Fall is prime time for alfresco dining in Houston, and no matter your zip code, a cool patio awaits. When you’re looking for something a little more special than shorts-and-flip-flops casual, grab an outdoor seat at one of these classics for lunch or dinner.
The spacious, ivy-covered patio with a flowering plants and a gurgling fountain is the place to be on a breezy day for lunch, brunch or dinner. Even though you’re on bustling Westheimer, the tall white stucco fence keeps it quiet. On the menu, expect top-notch margaritas and Mexican dishes like carne brava.
1600 Westheimer Rd.; 713-524-7744
Visually arresting, this Discovery Green gem combines contemporary architecture with the great outdoors. The light-filled restaurant draws guests from nearby hotels as well as convention-goers. Dine on the downstairs wraparound patio for a great view of the park and the city skyline or reserve the upstairs deck for a private affair.
1611 Lamar St.; 713-337-7321
Brennan’s of Houston
The genteel, high-walled patio with white-tablecloth seating and a splashing fountain feels just like a French Quarter courtyard — and it’s the only one of its kind in Houston. Lunch on Creole specialties, savor a four-course dinner, hit the jazz brunch or just stop by for a drink and a bite after work. Gratis homemade pralines in the foyer on the way out are a nice touch.
3300 Smith St.; 713-522-9711
Monarch at Hotel ZaZa
Monarch's terrace is the most scenic place in the Museum District for fine dining and imbibing. Not only does it showcase delightful treetop views of the Museum of Fine Arts Houston and the Mecom Fountain, it's also covered, so it can be enjoyed in any weather. On the eclectic, seasonally changing menu, expect the likes of pear and Taleggio chicken breast with pumpkin risotto or gochujang-roasted sea scallops.
5701 Main St.; 527-1800
Garden-gabbing friends and ladies-who-lunch adore this chic cafe nestled on the grounds of the Thompson + Hanson nursery. Garden-ready wicker chairs and tables are outfitted with umbrellas, and there’s plenty of room for the kiddos to play in the perfectly manicured grass. A simple menu of American favorites — Cobb salad, thin-crust pizza — with some French twists like a goat cheese sandwich should keep the whole group happy.
3614 W. Alabama St.; 713-622-4224
Brenner’s Steakhouse on the Bayou
Hidden off Memorial Drive along Buffalo Bayou, this steakhouse offers a great escape from the frenetic urban jungle. Overlooking the sprawling green lawn, woods and cascading waterfall, the semi-covered patio makes an ideal spot to dig into steaks, chops and seafood. For small plates and cocktails, the outdoor Blue bar is relaxing with cushy couches, small tables and a live-music program.
1 Birdsall St.; 713-868-4444