CityEats is really trying to make itself happen. Like the Google+ equivalent of 2012, it is appearing at every turn–in online ads, on Facebook, and promoting itself on Pinterest. The site is strikingly similar to Open Table, with an extra serving of self-promotion, so I think I’m sticking with Open Table for my restaurant reservation needs.
Still, their article on “the top 10 restaurants for dining al fresco in DC” caught my eye. CityEat’s picks include a few restaurants that I’ve never heard of: Tabrizi’s, Juniper Restaurant, and La Strada? Some of the other picks are solid: Jackson 20 and Willow in particular.
After three years of eating in DC, which totally makes me an expert (hey, I don’t get regular Mint.com emails warning me that I’m over my monthly restaurant “budget” for nothin’), I have my own top 10 list of al fresco spots:
- Open City. This neighborhood gem is right next to CityEat’s pick, New Heights. But it’s the cheaper, more fun cousin. It’s the perfect restaurant when you’re not sure what you’re in the mood for and the weather is nice.
- Ping Pong. Their dim sum can’t be beat (neither can the prices for happy hour), and the new location in Dupont has a large patio perfect for sipping their signature cocktails and enjoying the people-watching.
- Northside Social. This is my favorite on the list. Northside has a huge patio with the best people-watching in Arlington–runners, commuters, families, cute guys… anyone walking in Arlington inevitably passes through this intersection. The coffeehouse/wine bar offers baked goods, breakfast, and light lunch and dinner which includes sandwiches, soups, and salads. Plus, you can get a cheese plate and a bottle of wine and bring it out to the patio with a group of friends (my favorite way to dine al fresco).
- Lyon Hall. Yep, the dominant restaurant group in North Arlington gets two spots in my top 10. Lyon Hall joins its sister Northside Social and barely beats out its other sister restaurant, Liberty Tavern (which is my favorite in the DC area but lacks a robust patio). Lyon Hall’s patio is much bigger if you want a prayer of sitting outside, and the fare is a bit more suited for al fresco dining–and just as delicious as at Liberty. Plus, they have a great beer selection.
- Vinoteca. This chic, fun U street spot has brunch, dinner, and wine – what more could you ask for? Their “plaza” out back (see picture) has a bar and a bocce court, and a modest front patio is open for dining. It’s a lot of fun and the wine selection is spectacular.
- Sushi Rock. Another Arlington pick (haters gonna hate). For summer nights when you want to hang out with a large group and get a light bite of some sushi, this patio is for you. Plus the funny names of the sushi rolls alone (Stairway to Heaven roll, anyone?) are worth the visit.
- Pete’s A Pizza. I like the one in Clarendon for its outdoor patio. The people-watching is amazing here, too. And the casual vibe of Pete’s can’t be beat for a quick but classy dinner out. And the pizza. Oh, the pizza. Please trust me when I say it is excellent. Order the “edge of the woods” pie. You won’t be sorry.
- Lauriol Plaza. How could CityEats have left this one off of the list? Lauriol has multiple al fresco dining options, including its street-level patio and its upstairs roof. Any time of the year the food here is pretty good, but in the summer with the breeze blowing in your hair and a classic Lauriol margarita in hand, it can’t be beat.
- Poste. Located in the heart of Chinatown, the Poste courtyard is a quiet haven from the hustle and bustle of the neighborhood. It’s expensive, and I’ll confess I haven’t tasted any of the food (just the yummy, pricey drinks!). But as far as al fresco “a la DC” goes, it’s the cream of the crop.
Well, it looks like my list is only nine. What al fresco restaurant faves did I forget?
2013 Update: After enjoying an early spring afternoon at The Standard, I have to add the 14th St. outdoor BBQ people’s favorite to my list. Also, I can’t believe Masa 14 didn’t make my original cut, as it is the perfect place for a yummy bite and lingering over drinks on the rooftop patio.