With year-round sunshine and residents that love to soak it up, outdoor dining is a favorite pastime even when summer heat is in full swing. Fortunately, Austin’s restaurants offer plenty of shade, fans, and cool drinks to keep diners happy on a plethora of patios to suit any budget or craving.
Whether you’re looking for chips and queso or fish and chips, here are some of Austin’s best patios for outdoor dining.
For a meat-centric dinner in East Austin: Dai Due
Dai Due draws its name from an Italian phrase meaning “from the two kingdoms of nature, choose food with care,” a sentiment that is embodied in the restaurant’s careful sourcing of local ingredients. As a butcher shop and supper club, meat is the main focus here. Grab a seat on the shaded, greenery-covered patio to go beyond beef with dishes such as antelope confit or fish and chips made with Gulf-caught seafood.
For a taste of Texas Hill Country in East Austin: Contigo
It’s hard to know where the outdoors stop and the indoors begin at Contigo, where a large patio area meets a dining room with glass garage doors that can be rolled up to almost double the open air dining space. The restaurant recreates the feel of its sibling ranch in Jim Wells County, cooking up steak frites, burgers, and chips and queso, which can all be enjoyed under twinkly lights and big Texas skies.
For Asian comfort food in Clarksville: Bar Peached
Bar Peached serves its spin on Asian favorites such as chile crab toast and mapo bolognese on its casual outdoor patio shaded by a heritage tree and surrounded by fans. Stay cool with a selection of refreshing cocktails, such as the Paloma on draft and creative made-to-order drinks like the Beetlejuice, which combines tequila, beet, lime, and cilantro.
For an al fresco tasting menu in Downtown: Emmer and Rye
New American fare is served at the award-winning Emmer and Rye in downtown Austin, where dishes frequently lean on locally grown ingredients and regional food traditions. Outside, the restaurant is serving both a la carte and prix fixe menu options on its shaded patio, with dishes such as chicken thighs with pecan mole, okra, and green tomatoes. Get excited for dessert, served by one of Food & Wine’s Best New Chefs of 2020.
For the coolest house party in downtown: Nightcap
The vibes are strong at Nightcap, where comfort food such as pork quesadillas or fried chicken sandwiches get served at picnic tables in a dreamy front yard that looks straight out of a design magazine. Happy hour Tuesday through Friday offers specials on signature cocktails, house wines, and some seriously tasty bar snacks.
For seafood on South Congress: Perla’s
Oysters are best enjoyed outdoors, where Perla’s serves them up under the Texas sky, beneath oak trees and twinkling lights along South Congress. Fish and oysters are flown in daily from both coasts, making anything from the raw bar, selection of seared fresh fish, or the lobster roll a must-order.
For handmade pasta in downtown: Olive & June
Take a trip to southern Italy in downtown Austin via Olive & June’s menu of seasonally influenced, handmade pastas. Current iterations include a corn-and-truffle risotto with harissa chile and parmesan — a dish made more enjoyable when eaten on the restaurant’s oak-shaded, tented patio area.
For skyline views and cocktails downtown: P6
Skyline views of downtown Austin and Town Lake are supplemented by Mediterranean small plates in a cozy lounge setting on the rooftop of the Line Hotel. Patatas bravas, eggplant hummus, and cocktails are the order of the day once sunset hits.
For a taste of Texas downtown: Ranch 616 Pistol Patio
Ranch 616’s icehouse feel is uniquely Texan, bringing the century-old, open-air, tavern-style drinking to downtown Austin, with an arched roof and fans to keep things comfortable year-round. The food here also draws heavily from the state’s culinary traditions, merging Gulf Coast and Tex-Mex flavors in award-winning dishes such as fried quail legs and fried oysters, alongside tons of mezcal.
For steak on a lake: Steiner Ranch Steakhouse
Score some Texas steak at Steiner Ranch in Northwest Austin, which has all the steakhouse favorites from ribeye to creamed spinach. The terrace views here offer a stunning lake vista to pair with a nice glass of red from the extensive wine cellar.
For a historic meal in a special place: Rosewood
There’s an unmistakable elegance to the 1890s-era Queen Anne Victorian-style home that houses this Gulf Coast chop house, and that extends to the sprawling lawn and covered outdoor dining area with a downtown Austin view. The menu showcases the flavors of South Texas with fresh ingredients from local farmers, ranchers, and Gulf Coast fishers, rotating to reflect the best of what’s in season.
For people watching with a margarita in hand: La Condesa
This James Beard Awards-nominated modern Mexican restaurant’s award-winning menu is reason enough to venture downtown, but the people watching from the patio on West Second Street is definitely an added bonus. Snack on Oaxacan grasshoppers, the signature ceviche, or order the torta of the month for a sampling of what’s made this a culinary destination for more than a decade. If you’re looking for a creative beverage pairing, check out the craft cocktail list for a cool afternoon treat or a satisfying nightcap.
For a modern take on Western cooking: Roaring Fork Stonelake
Wood-fired cooking and lake views from the open-air patio make this restaurant in North Austin a year-round destination for outdoor dining. With a nod to Southwest cowboy cooking, the grilled steak is the proverbial star of the show, but with entrees such as the blackened redfish and rotisserie chicken with cornbread stuffing, there’s no wrong way to enjoy an evening under the live oak trees — especially if you order warm pecan pie topped with Amy’s ice cream for dessert.
Lauren McDowell contributed to this guide.