Not the Usual Patios
With the second consecutive weekend promising at least partially beautiful weather, Julia and I thought we'd recommend a dozen or so of our favorite places to enjoy food and drink outdoors. Thing is, we don't want to suggest the same places time and again. We enjoy hanging out on the roof decks at the Reef and Clarendon Ballroom or sharing tapas at Jaleo's sidewalk cafes, but do you really need to be told about people-watching at the Fox & Hounds for the 20,000th time?
To that end, here are some al fresco options that we feel usually fall off the radar. They're not secrets, but they're great for breaking out of that Georgetown Waterfront/Capitol Hill rut.
The Big Hunt
We're not sure why more people don't talk about this awesome back patio, a picnic-table-covered space removed from street noise and shaded by trees. Maybe it's because it's tricky to find: The door is next to the second-floor bar and pretty easy to miss. Once you find it, though, you'll keep coming back.
The happy hour at this Ballston bar restaurant deserves raves -- $2.99 appetizers and draft beers, including Dos Equis; delicious $4.99 margaritas and mojitos -- but every deal is offered on the restaurant's lovely patio as well as at the cherry-stained bar. The outdoor seating is tucked around the side of the building so you avoid noise and fumes from the cars on busy Fairfax Drive.
Eighteenth Street Lounge
Most people -- including us -- think of ESL as a place to go hear hot DJs on Friday and Saturday, but the lounge and its vast outdoor patio opens at 5:30 p.m. during the week. The patio's mod white furniture usually doesn't fill until later in the evening, so it's a cool place to bring a group. Bonus: There's no finicky doorman or dress code until 9 or so.
A homey neighborhood spot on Barracks Row, Marty's secret weapon is a lovely roof deck where you can kick back with an inexpensive beer. (Only problem with sitting outside? You miss the free popcorn at the bar.)
Everybody seems to know each other's names at this 18th Street staple -- bartenders and customers alike. The dog-friendly outdoor area is small, but if you can grab one of the few tables along T Street, you get some great people-watching as well as friendly service.
World Bank employees mingle with bikers at Skye, the newest lounge in the Farragut Square area. The bar is pleasant, thanks to 20-foot-high windows, but in nice weather, you want arrive early to stake out a seat on the attractive fenced patio.
This is not fine dining by Bethesda standards, but the Mexican restaurant has a pleasant, colorful covered roof deck. Order a couple of bottles of Pacifico, Bohemia or Negra Modello and you'll get a free tray of chips and salsa.
Cafe La Ruche
You won't find the city's finest French cuisine at this Georgetown mainstay, but the garden-like side patio, friendly service and tasty quiches and salads are a great pre-movie treat.
Evening Star Cafe
On a spring night outdoors at this Del Ray gem, there's nothing better than a glass of Prosecco, a delicate duck or fish entree and a big plate of flash-fried squid.
The patio here can get sacked on a busy Adams Morgan night, but for weekend brunch, it's great for people watching. Besides, isn't "Waffles Aphrodite" pretty much the best menu name ever?
Tucked away in a largely residential section of Columbia Heights, this (row)house of pizza fires up pies with fennel sausage and roasted peppers and appetizers of buffalo mozzerella. The patio can seat approximately 30.
The pleasant outdoor patio at this decidedly unhip Cleveland Park fixture is a perfect spot to enjoy cheap falafel, baba ghanouj and simply delicious hummus.
-- Fritz and Julia
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