Special Guest Post: The Joy of Outdoor Dining by Ashley


Ashley runs the Web site, From Komi to Marvin which she describes: “After living in D.C. my entire life, I realized that I had only eaten at a third of the restaurants on the Washingtonian 100 Best list. So I decided to take a year, and eat at every single one–no matter how geographically far away, or culinarily unappealing. I’m not a reviewer, just a gal who loves to eat.”  Ashley last wrote about Food Trends for PoP here.

There comes a day a couple times a summer where the humidity drops to a tolerable level, the breeze blows in and the temperature stays in the double digits. On those days, Washingtonians feel the need to do something—anything—outside to take advantage of these bits of good fortune. I hate to jog, I burn too easily to sit by the pool, and I have no dog to walk. So what do I do? I eat. And I love it. I like brunching with my sunglasses on, water glass sweating profusely, swatting mosquitoes through my meal. Unfortunately, D.C. doesn’t have a ton of options for outdoor dining. Yes, there are many places that throw a few tables on the sidewalk, but I like restaurants that have put some thought in to their al fresco options. Hope is not lost though; there are a growing number of restaurants with us sun seekers in mind.

Now I’m a gal who loves a good roof deck, not only because there’s more sun and fun three stories up, but I also like the option to toss my food over the side when it fails to impress. Sadly, I have found that when a restaurant has good food they never have roof decks. Or if there’s a roof deck, the food is a few steps down from a Lunchable. But since there is an exception to every rule, Perry’s in Adams Morgan comes through with some nice food and a pretty wonderful roof deck. You can snack on sushi and tapas as you giggle at the drunken fake I.D. crowd stumbling up and down 18th St.

Since we can’t subsist on roof decks alone, fortunately there are significantly more restaurants in our fine city with nice patios. Probably my favorite in town is the one at Leopold’s Kafe in Georgetown. Set back off M St. in the quaint and quiet Cady’s Alley, you can sit by a fountain and sip your (very strong) coffee and have some nice Austrian fare. It’s oh so European that you almost expect your change to come back in Euros. Another great urban oasis patio is the one at Poste. Nestled in the middle of the Hotel Monaco in Chinatown, you would never know you were right next to the Verizon Center if not for the occasional face-painted Caps fan wandering through. Their new “Poste Roast” dinners—family style meals of an entire roasted pig, goat, squab, or lamb among other delicious creatures—serve to remind me that the dinner parties I put together for my friends are pretty lackluster. The patio at Brasserie Beck deserves a mention since their food and beer is great sustenance for a long and leisurely evening spent with friends. But be forewarned that there isn’t much to look at while sitting outside, save for the occasional Circulator bus every 12-14 minutes. Continues after the jump

Though it’s fun to put on a sundress or your best cargo shorts to have a sunny meal, sometimes you just want to relive your college days and have a burger and a beer and sunburn. Open City in Woodley Park is great for a casual brunch overlooking Rock Creek Park, not only because they have every edible hangover cure imaginable but because their coffee mugs are the size of small swimming pools. Beware the long wait for brunch, and instead hit it up for late night individual pizzas. If you really want the frat experience, head over to Zorba’s Cafe in Dupont Circle. Not only does this hole-in-the-wall have top-notch souvlaki, but they also serve pitchers of Rolling Rock and Sam Adams at happy hour prices. Their small but lively patio is not just great for regular people watching, but also for stalking the new Real World cast.

The elephant in the room when it comes to outdoor dining is Lauriol Plaza. I will go out on a limb and say that battling the long waits and hoards of interns and their frozen swirl margaritas is not worth outdoor seating, no matter how festive. But if you can’t imagine munching on chips and salsa under florescent lighting, make your way over to Surfside in Glover Park. There is significantly more seating on their roof deck than in the main dining room, and the shady setting is perfect for going to town on their unbelievable shrimp tacos.

So slap on some SPF and head outside for your next meal, because everything tastes better with a little UV in it.

What are your favorite outdoor dining spots?

8 Comment

  • We are lucky to have so much cafe/outdoor dining here. Let’s thank Mr. L’Enfant for creating a city plan so conducive for it.

  • This has been the mildest summer I can remember in 20 years… thank god Al Gore started talking…

  • Wide sidewalks and building height restrictions are truly a blessing!

  • anyone been to cafe du parc? going there wed but i heard that they have a great outside seating area.

  • Best outdoor “dining room” in the city is Tabard Inn garden. Great food, nicely priced in a hidden back garden that makes you feel like a Washington insider (only outside).

  • Iron Gate also has a fantastic outdoor space with a soaring and vaulted entry with a bar backed by a dining area with a fully developed grape arbor roof. Very nice.

  • I don’t mind outdoor dining but on Penn SE the sidewalks aren’t designed for it. The outdoor seating makes it impossible to just walk and frankly sitting that close to the foot traffic, car traffic, exhaust fumes, bikers, jogger, dog walkers dosen’t make for a pleasant eating experience for me. If it was roof deck or interior courtyard i would eat outside more but I just can’t now.

  • @oliveskinnednica Cafe du Parc’s outdoor seating is lovely but 1st come 1st served. The food is great too. The pate is superb. If they still have the oysters from the Normandy menu I recommend them as well.

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