Everything You Need To Know About Outdoor Dining in Atlanta
These patios and rooftop bars are open, but with significant changes.
After temporarily closing 8Arm in mid-March, co-owner Skip Engelbrecht and his team realized they needed to expand their outdoor space if they wanted a chance to survive. He doesn’t feel comfortable dining in a restaurant and knows that neither do most diners, but that a patio could be key to 8Arm’s survival. “There's a lot of restaurants that are like, ‘Fuck it, we'll just close until this is over with,’” Engelbrecht says. “They have a bunch of money behind them, but we're scrappy, we want to work."
So they built out a patio and outdoor kitchen along their parking lot using repurposed materials from the adjacent Paris on Ponce which suffered a fire at the end of 2019 (also owned by Englebrecht). Cheekily dubbed Sidepiece, the patio features railing and limited seating and the kitchen has a brick pizza oven that was supposed to be used at Ama, his dashed pizza concept. Engelbrecht also commissioned artist Carl Janes to paint a mural on the ground.
Similarly, A Mano in Old Fourth Ward created an outdoor seating area in its parking lot. There was already a patio, but to create more space, owner George DeMeglio laid astroturf over two parking spots and placed garden tables on top of it. While some restaurants with patio space, like Le Petite Marché in Kirkwood, are still not comfortable even reopening patio seating, DeMeglio felt they had to do something beyond takeout.
“There’s so many other places that are opening full-service dining that it's time for us to make a step in that direction,” he says. “We're ready to get back into full service dining.”
Is dining outside the safer option?
If you’re going to dine in a restaurant during the pandemic, dining outside is typically the safest option (although the CDC guidelines say that curbside and takeout pose the lowest risk). Social distancing and hygiene practices, like servers in masks, must be maintained, but the constant circulation of fresh air in an open space makes it considerably safer than dining indoors.
What are the dining restrictions in Atlanta?
On Tuesday, June 16, statewide restrictions loosened. Restaurants no longer had reduced dining room capacity and restaurant employees no longer had to wear masks unless they’re interacting with guests. When it comes to patio dining, restaurants have to ensure that tables are spread six feet apart, but, according to an infosheet put together by the Georgia Restaurant Association in response to Governor Kemp’s latest executive order, masks are not required for patrons.
Should patrons wear masks?
There are now very few restrictions imposed on guests or restaurants despite the fact that the pandemic is still very real and cases in Georgia are trending up. Many restaurants have implemented their own policies. For example, at Hotel Clermont, guests visiting the rooftop must wear masks while in the building. Some restaurants only require masks while waiting for a table and others want guests to wait in their car until their table is ready.
What about using restrooms?
Restaurants are allowed to open their restrooms to patrons (they’re only required to maintain cleanliness and to mark the pathway to and from the bathrooms). But, some restaurants, like Junior’s Pizza, are prohibiting the use of its restrooms. To be absolutely sure which policies a restaurant is implementing, it’s best to check the restaurant’s website or social media to see what their COVID-19 policy is.
Where are the best outdoor dining spots around Atlanta?
The pandemic may have driven people to outdoor dining, but they’re also rediscovering just how downright pleasant it can be (at least until those 100 degree temps get here). People want to be outside after being cooped up for so long, says Engelbrecht, and 8Arm in particular has a unique set up on Ponce de Leon Ave. “As much as [Ponce] is being developed, I love the sort of realness of it. It feels like a real city feel, you know?” Whether you’re looking to dine on a patio or rooftop, here are some great outdoor spots to visit. Just remember to have a mask on hand.
Old Fourth Ward
Starting on June 17, A Mano offered full-service dining on its patio, where you can also order takeout of their classic dishes, like the bucatini with beef rage and ricotta, and enjoy it in their extended outdoor seating area. There’s also an outdoor bar.
Big Oak Tavern offers delicious pub grub like Buffalo-roasted cauliflower and barbecue chicken nachos. You can sit outside under one of their umbrella patio tables (and on certain days of the week you can catch live music out there, too).
If any restaurant was made for forced outdoor dining, it’s Canoe. The riverfront restaurant found in Vinings is known for its resplendent backyard and now it’s being used to its full potential. In addition to their patio, Canoe has extended its “al fresco” seating to the lawn with prime river views. Perfect for brunching on a Sunday morning.
Chom Chom is currently open, but it’s serving a pop-up menu from nearby Mamak. On the menu you’ll find classics like roti canai, chili soft shell crab, and chow kway teow (wok fried flat rice noodles).
If that sweet tooth hits, head to Cremalosa. Cool off with one of its creamy, dense flavors and enjoy it on their patio.
Old Fourth Ward
The recently opened spot is only open for takeout with patio seating available. The deck is a charming spot to enjoy brunch treats like loaded latkes and dutch babies. (Not that the specials change often.)
Both the Buford Highway and West Midtown locations of Food Terminal are open for patio seating. The restaurant has eliminated its famous magazine-style menus so that patrons can safely order online from within the restaurant. Grab a table outside and enjoy Malaysian street food standouts like the five spice shrimp roll, cheese n’cheese rolling hot plate, and curry chicken tossed noodles.
Hotel Clermont’s vintage-chic rooftop is open for drinks. There’s a $5 cover charge (credit card only) to enter, masks must be worn while inside the building, and once you leave the roof you must leave the hotel.
The New Orleans-style eatery recently expanded its patio for pandemic-friendly dining. They’re offering their usual menu which includes standouts like charbroiled oysters and shrimp and grits as well as new drink offerings like the frozen chocolate mudslide.
If you’re looking for a fancy evening out, Lazy Betty has a redecorated patio and eight-course menu with your name on it. Chef-owner Ron Hsu and his team have made the place a charming respite complete with bistro lights, Danish-style dining chairs, and plenty of plants. Make sure to reserve your table first.
Leon’s Full Service already had a gorgeous patio, and now it’s open for lunch and dinner (check website for specific hours and days). Good news: to help with social distancing, they are now offering reservations for their patio.
Atlanta’s beloved veggie-forward institution is open for full-service dining, along with its patio. In addition to their covered patio space, they created new outdoor seating that’s casual and perfect for drinks and bites. For now, only dinner is available.
Mission + Market may be in the thick of Buckhead and not far from 400, but it’s easy to forget that when you're on their patio. The sunny space is a lovely spot to enjoy one of chef Ian Winslade’s modern-American dishes like the tuna tartare, vegetable pesto pizza, and the seared black bass.
For the time being, Petit Chou is offering takeout that can be enjoyed on their patio. Order one of its summer menu items like the watermelon salad with granny smith-mint vinaigrette and the Georgia trout with pea mash.
Old Fourth Ward
Ponce City Market’s rooftop venues, Skyline Park and 9 Mile Station, have reopened for fun in the sun. Capacity is reduced and reservations at 9 Mile Station are recommended as well as other guidelines listed here.
8Arm’s new patio, Sidepiece, offers limited seating and wood-fired eats. You can visit it Tuesday through Saturday from 5-10pm.
Both the Grant Park and West Midtown locations of Six Feet Under are open for patio service. You can’t go wrong with either spot, but Grant Park does offer that double whammy view of the skyline and Oakland Cemetery.
Tucked away in the Edgewood neighborhood, El Tesoro is a happening spot for tacos with fillings like barbacoa and chipotle chicken, tamales, and refreshing drinks like horchata iced lattes (skillfully made hot coffee drinks are also available). Now there’s a festive lawn patio situation if you want to stick around to enjoy your food.
Chef Deborah VanTrece will reopen her soul food gem on Friday, June 19. Patio seating is available, but will be limited, so make a reservation first.
Although Whiskey Bird’s dining room is reopened with appropriate social distancing, the patio is a lovely way to go if you want to enjoy their Asian-inspired eats. The restaurant currently has a limited menu available (try one of the crispy sushi rice treats like the spicy tuna or umami bomb).
Wood’s Chapel, and its open air patio, reopened on June 17. The barbecue spot is currently offering a limited menu but it’s still packed with plenty of delicious options like jalapeño cheddar sausage and smoked salmon on Sundays.
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