20 Outdoor Dining Spots to Enjoy in DC This Summer
Waterfront seating, courtyards, and porches perfect for summertime sippin’ and dining.
As the weather gets warmer and we all try to spend more and more time outside of our homes, it’s the perfect time for summertime dining. From patios and courtyards to rooftops and alleyways, restaurants are converting any free space they have into outdoor dining destinations.
While restrictions have loosened around the DMV region, restaurants are still facing the reality of COVID-19 and variants which may impact their bottom line in 2021. While a lot has changed in a short amount of time, what shouldn’t change is your loyalty to your favorite restaurants and bars. The simple fact is that restaurants need your support now more than ever, so here are several standout outdoor dining options around Washington DC to check out this summer.
Ada’s on the River
Ada’s on the River opened in Old Town earlier this spring adding 100 outdoor seats to the Alexandria waterfront. The restaurant is a homage to 19th-century mathematician Ada Lovelace and offers a sweeping view of the Potomac with wood-fired prime steaks, fresh seafood, and vegetarian fare. The wood-burning oven is a central component to the open-concept kitchen, nestled under a sweeping hull-like wood panel, and accented with vibrant red tiles. The culinary team is led by chef Randall Matthews and includes a range of menu options from delicious hors d’oeuvres to multi-course plated meals. The most recent addition is the weekday lunch service from 11:30 am to 4 pm.
Calico’s urban backyard in Blagden Alley was made for outdoor dining. The walled-in, multi-level space—with a wooden deck terrace and a turf lawn below—is equipped with picnic tables, string lights, lush planters, and a metal greenhouse frame, epitomizing the neighborhood cookout vibe. The menu follows suit, with loaded tots, Philly-style tomato pie, watermelon salad, BBQ brisket sandwiches, plus draft and frozen cocktails.
Comet Ping Pong
Comet Ping Pong has stood firm to its neighborhood clientele through thick and thin, and it continues to be one of the best family-friendly pizzerias after more than 15 years of service. Outdoor tables are always an option here, and ping pong is back for some youthful distractions from a sit-down dinner of build-your-own pies and craft beer on draft.
Rose Previte and her team worked hard during the past year to bring an around-the-world vibe to a restaurant known for dishes inspired by travel destinations. From Georgian khachapuri to handcrafted cocktails from Argentina, this spot has something for every wanderlust. There are also a few options for outdoor dining. Out front, Previte created a streetery that’s meant to feel as if you’re riding the rails of the Trans Siberian Railway. Out back, there is a private patio for small and intimate get-togethers. Reservations are available for parties of two to eight Wednesday through Sunday.
With three locations in Dupont Circle, Foggy Bottom, and Woodley Park, each with see-and-be-seen outdoor seating, Duke’s is an easy option for burger cravings or a boozy patio brunch. You certainly can’t go wrong with the proper burger, just be sure to add an egg on top, or if you’re craving some late-night eats, the “after hours” menu offers Vietnamese fried rice and truffle mac-n-cheese.
La Famosa features the flavorful cuisine of Puerto Rico. A wrap-around patio makes this highly anticipated restaurant a safe bet for outdoor dining at breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Inside there is an all-day menu and walk-up coffee counter serving a variety of savory and sweet-fried turnovers called Pastelillos, as well as locally roasted beans from Ceremony Coffee in Annapolis. For happy hour, the bar leans into tropical-inspired drinks, like piña coladas, guava smashes, and nonalcoholic batidos aka tropical fruit blended with milk, sugar, and ice.
The rooftop of Union Market is the perfect place to meet friends in a safe socially distanced space with a view of the Capitol Building. Just be sure to make a reservation in advance—tables book up fast here. Chefs Greg Algie and Nathan Beauchamp are pulling out all the stops, including raw oysters, tomato soup and grilled cheese, charcuterie plates, and brunch items like French toast, lox platters, and mimosas.
With lighter foot traffic downtown these days, chef Enrique Limardo’s Immigrant Food continues to serve food for a good cause at lunch and dinner. The space helps raise public awareness of immigrant communities and frequently hosts fundraisers and events for local nonprofits in support of refugees and immigrants. The fast-casual menu and cocktails span several countries’ cuisines. Try a salad bowl that pays homage to the Jamaican and Indian heritage of Vice President Kamala Harris.
King & Rye
For a socially distanced hangout with a close set of friends, seek out the somewhat secret cocktail garden at King & The Rye in Old Town Alexandria. It’s a garden oasis of style, curated by general manager and executive bourbon steward Allison Strunk, who also makes the drinks, like a bourbon smash using fresh and local blackberries and mint grown in the garden. Meanwhile, chef Peter McCall has developed a Southern-style menu, made from scratch with the highest-quality regional ingredients—his biscuits topped with Virginia ham make for an excellent accompaniment to any happy hour. Reservations are not required for drinks in the cocktail garden, and seating is based upon availability and weather.
Looking for a weekend brunch to transport you thousands of miles away? Then, book a table at Makan, which has an outdoor patio and serves Malaysian cuisine mixed with brunch staples, like biscuits topped with a coconut egg jam called Kaya. Chef James Wozniuk and his team are known for serving up curry and noodle dishes filled with spice and heat flavors. Even the Bloody Mary here packs some spice, thanks to the addition of Belacan sauce—or Malaysian-style sambal with dried shrimp, fresh, and dried chilis.
Named for the virtuous rabbit in the Buddhist Jataka tale, this modern Vietnamese restaurant has its own virtuous eats and views of the Potomac River. Moon Rabbit’s patio is front and center at The Wharf, plus the menu features the talents of chef Kevin Tien, who serves up a love letter to his heritage as a first-generation Asian American. The menu is a mix of family nostalgia, with dishes such as milk buns (a family recipe) plus some critically acclaimed dishes like hamachi crudo, grilled prawns, and lemongrass pork blade
Known for its seasonal Mid-Atlantic menu items, Nina May recently debuted a covered patio that adds 55 seats to an outdoor dining environment, perfect for staying protected from unpredictable summer rain showers. And if the weather is cheery, the roof can be retracted and the glass sides lowered for a total outdoor seating of 70 people, plus limited indoor and rooftop dining as well.
Filipino fare is on full display at this Mount Pleasant eatery which now has a landscaped streetery for an everyday brunch, lunch, or dinner. Owner Patrice Cleary is committed to providing the best in comfort food from her kitchen, including lumpia, paper-thin rolls that are a Filippino staple. On the brunch menu, you’ll find an assortment of breakfast sandwiches including pork belly and spicy adobo fried chicken. Don’t skip out on patio cocktails either. It’s a refreshing way to cool down this summer—try the cantaloupe frose or a spicy mango margarita.
How to book: Walk in only
After a short break as a to-go restaurant, serving up some of Georgetown’s best pizza, Reverie is back to its fanciful and fine cuisine served by chef Johnny Spero. The back patio off Grace Street is the perfect place to celebrate or take a break for date night. The restaurant, which is rooted in Mid-Atlantic, farm-fresh ingredients, features an eight-course tasting menu that must be reserved and prepaid for in advance through Tock. Dishes rotate weekly and recent features include smoked Wagyu brisket, puffed cod topped with spruce honey, and Belon oysters topped with granita.
Opening a food hall during a pandemic comes with several challenges. Fortunately, the new 12,500 square-foot space from Neighborhood Restaurant Group was designed to be an enormous space and there are COVID-19 safety procedures. Enjoy patio space outdoors and distanced space between vendor stalls that currently include tacos, coffee, pizza, a butcher shop, sushi, and an ice cream sundae bar. Most folks gravitate to the outdoor beer garden, which serves Bluejacket beers on tap. We especially appreciate the flexibility of ordering food directly to the table using a QR-code menu.
The Salt Line
It is the venue of choice for Nat’s victories. And this waterside eatery has a massive patio, serving up New England-meets-Chesapeake coastal fare. Chow down on fried clam bellies, seafood towers, Nashville hot soft-shell crab sandwiches, lobster rolls, and smash burgers. Add a few draft beers on a football Sunday or Saturday brunch.
Taqueria Al Lado
The vacant Osteria Al Volo is now a Mexican-style taqueria serving up street foods you might find in Oaxaca. The restaurant opened earlier this year and has an entire back half of dining that is roofless. Chef Rolando Frias is grinding corn by hand into masa. You’ll find almost a dozen different tacos—including pork, chicken, beef, fish, and vegan options —plus trendy birria-style tacos, braised then served on a tortilla soaked in the meaty broth.
Taqueria Las Gemelas
Taqueria Las Gemelas is a new taqueria offering tacos, quesadillas, tlayudas, churros, and soft serve ice cream, as well as a selection of pantry items like tortillas and mole to take home for DIY dinners. Also find $9 margarita, and canned Latin wines, available to order from a walk-up window alongside some sidewalk seating. Nearby neighbors will certainly want to plan their visit early for breakfast tacos and $2 coffee from Counter Culture, served daily from 7:30 to 10:30 am.
Who can resist a tiki happy hour? And with sunset views along the Potomac, this restaurant is the perfect perch for enjoying a leisurely drink or snack-ish items, including pork skewers, coconut shrimp, tots, and poke. The late night menu from 10:30 pm to close is popular with the industry crew and there’s always an option to walk in. But you might want to make a reservation in advance to score one of the coveted covered rooftop tables. Tiki TNT Takes reservations outside for parties of 6-12 for 3 hours stints.
For a bit of country air, head to nearby Fairfax County, Virginia, where you’ll find the quaint and cute roadside restaurant Trummer’s. The restaurant is a special occasion destination whether it’s an anniversary dinner or birthday brunch, and the second-floor porch is the perfect perch to take in the scenic beauty of Clifton, Virginia. Victoria and Stefan Trummer are the husband-and-wife team behind this farm-to-table restaurant. They are gracious hosts, plus Stefan has mastered the art of cocktails, including the uber popular espresso martini—which pairs perfectly with some homemade butter biscuits.