When it comes to dining outside in Boston, there’s a slim window to take advantage. But that window is right now, and it includes such delights as sweeping harbor views, many a lobster roll, and creative spaces, from Mexican in an alley to sports in an elegant atrium. Read on to book reservations for the best rooftop views, patios, and waterside seating in the Boston area.
For guides to the best outdoor dining in other cities around the U.S. and Canada, head here.
For Southern fusion fare in Dorchester: 50Kitchen
Traditional Southern fare such as shrimp and grits and gumbo sit alongside more modern fusion dishes like jambalaya egg rolls and smoked brisket banh mi at 50Kitchen, a very personal restaurant in Dorchester from chef Anthony Caldwell, who overcame prison and addiction to triumphantly own his own place. The restaurant has added outdoor seating via a wooden patio built out onto the street for a casual but comfortable place to dine.
For bocce and top-notch wine: Branch Line
The massive patio at Branch Line in Watertown has long been a draw, with its bocce court, covered seating, and lots of foliage, plus now new shaded adirondack chairs and tents for drinks. As for food, wood-fired American fare such as rotisserie chicken, a slow-roasted pork sandwich, and various hot dogs is the focus, best paired with a wine from the outstanding list.
For Mexican in an alley: Casa Romero
Don’t be nervous when entering the Back Bay alley that leads to Casa Romero. The casual Mexican gem is the delightful result, serving up tacos, enchiladas, fajitas, tequila drinks, and more since 1972. Its fenced-in outdoor seating is decorated with hanging plants and colorful padded chairs.
For date-night Italian: Coppa
Ten years of excellent Italian small plates have long made Coppa a South End date destination. Its colorful outdoor seating with bright teal tables and chairs underneath orange umbrellas now sprawls across the sidewalks on both sides of the corner restaurant, where diners can dig into James Beard Award-winning dishes such as housemade charcuteries, pasta, and pizza.
For Japanese in an unexpected place: Crudo
The North End is not the first neighborhood you think of for Japanese food, but Crudo has built out its spot in the traditionally Italian neighborhood. An extensive sushi menu is accompanied by izakaya fare such as yaki udon, gyoza, teriyaki chicken, and Japanese-style tacos with various raw fish fillings. Seating outside spills onto the street, protected by palm fronds.
For beers and barbecue: Dorchester Brewing with M&M BBQ
The outdoor options at Dorchester Brewing Company are as abundant as it gets, including a rooftop greenhouse and shaded street patio. At either, tuck into the beloved barbecue from M&M, a longtime food truck turned permanent resident here, known for pork ribs, a pulled pork sandwich, and even a smoked jackfruit option. As for the beer that’s made on-site, there are 20 on tap including a sour, lager, pilsner, double IPA, cider and cream ale. Walk-ins.
For pizza under string lights: Gran Gusto
Neapolitan pies from a fifth-generation Neapolitan pizzaiolo and a charming, string-lit, leafy patio are the draws of Gran Gusto in Cambridge. A large majority of the ingredients are imported from Italy for the menu’s 11 red and white pizzas, salads, pastas, and meaty mains.
For a trip to the Caribbean: La Fabrica Central
Named best Caribbean restaurant by Boston magazine, La Fabrica Central serves up Cuban, Dominican, and Puerto Rican flavors alongside live reggae and a long list of rums in Cambridge. Dishes from celebrity chef Giovanna Huyke include mofongo, ceviche, and empanadas, served outdoors at couches underneath umbrellas and string lighting.
For the best harbor view in Boston: Legal Harborside
The flagship of popular area chain Legal Sea Foods, Legal Harborside is a three-floor Seaport destination. Outdoor areas include the more casual first floor with picnic tables and a full seafood menu, while the third-floor rooftop — with sweeping harbor views — offers sushi, raw bar, and drinks. Both areas serve the iconic lobster roll.
For award-winning Italian: Mida
Food & Wine magazine this year named MIDA chef-owner Douglass Williams one of this year’s best for being “a master of texture” in dishes such as crispy and creamy fried polenta with sweet gorgonzola dolce. The menu focuses on handmade pastas such as lobster carbonara and gnocchi cacio e pepe. The South End Italian hit has streetside outdoor seating that’s available for day-of reservations.
For a fine-dining experience: No. 9 Park
No. 9 Park has long been the standard bearer of fine dining in Boston, thanks to chef Barbara Lynch’s refined French and Italian cooking. Dishes such as prune-stuffed gnocchi with foie gras, striped bass bouillabaisse, and an otherworldly cheese cart showcase Lynch’s elegant style, accompanied by stellar service. Outside, the Beacon Hill streetside seating overlooks Boston Common and the State House.
For Mediterranean with a city view: Porto
Porto’s outdoor seating was some of the city’s best long before the pandemic for its breezy design and sprawl. Heaters, string lights, throw rugs, couches, and a long bar with seating come together for a chic space that provides a stunning view of Back Bay’s skyscrapers. The Mediterranean is James Beard Award-winning chef Jody Adams’s focus here, with dishes such as a decadent seafood tower, grilled lamb chops with salsa verde, and grilled citrus-braised octopus.
For an atrium with sports: Publico
The atrium at South Boston’s Publico makes for a fine indoor-outdoor dining experience, surrounded by tall walls with sports and shows projected, an ivy-covered trellis, and the sky above. There’s also the streetside patio with lots of foliage and charming string lights. Publico’s menu spans the globe, including pizza, fish tacos, yucca fries, and Greek-style lamb lollipops.
For a seafood bonanza: Saltie Girl at Met Back Bay
Critical darling seafood spot Saltie Girl has transplanted itself to sibling restaurant Met Back Bay to take advantage of its picturesque, sunken patio on iconic Newbury Street. All of Saltie Girl’s outstanding seafood is on display here, from its impressive seafood towers and extensive tinned fish to sandwiches, toasts, and small and large plates. It’s all of what made Saltie Girl a Back Bay favorite, just on a better patio.
For Irish authenticity: The Black Rose
A Faneuil Hall anchor for more than 40 years, The Black Rose is the stop for all things Irish pub. Live music, rib-sticking food, and a relaxed, historic ambiance combine to make this a Boston classic. All the Black Rose signatures are still here — a perfect Guinness, bangers & mash, and live Irish music — just now with an outdoor option.
For a Scotch tasting: The Haven
Scottish dreams come true at this Jamaica Plain pub, known as the place for tons of Scotch, a kilt-clad staff, and the area’s best fish and chips. The Haven has long been exactly that for events, including its popular whisky tastings, still happening on the occasion. Tables outside sprawl the sidewalk out front for eating traditional dishes such as Scotch eggs, white pudding sassitch and mash (chicken sausage and mashed potatoes), and the very popular burger with Huntsman cheese, bacon onion marmalade, and pickle sauce.