With colder weather firmly in the rear view, outdoor dining is literally heating up in Washington, D.C. Now that spring has finally sprung, blooming garden patios, panoramic riverfront views, and cozy 19th-century courtyards are just some of the settings that await Washingtonians and visitors looking to experience the district’s eclectic dining scene.
Whether you’re in the mood for tacos on a rooftop, a warm-weather craft cocktail, or a platter of well-prepared sushi, here is OpenTable’s guide to the best spots to comfortably dine outdoors in Washington, D.C. this spring and summer.
Bombay Club (Downtown)
Head downtown to enjoy sophisticated 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 features fish curry, chicken makhni, kashmiri lamb, palak, lemon cashew rice, and naan. Don’t miss the off-menu favorite, tandoori salmon.
Modena goes beyond the traditional 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 $80-per-person, four-course tasting menu, available via OpenTable Experiences.
Dirty Habit (Penn Quarter)
Housed in the square courtyard of the Kimpton Hotel Monaco, the district’s first all-marble neoclassical building and former headquarters of the General Post Office—this Penn Quarter landmark is all about one-of-a-kind dining experiences. From the wagyu tartare to the short rib adobo—get the Flowers in the Attics, made with sparkling wine and Italian bergamot liqueur—dinner at Dirty Habit is sure to take you on a globe-trotting flavor adventure.
Casta’s Rum Bar (West End)
For a tropical vacation without leaving D.C., head to this West End Cuban spot. The covered patio is a comfortable place to knock back classic rum drinks such as mojitos and daiquiris and sample Cuban classics like the country’s namesake sandwich—a dish the restaurant takes so seriously that the bread is flown in from Miami.
The Salt Line – Navy Yard (Navy Yard)
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 drinking in the river views from the outdoor bar and patio.
Mi Vida (Southwest Waterfront)
Mexico City native chef Roberto Santibañez is known as an ambassador of regional Mexican cooking in the U.S., and Mi Vida confirms that mission. 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 enhanced by six types of margaritas and a considerable mezcal and tequila list.
Cork Wine Bar & Market (Logan Circle)
Run by a husband and wife team who live in the neighborhood, this Logan Circle bar aims to create an unpretentious atmosphere where diners can learn about wine. Pull up a turquoise patio chair and choose from an international wine list that pairs with reliable usual suspects such as meat and cheese, or go all out with dishes like the whole grilled branzino.
Le Diplomate (Logan Circle)
From renowned restaurateur Stephen Starr, Le Diplomate — affectionately referred to as “Le Dip” — feels like Paris. All the brasserie classics are here, from steak frites and steak tartare to escargot and Niçoise salad. Outside, the expansive patio sits next to the bustling 14th Street corridor, with wicker chairs, flower boxes, and shady umbrellas to ensure comfortable dining even in the thick of DC’s humidity.
Farmers & Distillers (Mt. Vernon Square)
The menu at Farmers & Distillers combines American ingredients — the restaurant is co-owned by the North Dakota Farmers Union — with international accents, resulting in a vast menu that ranges from classic cheeseburgers to spicy cumin lamb noodles. Its shaded patio is a prime people-watching spot and keeps the crowds coming for breakfast and brunch.
Dine on the extended covered patio area at Zeppelin, where fish is aged onsite by sushi stalwart Minoru Ogawa. The second-generation, Tokyo-born chef serves up an impressive array of maki, sashimi, nigiri, and chirashi, and goes beyond raw fish with yakitori, too. The drink menu is extensive, with a strong sake focus.
The Point – D.C. (Navy Yard)
The Point – D.C., a 12,500-square-foot seafood restaurant sitting at the convergence of the Anacostia and Potomac Rivers, is all about waterfront dining. Complete with fire pits and a relaxed outdoor bar, diners can enjoy marina views from the 150-seat open-air patio while sampling local seafood classics such as Maryland-style crab cakes and freshly shucked Chesapeake oysters, in addition to a smoky selection of grilled seafood and meats from the large wood-fire grill.
Iron Gate (Dupont Circle)
Head to Iron Gate, a storied spot in Dupont Circle. Housed in a former stable and carriageway townhouse dating back to the late 19th-century, it’s one of D.C.’s oldest restaurants. Centuries-old wisteria, twinkling string lights, and grapevines charm diners in its storied backyard garden patio. Heavy on the Italian and Greek flavors, Iron Gate’s menu is known for seasonal mezze-style dishes; dishes such as the potato and ramp keftedes (meatballs) with goat feta and a morel-whiskey cream have earned it a spot on many of DC’s “best of” lists since reopening under new ownership in 2013.
Lauren McDowell contributed to this article.
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