Outdoor dining spaces have become increasingly popular over the past few years, but New Orleans’s restaurant scene already boasted plenty of al fresco options—in courtyards, patios, and sidewalk spaces. Some restaurants took the opportunity to expand or add to their space, adapting it for a longer season with shade coverings, misters, and heaters. Thankfully, there are more options than ever to enjoy a meal under New Orleans’s sunny or moonlit skies. Here are 12 possibilities, some casual, a few fancy, but each one offering the chance to take a delicious break from the ordinary.
Cafe Degas (Bayou St. John)
Cafe Degas has offered dining on Esplanade Avenue since 1986, serving up romance and elegant French cuisine in equal portions. The restaurant has always had an outdoor vibe—there’s a tree growing up through the center of the main dining room, after all—but al fresco options have multiplied in recent months: Additional covered seating on the front porch area and on the side let guests enjoy escargot and steak frites in a friendly sidewalk setting.
Copper Vine (Central Business District)
Helmed by a trio of talented women, this leafy Poydras Street oasis, commanded by chef Amy Mehrtens, dishes out spectacular new American cuisine. Lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch are available on the lush garden patio; the space is an inviting expanse for tasty food and an array of rotating wines on tap. Try the crawfish beignets with Meyer lemon aioli and the chef’s gulf fish amandine with a champagne cream sauce, brown butter almonds and tobiko – hands down the best version of the traditional dish in town.
Part wine shop, part Mediterranean restaurant, and part live music venue, this multifaceted Bywater darling is one of New Orleans’s most beloved backyards. Purchase some wine, cheeses, and meats from the boutique, or tuck into the restaurant’s tapas style menu, which invites sharing. The live music here typically kicks off at noon, with generous helpings of gypsy swing and jazz, though all genres make an appearance. Because Bacchanal is right next to the train tracks, expect some locomotion—beyond what happens on the grassy dance floor.
Brennan’s (French Quarter)
Although all of Brennan’s is wonderful, from its flamingo pink exterior to the aviary themed back bar, the courtyard is sheer magic. The beautifully preserved space, with its verdant landscaping and burbling fountain, is a place that feels celebratory. It’s a setting fit for weddings or milestone parties, and champagne sabering, which unfolds at 5 pm everyday. If you’re here for a romantic dinner, the outdoor space invites lingering. Don’t skip the bananas foster, a flambéed dessert that traces its origins to this very place.
Justine (French Quarter)
As the French Quarter sibling to Justin Devillier and Mia Freiberger-Devillier’s La Petite Grocery Uptown, this funky French restaurant harnesses the Vieux Carré’s soul—with a side of vintage glamor. Its courtyard is an enchanting setting to feast on modern versions of classic brasserie fare, such as onion soup with melted gruyere and a raclette-topped burger. The retreat is a hushed counterpart to the more energetic restaurant, making for a quiet spot to dine outside—just like the French have been doing for centuries.
The Bower (Lower Garden District)
The word bower conjures a shaded country lane, a welcoming respite from city life, rich with greenery. That’s exactly the vibe at this modern, farm-centric restaurant, tucked away in the Lower Garden District. Talented chef Marcus Woodham, of Bar Frances and Restaurant Patois fame, helms an amazingly lean kitchen team, turning out brilliant small plates, housemade charcuterie and pastas, seafood, and heritage meats. Dine on the back patio, a pretty setting perfect for soaking up the waning sun.
Chef John Harris, who founded Lilette in 2001, landed on Food and Wine magazine’s list of America’s Best New Chefs the following year. Now co-owned by chef de cuisine Ed Charles, the restaurant’s stellar mix of French and Italian cuisine remains impeccable. Reserve a spot on the colorful outdoor patio, ideal for savoring the dishes such as kale salad with feta, strawberries, and pistachios, and pan-roasted salmon drizzled with lemon anchovy sauce, best enjoyed with several glasses of crisp cold Gavi.
The Country Club (Bywater)
You might want to bring a swimsuit to lunch or dinner at this hidden Bywater gem. Besides enjoying chef Chris Barbato’s modern Italian and Creole cuisine on a front veranda framed by stately columns and palm fronds, the back patio includes tables around the popular pool (day passes are available for a fee). The daily menu includes crab beignets filled with blue crab and sofrito mascarpone, caprese pasta, roast duck, and crispy Brussels with lemon and parmesan cheese.
San Lorenzo at Hotel Saint Vincent (Lower Garden District)
The Hotel Saint Vincent restaurant is named for the patron saint of cooks. Fittingly, it offers delectable coastal Italian cuisine, served in an elegant dining room and on an outdoor porch patio. With touches of New Orleans, the menu includes homemade pasta—try the fresh linguine vongole—grilled Creole oysters, scampi risotto, and local flounder piccata. And be sure to preface your meal with a drink at the Paradise Lounge, an airy, sun-drenched space that also includes porch seating.
Chemin à la Mer (Central Business District)
Take in jaw-dropping river views at this Four Seasons Hotel New Orleans restaurant, which boasts a wraparound patio that overlooks the Mississippi River’s hairpin turn—the very reason New Orleans is nicknamed the Crescent City. In addition to the awe-inspiring vistas, a meal at this fifth-floor restaurant, steered by James Beard Award-winner Donald Link, features a grand oyster bar, specialty steaks, and Gulf seafood, all steeped in French tradition.
Lula Restaurant Distillery (Garden District)
Opened in 2017, Lula is the city’s only Southern restaurant with an in-house distillery. Partner Jess Bourgeois, formerly of Commander’s Palace, handles the restaurant while co-owner Bear Caffrey oversees the distillery. There’s an umbrella-studded patio for dining on Southern-accented plates such as a crawfish queso with smoked poblanos, fried chicken sammie, and boiled shrimp with garlic butter or spicy garlic and herbs, both served over fries. The cocktails on tap program is one of the best in town.
Café Sbisa (French Quarter)
With streetscape views and lacy wrought-iron accents, this second-floor balcony is highly sought after. Café Sbisa, a century-old French Quarter brasserie, is led by chef and partner Alfred Singleton, who worked his way up from busboy to chef. Outstanding French Creole cuisine includes the likes of crab cakes made with Louisiana blue crab and fried oysters Sbisa, served over creamed spinach.
Beth D’Addono is a food and travel writer obsessed with her favorite city, New Orleans.
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