The Best Patio Dining in Seattle

The warm weather months are coming, so it’s sunglasses on at these al fresco dining spots
La Rustica in West Seattle offers pasta with a view of Puget Sound

BALLARD
La Isla
[PUERTO RICAN] Pull up a stool in the snug space under the storefront’s awning and watch Ballardites meander down Market Street while you munch on a plate of empanadillas, those tasty, tiny meat turnovers. Rum fans have plenty to cheer here, including craft cocktails and a salad dressed in a boozy vinaigrette. Set your watch to island time and order the ropa vieja, the shredded skirt steak sauced in spicy adobo. Finish up with a piece of tres leches cake. Lunch and dinner daily. 2320 NW Market St.; 206.789.0516; laislaseattle.com

Ray’s Café [SEAFOOD] The quintessential place to hang on a summer day, this popular spot is perfect for drinking in the region’s most picture-postcard-perfect scene. Boats! Stunning Olympics! A plate of fried oysters! A dramatic revamp of the Boathouse dining room earlier this year caused quite a stir, but when the sun’s shining, diners cannot get enough of the deck at this more casual classic. We’re wild about the grilled salmon burger ($14), extra tartar on the side. Don’t forget to ask for blankets after sundown. Lunch and dinner daily. 6049 Seaview Ave. NW; 206.782.0094; rays.com

Walrus and the Carpenter Tacked onto the side of this bustling Ballard oyster house (which is tucked behind Staple & Fancy Mercantile) and with just four picnic tables, it’s a supremely casual spot to sip a beer and slurp some cold oysters on the half-shell. But don’t forget the fried ones, and save room for dessert: The simple cakes and cobblers here are divine. >> Ballard, 4743 Ballard Ave. NW; 206.395.9227; thewalrusbar.com

 

BELLTOWN
Boat Street Cafe
[NORTHWEST] There’s something magical about Boat Street’s sweet urban hideaway, located down an unlikely ramp and tucked into the courtyard of a warehouse space. Sitting under strings of white lights with the fragrance of potted herbs wafting around you, it’s hard to resist lingering over Champagne and buttery slivers of asparagus tart. Brunch and lunch daily, dinner Tue.–Sun. 3131 Western Ave.; 206.632.4602; boatstreetcafe.com

CAPITOL HILL
Linda’s Tavern
[AMERICAN] Hard to believe that when this landmark opened on Capitol Hill nearly 20 years ago, it served only potato chips and nuts. Hooray for the lineup of hangover helpers cranked out by this busy kitchen. The bacon, eggs and crispy hash browns platter tastes even better when enjoyed at the perpetual party on the funky, fun patio tucked away in the back. Music fans will want to check out the rad jukebox. Brunch Sat.–Sun., dinner daily. 707 E Pine St.; 206.325.1220; lindastavern.com

Oddfellows Cafe [AMERICAN] The intimate view from this secret sliver of open space at the rear of Oddfellows Cafe is of the 10 to 12 other people seated at bistro tables—because the plant-decorated patio is literally surrounded by retro-cool brick walls. But the view is still pretty good, considering, because there’s rarely a style slouch in the bunch. To eat: house-made coffee cake early, cured-meat plates and Bibb lettuce salads later, with a chilled bottle of rosé, of course. 1525 10th Ave.; 206.325.0807; oddfellowscafe.com

POPPY [NORTHWEST] Savory summer herbs and edible flowers destined for the menu gently scent the air on Poppy’s secluded back patio, where a subtle fence surrounds the poppy orange tables and chairs. We love the ever-changing creations arranged on the thali plates, and every meal should begin with a carefully crafted cocktail from the seasoned bartenders. Dinner daily. 622 Broadway E; 206.324.1108; poppyseattle.com

Terra Plata [NORTHWEST] Tamara Murphy created an urban oasis on the rooftop of her restaurant’s bustling dining room. Potted herbs used in various preparations perfume the summer air, mingling with the meaty scents coming from the outdoor grill, often run by the chef herself. Alas, the expansive view has been obscured by a new building, but with the dynamite surroundings on the spacious rooftop garden and terrific seasonally driven food, you likely won’t even miss it. Brunch Sat.–Sun., lunch Tue.–Fri., dinner Tue.–Sun., paella Monday nights. 1501 Melrose Ave.; 206.325.1501; terraplata.com

DOWNTOWN
WATERFRONT
Elliott’s Oyster House
[SEAFOOD] Sitting on the dock of Pier 56, watching the ferries glide by provides the quintessential backdrop for a Seattle-centric seafood feast. Just ask the tourists who pack the outdoor tables alongside the restaurant. But don’t let the crowds keep you away, especially if you’re in the mood for a dozen kushi oysters, a beautiful fillet of halibut, salmon or whatever’s fresh. The Met Grill is this venue’s sister, so it’s no surprise that the kitchen can do right by turf as well as by surf. Just down the way, there’s a more casual café, also owned by Elliott’s: Café 56 (formerly Steamers) serves items such as halibut tostadas and salmon tacos. Lunch and dinner daily. 1201 Alaskan Way, Pier 56; 206.623.4340; elliottsoysterhouse.com

Six Seven [NORTHWEST] You can’t get closer to the water (without getting wet) than at this stunning strip of deck over Elliott Bay in the iconic Edgewater hotel. The stylish setup includes the comfiest chairs you’re ever going to find in an outdoor dining room, and the post-sunset scene is illuminated by candlelight. Zesty scallop ceviche and the cedar-plank-cooked salmon syncs up nicely with the surroundings. Breakfast and dinner daily, brunch Sat.–Sun., lunch Mon.–Fri. 2311 Alaskan Way, Pier 67; 206.269.4575; edgewaterhotel.com

Hard Rock Cafe [AMERICAN] Pass right on through the touristy main space and head directly up to the rooftop, where the panoramic views of the city and the Sound are truly stunning. We recommend coming here to drink in the vista and a cold brew on the low-slung couches warmed by gas fireplaces, then hit one of the countless excellent restaurants nearby (Matt’s in the Market, Le Pichet, Place Pigalle, Etta’s), where dinner is a better bet. >> Downtown, 116 Pike St.; 206.204.2233; hardrock.com

EASTLAKE
Serafina Snug behind this Eastlake eatery is one of the lushest patios in the city. We like it best at brunch, when brioche French toast arrives under a cloud of vanilla whipped mascarpone. >> Eastlake, 2043 Eastlake Ave. E; 206.323.0807; serafinaseattle.com

FREMONT
Ponti Seafood Grill
[SEAFOOD] Situated just above the Ship Canal and strung with white lights at night, this favorite patio with linen-covered tables is romantic and secluded. During early evening hours, watch boaters pass by while you catch some rays and savor some of chef Alvin Binuya’s house-smoked salmon on sweet corn pancakes and an order of the pan-roasted Alaskan cod. Oh, and those Dungeness crab spring rolls? Just right for hot weather. Dinner daily. 3014 Third Ave. N; 206.284.3000; pontiseafoodgrill.com

Revel [KOREAN] When the “grill shack”—the outdoor wood-fired barbecue—gets rolling during the summer months, the focus is on the whole beast. Lucky us, as the crackerjack crew turns those nose-to-tail parts into spectacularly savory stuff. It’s like being at the coolest cookout ever. The restaurant’s full menu is available on this long, narrow, elevated deck overlooking a parking lot. Yeah, that part isn’t so cool, but the firepit just outside the lounge kind of balances out the lack of view. This might be just the ticket for those who cannot abide the joyous noise inside. Brunch Sat.–Sun., lunch and dinner daily. 403 N 36th St.; 206.547.2040; revelseattle.com

Uneeda Burger [BURGERS] Picnic tables facing Fremont Avenue are packed with fans of the juicy ground beef patties wearing all manner of topping combos. There’s something magical about the No. 2: blue cheese, caramelized onions and watercress. And those shakes! The dark chocolate and salted caramel is as rich and complex as a vintage Bordeaux. Well, maybe not exactly, but close. Lunch and dinner daily. 4302 Fremont Ave. N; 206.547.2600; uneedaburger.com

The Whale Wins
[NORTHWEST] The stylish patio facing Stone Way between Fremont and Wallingford flows seamlessly from the light-filled dining room, an extension of Renee Erickson’s newest place. The menu is driven by fire, as most of the cooking is done in the beautiful wood-fired oven. We’re hooked on the whole trout, roasted crisp and cozied up to a citrusy walnut sauce that’ll make you cry for seconds. If you’re in the mood for something fresh, this Whale puts out some satisfying Local Roots Farm veggies, roasted until those natural sugars start to sing. Lunch and dinner daily. 3506 Stone Way N; 206.632.9425; thewhalewins.com


KIRKLAND
Le Grand Bistro Américain
[FRENCH] Serving up a thrilling view well worth the cost of crossing the 520 bridge, the two decks of this French bistro are set above Kirkland’s Carillon Point, where white yachts bob on sparkling Lake Washington. At sunset, the Seattle city skyline glimmers. And it serves the best niçoise salad in the city, to boot. Brunch Sat.–Sun., lunch Mon.–Fri., dinner daily. 2220 Carillon Point; 425.828.7778; bistrolegrand.com

Trellis
[NORTHWEST] This stylish sidewalk patio rocks it year-round, staying toasty when it’s closeted in clear plastic and warmed by heaters in the winter, but wide open and airy when the weather’s fair. Chef Brian Scheehser’s seasonally inspired menu is ripe with pickin’s from his 10-acre spread in Woodinville during this time of year. We love his tender green salads. Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. 220 Kirkland Ave.; 425.284.5900; heathmankirkland.com

MADISON PARK
CLOSED Madison Park Conservatory
[NORTHWEST] When the blue skies and warm evenings stretch out before us, Madison Park always comes to mind. This hot spot—fueled by Food & Wine’s 2012 Best New Chef Cormac Mahoney’s clever creations—has a roomy corner-facing patio with tree-filtered views of Lake Washington, but the real appeal is the unmatched people watching: beach-going hipsters in flip-flops, locals in their linen suits and everything in between. Don’t miss the hamachi crudo with blood oranges and olives, and the octopus with chiles and lemons. Dinner Tue.–Sat. Madison Park, 1927 43rd Ave. E; 206.324.9701; madisonparkconservatory.com

MADRONA
Bottlehouse
[WINE BAR] This gem doubles in size when the patio’s in play, as patrons spill out into the sun-dappled space with its peekaboo view of the street. Let the gracious staff suggest something cool and refreshing, maybe a flight of whites paired with the ever-changing cheese plate, accompanied by a crusty baguette and pickled veggies. It’s a great way to begin—or end—the evening. Late afternoon and evenings, Tue.–Sun. 1416 34th Ave.; 206.708.7164; bottlehouseseattle.com

St. Clouds [AMERICAN] We won’t tell if, once you’re sitting at one of the six tables in the secret back yard, you slip your shoes off. Why wouldn’t you? Glass-topped metal tables are set up as if for an impromptu dinner party. Strings of white lights sweep from fence to fence, and the “locals only” vibe keeps things warm and sweet. You’ll probably want to sip that Sauvignon Blanc and nibble those slow-roasted ribs a little slower than usual so that you can stay awhile. Brunch and lunch Sat.–Sun., dinner daily. 1131 34th Ave.; 206.726.1522; stclouds.com

PIKE PLACE MARKET
Le Pichet
[FRENCH] Small, but hardly precious, the sidewalk seating at this venerable bistro feels like a wee bit of Paris. Especially when you dive into those spot-on classic preparations. Say oui to the ouefs plats with ham and Gruyère and the impeccable salade verte for the perfect eye-opener or a super supper of steak frites. A well-crafted French 75—the sparkling wine cocktail gets a splash of citrus—seems appropriate whether you’re brunching or quenching the thirst for a fine aperitif. Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. 1933 First Ave.; 206.256.1499; lepichetseattle.com

Maximilien
[FRENCH] It’s hard to believe a sweeping vista this brilliant and this unobstructed can still be such a well-kept secret. But we’ve lucked into tables on the large but largely undiscovered deck—perched high above Elliott Bay and framed by the Olympic Mountains, with ferries pushing through the Sound—without even having to wait. Try the eggs Benedict for Sunday brunch, escargot and soup du jour at sunset. Brunch Sun., lunch and dinner daily. 81A Pike St.; 206.682.7270; maximilienrestaurant.com


The Pink Door
[ITALIAN] While tourists are down in the Market watching fishmongers toss fish, those in the know head to this sweet deck spot for the winning trifecta of a knockout view, a timeless menu and those warm summer breezes. No matter what the weather, it’s hard to pass on the luscious spinach-pesto lasagna, and the shellfish-packed cioppino gets us steamy hot. Chef Steve Smrstik also has a deft touch with whole fish, grilled and salsa-verde-fied. Lunch Mon.–Sat., dinner daily. 1919 Post Alley; 206.443.3241; thepinkdoor.net

Seatown Seabar [NORTHWEST] Whether you’re hooking a snack—the crab cocktail is spot on—or settling in for a leisurely meal, this sidewalk café (that spills over to the picnic tables at its neighboring Rub With Love Shack when it gets busy) is a prime perch for watching the world walk around Pike Place Market. Tables are set with pretty potted flowers, and if there’s a chill in the air, the servers will bring you a blankie. We love rosé with everything on the menu, including the ahi poke salad and terrific tri-tip steak off the rotisserie. Breakfast, lunch, dinner daily. 2010 Western Ave.; 206.436.0390; tomdouglas.com

UNIVERSITY DISTRICT
Shultzy’s
[PUB] This U District fixture is best known for its sports bar vibe, stellar lineup of micros and outstanding sausages served in its expansive space, but there’s a deck out back with a dozen tables and a soothing gazebo-like feel that falls into hideaway territory. If you subscribe to the school of thought that eating something spicy cools you down on a sizzling afternoon, try a bowl of the fabulously fiery gumbo, made from scratch, and chill. Lunch and dinner daily. 4114 University Way NE; 206.548.9461; shultzys.com

WALLINGFORD
Tilth
[NORTHWEST] Shaded by umbrellas and surrounded by shrubs and potted herbs, this space has a hidden-garden feel even as traffic whizzes by on North 45th. Sip a glass of rosé while considering Maria Hines’ organic, locally focused menu—it will be a challenge to choose. Fortunately, there are tasting menus of different shapes and sizes, including a sophisticated lineup of vegan fare and gluten-free apps and entrées. Be part of the brunch bunch and you’ll be rewarded by the fluffiest French omelet this side of Paris. Brunch Sat.–Sun., dinner daily. 1411 N 45th St.; 206.633.0801; tilthrestaurant.com

WEST SEATTLE
La Rustica
[ITALIAN] A true gem, this humble stucco Italian spot has a flower-lined patio strewn with ivy and white terra cotta pots that will transport you far away. Just a block off the waterfront, here you can gaze out for miles over Puget Sound at wooded islands and the snow-capped peaks of the Olympics as you twirl linguine di mare (mixed seafood pasta) onto your fork (all the pastas are tasty here). In authentic Italian fashion, you can taste the love. Dinner Tue.–Sun. 4100 Beach Drive SW; 206.932.3020; larusticarestaurant.com

This story has been edited since its original publication.

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