The temperatures may be dropping, but that won’t stop outdoor dining in Washington, D.C. Across the city, restaurants are making changes to turn sidewalks, patios, and backyards into heated, socially distanced set-ups where diners can enjoy D.C.’s diverse mix of cuisine all winter long.
Whether you’re in the mood for French onion soup or a platter of well-prepared sushi, here are our picks for the best spots to comfortably dine outdoors in Washington, D.C. this winter, with links to booking on OpenTable.
For upscale Indian downtown: Bombay Club
Head downtown to enjoy refined Indian cuisine on Bombay Club’s heated patio overlooking Lafayette Park. The large menu spans the country’s various regions, offering standards like tandori chicken alongside specialties like Bengali fish curry and squash-filled samosas. If visiting in December, be sure to book the restaurant’s 32nd Anniversary Dinner experience via OpenTable, which showcases the greatest hits from the restaurant’s long history via a four-course, prix fixe menu.
For the ultimate handmade pasta downtown: Modena
Modena goes beyond the traditional standards of handmade pastas, partnering with an organic farm in Maryland to procure grains that are then milled in-house. These fresh flours serve as the base for the downtown restaurant’s pastas and pizza, all of which can be enjoyed in the tented, heated patio. Can’t decide what to order? Book the $50 per person, three course tasting menu, available via OpenTable Experiences.
For rum drinks in the West End: Casta’s Rum Bar
For a tropical vacation without leaving D.C., head to West End Cuban spot Casta’s Rum Bar. The covered, heated patio offers a comfortable place to knock back classic rum drinks such as mojitos and daiquiris, as well as sample Cuban classics like the country’s namesake sandwich, a dish the restaurant takes so seriously that the bread is flown in from Miami.
For rooftop tacos and margaritas in the Southwest Waterfront: Mi Vida
Mexico City native chef Roberto Santibañez is known as an ambassador of regional Mexican cooking in the U.S., and his Mi Vida furthers that. On the heated patio, dine on dishes such as braised chicken enchiladas, crab and shrimp empanadas, tacos, and churros con chocolate in a colorful, waterside setting — all offset by six types of margaritas and an considerable mezcal and tequila list.
For wine and small plates in Logan Circle: Cork Wine Bar & Market
Run by a husband and wife team who live in the neighborhood, this Logan Circle wine bar aims to create a welcoming, familial atmosphere where diners can learn about wine in an unpretentious setting. Grab a seat on the heated patio to enjoy an international wine list paired with the usual suspects such as meat and cheese, or heartier, wintery dishes like gnocchi with braised rabbit.
For Paris vibes in Logan Circle: Le Diplomate
From renowned restaurateur Stephen Starr, Le Diplomate — affectionately referred to as “Le Dip” — feels like being transported to Paris. All the brasserie classics are here, from French onion soup and steak frites to escargot and Niçoise salad. Outside, the expansive patio sits alongside the bustling 14th Street corridor, with picturesque wicker chairs, flower boxes, and a red awning and heaters to ensure comfortable dining all winter.
For international farm-to-table in Mount Vernon: Farmers & Distillers
The menu at Farmers & Distillers combines American ingredients — the restaurant is co-owned by the North Dakota Farmers Union — with international inflections, creating a vast menu that ranges from classic cheeseburgers to spicy cumin lamb noodles. All can be enjoyed on the restaurant’s heated patio, or in one of the reservable private igloos.
For seafood by the water at the Navy Yard: The Salt Line
New England vibes abound at The Salt Line, a sustainable seafood spot on the Anacostia River. Feast on oysters, clam chowder, lobster rolls, crab dip, seafood boils, stuffies (baked clams topped with smoked sausage and parmesan), and wide selection of beer, while taking in the river views on the heated patio.
For sushi in Shaw: Zeppelin
Dine in Shaw underneath a heated, covered patio area at Zeppelin, where fish is aged on site by sushi heavy hitter Minoru Ogawa. The second-generation, Tokyo-born chef serves up all sorts of maki, sashimi, nigiri, and chirashi, and he goes beyond raw fish with yakitori, too. The drink menu is extensive, with a strong focus on sake. Guests are encouraged to BYO-blanket for outdoor seating, which is walk-in only.