With colder weather firmly in the rear view, outdoor dining is literally heating up in Washington, D.C. Across the city, restaurants are turning sidewalks, patios, and backyards into cool socially distanced set-ups where diners can enjoy D.C.’s diverse mix of cuisine with a dose of much anticipated sunshine.
Whether you’re in the mood for tacos on a rooftop or a platter of well-prepared sushi, here are the best spots to comfortably dine outdoors in Washington, D.C. this spring and summer, with links to booking on OpenTable.
For upscale Indian downtown: Bombay Club
Head downtown to enjoy refined Indian cuisine on Bombay Club’s umbrella-filled patio overlooking Lafayette Park. The large menu spans the country’s various regions, offering standards such as tandoori chicken and lamb kebabs alongside specialties like the club thali, which includes fish curry, chicken makhni, kashmiri lamb, palak, and dal. Don’t miss the off-menu favorite, tandoori salmon.
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 on the enclosed patio. Can’t decide what to order? Book the $85-per-person, five-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 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 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 a wide selection of beer, all while taking in the river views from the outdoor bar and patio.
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 covered balcony facing District Pier, dine on dishes such as braised chicken enchiladas, crab and shrimp empanadas, tacos, and churros with chocolate in a colorful, waterside setting — all offset by six types of margaritas and a considerable mezcal and tequila list.
For seafood on the Potomac in Old Town Alexandria: Vola’s Dockside Grill
With close-up views of the Potomac river and the waterfront breeze keeping diners cool beneath bright red umbrellas, Vola’s Dockside Grill is a welcome respite for outside dining on warmer days. The all-day menu includes seafood classics such as crab cakes and oysters on the half shell, in addition to sandwich favorites like the crab grilled cheese, which includes lump crab meat, havarti, cheddar, cream cheese, and grain mustard on griddled brioche toast.
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. Pull up a turquoise patio chair and enjoy an international wine list paired with the usual suspects such as meat and cheese, or go all out with dishes like the whole grilled branzino.
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 steak frites and steak tartare to escargot and Niçoise salad. Outside, the expansive patio sits alongside the bustling 14th Street corridor, with picturesque wicker chairs, flower boxes, and shady umbrellas to ensure comfortable dining even in DC humidity.
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. A favorite for breakfast and brunch, don’t sleep on the restaurant’s extensive selection of thirst-quenching beverages to enjoy while people-watching on the shaded patio.
For sushi in Shaw: Zeppelin
Dine in Shaw on the extended 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.