaysian restaurant from longtime Maketto chef James Wozniuk. Brunch brings fun drinks like a Champagne colada and dim sum-style plates including homemade biscuits, shrimp fritters, and eggs in sambal. Or take your BFF to Jackie in Navy Yard, which overlooks the water and serves a variety of brunch dishes—everything from stuffed French toast to Filipino-style breakfast fried rice with crab and egg.