The Best Outdoor Dining in 12 Boston Neighborhoods

By Scott Kearnan  |  May 8, 2015

Outdoor dining in Boston? There's plenty of it. But if you need to pick a destination for each neighborhood of the city, where would you go? Here are our top spots around town; tell us yours, and why, in the comments. 

  • Allston: Deep Ellum

    Allston isn't exactly overflowing with outdoor dining options, and you may not even realize that this craft-beer and comfort-food haven has alfresco seating. But rest assured: an intimate backyard patio is tucked in back, away from street view. 

    Must-Order: This spot just scored the No. 2 spot on our reader-voted list of the 10 Best Brunches in Boston, so swing by for its daily (!) brunch service with spicy Bloody Mary cocktails that go well with a breakfast burrito.  

    Insider Tip: While you're there, visit its neighbor, sibling restaurant Lone Star Taco Bar, which has some of our favorite tacos in the city — and is prepping to open a sequel in Inman Square this summer. 

    477 Cambridge St., Allston; 617-787-2337

  • Back Bay: SELECT Oyster Bar

    The sidewalk patios on Newbury and Boylston Streets attract plenty of tourists, but locals will love the just-debuted all-season heated patio in the rear of SELECT, a seafood newcomer from former Neptune Oyster chef Michael Serpa. It's a quiet, cloistered alternative to the traditional Back Bay hubbub. 

    Must-Order: 'Tis the season, so we suggest washing down a plateau ($85 or $125 depending on the size) of raw-bar selections — oysters, prawns, dressed lobster and more — alongside a bottle from a wine list that includes some "rose, orange + funky" varieties perfect for summertime sipping.  

    Insider Tip: Know that no reservations are accepted, and a 20% gratuity is automatically included to all tabs. 

    50 Gloucester St.; 617-451-1234

  • Beacon Hill: The Hungry I

    Hidden amid the brownstones of Beacon Hill is this romantic secret garden, lined with brick and filled with elegant arrangements of antique hodgepodge.

    Must-Order: The French cuisine is top-notch, but we're especially in love with the venison au poivre noir ($39), sautéed flamed with cognac, sour cream and red wine. 

    Insider Tip: The small garden books up fast and early, so don't try your luck without a reservation. 

    71 Charles St.; 617-227-3524

  • Charlestown: Pier 6 

    Holy harbor views. You can't beat the scenery from the roof deck at this Charlestown restaurant, which tends to boast a bumping weekend social scene. 

    Must-Order: The raw bar is a great go-to, but we also love the lobster chowder ($12) made with sherry, melted leeks, sweet potato and bacon.

    Insider Tip: Enjoy the same views from the inside by booking the private dining room with three walls of windows and a communal dining table for 14.

    1 Eighth St., Charlestown; 617-337-0054

  • Dorchester: Ester

    We have to tip our hat to the stalwart Ashmont Grill for long being one of the few options for outdoor dining in Dorchester. But in the interest of evolution, props to Ester — which last year replaced Ledge Kitchen & Drinks — for its flower-filled patio where diners dig into simple but stylish New American plates made with ingredients plucked from a seasonal rooftop garden. 

    Must-Order: Dive into a delicious bowl of mussels ($11.50) swimming in beer broth with smoked roasted tomatoes, served with garlic bread for sopping up every flavorful slurp. 

    Insider Tip: It's also a popular spot for Dorchester brunch crowds, with Sunday service running from 10:30 AM-3 PM. 

    2261 Dorchester Ave., Dorchester; 617-698-2261

  • Credit: Gustav Hoiland

    Downtown: Legal Crossing

    People-watchers will love the front-row seat afforded at this decidedly upscale concept from the Legal Sea Foods chain (also dubbed LX), housed on the ground floor of the luxury Millennium Place residences. It boasts a sidewalk patio — pretty rare for Downtown Crossing — in view of local theaters with their glittering marquees. 

    Must-Order: Inspired by the proximity to nearby Chinatown, LX added some Pan-Asian inflections on the menu. Check out the Korean Rice Bowl of pickled veggies, shiitake, wakame, jasmine rice and egg yolk that can be topped with shrimp ($16), tuna sashimi ($16) or organic tofu ($13). 

    Insider Tip: Take note, late-night noshers. LX recently introduced an "off the menu" Lobster Burger available by request only during late-night hours at the bar. Quantities are limited nightly — once they're out, they're out — but if you can snag one, you'll find a big patty of lobster meat topped with tempura avocado and wasabi mayo. 

    558 Washington St.; 617-692-8888

  • Fenway: Sweet Cheeks Q

    If amazing barbecue wasn't enough to lure you to this Fenway-side favorite from Top Chef runner-up Tiffani Faison, the awesome beer garden should be. 

    Must-Order: Fill a Fat Cheeks Tray ($26) with pulled pork, brisket and ribs, then round it out with broccoli casserole and one of the best mac 'n' cheese sides around. Trust us. 

    Insider Tip: The beer garden has a retractable roof. So even if a Sox game is rained out, supper won't be. 

    1381 Boylston St.; 617-266-1300

  • Jamaica Plain: Canary Square 

    Neighbors flock to this high-flying comfort-food purveyor dab in the middle of JP. Roll-up garage doors lead to an ample patio and allow spring breezes to usher fresh air into the brick-and-beam dining room too. It's a nice place to nest. 

    Must-Order: The grass-fed burger ($12) is a beefy stomach filler, but we're also impressed by the generous spread of cheese and charcuterie, a bargain of a board at $15. 

    Insider Tip: The bar screens retro (and by that, we mean mostly '90s) flicks every Sunday at 10 PM. Jurassic Park yourself on a seat. 

    435 S. Huntington St., Jamaica Plain; 617-524-2500

  • Roslindale: Sophia's Grotto

    For many, Boston's Roslindale neighborhood already feels like undiscovered country. So consider Sophia's Grotto a hidden gem within a jewel. The intimate Mediterranean eatery has an alleyside patio ringed with greenery.

    Must-Order: The rib-sticking Italian menu includes a stellar farfalle al pesto ($15.95), a heaping bowl of butterfly pasta in a thick, creamy pesto sauce laden with pignoli nuts, sun-dried tomatoes and garlic. 

    Insider Tip: Sophia's also serves a great brunch, including an antipasto ($8.95): herb-garlic sour cream and caper spread with tomatoes, red onions, hard-boiled eggs, herb and nut goat cheese, fresh fruit and toast. 

    22 Birch St., Roslindale; 617-323-4595

  • Seaport District: Row 34

    There's no doubt that the rooftop at Legal Harborside, plunked right on the waterfront, offers amazing horizon views. But we feel obliged to note the newer 40-seat patio at Row 34, the only such spot in Fort Point — that nebulous non-neighborhood between the Seaport and Southie. 

    Must-Order: The eponymous oysters, of course. The Duxbury-harvested variety offers a nutty, umami-filled counterpoint to sibling spot Island Creek Oyster Bar's more buttery titular bivalves. 

    Insider Tip: Keep an eye out for general manager Jillian Rocco, one of our most recent 30 Under 30 honorees

    383 Congress St.; 617-553-5900

  • South Boston: Barlow's

    Upscale American is the order of the day at this South Boston spot, which tends to go undiscovered except by locals. The ample patio is a nice place to catch some rays away from the denser, bar-packed parts of Southie. 

    Must-Order: Spice up your life with Manny's BBQ Meatloaf ($16) served with bacon, corn on the cob and jalapeño mac 'n' cheese.

    Insider Tip: There's $3 validated parking, but Barlow's is also a stop on the Southie Shuttle, which offers free service among participating restaurants.

    241 A St., South Boston; 617-338-2142

  • South End: B&G Oysters

    The South End is full of sidewalk patios. But when you're looking for something more private, we love this intimate, sunken patio behind Barbara Lynch's South End seafood pearl. Shuck on over.

    Must-Order: For its sheer consistency, the lobster roll ($29) is a perennial go-to, loaded with chunks of Maine lobster on a toasted roll and served with fries and butter pickles.

    Insider Tip: Starting this week, $1 from every order of fried calamari benefits the Barbara Lynch Foundation, which supports life-skills-building resources for disadvantaged youth. Just in case you needed an excuse to order.

    550 Tremont St.; 617-423-0550