Food & Drink

Everything You Need To Know About Outdoor Dining in Boston

These patios and rooftop bars are open, but with significant changes.

We are now a little more than a week into Phase 2, Step 1. Translation: Outdoor dining is back, and it’s back big. Alfresco pleasures can now be had at patioed restaurants all over town as well as beer gardens, wineries, and distilleries that have seated food service.

“It means welcoming people back -- we missed them and they missed us,” says MIDA chef/owner Douglass Williams. “We are so grateful that people are eager to come, get outside, relax and taste some really good food.” He demurs when asked about the difficulties in getting set up. “Actually I really wouldn’t use the word ‘difficulty.’ It’s more just been coordinating with the city and with our team. We are so fortunate to have two patios, so we were ready to go.” 

So what are the rules for outdoor dining in Boston?

Tables must be at least six feet apart or otherwise separated by walls or by six-foot-high plexiglass dividers. A maximum of six people can sit at one table, and there’s no bar seating anywhere. Menus will be thrown away after a single use (better to order from your phone if possible). Tables and chairs will be sanitized after turnover. Utensils will be rolled or packaged. And restaurant employees are required to wear facemasks. 

What should I do to be safe as a patron?

But don’t pretend that things are back to normal. Wear a face mask when you’re not eating or drinking. Seriously. Bring hand sanitizer, and sanitize before and after the meal. Order everything at once so that your server isn’t coming back and forth. And tip hugely -- restaurant workers are incurring a lot more risk than you are. 

Can I still order takeout?

Yes. Remember that patio dining alone will not save your beloved neighborhood spot. Keep ordering takeout, and keep lobbying Congress to support the Independent Restaurant Stabilization Fund.

Where are the best outdoor dining spots around Boston?

Phase 2 is not an invitation to throw caution to the wind and dine out every night -- you should pick your outdoor meals wisely. So where to go? Consider this a neighborhood primer rather than a comprehensive list -- dozens upon dozens of places across the state have already opened, with more doing so every day.

Alcove

West End
That outdoor space has been begging for its closeup ever since the restaurant opened. Time for some oysters, salmon poke, and charred avocado with a side of water views. And extra respect to the restaurant for creating a clear set of guidelines for all guests. 
How to go: Call 617-248-0050 for reservations

Bar Mezzana

South End
Safe to say we could all use an Aperol spritz right about now. And that’s just the start of the refreshing lineup: crudo, homemade pastas, summer salads, and grilled black bass make for the perfect warm-weather spread. 
How to go: Call the day of starting at noon to reserve a table

The Barking Crab

Seaport
You’ll still (understandably) have to wait to dine under the tent, but the Sleeper Street patio is now open for biz. The menu hits all the high notes: chowder, fried whole-bellied clams, lobster rolls, and fish tacos, plus wine, beer, mai tais, and margaritas. Boiled lobsters are not part of the patio menu, but they are available to go. 
How to go: Tables available on a first-come, first-served basis 

Brewer’s Fork

Charlestown
This one’s starting slowly: First it debuted with seven tables, followed by eight more made available this week in the parking lot. (Come July, it hopes to add 13 more tables on the front sidewalk.) But alfresco beer and pizza on a warm summer’s day is one of those treats you’ll never take for granted again. 
How to go: Call 617-337-5703 for day-of reservations; walk-ins also accepted

Colette

Porter Square
Simple French pleasures are what the quarantine doctor ordered -- coq au vin, steak au poivre, French onion soup, and chocolate mousse, all savored on Colette’s twee patio. Even better, the restaurant is also serving brunch on both Saturday and Sunday, which means an alfresco Croque Monsieur is back on the table. 
How to go: Reserve a table online

Cunard Tavern

East Boston
Yes, the roof deck is open, as well as the sidewalk patio. It won’t be like summers of yore -- no elbow-to-elbow shenanigans -- but you can still kick back for a relaxed meal of moules frites, watermelon salad, and the famous Sam Cunard burger topped with fried clams. They’re also serving an abbreviated brunch menu that includes chocolate chip pancakes and croissant French toast. 
How to go: Make reservations through Resy for a 90-minute seating block

Dorchester Brewing Company

North Dorchester
It’s a twofer: a brewery and a restaurant. Order M&M BBQ and home-brewed beers from your iPhone and savor both on one of the two patios: the roof deck and the streetside deck. 
How to go: Reservations recommended but not required; check the website ahead of time to see the capacity tracker

La Fabrica

Central Square
So, for obvious reasons, you didn’t make it to the Caribbean this winter. Executive Chef Giovanna Huyke is here to make you assuage your sadness with alfresco empanadas, fried whole snapper, and roasted Caribbean chicken -- plus cocktails, of course -- served on the restaurant's umbrellaed patio. (This is the first time the restaurant has reopened since the state’s initial shutdown, so you’re doing doubly good work by supporting them now.)
How to go: Email info@lafabricacentral.com or call 857-706-1125 for a reservation (limited number of walk-ins can be accommodated nightly)

The Lawn on D

Fort Point
No, there won’t be lawn games or IG-ready swings this summer, but there will be large-scale outdoor dining. The Lawn on D has undergone a huge makeover, its massive field transformed into one big grassy patio -- 180 tables and 700 seats, all told (all spaced well apart, of course). It’s all about the simple summer pleasures: burgers, hot dogs, grilled sausages, wraps, and ice cream sandwiches, plus wine, beer, and even a few cocktails. 
How to go: By reservation only; reserve online

Mare Oyster Bar

North End
We love Mare’s cozy back patio even in normal times, and can’t wait to feel almost normal again while consuming al fresco oysters, crab cakes, lobster ravioli, and grilled branzino.  
How to go: Call 617-723-6273 for reservations (required)

MIDA

South End/Lower Roxbury
OMG, Mangia Monday is back, this time on MIDA’s umbrellaed sidewalk patio. And we can think of no better time to stuff your face with all-you-can-eat homemade bucatini with salad and bread (that’s what you’ve been doing at home for months anyhow). Or come another night for seasonal salads, Chef Williams’ inimitable homemade pastas, and sparkling wines.
How to go: Call 617-936-3490 to reserve a table

Moona

Inman Square
The restaurant has dubbed its new outdoor space the Moona Oasis Patio, as it borrows square footage from the now-shuttered Inman Oasis spa. But self-care is still front and center. The small patio includes canopied shade, a bar cart, and Mediterranean classics like feta fritters, grilled squid, and mixed grill 
How to go: No formal reservations accepted, but you can call ahead shortly before to hold a table

Remnant Brewing

Union Square
How we’ve missed Bow Market. Thankfully, Remnant Brewing’s back patio is now open for table imbibing, thanks to customers’ ability to order food from other Bow Market vendors like Saus and Hot Box. Plus, dogs are being allowed right now (!) but must adhere to social distancing, or the privilege will be revoked.
How to go: Reservations for 90-minute blocks required and can be made online

Saltie Girl

Back Bay
Before you say, “But Saltie Girl doesn’t have patio space,” Kathy Sidell’s on it. She’s moving the Saltie GIrl menu over to the MET Back Bay sunken patio. Stephanie’s, in the meantime, will serve some MET favorites. But back to Saltie Girl. Sidell is serving the full menu, including raw bar items, cocktails, and the entire tinned seafood collection.
How to go: Call 617-267-0691 for reservations 

Steel & Rye

Milton
Steel & Rye is taking it all very seriously. The restaurant has painted 12-by-12 black and red squares across its parking lot. Each square is a six-foot wooden table with an umbrella, for a total of 70 seats on its new “patio.” Time to revisit its excellent wood-fired pizzas and griddled cheeseburger, as well as its epic cocktail program. 
How to go: First-come, first-served basis

Stillwater

Chinatown/Leather District
Takeout from Stillwater got us through a few quarantine rough patches. And the full comfort fare menu is now available on the restaurant’s small, front-facing patio, open for the first time since the restaurant debuted last August. How can you not feel better after a spread of everything bagel popcorn, chicken-fried ribeye, Ritz cracker-crusted chicken thighs, or PB&J creme brulee? Add in the frosé machine, and you’re golden. 
How to go: Make reservations through Resy or by calling 617-936-3079

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Meaghan Agnew isn’t always a rule follower, but you can be damn sure she’ll be following every last outdoor dining rule. Follow her lead before following her on Instagram.