Best Outdoor Dining in 16 Neighborhoods Around LA

By Lesley Balla  |  June 10, 2014
Credit: Nobu Malibu

Outdoor dining and drinking is a rite of passage in the land of eternal sunshine. There are new patiosdog-friendly beer spots and rooftops with views of the skyline, the surf, sand and more. Here's a look at the best outdoor dining in 16 neighborhoods across LA: from Santa Monica to Downtown to Pasadena, the Valley and beyond.

  • Venice: Sunny Spot
    The sunny disposition and tropical vibe at this Venice spot is exactly where you want to be for hot summer days and cool beachy nights. The patio sort of morphs into the bar area, giving the entire space a good, happy flow.
    Must-Order: Roy Choi’s menu has a Caribbean touch with his LA flair. Don’t miss things like coconut shrimp, sticky glazed babyback ribs, spicy jerk chicken wings and that famous, perfect Cubano that Jon Favreau’s movie Chef is based on.
    Insider Tip: One of the best times to go is for brunch, when the cocktail-slinging crowd is at bay—or just more mellow while nursing their hangovers with bottomless Bloody Marys and mimosas. The daytime really picks up the colorful decor too.

    822 Washington Blvd.; 310-448-8884

  • Santa Monica: The Albright
    We could point you to some hidden patios to dine in Santa Monica, especially during the summer when anything within blocks of the beach is overrun with tourists, locals, locals with tourists and everyone in between. But, if you’re going to go gangbusters and find a spot to eat near the waves, this seafood restaurant on the pier is where you want to be. It’s super-casual (so, yes, you can park your bike nearby), family friendly, and has everything from fish 'n' chips to lobster rolls to fill your seafood craving. The view is a bit obstructed because it's near the parking lot, but hey, you’re on the pier.
    Must-Order: If you’re splurging, get the Maine lobster boil. They’ll pull the lobsters live from the tanks and serve with potato salad, corn on the cob and drawn butter for $39.95. Keeping it light? Grilled tacos come with pico de gallo and fresh guac.
    Insider Tip: There’s really no getting around the crowds on busy, hot summer days at the Pier. But with so much open seating, and everyone else eating hot dogs and burgers near the rides, it’s usually not too difficult to find a table.

    258 Santa Monica Pier; 310-394-9683

  • Marina del Rey: Cast & Plow
    Grabbing a bite at the Ritz-Carlton in MDR feels like you’re totally somewhere else. The marina has its own laid-back vibe, and the setup at this relative newcomer is fantastic during day, when the sun gleams on every table, or at night, when fire pits offer a warm glow from the middle of the tables.
    Must-Order: For breakfast, waffles topped with ricotta and cherries; egg-white and chorizo wraps; and shakshouka, organic eggs baked in tomato stew. At night, try the kale chips, thyme tagliatelle, or the smoked rib-eye. Don’t forget the cocktails. There’s also a buffet-style brunch throughout the entire space on the weekends.
    Insider Tip: Breakfast here is one of the most relaxing things we can think to do any day. The sun and breezes are fantastic and there are no car noises to be found. Just joggers, bicyclists and boats bobbing in the water.

    4375 Admiralty Way; 310-574-4333

  • Credit: Henry Hargreaves/Nobu Malibu

    Malibu: Nobu
    This being Malibu, there are a lot of amazing outdoor spaces for dining, but Nobu is still the best if you want to eat yellowtail sashimi with jalapeño, ogle celebrities and empty your bank account for the privilege of doing so. It's a gorgeously designed space, all natural wood and clean lines, with a picture-perfect view to the sand and crashing waves.
    Must-Order: Yellowtail with jalapeño; lobster ceviche; uni mini tacos; eggplant with miso; and an array of sushi.
    Insider Tip: Lunch is now served daily, and a seat on the patio is exactly where you want to be. But don’t expect to see too many famous faces out there. They’re most likely hidden in the main dining room inside.

    22706 E. Pacific Coast Highway; 310-317-9140

  • Credit: W Hotel

    Westwood: The Backyard at W Los Angeles
    For a perfect escape in the city, hide away at the poolside restaurant in at the Westwood hotel. The lush gardens seem to hide all the bustling city craziness, creating a calm oasis for lunch, drinks or dinner.
    Must-Order: Dakota Weiss’ menu is mostly comfort food with a twist: things like truffled fried chicken with mac 'n' cheese; cheeseburgers; sweet-potato tots with bacon ranch dip; and flatbread pizzas topped with everything from kimchi to mozzarella and pepperoni.
    Insider Tip: The lunch menu is served from 11 AM until sundown, but the happy-hour menu kicks in from 4-7 PM with good drink specials.

    930 Hilgard Ave.; 310-208-8765

  • Credit: Kelsie Galis/AOC

    Beverly Hills Adjacent: A.O.C.
    It’s only fitting that one of the loveliest patios is owned by Suzanne Goin and Caroline Styne, two women who’ve helped raise LA to culinary stardom. When they moved their small-plates restaurant a few miles west, the leafy trees, herb gardens, fireplace and tiles created the perfect setting for a quintessential LA dining experience.
    Must-Order: Depending on the time of day and week, it could be the any of the focaccias from the wood-burning oven, the Spanish fried chicken and little gem lettuces with green goddess dressing. We’re also pretty fond of the large-format platters served family-style at dinner and the beautiful French toast with seasonal fruit at brunch.
    Insider Tip: The place is always packed, but dine on the early or late side of any meal—lunch, brunch or dinner—and request a table on the patio.

    8700 W. 3rd St.; 310-859-9859

  • Culver City: Lukshon
    Sang Yoon's Southeast Asian restaurant is worth a second (third, fourth, fifth...) look. Because it's on the street open only to pedestrians, there's little traffic noise, just the buzz from Father's Office nearby. Keep cool on the covered patio while eating some of the spicy fare during the day: the fire pit is a nice touch, but it offers little warmth on cooler nights.
    Must-Order: Spicy chicken pops; dan dan noodles; crab fritters with Singapore-style jam; crispy whole fish; and don't miss whatever wines are on tap. There's a fantastic selection of whites, perfect for the food, from the Central coast; or the Japanese and Indian whiskeys.
    Insider Tip: Lunchtime is a great time to secure your spot on the patio. It's not as busy as dinner. However, for nighttime dining, make sure you request a a table outside when making your reservation.

    3239 Helms Ave.; 310-202-6808

  • Miracle Mile: Ray’s & Stark Bar
    This has become one of the best places to sip cocktails and glasses of cool rosé, nosh on pizzas and charcuterie in the bar, or sit for a full meal in front of the glass-box dining room. The backdrop is LACMA, in all its architectural glory, which makes for ideal people-watching, especially during high-profile exhibits.
    Must-Order: The departure of Kris Morningstar hasn’t shaken things up too much with the menu, so things like shrimp and grits; pilota, a crispy farro dish with pork belly and soft-poached egg; housemade pastas like the squid ink bucatini with Calabrian chile and mint; and hanger steak with sticky rice and black sesame purée are all still top-notch.
    Insider Tip: Pay attention to the LACMA calendar, especially during the summer months. There are free jazz performances on Friday nights, which take over the entire courtyard for the evening. Even on the busiest weekends, the best hours are late afternoons into early evenings when the crowds thin, breezes blow and you can get comfy in those Italian red chairs.

    5905 Wilshire Blvd.; 323-857-6180

  • Credit: Stout

    Studio City: Stout
    When you need a burger and a beer in the Valley, this growing local chainlet hits the spot. There’s a nice patio area along the side of the building, and while it doesn’t offer much of a view, the tables are shaded and at least you’re not right in front of the Ventura Boulevard traffic.
    Must-Order: The Stout burger, of course, with blue cheese, Gruyère, rosemary bacon, caramelized onion, horseradish cream and roasted tomatoes. A lot of flavors, sure, but pretty delicious all smooshed together on a beef patty. Or the egg-topped breakfast burger. Plus a side of salty sweet-potato fries and a cold IPA.
    Insider Tip: Two good things about a visit during the day (but not during primetime lunch hours): parking is free and you you’ll have your pick of tables.

    11262 Ventura Blvd.; 818-505-0076

  • Beverly Hills: Rooftop Garden at the Peninsula
    It might not be one of the trendiest rooftops around, but the swank setting is a perfect spot for daytime lunches, cocktails around the fire pits and weekend barbecues.
    Must-Order: Grilled salmon; turkey burger; cold-pressed juices; vegetable salad. The barbecue menu features Australian lobster tail with yuzu butter; 28-day dry-aged Harvey Guss tomahawk steaks; seasonal summer sides and desserts.
    Insider Tip: Since the clientele is mostly hotel guests, slip in and pretend you’re on vacation for lunch or dinner. Reservations are probably helpful for the weekend barbecues, though. The annual feasts are pretty popular.

    9882 S. Santa Monica Blvd.; 310-551-2888

  • West Hollywood: Chateau Marmont
    So hidden, the garden patio at the legendary hotel sometimes feels like a members-only club. They definitely try to keep out the riffraff, but anyone can go for lunch or dinner. It’s so lovely, lunches tend to go longer than you anticipated and dinner tables are tough to get at night.
    Must-Order: Chilled crab and avocado, crispy bass sandwich with fries, or chopped salad at lunch. For dinner, check out the daily specials, like fried chicken with kale on Sundays; hangar steak with horseradish potato gratin on Wednesdays; or fish 'n' chips on Fridays.
    Insider Tip: Definitely make a reservation, even if you think it’s during a downtime. That way you’re assured a table.

    8221 Sunset Blvd.; 323-848-5908

  • Pasadena: Picnik
    The big communal patio services Eduardo Ruiz’s sausage and beer spot, but also KTCHN for breakfast and brunch, coffee from Zona Rosa and Bulgarini gelato.
    Must-Order: The sausages are fantastic, especially with a pile of fries or creamy mac 'n' cheese. Beer is also a must.
    Insider Tip: It does get hot in Old Town Pasadena during the summer months, but there are plenty of umbrellas to cool you down. Twilight here can sometimes be magical.

    168 W. Colorado Blvd.; 626-793-8008

  • Credit: Wood & Vine

    Hollywood: Wood & Vine
    This patio is so popular, it’s often booked out for wrap parties and other shindigs, but when it’s open to the public—which is more often than not—it’s really pretty cool. Enclosed by tall buildings in the back, there are a few trees, lots of tables and flickering candles to set the scene.
    Must-Order: Farro with squash; chicken and waffles; charcuterie and cheese; pasta rags with asparagus and maitake mushrooms; and butterscotch pot de crème.
    Insider Tip: Those big walls come in handy on Wednesday nights when they screen movies and offer special deals on the menu.

    6280 Hollywood Blvd.; 323-334-3360

  • Silver Lake: Cliff’s Edge
    You wouldn't know about the leafy garden patio by driving by this Silver Lake restaurant, or even when you walk into the main room and bar. But once you make it through the back door, the entire space is canopied by trees and lush landscaping on a hill. It’s a magical spot, for both brunch and dinner.
    Must-Order: Chef Vartan Abgaryan is making some magic on the plate, too, with things like whipped mascarpone and roasted apricots; beets done four ways; escargot with black-garlic waffle; and halibut with fennel salsa verde.
    Insider Tip: Thursday nights you can get $1 oysters from 6-7 PM, and barman extraordinaire Matthew Biancaniello has set up his own little experimental cocktail lab on the patio on Wednesday nights.

    3626 W. Sunset Blvd.; 323-666-6116

  • Los Feliz: Messhall
    While the sidewalk tables are always packed at Little Dom's around the corner, Messhall's patio is a great alternative for brunch, lunch and dinner. Lined with pine trees, it's a bit more secluded, shaded and spacious; not to mention it's next to the parking lot and not facing the street.
    Must-Order: Smoked corn fritters; oysters on the half shell; Cobb salad; pulled pork sandwich; banana cream pie in a jar. You can get burger and bourbon specials on Monday nights. Happy-hour cocktails? Absolutely.
    Insider Tip: When the busy Greek Theater season kicks in, this is a great spot to start the night, if only because you can catch a shuttle up the hill to the outdoor venue. Find more info here.

    4500 Los Feliz Blvd.; 323-660-6377

  • Downtown LA: Drago Centro
    With all of the Downtown options for outdoor dining, we’re still crazy about the patio at Celestino Drago’s City National Plaza restaurant. Tall buildings shoot up around it, leafy trees are strewn about, and it's the perfect hideaway when the whole Downtown hipster scene gets to be too much. While there are tables inside a glassed-in room, there are loungers and tables in the courtyard outside.
    Must-Order: Octopus with fingerling potatoes, green beans, peppers and olive oil pearls; seared diver scallops with cannellini beans and chile foam; pappardelle with roasted pheasant and morel mushrooms (a classic); and anything from the bar menu, which you can get on the bar patio lounge all day.
    Insider Tip: The best time to go is at the exact moment when all of the suits go back to their offices, so anytime between 2:30-5 PM during the day and after 8 PM for dinner. The 9-to-5ers tend to eat on the earlier side and arrive straight after work.

    525 S. Flower St.; 213-228-8998