The Guide to Al Fresco Dining In Los Angeles

Lucques | Photo: Lucques, Facebook


Los Angeles has no shortage of restaurants for al fresco dining—from hotels to rooftops, oceanfront and urban sidewalk cafes. Here are 12 ground floor restaurants, from cozy to casual chic and fine dining, with very special - and mostly hidden - open air patios.

Baltaire | Photo: Kristin Teig/Baltaire

Baltaire



This modern steakhouse in Brentwood checks all the boxes for business lunch, date night, and family brunch. Wood and leather materials in mid-century modern design run throughout Baltaire, with floor to ceiling glass doors separating the patio from the main dining room and lounge. A retractable roof lends itself to the weather. On a perfect evening the stars shine through in the same way the sun casts a cheer during daylight. Steak is the specialty, but there's also a plethora of classic sides, raw bar, caviar, vegetable sides, salads, sandwiches, and decadent brunch items. Of course, if you’re at a steakhouse, you’ve got to order a Martini—or a Bloody Mary. And with the sky beaming overhead, you’ll feel like you’re in the lap of luxury.

Bowery Bungalow



The award for the coziest restaurant in a bungalow must go to this Silver Lake restaurant, located just a block from the hustle and bustle of Sunset Boulevard. Enter the yellow and white trimmed cottage, complete with picket fence and trellis, and note the cozy interior and sweet bar as you walk out to a patio that could be your groovy neighbor’s backyard. A few high and low communal tables mix with single tables and a couch-like set-up amidst lights hanging overhead and in trees. Food from across the Middle East is the draw here. Order a pitcher of sangria, and dishes such as couscous with vegetables, hummus with beef cheek, and fattoush salad, and you’ll want to hang out all night—or all day.

Photo courtesy of Firefly

Firefly



This Studio City establishment is a pioneer of the upscale Valley restaurant scene, having set its roots in 2002—and its patio is still considered among the best in Los Angeles. With no outside signage, Firefly is recognizable by its ivy covered building and valet stand. Once inside, you’ll encounter a long bar and cozy “library” lounge. Here, the patio is the dining room set against a green hillside, complete with a few cabanas that are perfect for a romantic date. Flickering fireplaces, iron light fixtures, and back bar add to the alluring ambience. A retractable roof exposes the sky for brunch and dinner. The seasonal California “wine country” menu from chef Perry Pollaci (Food Network’s “Cutthroat Kitchen”) with grilled meat, fresh fish, pasta, risotto, and market vegetables changes frequently. So does the creative craft cocktail list with house made infused spirits. A must-get starter for brunch or dinner is the simply addictive crispy Manzanilla olives with crème fraiche. And don’t miss the brioche bread pudding for two with maple and heath crunch with a side of chocolate ice cream. Enjoy live jazz on Monday evenings with a fine glass of French or California wine.

Gjelina | Photo: Chris Goldberg, Flickr

Gjelina



You can’t miss the design of this modern wood building, located on a corner on Abbott Kinney in Venice. Pass through a spirited dining room and bar designed with reclaimed wood, and into a cozy brick patio that includes eclectic features such as a small couch, old-fashioned lamps, and a fire pit, placed among vintage tables and chairs. Gjelina is known for chef/owner Travis Letts' vegetable driven sharing plates and wood-fired pizza. This is a place to people watch, relax and hang out over a mimosa and house-smoked salmon toast for brunch; a mushroom, truffle, goat cheese pizza at lunch or dinner; and shared small plates like smashed English peas and burrata toast, roasted artichoke, and pork and duck terrine with house-made pickles. There’s a creative list of cocktails, plus craft beers, and select wines with global appeal. Do not miss the warm date cake with whiskey caramel and ginger gelato for dessert. Getting a seat on the patio might be a wait, but it’s worth it.

Gracias Madre | Photo: VMC Architecture

Gracias Madre



California style mixes with Mexican flair at this organic, plant-based, Mexican inspired restaurant in West Hollywood. The result is one of the most enduringly stunning patios in Los Angeles. The indoor/outdoor flow is reminiscent of a luxurious casita with hand-painted tiles, antique mirrors, linen couches, iron lanterns, and colorful jars and vases. Sit back on the olive tree shaded patio and peruse the menus for brunch, lunch, or dinner. Although it’s plant-based cuisine, carnivores have no trouble forgoing meat because the flavors are so rich and vibrant. The cocktail list is among the most unique in L.A., including “High Vibes” drinks made with Cannabidiol Oil (CBD) extracted from the Cannabis plant and “snow cones” made with tequila and mezcal.

Hinoki & the Bird | Photo: Hinoki & the Bird

Hinoki & The Bird



Housed on the ground floor of a luxury condominium complex, this Century City restaurant feels a bit like a hideaway as you enter a curved driveway and enter through a somewhat hidden door. The stunning dining room flows easily into an airy 120-seat patio with sleek woods mixing with denim and greenery. One look at the menu and it’s clear that Japanese and California cooking meet playfully. The lobster roll accented with green curry and Thai basil on a charcoal roll might just be the best in town; while the black cod cooked over hinoki lemon-scented wood is a classic. Sip a Miyagi Mule cocktail prepared with lemongrass, ginger steeped vodka and cucumber wasabi boba, and just imagine you’re on a holiday somewhere in the Far East.

Lucques | Photo: Lucques, Facebook

Lucques



The concept of refined dining where the conversation stays at a normal pitch is not too common these days, so a nod must be made to Lucques in West Hollywood, which is approaching its 20-year anniversary. The fact that it has a beautiful, peaceful courtyard just seals it. James Beard Award-winning duo, Suzanne Goin and partner Caroline Styne (2018 Outstanding Restaurateur) are behind this landmark restaurant that also launched a.o.c. (another lovely al fresco patio), Tavern and The Larder. A former carriage house, the restaurant space retains its original exposed brick walls. The first thing you may notice is a large fireplace fronting the bar. Pass by white-cloth tables and booths as you make your way through open French doors to the intimate patio/courtyard where the tall, stucco walls are covered with green ivy. Peruse the wine list and note the impressive French collection that pairs perfectly with Goin's California/Mediterranean cuisine. To start, try the grilled asparagus with white beans, morcilla, fried egg and green garlic gremolata; followed by braised beef short ribs with sautéed greens, cipollini and horseradish cream; and top it off with rhubarb tart for dessert.

Redbird



In a city with a relatively short history compared to most parts of the world, acclaimed chef/owner Neal Fraser built this Downtown Los Angeles restaurant in the rectory of one of the only 19th century structures in Los Angeles—the Cathedral of Saint Vibiana. As you enter Redbird, there’s a lounge and wrap-around bar, but venture further to find a spectacular courtyard dining room with a retractable roof that is open for nice weather—and in Los Angeles, that’s most of the time. During the evening, there’s something magical about peering through such a large space to see the stars sparkling so clearly. Nicely spaced tables sit among booths in hues of pink, with orange and black accents, with trees interspersed throughout. Open for weekend brunch and dinner, the menu is a tribute to modern American cuisine, with a fine selection of meats and creative vegetable options. The global wine list is one to take time to peruse.

Salazar | Photo: Salazar

Salazar



Located adjacent to the L.A. River between Silver Lake and the Golden State Freeway, this Mexican barbecue restaurant was built in a converted auto body shop in an area called Frogtown. Situated on a corner with a simulated desert-like design, Salazar is a fun, unpretentious eatery that sits almost entirely outside with tables and colorful chairs placed on dirt, amidst succulents and pergola. A covered bar sits undercover with a handful of tables. Meat, including a 24 oz ribeye for two, and fish are cooked on a mesquite grill, and tacos are served on house made tortillas. Vegetarians will love the garden plate with portabella mushrooms and eggplant. The weekend starts on Friday with brunch served three days a week. Cocktails, including those made with agua fresca, will induce dreams of vacations in Mexico, as will the Micheladas, craft beers, and Mexican sodas. No question this is a place you’ll want to hang around all day and night.

Sawyer | Photo: Sawyer

Sawyer



Take one step into this Silver Lake hotspot and you’ll feel the buzz in the air as people converse at the marble communal high tops or chat by the bar. Partners Beau Laughlin, Brett Cranston and Jay Milliken designed the rustic chic space with hand-painted walls, flowered wallpaper, wood floors, floor to ceiling windows, and sea blue tiles. The interior gives way to a relaxing, airy patio with wood beams and lights overhead and a striking tile floor below. Block tables and modern Windsor chairs form a U-shape banquette, centered by a sleek fireplace, against a garden of bougainvillea and olive and birch trees. Order a craft cocktail like the St. Augustin with vodka, aperol, watermelon-cinnamon cordial and a twist of lemon. Along with the seafood-inspired menu, with such dishes as crab mac n’ cheese, Maine lobster roll, and sunny-side hash for brunch and dinner, you’ll feel like you’re on a coastal holiday.