Despite Washington, D.C.’s current mercurial weather and lackluster Cherry Blossoms, spring has officially sprung with hints of sunshine each morning and plenty of light after everyone gets off of work. Gone also are the bulky winter coats and dreary layered fashions, as well as the mad rush from Uber to indoors. The combination of these factors results in a change of attitude, as well as locale, for those who dine out. As we enter primo al fresco season, let's revisit who has the patio on which to sip and be seen!
Charming, yet still decidedly low-key, Derek Brown has brought to life three of D.C.’s most popular bars (Mockingbird Hill, Southern Comfort and The Columbia Room) but none rings so purely of spring than the sexy upgrade The Columbia Room has undergone. Having moved a few short blocks from its old location, the latest rendition of The Columbia Room has a twinkling awning of lights known as the “Punch Garden” where guests are encouraged to linger over one of Derek’s incredible cocktails paired with snacks.
Long before D.C. was known as a cool, hot restaurant scene, local celebrity chef Jose Andres had his Zaytinya. Today still pulsating with guests no matter the day or hour, the fresh and still innovative mezze-focused menu in Chinatown offers one of the largest patios in the heart of downtown D.C. 68 people can enjoy a variety of small plates inspired by Turkish, Greek and Lebanese cuisine, as well as unique Mediterranean wines hand-selected by Wine Director and Master Sommelier Andy Myers. Don’t miss the chance to order the “Spreads”: Hommus, Labneh, Baba Ghannouge, Htipiti, Tzatziki, Taramosalata, and Hommus Ma Lahm. You can order all six for $35, and be sure to add on the House-made Lavash Chips ($5) for dipping.
The brick-walled courtyard patio of the Four Seasons Georgetown opens up off the sleek bar and lounge area of Bourbon Steak, inviting 76 guests to enjoy cocktails, bites and drinks in balmy weather under sun or stars. The craft cocktail program, helmed by Torrence Swain, brings drinks such as the tiki-inspired Sasquatch with Marauda Steelpan Rum, Mango Cumin, Grand Marnier and Cinnamon, as well as my personal favorite, the off-the-menu Mrs. Jefferson. On cooler nights, guests can snuggle up on comfy lounge furniture next to the warmth of one of its glowing fire pits.
The chic and cosmopolitan Italian enclave that is the Michelin-starred Masseria is noted for its stunning Pergola and courtyard, which can seat almost 60. Enjoy the coastal Italian fare under the retractable roof and zig-zagging string of lights that add to the romantic ambiance while enjoying regional Italian wines such as the organic Barberani wines from Umbria. Rugged wood tabletops and refined benches sit atop a stunning expanse of colorful Mediterranean tile that lends to the al fresco vibe. The modern yet comfortable courtyard is adorned with ornamental grasses, aromatic herbs, and splashes of bright wildflowers delineate the various seating areas. Equipped with plush blankets in cooler weather, and low Mendocino fire tables, the courtyard offers open-air European ambiance, three-quarters of the year.
While All Souls Bar does not have food, it does have snacks as well as some of the best cocktails in the city. Pop over to the Shaw neighborhood and enjoy one of the 33 seats on the just opened -- and long awaited -- patio.
Probably one of the best new(ish) D.C. restaurants right now is Chef Rob Rubba’s Hazel. Located in Shaw, the American fusion restaurant has delightful hints of Korean cuisine such as the Gnocchi Booki with pork-kimchu ragu, sesame seeds and smoked pecorino, but my forever favorite is the Grandma’s Zucchini Bread with foie gras mousse, chamomile gelee and bee pollen. Little known fact... the outdoor space, with it’s gorgeous floral mural, has an inlaid floor which can double as a putting green!
A canopy of umbrellas and bistro seating brings a certain joie de vivre to the corner of 11th and K Streets at chef Robert Wiedmaier’s bold-faced, Belgian-themed style hotspot. Boasting one of the largest patios in the city, up to 130 guests can enjoy signatures such as Spicy Red Thai Curry Mussels and Artisan Cured Meats from the Charcuterie Plate or sip on one of the many European beers from the extensive list, which includes Wiedmaier’s own Belgian double blonde ale, Antigoon.
Elegant yet relaxed, the patio flanking the entrance to one of D.C.’s most beloved restaurants transports you to a seat along the sidewalks of Le Champs Élysée. The revamped patio, which debuted last May and seats 20, features stylish outdoor furniture and accents that provide a relaxing urban oasis. Guests may enjoy seasonal tastes from Marcel’s lounge menu or opt for the complete menu to get the full experience Chef Robert Wiedmaier’s award-winning cuisine.
Newly opened Ambar Clarendon showcases the best dishes from the Balkan Peninsula with a modern twist. These dishes are presented artfully, with modern combinations that deliver the flavor profiles in a unique way. Enjoy the heated sidewalk terrace, complete with covered awning, available during the spring and summer months (weather permitting) and can accommodate an additional 50 seated guests.
All Set Restaurant & Bar showcases American fare that reflects a passion for fresh ingredients, nutritious food and unforgettable flavor. The menu takes inspiration from time spent in coastal New England. Highlights include Chickpea Fries with shredded zucchini and roasted garlic, served with a green goddess dressing; Surf & Turf Burger with fried oysters, Old Bay tartar and coleslaw, served with house cut fries; Connecticut & Maine Style Lobster Rolls and Maryland Crab Cakes with seasonal succotash and Old Bay beurre blanc; and BBQ Baby Back Ribs with baked beans, coleslaw and house cut fries. The restaurant offers two outdoor patios during the spring and summer months (weather permitting) that can accommodate an additional 52 seats.
While the talents of Chef Frank Ruta and Pastry Chef Aggie Chin have left the Rosewood Washington, D.C., the drinks -- which up to 16 guests can enjoy on the outdoor patio -- remain solidly consistent. The Old(er) Manhattan with Bourbon, PX Sherry, Luxardo Cherry, bitters and orange peel is the best in the city, bar none.