With indoor dining still not an option, people across New Jersey and Philadelphia have embraced newly constructed patios, rooftop refuges, and the many joys of eating outside. The landscapes in NJ and Philadelphia provide everything from stunning skyline and water views to quaint small-town charm.
Here are the best outdoor dining situations in the area, including on an actual boat, pool- and ocean-side, and a few enchanting gardens. Book a reservation now for outdoor bliss.
For guides to the best outdoor dining in other cities around the U.S. and Canada, head here.
Neighborhood: Cedar Park
Best for: Southern brunch washed down by bourbon
Outdoor situation: Wrought-iron sidewalk tables with plastic partitions, umbrellas, and plants.
What to order: Black-eyed pea hummus, buffalo cauliflower, blackened catfish, chicken and waffles
Hot tip: Check out the larger-than-life reproduction of photojournalist John W. Mosely’s 1940 shot of the Afro Market on a bathroom trip — while masked, of course.
Best for: Low-key catch-ups with friends
Outdoor situation: A newly built street patio with plants for decoration.
What to order: Fried chicken steamed buns, brisket ramen, chocolate matcha swiss roll
Hot tip: Go during happy hour, when there’s a dollar off all draft highballs and beer, $6 sushi rolls, and $5 furikake cheese fries.
Neighborhood: Northern Liberties
Best for: Any type of group gathering
Outdoor situation: A colorful patio built into the street
What to order: Any taquito, enchiladas, and churros
Hot tip: Bring your own drinks to this Philly staple that’s been popular since 1999 for its Pueblo-style Mexican fare.
Neighborhood: Penn’s Landing
Best for: Dates with waterside views
Outdoor situation: Literally on the Delaware River, this boat offers a view of the Philadelphia skyline.
What to order: Asian-flavored starters such as ahi tuna poke and a Thai rice noodle bowl, jumbo lump crab cake, and surf and turf with swordfish and beef short rib
Hot tip: Moshulu has a storied history, including trade around the world, appearances in Rocky and The Godfather II, and being named by Woodrow Wilson’s wife Edith.
Positano Coast by Aldo Lamberti
Neighborhood: Old City
Best for: Feeling like you’re on the Amalfi Coast
Outdoor situation: White furniture with bright blue accents lend a beachy vibe to the second-floor, open-air balcony.
What to order: A seafood board, any pasta, and a spritz
Hot tip: Brunch brings bottomless mimosas or sangria for $22 per person.
Neighborhood: Old City
Best for: Award-winning food in a gorgeous garden
Outdoor situation: The second-floor, exposed brick outdoor garden is a beaut, decorated with string lights and verdant hanging plants. There’s also streetside seating.
What to order: The housemade charcuterie board; burger with bacon, American cheese, truffle mayo, half-sour pickles, and pork fat frites; and any cocktail
Hot tip: Owner Nicholas Elmi won season 11 of Top Chef.
Chelsea 5 Gastropub
Town: Atlantic City
Best for: An Atlantic City escape
Outdoor situation: The Tropicana’s pool deck is now home to Chelsea 5 Gastropub, though it’s not open for swimming.
What to order: American classics such as creamy clam chowder, raw bar, burgers, and award-winning chicken wings
Hot tip: Don’t miss the list of more than 50 whiskeys and bourbons.
Town: Sea Bright
Best for: Casual waterside seafood
Outdoor situation: Eventide Grill overlooks the marina, meaning boat-filled water views often accompanied by live music.
What to order: Lobster roll, fried calamari, and fish tacos
Hot tip: Go at sunset to catch blazing skies over the Shrewsbury River.
Town: Asbury Park
Best for: People watching on the beach
Outdoor situation: Mogo is right on the boardwalk, so prepare for an ocean backdrop to tons of people watching.
What to order: Korean fusion tacos, burritos, and rice bowls filled with your choice of beef, chicken, fish, shrimp, pork, or tofu
Hot tip: Add $6 to your tab to cover a meal for someone in need through Asbury Park Dinner Table.
The Diving Horse
Best for: Seriously local cuisine
Outdoor situation: The attractive outdoor patio has three large picnic tables and string lights, surrounded by tons of greenery.
What to order: Cucumber and Israeli couscous salad with charred peppers, stone fruit, and oregano vinaigrette; scallops with romesco sauce, farm stand vegetables, and salsa verde; and family-style smoked ribs with sides. Don’t forget to BYO drinks.
Hot tip: Owner Dan Clark is also behind Philadelphia smash hit Pub & Kitchen.
The Merion Inn
Town: Cape May
Best for: A dose of classic Americana
Outdoor situation: A new covered patio and tables with umbrellas sit outside.
What to order: Martinis are The Merion Inn’s calling card, as well as lobster or crab Imperial, surf and turf, and lobster tail, all served with a choice of two sides
Hot tip: This old timer has been open since 1885, charmingly boasting, “We got you through the Spanish flu 100 years ago, and we will get you through this too!”
Town: Red Bank
Best for: Upscale Chinese specialties
Outdoor situation: Sidewalk seating in downtown Red Bank offers Main Street-style charm.
What to order: Sizzling black pepper filet mignon, crispy scallop tangerine, and basil chow fun
Hot tip: The menu has an entire gluten-free section for those with dietary restrictions.
Allegro Seafood Grill
Best for: A tropical oasis inside the city
Outdoor situation: The vibrant outdoor patio has a palm tree, colorful mural, and tiki-style bar.
What to order: All sorts of seafood, from crab-stuffed avocado and garlic shrimp to seafood stew and stuffed lobster
Hot tip: The patio is heated for when summer slips into fall.
Chef Fredy’s Table
Best for: Celebrations of any kind
Outdoor situation: Besides sidewalk seating out front, Chef Fredy’s has also expanded into a courtyard next door, complete with bar seating, string lights, and fountains.
What to order: Fried calamari with capers, scallions, hot and sweet cherry peppers, Kalamata olives, and Worcestershire sauce; Creole-style jambalaya with shrimp and scallops; barbecue-braised beef short ribs and broiled lobster tail surf and turf
Hot tip: Look out for ultra-friendly owner Nestor Bedoya, who is a fixture at the family-run restaurant.
Best for: Old-school Italian
Outdoor situation: Summit’s picture-perfect streets have been overtaken by restaurants, and Fiorino’s tables are covered for any rainy nights.
What to order: Pappardelle with rabbit ragù and mushrooms, veal scaloppine, and shrimp fra diavolo
Hot tip: The wine list is extensive and top-notch.
Best for: Family-style meals
Outdoor situation: Sidewalk tables show off Montclair’s beauty.
What to order: Anything with injera, such as leg of lamb, chicken legs, and yellow split peas with spices
Hot tip: It’s traditional to eat Ethiopian food with your hands, but Mesob will provide silverware, too.
Marcus at NoHu Rooftop
Best for: Golden hour meals
Outdoor situation: NoHu’s roof deck encompasses 15,000 square feet with fire pits, Adirondack chairs, and a killer New York City skyline view.
What to order: Tomato peach salad with burrata and basil; summer succotash with okra, local lima beans, corn, and tomato; and a whole fried chicken with all the fixings
Hot tip: Renowned celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson just took over the kitchen, so it’s an especially good time to go.
Best for: Lunch and afternoon entertainment
Outdoor situation: Rat’s was designed to feel like stepping into impressionist painter Claude Monet’s beloved town of Giverny.
What to order: Crab cake with a piquillo pepper emulsion, a bacon and turkey croissant, and shawarma-spiced cauliflower
Hot tip: Build in time to explore the sculptures surrounding the restaurant, part of the Grounds for Sculpture museum.