Food & Drink

The Best Patio Dining in Seattle

The warm weather months are here, so it’s sunglasses on at these al fresco dining spots

By Allison Austin Scheff and Chelsea Lin with Julien Perry, Amy Pennington and Leslie Kelly June 3, 2011


This article originally appeared in the July 2015 issue of Seattle Magazine.

Come warm summer weather, we take every opportunity to sup on the sidewalk or sip wine on an umbrellaed patio. Plan your alfresco dining around these knockout views, waterfront seats, hidden tables under the stars and new patios with vibrant cocktail scenes—and fire pits to keep the chill off.


Brimmer & Heeltap [SECRET GARDEN] Why here: An already popular neighborhood hangout, Brimmer & Heeltap is upping its summertime cool factor with the expansion of the garden hideaway that flanks the restaurant. A fiberglass-canopied patio will add 10–15 seats outdoors (there were already a few tables); there’s a promise of a fire pit; and owner Jen Doak has revamped a shed in back to include a roll-up garage door and its own bar for private parties (groups of 15-20) and overflow on busy nights. Eat: The prawn cocktail is big enough to share or small enough to devour on your own. Drink: It’s a drink! It’s a dish! It’s the pickled oyster shooter with cucumber, lime and gin! 425 NW Market St.; 206.420.2534;

La Isla
[PUERTO RICAN] Pull up a stool in the snug space under the storefront’s awning and watch Ballardites meander down Market Street while you munch on a plate of empanadillas, those tasty, tiny meat turnovers. Rum fans have plenty to cheer here, including craft cocktails and a salad dressed in a boozy vinaigrette. Set your watch to island time and order the ropa vieja, the shredded skirt steak sauced in spicy adobo. Finish up with a piece of tres leches cake. Lunch and dinner daily. 2320 NW Market St.; 206.789.0516;

Ray’s Café [SEAFOOD] Why here: Ray’s Café (above Ray’s Boathouse) is an iconic, only-in-Seattle experience, especially the deck, where the jagged Olympic Mountains and lapping waters of Puget Sound create an unforgettable backdrop for dinner alfresco. Eat: Start with the outstanding smoked salmon skewers and splurge on king crab legs with drawn butter.
Drink: The Bloody Mary here is terrific: spicy, strong and packed with veggies. It’s an ideal match for most of the seafood.
Insider tip: If you don’t have reservations, expect to wait Lunch and dinner daily. 6049 Seaview Ave. NW; 206.782.0094;

Walrus and the Carpenter [OYSTERS] [HIDDEN PATIO] It’s easy to feel cool when dining at The Walrus and the Carpenter, a haven for foodies in the know. The much-celebrated (and small) restaurant offers outdoor communal seating at picnic tables adjacent to the back parking lot. Far from feeling gritty, the small patio with wood picnic tables has an urban industrial atmosphere, with its location adjacent to the back parking lot and overlooking the many commercial shipping operations just off Salmon Bay. With heat lamps overhead, this patio is a sure bet in any weather. 4743 Ballard Ave. NW; 206.395.9227;

Percy’s & Co.
[PUB] This cocktail lounge on Ballard Ave is visually impressive already, but the covered patio out back is something to experience, too. What can only be described as a cross between a porch and a greenhouse, the wooden back perch is filled with hanging ferns and other green foliage. The patio is heated, and wool blankets conveniently hang from hooks at each of the six communal wooden picnic tables, which are made comfortable with olive-colored cushions. Ceiling fans and aroll-up garage door should keep the patio from becoming too hot when the sun comes out to play. 5233 Ballard Ave. NW; 206.420.3750;

Bastille Café & Bar
[FRENCH] [COVERED PATIO] At this Parisian-style bistro, wooden tables are nestled under a clear ceiling that allows in light, but holds back occasional summer sprinkles. With a fireplace on the terrace, heaters and sliding transparent-panel “walls” that open and close at the ready, Bastille is a sure bet anytime of the year for its traditional French cuisine and its focus on Northwest ingredients. 5307 Ballard Ave. NW; 206.453.5014;


Pintxo  [HIDDEN PATIO] [TAPAS] Even folks who have lived in Seattle all their lives don’t realize this tiny tapas restaurant has a charming, New York–style exposed brick hideaway sandwiched in between two brick buildings. The result is an adorable, absolutely utopian slice of Belltown real estate that is the highlight of any evening. The best time to come is at dusk, when the party lights turn on and the tensions of the day turn off. The sherry cocktails and Spanish wine list help, too. 2219 Fourth Ave.; 206.441.4042;


520 Bar and Grill [AMERICAN] [GARDEN PATIO] The patio out back is popular when the weather is gloomy, but once the sun pops, so do the huge umbrellas at this popular Main Street destination. The outside area is lined with hedges and a trellis to keep it a truly private section of the traditionally busy restaurant. The white-linen-draped tables, which seat as many as 50 sun lovers, beckon customers outside, but if you just want a little nosh while you watch the game (there is a flat-screen TV outside), order one of the signature cocktails, such as the cucumber cooler, and a chicken Caesar salad, and be grateful that the only traffic you’ll encounter here is a surge of folks getting off work to soak up some rays. Bellevue, 10146 Main St.; 425.450.0520;

Scotty Browns
[AMERICAN] [SIDEWALK PATIO] If there was ever a perfect location for a sleek, modern outdoor patio, it’s in the interstitial spaces of downtown Bellevue populated by the well-heeled workers of the Eastside. That’s where you’ll find Scotty Browns—in a hidden-gem urban enclave rubbing elbows (bent with drink in hand) with the likes of The Bravern, Bellevue Square and various Microsoft towers. It’s a prime locale for dining al fresco on your lunch break or grabbing a cocktail after work. Take a seat on one of the beckoning leather couches that surround blazing fire pits (when it’s chilly) or curl up in one of the colorful orange chairs that, along with pretty potted green shrubbery, add a splash of color to an otherwise masculine décor that is equal parts urban and rural, and 100-percent inviting on a sunny day. Bellevue, 958 111th Ave. N.E.; 425.449.8869;


Linda’s Tavern [AMERICAN] Hard to believe that when this landmark opened on Capitol Hill nearly 20 years ago, it served only potato chips and nuts. Hooray for the lineup of hangover helpers cranked out by this busy kitchen. The bacon, eggs and crispy hash browns platter tastes even better when enjoyed at the perpetual party on the funky, fun patio tucked away in the back. Music fans will want to check out the rad jukebox. Brunch Sat.–Sun., dinner daily. 707 E Pine St.; 206.325.1220;

Oddfellows Cafe [AMERICAN] [HIDDEN PATIO] Why here: Bring your dog and meet a friend at one of the few white metal bistro tables on the sidewalk, then prepare for some of the best people watching within city limits (especially the tony types coming and going at Totokaelo next door). Best table: The one farthest from the door is best if you plan to camp out; that way, people aren’t inching past you quite as often in the narrow space. What to order: The Ploughman’s Lunch covers all your bases: cheese, meat, pickles, salad and baguette. You’ll want a half-bottle of prosecco with that. Insider tip: Check out the “secret patio” out back—tucked between two ivy-covered brick walls with little 2-seater bistro tables and twinkling lights strung overhead. 1525 10th Ave.; 206.325.0807;

Poppy[NORTHWEST] Savory summer herbs and edible flowers destined for the menu gently scent the air on Poppy’s secluded back patio, where a subtle fence surrounds the poppy orange tables and chairs. We love the ever-changing creations arranged on the thali plates, and every meal should begin with a carefully crafted cocktail from the seasoned bartenders. Dinner daily. 622 Broadway E; 206.324.1108;

Terra Plata [NORTHWEST] Why here: In a city not known for its rooftop-dining scene, there’s a treasure to be found atop Terra Plata: a triangular deck that echoes the salvaged-wood sensibility of the main dining room. Best enjoyed with a drink in hand and the sun high overhead. Eat: Carefully blistered shishito peppers get a hit from a squeeze of lemon and dash of sea salt. Drink: Share a bottle of R. López de Heredia’s Viña Gravonia Viura. Extras: Dine amid the edible garden of potted herbs and veggies. 1501 Melrose Ave.; 206.325.1501;

Poquitos [MEXICAN] [ENCLOSED PATIOS] Off the main room at Poquitos, you’ll find a fully glassed-in, atrium-like bar area, complete with high tables and stools, along with a few benches and, of course, several seats at the bar. Although not technically outdoor dining, this oasis of natural light heats up on sunny days and gives the impression of dining in a greenhouse—very tropical, which complements the fresh Mexican dishes, and the house-pressed aguas frescas and seasonal margaritas made with local fruits. Turn up early for happy hour and snag a table, as well as some superaffordable snacks, such as the traditionally prepared grilled corn with crema, lime and Cotija cheese. 1000 E Pike St.; 206.453.4216;

[SIDEWALK PATIO] When the sun comes up, so do the rolling doors of this offbeat Capitol Hill restaurant, located in the courtyard of Chloe Apartments. The absence of walls doubles the size of the cozy spot by extending it onto an adorable little patio dotted with handmade and brightly colored tables and chairs, greenery and pretty flowers. It’s a romantic environment (especially at night when the candles twinkle) that mimics the beloved patio of the original Belltown Marjorie. Up the nostalgia quotient by ordering the signature plantain chips and a rum cocktail. 1412 E Union St.; 206.441.9842;

Café Presse [CHIC SIDEWALK HANGOUT] Why here: There’s always something seasonal and delicious to eat at Capitol Hill’s effortlessly chic Café Presse. And at the handful of sidewalk tables, midday rosé is not only acceptable, it’s encouraged.
Best table: Any of the small bistro tables will do. What to order: Regulars know that simple omelets and croque monsieur never disappoint, but it’s worth investigating seasonal dishes, especially salads and starters, which always prove original and inspired.1117 12th Ave.; 206.709.7674; 

Cafe Barjot 
[PEOPLE-WATCHING PATIO]Why here: There’s just something happy about this petite neighborhood café, whether it’s the poppy orange accents or the friendly welcome from the staff. It’s nice to drop by for breakfast, lunch or dinner to sit on the sidewalk patio and watch the people (and their dogs) walk by. Best table: Any of them will do, and since there are only a few bistro tables, parties of two will have the most luck scoring a seat outside. What to order: The cured smelt, radish and ricotta toast, with a Campari-and-soda sipper on the side.  711 Bellevue Ave. E; 206.457.5424; 


Big Chickie [south-end sun catcher]Why here: Cheerful wood tables and red chairs sit beneath a huge wood pergola at Hillman City’s family-friendly chicken shack. You’re going to love it. Best table: As long as we’re outside, we’re happy, and thankfully, with so many tables on the all-weather, fence-lined patio, it usually doesn’t take long for one to open up. What to order: A whole charcoal-roasted rotisserie chicken with sides and corn muffins is the best option. Then, share a couple of the cinnamon-spiced brownies and a pint of Full Tilt ice cream for dessert. After all, it’s summer! 5520 Rainier Ave. S; 206.946.1519;


Elliott’s Oyster House [SEAFOOD] [WATERFRONT] If a little bit of wind and the occasional scent of boating fuel in the air doesn’t bother you, Elliott’s offers one of the most scenic and action-packed patio views this side of, well, Elliott Bay. Not only is the never-ending deck along Pier 56 a front-row seat to a glistening waterfront, you’ll get to watch the hustle and bustle of aqua commuting in all its glory, from tour boats and the water taxi to tugboats and ferries. This is a fair-weather patio—no shelter or shade, and a limited number of heaters. There’s a good chance you won’t notice any intrusive weather elements if you order a dozen oysters. These are some of the best downtown has to offer. Lunch and dinner daily. 1201 Alaskan Way, Pier 56; 206.623.4340;

Six Seven [NORTHWEST] [WATERFRONT] Grab a table situated over the water on this modern, narrow, glass-walled deck hovering above Elliott Bay at the historic Edgewater hotel. Pacific Northwest seafood abounds on this menu, even at breakfast. Try the Dungeness crab frittata and upgrade to organic, local eggs. At dinner, opt for a classic cedar-plank salmon preparation or locally caught black cod. Breakfast and dinner daily, brunch Sat.–Sun., lunch Mon.–Fri. 2311 Alaskan Way, Pier 67; 206.269.4575;

The endless view at Six Seven on Seattle’s waterfront

Hard Rock Cafe [AMERICAN] Pass right on through the touristy main space and head directly up to the rooftop, where the panoramic views of the city and the Sound are truly stunning. We recommend coming here to drink in the vista and a cold brew on the low-slung couches warmed by gas fireplaces, then hit one of the countless excellent restaurants nearby (Matt’s in the Market, Le Pichet, Place Pigalle, Etta’s), where dinner is a better bet. 116 Pike St.; 206.204.2233;

Lola [GREEK] [SIDEWALK PATIO] The Greek-inspired menu at Lola makes for lovely sidewalk fare. This sidewalk patio, surrounded by a wrought-iron railing on the east side of the street, has a handful of small metal tables, which are big enough to hold the many plates you’ll order, but can be chilly in the morning. Bring a sweater to sit on if you’ve set your sights on a plate of huge pancakes and fabulous house-made sausage. The rays warm things up all through the afternoon. 2000 Fourth Ave.; 206.441.1430;


Serafina/Cicchetti [TAPAS] [GARDEN PATIO] On a secluded patio in a sleepy section of Eastlake, Serafina’s linen-topped tables are surrounded by overzealous plants and glowing white lights. While the chairs are typical patio-style folding chairs (thus, not the most comfortable), this romantic escape can’t be beat for special occasions or an intimate dinner for two. The patio for sister restaurant Cicchetti, which offers a shared-plates menu, sits adjacent to the ivy-covered building and looks out over the neighborhood sidewalk and a sliver of Lake Union. This is a cozy cement patio that feels private and open at the same time. 2043 Eastlake Ave. E; 206.323.0807;

Little Water Cantina [MEXICAN] [WATERFRONT] This is arguably the best cement patio the Lake Union waterfront has to offer—all-day sunlight, affordable Mexican-inspired nibbles (such as the popular carnitas tacos braised in coconut milk and cola), and fresh juice in the margaritas all but ensure cocktails will be free-flowin’ well after dusk. Communal picnic tables offer plenty of seating, which isn’t entirely comfortable (are such benches ever?), but works well for socializing. 2865 Eastlake Ave. E; 206.397.4940;


Anthony’s HomePort Edmonds [MARINA WORTH THE DRIVE] Why here: Four-course dinners are just $21.95 before 6 p.m. weekdays. There’s a sandbox near the patio to entertain kids at the more casual Beach Café downstairs, where lunch is served only. Best table: A corner spot on the deck upstairs affords views of the marina and Puget Sound beyond. What to order: Go for uncomplicated with the Chop Chop seafood salad, packed with fresh crab and bay shrimp, plus avocado, egg and tomatoes, and topped with basil vinaigrette. 456 Admiral Way; 425.771.4400;

The casual café and nearby sandpit at Anthony’s HomePort Edmonds and Beach Café


Hotel Sorrento [NEW KID ON THE BLOCK] Why here: The Sorrento’s revamp, completed this spring, added a new bar and stylish furniture to the Fireside Room, plus a revamped restaurant (good-bye, Hunt Club; hello, Dunbar Room). But it’s the new outdoor dining space built into the former circular driveway, with its imported French café chairs and gorgeous (and huge) magnolia planters, that beckons most this time of year. Eat: Oysters on the half shell, steamed mussels in a tomato and sausage broth, and avocado toast with fresh Dungeness crab. Drink: The Old Cuban, a bubbly summer sipper with prosecco, rum, bitters and mint. Extras: The fire pit area features custom bench seating made using reclaimed mahogany and built—as was the rest of the patio space—by Michael Marian of Marian Built. 900 Madison St.; 206.622.6400;


Manolin [BEACHY RETREAT WITHOUT THE SAND] Why here: The equation is ceviche plus rum drinks equal summer, which is exactly what’s on offer on Manolin’s pergola-shaded patio, just to the left of the front door. Eat: Yes, order the ceviche to start. But the dynamite dish here is the steak with caramel-like colatura (caramelized anchovy sauce). Trust us! Drink: The quaffable Columbus—tequila, apple and fizzy celery soda—is in the running for the drink of the summer. 3621 Stone Way N; 206.294.3331;

(New location, see address) Revel [KOREAN] Why here: It’s a scene. First, drop by Revel’s adjoining bar, Quoin, for a cocktail by the fire pit as you wait for a table. And when it’s time for dinner, move to the back deck, which is lit with strings of white lights—still close, but slightly removed from the action. Best table: Any table along the side deck is nice, but for a quieter seat, sit farther away from the fire pit. What to order: The Lazy Gardener, with cucumber, gin, mint and Rachel’s ginger beer, goes perfectly with the savory creative Korean menu. (Don’t miss the corned lamb salad with spicy nuoc cham dressing.) South Lake Union, 513 Westlake Ave N; 206.547.2040;

Uneeda Burger [BURGERS] Why here: Bring the kids and the grandparents. Everyone loves the hand-formed, Columbia River Reserve beef burgers at this upper Fremont hit, where a covered patio is open for lunch and dinner. Best table: There are picnic tables inside, but to bask in the sun, opt for one of the six tables outside the big garage doors (which are opened up in fair weather). What to order: We adore the lamb burger, truly original with its topping of Manchego, fried lemons and cilantro, but even the most basic burgers are stellar; they come with pickles, lettuce and tomatoes, and are a bargain at just $5. 4302 Fremont Ave. N; 206.547.2600;

Joule/the Whale Wins [CROSSING BORDERS] Why here: The powerhouse patios at Joule and The Whale Wins are separated by a sidewalk leading to the shared entrance of the neighboring restaurants. But the overall feeling is happily communal, as patrons on both sides of the aisle take full advantage of the fresh air on a beautiful day. Eat: Start with the sardines on toast at The Whale Wins, continue with the tender octopus in bacon vinaigrette at Joule. Drink: Try the aperitif of the day at Whale Wins, then opt for the 35 Stone Buck bourbon cocktail at Joule. 3506 Stone Way N: Joule, 206.632.5685,; and Whale Wins, 206.632.9425, 

[OYSTERS] [SIDEWALK PATIO] You know you’ve stumbled upon a sunny deck when the staff dips into a communal well of sunglasses just to wait on tables. When the large, Fremont Avenue–facing wall rolls up to let in the sun, the sun takes note and says, “Game on!” You will definitely get your dose of sunshine here, whether you’re inside or out. But outside is a pleasure not to be missed when it’s warm—especially at night when the gas fire pit, which doubles as a communal table, is lit. The ingenious creation comes courtesy of Mike Marian of Marian Built, who is also responsible for much of RockCreek’s interior fixtures. There is also a long wood banquette, wooden tables and metal chairs, which all reflect the restaurant’s rustic, woodsy interior. Fremont, 4300 Fremont Ave. N; 206.557.7532;


Via Tribunali [PIZZA] [HIDDEN PATIO] The often overlooked back patio at this Georgetown pizzeria is hidden by a very tall, narrow wooden door next to the pizza oven. Outside is a stone courtyard with a communal reclaimed-wood table that seats about 14. Shade and privacy are secured with a wall of plants and branches—that means nobody will notice if you eat two personal pizzas and a plate of caprese all by yourself. Georgetown, 6009 12th Ave. S; 206.464.2880;

Fonda La Catrina [MEXICAN] [SIDEWALK PATIO] Why here: Georgetown’s best Mexican restaurant has a fun, funky and, thankfully, big backyard patio that’s shaded with sailcloth, lush with climbing vines and decorated with colorful tablecloths. In summertime, it’s margarita central. Best table: They’re all good and all very popular, so expect a line on a sunny day. What to order: The Fresca, a spicy cocktail of tequila, chiles, cilantro and pineapple juice, along with camarones al mojo de ajo (shrimp with garlic butter). Or anything with mole; this is one of the few places in Seattle that makes a good one. Georgetown, 5905 Airport Way S; 206.767.2787;


Le Grand Bistro Américain [FRENCH] Serving up a thrilling view well worth the cost of crossing the 520 bridge, the two decks of this French bistro are set above Kirkland’s Carillon Point, where white yachts bob on sparkling Lake Washington. At sunset, the Seattle city skyline glimmers. And it serves the best niçoise salad in the city, to boot. Brunch Sat.–Sun., lunch Mon.–Fri., dinner daily. 2220 Carillon Point; 425.828.7778;

Trellis [NORTHWEST] This stylish sidewalk patio rocks it year-round, staying toasty when it’s closeted in clear plastic and warmed by heaters in the winter, but wide open and airy when the weather’s fair. Chef Brian Scheehser’s seasonally inspired menu is ripe with pickin’s from his 10-acre spread in Woodinville during this time of year. We love his tender green salads. Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. 220 Kirkland Ave.; 425.284.5900;

Beach Café [WATERFRONT] Sitting outside on the large wraparound concrete patio at this Carillon Point café will make you feel like you’re actually on the water. Breathtaking views of the Olympic Mountains and even glimpses of Husky Stadium and the Columbia Center tower are possible on a clear day and make it hard to leave the sun-drenched dockside spot packed with bistro chairs and tables—usually all filled soon after the café opens. The mac and cheese with crab, spiced and braised lamb tacos, and the café burger topped with guacamole and bacon are fan favorites. 1170 Carillon Point; 425.889.0303;

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