Boston once offered just a handful of outdoor dining options, but times have changed for the better. From Cambridge to the Seaport District and toney Back Bay to one of the most exciting expansions to hit the city’s culinary and entertainment landscape in Watertown, there are plenty of ways to raise a glass to new options—and balmier temps.
Read on to book tables where the food is as inviting as the environment, including, of course, a few places specializing in everyone’s local warm-weather favorite: the lobster roll.
Porto (Back Bay)
Porto’s outdoor seating was some of the city’s best long before the pandemic due to its size and design. String lights, throw rugs, couches, and some truly picturesque seasonal craft cocktails make the patio a prime spot to take in Back Bay’s skyscrapers. Mediterranean fare 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.
Lookout Rooftop (Seaport)
Lookout Rooftop at the Envoy bridges Boston’s past and future in the most exciting ways—including breathtaking clear-glass wraparound walls high atop the city. Glance in one direction and you’ll get a glimpse of the country’s colonial history via the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum; look the other, and the futuristic Innovation District offers up all that glitters. The comfy couches and firepits (and in winter, heated igloos) make Lookout the perfect perch to admire it all. Local cod battered in beer is a hit on the all-day menu, as are sharable chowder fries featuring the city’s most famous soup, bacon bits, and herbs.
Repurposed shipping containers are decked with murals and lounge-like vibes at dBar, a New American restaurant that morphs into a gastropub and nightclub after dark. Three-walled coverage along with plenty of air circulation makes an ideal backdrop to sip colorful cocktails on sunny days and warm nights. With a seasonal menu that focuses on eclectic bar food, favorites include the Giannone brick chicken and the Thai chile calamari.
B&G Oysters (South End)
Simple string lights, the shade of a tree canopy, and minimalist furniture allow James Beard Award-winning chef Barbara Lynch’s flavors to shine at this urban oasis. Not surprisingly given the name, seafood is the star and there’s a robust raw bar on both the lunch and dinner menus, where clams caught daily in nearby Ipswich—fried to perfection—also feature prominently. Lobster lovers can get their fix with a traditional cold roll or in BLT form with lemon aioli.
Casa Romero (Back Bay)
The path to Casa Romero is downright Oz-like: an alley leads diners to a vibrant tucked-away world filled with colorful chair cushions and lush greenery. This casual Mexican gem is the oldest of its kind in Boston. Since 1972, it has served up top-notch tacos, enchiladas, fajitas, tequila drinks, and more in its fenced-in outdoor hideaway.
Buttermilk & Bourbon – Arsenal Yard (Watertown)
The good times roll at this venture from Hell’s Kitchen chef Jason Santos. Besides an expanded oyster selection, the menu shares many favorites — including transcendent fried chicken and biscuits — with Santos’s first Buttermilk & Bourbon location in Back Bay. The latest outpost takes up a wide swath in Watertown’s shiny revitalized Arsenal Yards complex, offering enough space for a three-season patio replete with fire pits, string lights, lawn games, and wrought-iron trimmings, evoking the best of The Big Easy.
Legal Seafoods – Harborside (Seaport)
As the flagship of popular area chain Legal Sea Foods, Legal Harborside is an iconic three-floor waterfront Seaport destination. Snag one of the first-floor patio tables to soak in front-row views of the harbor and a classic seafood menu with crab cakes, scallops, plus the restaurant’s lauded lobster roll. Head to the third-floor rooftop lounge — complete with retractable glass roof — for light bites, sushi, and cocktails.
Harvest’s plant-lined outdoor patio is sophisticated and romantic, making this Harvard Square restaurant’s garden terrace the epitome of elegant all-weather dining. Open for lunch, brunch, and dinner, the seasonal menu includes creative takes on New England and American classics such as lobster rolls, Atlantic salmon, and one of the city’s juiciest burgers courtesy of local specialty butcher Savenor’s.
Freshness comes in many forms at Forage. Farm-to-table and fish-to-dish fare from local purveyors bring in the most ripe and robust variety of flavors. And then there’s chef Eric Cooper’s reimagined takes on classics such as hanger steak—anise-rubbed with cranberry relish—and scallops served with tarragon butter and Cara Cara oranges. Pair it all with a craft cocktail or one of the area’s largest selections of small-production natural wines on the intimate heated outdoor patio. Julia Child, who lived just a few blocks away from this neighborhood, would undoubtedly have made Forage a favorite.
Committee (Fort Point Channel)
Al fresco dining is practically synonymous with the Greek isles, and that experience comes to life at Committee near the waters of Boston Harbor. Shareable plates and scenic patio dining make this ouzeri—the name for a casual tavern, ubiquitous across Greece—one of the city’s most ideal warm weather spots, thanks to a combination of sun, shady pockets, and myriad people-watching opportunities. Made for family-style dining, the menu includes seasonal vegetable dishes such as artichoke moussaka, Greek fried chicken with tzatziki rub and oregano fries, and large grilled meat platters flanked by grilled pita.
Alcove (West End)
Foodies used to be hard-pressed to find a place for a business lunch or date that wasn’t a pub in West End. But it’s no longer a struggle thanks to Alcove, where a sprawling outdoor patio offers up stunning wharf views and a panorama of the Zakim bridge. Chef Charles Draghi’s menu is a reason to pull up a chair and stay awhile, with favorites such as lobster dip with everything bagel chips, blackened fish tacos, lobster bisque, and a vegan-friendly burger featuring on the lunch, dinner, and brunch menus.
Daedalus (Harvard Square)
Excluding new construction in the Seaport District, Boston was notably short on outdoor dining options until 2020. Daedalus, which opened in 2001, was always an exception with standout food and drinks to boot. This former greenhouse is the perfect place to watch foot traffic while tucking into an extensive menu that spans far beyond the traditional—albeit, delicious—burger and fries. Seasonal favorites include mahi mahi with mango salsa, seafood risotto, and a charred broccolini Caesar salad.
Lauren McDowell contributed to this article.
Tried them all? Check out other options here.