Eating outdoors in the often-sultry desert isn’t just an option—it’s a pleasure. In Phoenix, many restaurateurs have ushered al fresco dining to cool new heights. Savor locally inspired plates with a view of the McDowell Mountains or sip sangria amongst the palms. Here are the city’s best restaurants for dining outside.
Palma (Downtown Phoenix)
This gathering place is distinctive for its grove of palm trees—and its founders’ warm and inclusive brand of hospitality. An ever-changing menu features sushi, inventive salads, such as the refreshing chilled tofu and cucumber combo, and a selection of pan Asian dishes, served near fire pits in the winter. Lingering means a second round of mandarin sangrias—a Palma house specialty.
The House Brasserie (Old Town Scottsdale)
The House is home to chef Brandon Jedd’s French-influenced modern American cuisine, a host of fine wines, and specialty brews. Hospitality here extends to a brick-floored outdoor dining area with private cabanas, dozens of shade trees, and Scottsdale’s oldest pine, reportedly planted in 1943 as the former homeowner’s Christmas tree. The Old Town Scottsdale favorite features small-plate specialties such as chicken-filled lettuce cups and halibut cheeks—and the heirloom cauliflower steak is an entrée not to be missed.
Fuego at The Clarendon (North Central Phoenix)
This Latin-fusion bistro adds much-needed glamor to Midtown’s Fourth Avenue. Surrounded by mid-century modern architecture and twinkling lights, Fuego’s comfy terrace is shaded by shrubs and full of life: There’s live music every evening, and friendly servers to bring you one of chef Carlos Ortiz Sanchez’s empanadas or a plateful of succulent short rib enchiladas. There’s always a new craft cocktail or top-shelf wine to try, and frequent dinner specials to keep things interesting.
Different Pointe of View (North Central Phoenix)
Fans of desert sunsets and cityscapes love this Phoenix perennial, which opened doors in 1987, and is known for breathtaking valley views. Even eating indoors here can give guests a top-of-the-world vibe, thanks to colossal floor-to-ceiling windows in the dining room and bar. But North Mountain views aren’t enough to score AAA Four-Diamond credentials. For that, one needs stellar cuisine and fine service, which Different Pointe of View offers in spades. Enjoy steaks, chops, and salads on a sunken flagstone dining area outside, decked with desert plants, or atop private bar tables aimed at the twinkling city lights.
CIELO at ADERO Scottsdale (North Scottsdale)
There’s eating outside, and then there’s eating at Cielo, where the McDowell Mountains appear to join you at your table. The swish terrace at the Adero resort’s aptly named signature restaurant—“cielo” is Spanish for “sky”—is among the best places in town to show off local Sonoran beauty. Nestled up against nature, the outdoor dining room offers distinctive entrees made from locally grown bounty such as beet hummus and wild mushroom arancini. Daily happy hours are a thing, and locals know to whisper the words “dark sky” to their server on Tuesdays for an additional discount.
Southern Rail (North Central Phoenix)
The expansive patio at this beloved midtown restaurant is a staple for locals, who gather on one of two outdoor spaces for chef Justin Beckett’s excellent gumbo and fried chicken. Outdoor ceiling fans and misting systems keep patios cool during the hotter months; for the rest of the year (it does occasionally get chilly in the desert) there are space heaters and a fireplace. But no matter the season, there’s always a 12-seat bar to belly up to. Open five days a week, Southern Rail offers American fare and a strong list of local wines.
Rita’s Cantina and Bar, JW Marriott Scottsdale Camelback Inn (Paradise Valley)
Camelback Inn’s relaxed, Southwestern restaurant isn’t just for resort guests; locals have been lining up for its Sonoran comfort food for years. The iconic all-day spot offers traditional Mexican cuisine and margaritas served in a glass-fronted room—or on the large outdoor patio surrounding the resort’s private dining casitas. It’s easy to miss the pretty patio water feature and alfresco tables shaded by wide blue umbrellas, because the view from every table is angled toward gorgeous Camelback Mountain.
Luci’s at the Orchard (North Central Phoenix)
The welcoming vibe at this laidback favorite offers more than just a relaxed spot to grab a meal. Its wide outdoor veranda is home to a café, coffee and juice bar, and an ice cream shop. The offerings are all set around a revitalized citrus orchard that serves as a shady oasis—and inspiration for some of the café’s best items, such as orange- and lemon-infused smoothies, and salads dressed with citrus vinaigrette. Kids love the outdoor splash-pad where they can hang as their parents enjoy a latte, while everyone else digs the dappled sunlight at this informal outdoor hangout.
Ocotillo (Downtown Phoenix)
Outdoor dining is practically Ocotillo’s raison d’etre. This well-loved brunch-and-dinner spot stands out for its alfresco bar, patio picnic tables, and backyard couches. The menu teems with elegant but approachable fare that’s perfect for outdoor dining: Roasted cauliflower is a standout, as is the smoked brisket and a show-stopping salad, topped with chicken liver mousse.
The Vig – Fillmore (Downtown Phoenix)
While The Vig’s indoor dining area provides much to love, including a cool house music soundtrack and plenty of large-screen TVs, it’s the wide and roomy patio that steals the scene here. Cozy up to an outdoor fireplace and order a Vig Burger, a cheddar, avocado, and caramelized onion masterpiece. Or dig into a classic southwest chopped salad—a crunchy mix of romaine, black beans, roasted corn, and watermelon radish, among other regional ingredients—while playing bocce ball on an alfresco court. Sometimes, there’s live music by local musicians—but there’s always a bar serving build-your-own mimosas.
Chelsea’s Kitchen (Arcadia)
A delightfully laidback sensibility infuses this popular waterside spot in East Phoenix, with views of Maricopa County’s irrigation canal. Chelsea’s shaded patio draws crowds for its stellar burgers and tacos, considered house specialities. Though you won’t want to miss the Brussels sprouts salad or the cheesy vegetable enchiladas. A bowl of post-dinner gelato—and a little squinting—may just transport you to the City of Water.
Cibo (Downtown Phoenix)
People walking past this charming Fifth Avenue bungalow sometimes mistake it for a private home—hosting an extra lively patio party. While locals come to this Southern Italian spot for wood-fired Neapolitan pizzas, they’re just as fond of the stunning skyline views and cozy firepit out back. Plenty of shade means outdoor dining is always an option, even during the day; happy hour features an array of small-plate specials, such as arancini and meatballs served with crusty bread, plus discounted drinks.
Robrt Pela is an NPR affiliate correspondent whose writing has appeared in Psychology Today, The Advocate, and for 30 years in Phoenix New Times.
Tried them all? Check out other options here.