Food & Culture
The Best Ways to Patio Dine in Seattle
Since COVID, Seattle establishments are finding new ways to level up outdoor dining
By Tiffany Ran June 27, 2023
Perhaps the greatest good that emerged from recent years for Seattle restaurants is the proliferation of outdoor dining. Outdoor dining in 2023 no longer means extended seating, but presents new ways to share the street and experience our neighborhoods. Whether we’re imbibing on an elegant rooftop terrace, digging into a bowl of pasta on a verdant porch, or playing cornhole in a beer garden, we claim a bit of the city beyond just the space where we live. With so many more patio experiences to choose from, we offer a few of the most interesting dining experiences under the open sky.
Bird’s Eye View
Our rooftop dining just gets ritzier by the day. Today, hotels, restaurants, and bars across the city are serving up deluxe experiences of craft cocktails and vibrant dishes enjoyed with views of the city’s landmarks. When the sun is out and the weather is clear, outdoor rooftop seating is among the most coveted dining experiences in the city.
The Nest at the Thompson Hotel
Aptly named, The Nest is perched atop the Thompson with panoramic views of Elliott Bay and the Olympic Mountains. Unique cocktail offerings include different types of highballs and some experimental ones. Its Spaghetti Western is a parmesan-washed Woodford Reserve bourbon with tomato basil shrub, balsamic, and lemon. On the lighter end, the Moon Lake, with mint-infused gin, lemon, crème de violette, and soda is a refreshing drink for a hot summer night.
110 Stewart Street, Downtown Seattle, (206) 623-4600
Mountaineering Club at The Graduate
If camping is your thing, the Mountaineering Club on the top floor of the Graduate Hotel in the University District, has embraced the mantra of campfire chic. Without leaving the city, you can experience the warmth and toastiness of RIY (roast it yourself) s’mores and cocktails with a 360-degree view of the city. And if camping is not your thing, the Mountaineering Club offers brunch, which evokes all the fun of a campfire breakfast without actually sleeping in nature.
4507 Brooklyn Ave NE, University District, (206) 634-2000
Aerlume can be best described as the statement restaurant of Pike Place Market, although technically just outside the market’s boundaries. The modern faced restaurant touts farm-direct sourcing and seasonal local produce as its inspiration. Its outdoor seating offers views of Puget Sound with fire-accented tables, a thoroughly sexy environment made swankier with a tableside presentation of yellowfin tuna poke.
2003 Western Ave, Suite C, Downtown Seattle, (206) 539-2200
The Flora Bakehouse
Coffee and pastries on a cozy rooftop setting may be just the reason to get up in the morning. On a clear summer day, Flora’s rooftop café offers a view of Mount Rainier. The bakery’s creative favorites span sweet to savory, and it’s developing a savory menu to launch later this summer. If you’re lucky enough to nab the “cone amann” with Flora’s seasonal soft serve on a kouign-amann “cone,” you might never want to enjoy soft serve any other way.
1511 S. Lucile Street, Beacon Hill, (206) 762-0418
The Dressing Room: Bistro and Bar by Can Can
Outdoor terrace dining doesn’t always have to be the sleek, modern concrete jungle vibe. The Dressing Room’s terrace with striped umbrellas and Parisian flair has all the zest of its cabaret-venue sibling with colorful, don’t-take-yourself-too-seriously food. Enjoy brunch overlooking a slice of Post Alley and order the Fried Chicken and Beignets.
1530 1/2 Post Alley, Downtown Seattle, (206) 652-0832
There’s nothing quite like being in-the-know about a secret spot in the city to enjoy good drinks and food. These charming Seattle pockets provide a reprieve from the daily grind, sandwiched between the rich sounds of the urban landscape while shielded from the chaos of the open street. Return to the world when you are ready.
The Fonté Bar in Rainier Square
Longtime Seattle coffee staple Fonté Coffee has opened a bar and food service café in Rainier Square, an expansive café and restaurant that gives Starbucks Roastery a run for its money. Nestled in an open-air courtyard beneath the curved walls of Rainier Square, you can hear the faint sounds of the city while sipping on a Fonte Bar Espresso Martini. The ambitious bar and restaurant with ample indoor space and outdoor patio offers an extensive bar menu and unlike many establishments in the city, is open for all three meals, seven days a week.
401 Union Street, Suite 201, Downtown Seattle, (206) 762-0760
When Mezzanotte opened in a somewhat industrial part of Georgetown, it took full advantage of its large space and built an outdoor place for generous patio seating with summer umbrellas striped in the apricot hue of Aperol Spritz and a large event tent for rainy days. Unlike most sidewalk seating in this city, Mezzanotte’s outdoor tables provide ample space to order one of every pasta. You know you’ll want to. Or take your time with the “nonnaKase” option, eight to ten seasonal courses from Chef Nonna Jason Stratton.
1210 South Bailey Street, Georgetown, (206) 466-6032
Since its opening, Saint Bread has welcomed a line of people who queue up at the Portage Bay waterfront for the bakery’s unique pastries and breakfast offerings with a Japanese lean. Its open-air patio on the side of the bakery is the primary seating area for those wanting to hunker down with one of Saint Bread’s melon pan, fried-egg sandwiches or an okonomiyaki-style tortilla. On the sweet end, the gochudoodle, a snickerdoodle made with Korean gochujang, and yuzu polenta cake are memorable ways to end the meal. Saint Bread recently opened its next-door drink shack Heave Ho and Japanese wood-fired inspired food truck Hinoki.
1421 NE Boat Street, University District, (206) 566-5195
Railspur is a developing microcommunity by Urban Villages that aims to revitalize the area surrounding three historic warehouse buildings in Pioneer Square. The name Railspur is derived from the historic Great Northern Railway, which ran through the area. Along with developing residential, office, and retail spaces, Railspur’s activated alley now includes options for coffee, beer, a cycling hub, art, and the not-so-secret back patio of Tacolisto. Chef Gabriel Rico designed Tacolisto’s menu of fun street tacos and cocktails. On a hot summer day, the shaded alley is the perfect spot to try the Cauliflower Pipián, grill-roasted cauliflower with an herbaceous green chile pipián, chimichurri, and pumpkin seeds served on heirloom corn tortillas. Wash it all down with their aguas frescas.
119 S. Jackson Street, Pioneer Square, (206) 623-0209
The Secret Gardens
This city is filled with walled-off gardens with vine-covered walls, lush bushes, and assorted flowers. In the book The Secret Garden, the young protagonist Mary transforms into a kinder, more loving person after spending time in the secret garden. It’s safe to say that we could all use a little more time with nature. Doing so over wine and dinner? Totally counts.
Nestled in the back of this Capitol Hill mainstay are Oddfellows Café’s most coveted summertime tables, flanked by greenery and red brick with rows of string lights up above. This secret garden ranks among the city’s most intimate spots, where brunch is served Monday through Saturday, appropriately for Capitol Hill, all the way until 4 p.m. Standouts include the Belgian waffle with honey butter and maple syrup and breakfast hash.
1525 10th Ave, Capitol Hill, (206) 325-0807
A macaron café is the stuff of garden party dreams, but at Alexandras, don’t miss the savory menu: a summer heirloom tomato salad or fluffy frittata layered with Yukon potatoes, sweet onions, and Manchego cheese. Better yet, show up on Thursday and Friday evenings and daytime on weekends for the Pizza Queens menu. The Wild Shroom has assorted wild mushrooms, ricotta, and a “hm, what is that?” miso butter. The intimate slice of side garden, with vine-covered walls is just the intimate scene to capture those brightly-colored macarons before you consume them.
1410 18th Ave, Central District, (206) 518-3895
San Fermo opened in a remodeled historic white house straight off a movie set. If you’re lucky enough to secure a seat on the side patio, you’ll stay cool under the looming trees tucked away from the bustle of busy Ballard Ave. One must say thanks for the comfy rattan bistro chairs, which may be a small detail to some, but are considered high-caliber patio chairs compared to the humble stools and metal patio seats in other parts of the city. Here, you can truly sit back, breathe deep, and enjoy an aperitif as you wait for the rest of your meal, perhaps a bucatini carbonara or decadent risotto.
5341 Ballard Ave NW, Ballard, (206) 342-1530
Chef Aaron Tekulve’s tasting menu is a reminder to the city of why fine dining is not dead. Tekulve opened Surrell in a century-old Victorian home paying mind to include modern day hospitality experiences like a chef’s counter, wine bar, as well as a covered and heated outdoor garden patio. His nine- to ten-course tasting menu is a real experience, but you can also opt for a four-course prix fixe menu or pull up to the wine bar. The restaurant makes good use of its spacious garden, hosting Paella on the Patio nights plus pizza and wine nights.
2319 E. Madison Street, Madison Valley, (206) 402-5698
For years, Brimmer & Heeltap kept its spot as one of the best garden patios in the city. Owner Jen Doak and team remodeled the historic space with light woods, copper penny floor, and earthy textures, visually melding the charming interior with its picturesque garden space. Even with all the thought paid to the space, Brimmer’s menu of colorful dishes with local produce, various proteins, and whimsical desserts takes center stage. The Brimmer team opened Red Arrow Coffee at its back studio, where you can wander through the garden gates for coffee and light food from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily. They named the café after the words on an old sign that hung over the Brimmer & Heeltap building back when it was a grocery store.
425 NW Market Street, Ballard, (206) 420-2534
The unspoken truth about Seattleites is that we’re not defined by Seattle, but by the smaller neighborhoods we frequent. Usually, it’s not the fancy places or even the well-reviewed ones. It’s creature comforts, location, and perhaps an indescribable quality that keep us coming back. A cozy outdoor patio certainly helps.
If you drive by Citizen Cafe, you’d be hard pressed to miss the party on its patio. Its self-proclaimed “Best Beer Garden in Seattle” has it all: cornhole, giant Zenga, firepits, and comfortable Adirondack chairs to lie back in with a drink in hand. While out-of-towners are visiting the Space Needle nearby, locals gather at Citizen where the extensive food and drink menus provide something for everyone. After 4 p.m., Citizen is 21+ only, transitioning from café to Citizen Campfire, where the outdoor beer garden provides cocktails, beers, and other alcoholic beverages enjoyed around a comforting campfire.
706 Taylor Ave North, Lower Queen Anne, (206) 284-1015
Despite the wide range of Wagyu available at Lady Jaye, its meat-centric menu remains comforting and incredibly approachable: a Wagyu cheeseburger, brisket pot roast, smoked Delmonico cheesesteak. Here, you can sip a Smoked Old Fashioned crafted by expert bartender Sara Rosales at the fire pit table and catch a glimpse of Chef Tyler Palagi pulling out a set of Dino Ribs from the 2,400-pound smoker, Cletus. Jaye was founded by the former team behind Radiator Whiskey with the goal of spreading the meat gospel. It also hosts a regular podcast, The Lady Jaye Meat Dudes, and runs a butcher shop at the front of the restaurant. Lady Jaye’s Sunday morning bake sale with pastries by Chef Charlie Garrison is West Seattle’s best-kept secret.
4523 California Ave SW, West Seattle, (206) 457-4029
Meet the Moon serves three meals a day but the Leschi neighborhood looks most forward to its weekend brunch. The covered and heated outdoor patio with generous seating is the community gathering spot for weekend brunches, private events, and even a wedding brunch. “Streeteries” like the one at Meet the Moon became a necessity during the pandemic, but Moon is now an essential part of the restaurant’s experience. The weekend brunch menus have fun, unexpected additions like a Spiced Steak Skillet or Mexican Fried Rice (be sure to add an egg). If you live nearby, you’ll want to stop back on Wednesdays for the fluffy cinnamon rolls with a generous dollop of icing.
120 Lakeside Ave, Leschi, (206) 707-9730
Chef Zephyr Paquet has taken over the former Streetzeria just blocks from the Richmond Beach Saltwater Park. She has slowly begun to introduce items from her own menu touting local, seasonal ingredients and items made from scratch. Petit Paquet still serves pizza, including some creative new flavors like a white sauce pizza with organic peaches, bleu cheese, and almonds. The rotating dessert menu shares a similar whimsy: maple blueberry cake or a peanut butter infused brownie cookie (a “Brookie”). You can count a takeout picnic at the Richmond Beach Saltwater Park as the unofficial Petit Paquet patio, but you can also cozy up to the side patio, which feels like the neighborhood backyard where local residents choose to gather on a quiet night out.
1857 NW 195th Street, Shoreline, (206) 755-5433
It wouldn’t be a Seattle summer without a cool drink by the water, and it’s not just the luxury Pike Place Market or downtown hotels that have this view on lock. Lakeside, Soundside, or oceanside, there are many pockets of Seattle where you’ll be able to find the greatest water views with new and exciting menus to boot.
Magnuson is a modern American brewhouse with a large outdoor deck along Lake Washington. Engage in a little boat watching with a beer and a burger, but don’t forget the loaded tots, which are crusted in melted cheese and topped with bacon and onions. The menu has 14 beers on tap and food options to satisfy many. It’s no wonder why Magnuson’s patio has become home for local fundraising efforts, trivia and game nights, and dog meet-ups.
7801 62nd Ave NE, Sand Point, (206) 525-0669
Marination can be credited with bringing a little of the aloha spirit to Seattle. When owners Kamala Saxton and Roz Edison opened their West Seattle Ma Kai outpost, they paired Marination’s Korean-Hawaiian menu with the best view of Seattle. From their large Alki Beach outdoor patio, you can see the entire Seattle skyline. The Kalbi Beef Tacos are Marination’s claim to fame. For more variation, Marination’s Lu‘au Plate comes with your choice of protein, mac salad, signature slaw, and two scoops of white rice. The restaurant group also includes its food truck and two other locations, but with a view like the one at Ma Kai, you will want to make the drive.
1660 Harbor Ave SW, West Seattle, (206) 328-8226
The vibe and name of The White Swan Public House are inspired by a Northeastern pub, but the seafood on its menu is all Northwest. The Swan is the seafood sister restaurant to Radiator Whiskey, and it applies the same playful approach to seafood as Radiator does to pork. Tucked into a corner on Fairview Ave N, the restaurant and its dockside patio overlook Lake Union. Swan’s menu marries larger, more adventurous entrées like the Sauteed Petrale Sole with fun finger foods like Crab Hushpuppies and Clam Poutine. During the summer, Swan opens its patio shack, The 100 Pound Clam, serving casual lunch fare like fish and chips as well as summer cocktails, the perfect accompaniment to one of the best lake views in the city.
1001 Fairview Ave N, South Lake Union, (206) 588-2680
After Josh Henderson sold Westward to Renee Erickson’s restaurant group, Westward got a Sea Creatures makeover. What did not change is Westward’s outdoor seating with beachside views and fire pits. “Arrive by foot, vehicle, boat, kayak or tie up to our dock,” its website says. After that kayak ride, fuel up with a platter of fresh oysters, with the variety one would expect from a Sea Creatures establishment. The robust seafood tower comes fully loaded with bay shrimp, geoduck, smoked fish, and anchovies with olives and pickles. On a warm summer day, Westward is where Seattleites indulge in the best of the season: sunshine and shellfish.
2501 N Northlake Way, Wallingford, (206) 552-8215
Salt District, an Italian restaurant by the team behind Elliott’s Oyster House, is located right on Seattle’s waterfront at Pier 55. So it goes without saying that its patio is among the best in the city, where the Sound is felt with all five senses. It’s easy to get lost in the view from Salt District’s patio; sea gulls, ships, and ferries glide by and the Ferris wheel a few feet away turns at a lackadaisical pace. During the day, aperitif hour runs from 3 to 5 p.m., but you’ll want to stay for dinner, where an order of pan-seared scallops on risotto is naturally paired with the smell of sea air. By dessert, you’ll catch the skies changing as the sun begins to dip below the horizon.
1101 Alaskan Way, Downtown Seattle waterfront, (206) 709-5763
Tiffany Ran is a writer and the chef behind food pop-up, Babalio Taiwanese. Much of her food exploration includes jumping between catering, restaurants, and the pop-up world. You’ll find her writing featured in Vice Munchies, Lucky Peach, Goldthread, JoySauce, Northwest Asian Weekly, and more. She is the proud dog mom of a chow chow named Ponky Bear.