We have a right to be smug: it's almost always outdoor dining season in L.A. As a result, we have perhaps the best selection in the country of places to dine al fresco. But amidst this wealth, some patios, decks and gardens truly stand out. To help you navigate, here's our list of the prettiest, most convivial, and some downright stunning places to dine in the fresh air.
10. Gracias Madre
Located near the end (or beginning) of Melrose Avenue in West Hollywood, Mexican vegan restaurant Gracias Madre is a gorgeous space. Previously an antique store, the room is awash with clean white paint, making its high, vaulted ceilings and light wood floors feel sleek but inviting. The outdoor patio, anchored by a roaring fireplace, more than doubles the restaurant's seating capacity, and colorful cushions, stylish tilework and cascading, potted plants make the whole place feel like something out of a high-design Mexican home-decor magazine. When the evenings get chilly a blazing fireplace in the center of the patio warms things up, and pretty details such as shrines to the Virgin make it feel like more than just a garden. What to order: Organic margaritas and sweet potato flautas. 8905 Melrose Avenue, West Hollywood; (323) 978-2170. — B.R.
You enter Maré by walking through Greenspan’s Grilled Cheese — all the way through it, along the counter and back through the office/storage area. There’s a kind of trespasser’s glee in this, the same nerve that’s tickled by convoluted speakeasy entrances, and there is a magic to traipsing through a drab and cluttered restaurant backside, pushing open a door that looks as if it leads to a walk-in cooler, and finding yourself in a wonderland of twinkling lights and greenery, a kind of perpetual garden party. The dining room is a small enclosed patio, bifurcated by a line of potted lime trees. The surrounding walls drip with jasmine vines, and lights are strung overhead. It’s a beautiful setting. 7465 Melrose Ave., Fairfax; (323) 592-3226, maremelrose.com —B.R.
8. Chateau Marmont:
Believe the hype. Lounging on the vintage furniture arranged around Chateau Marmont's garden terrace will make a person feel like a 1930s-era Hollywood movie star. On any given day, movie producers, break-out young screenwriters and gorgeous starlets are likely dining — and schmoozing — at this noted establishment. And, most regular folk want in on the action: the two French girls vacationing in L.A. and eating ice cream, the mother-and-daughter duo asking the waiter a string of questions and the lady sitting alone wearing sunglasses at a table for two. Although the lively Bar Marmont is down the hill, the restaurant's bar has its own spirited following for those who like a little nosh with their late-night cocktails. What to order: spaghetti Bolognese. 8221 Sunset Boulevard, West Hollywood; (323) 656-1010. — J.K.
Spago remains one of the best spots in town for power dining and celebrity sightings, and no place is more convivial for Beverly Hills revelry than the front brick-floored patio, where you can dine on white tablecloths under trees festooned with twinkling lights. The year-round patio is covered when necessary, and heat lamps are always on hand in case you're chilly. Service is about as formal as L.A. gets, but you'll find patrons here in everything from flip flops to fur coats. What to order: Veal filet mignon tartar with smoked mascarpone. 176 N. Canon Drive, Beverly Hills; (310) 385-0880. — B.R.
6. Malibu Farm Restaurant and Bar
What better view could you ask for than the Pacific ocean in all its glory, a swarm of surfers riding the waves, and a vintage pier? Because that's what you see from Malibu Farm Restaurant and Bar's deck, a view that's blinding in its glory. The whole restaurant sports a nautical-chic, gorgeous, whitewashed vintage vibe punctuated by modern elements that you often have to look at twice to notice. Watch tourists take selfies and feel the ocean breeze whip through your hair. What to order: a rum swizzle and a Santa Barbara spot prawn corn dog. 23000 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu; (310) 456-8820. — B.R.
The Eveleigh is like a garden party oasis in the midst of West Hollywood, and the barn-like back room, which is actually a patio, is one of the loveliest parties in town. Owners were smart enough to install two bars, and one of them is at the back of the patio, where you can order stellar cocktails and look out over a stunning view of the city sprawled out in all its jewel-like magic. What to order: house-made charcuterie. 8752 W. Sunset Boulevard, West Hollywood; (424) 239-1630. — B.R.
4. Cliff's Edge
Standing on traffic-y, twisty Sunset Boulevard, you might not suspect that Cliff's Edge offers a hidden oasis of calm on its back, two-level patio. In the center, a massive Ficus tree holds court, surrounded by oversized, empty clam shells and candelabras, of all things. The tables form a horseshoe around the tree, and the second level of seats looks like a long hut perched above, with bamboo shooting up and a pond in the back. In the far corner, the chefs work behind a window into the kitchen, and toward the front is a little service bar, which transforms into an oyster station every Thursday night, when from 6-7 p.m., the bivalves are $1. Buckets of champagne, piles of lemons and platters of crushed ice and oysters appear alongside specially created oyster-friendly cocktails. What to order: oysters. 3626 W Sunset Boulevard, Silver Lake; (323) 666-6116. — J.K.
Step inside AOC and out its wide-open side doors for a little taste of California Wine Country or maybe the European countryside. The restaurant spills out into the patio, an adjoining room with three walls and no roof. There are two family-style booths set back into tiled walls on each end and cute country-style windows all around. But the best view is up — at the restaurant's balcony, its foliage creeping along the edges of the roof or just straight above at the expansive sky. Serving both lunch and dinner, Suzanne Goin and Caroline Styne's wine bar also, unsurprisingly, boasts an extensive wine list of several pages, which arrives on a clipboard. What to order: clams in sherry and garlic with toast. 8700 W. 3rd Street, Beverly Grove; (310) 859-9859. — J.K.
Terrine's white-walled, burnished mirror–bedecked interior would be outshone by the gorgeous patio if it weren't for the fact that the patio's light-spangled beauty is visible from everywhere in the restaurant, and its central Javanese bishopwood tree is basically the main design component of the whole space. The tree looms like a benevolent giant, making Terrine feel like an elegant brasserie that has been transplanted into some kind of magical forest. The tables under twinkling lights are a delight, and a lounge area off to one side provides a spot where you might sit with friends and nibble on charcuterie and partake in the drinks of barman Ryan Wainwright. What to order: charcuterie. 8265 Beverly Blvd., Beverly Grove; (323) 746-5130. — B.R.
1. Nobu Malibu
The view from Nobu Malibu is magnificent. Tables run along the front balcony of the restaurant, which rises above the sandy beach and lapping waves. Every view is an ocean view — to the north, south and west — and every hour is the right hour for a visit. At lunch, the light blue sky rests on the brilliant blue sea. People stand and sit on the edge of the Japanese garden, listening to soulful samba, waiting for the doors to open at noon. Come for dinner and catch one of the world's most beautiful sunsets. What to order: Tai sweet shiso with red snapper and crispy shiitake mushrooms. 22706 E. Pacific Coast Highay, Malibu; 310-317-9140. — J.K.
Editor's Note: This list has been revised to replace Bucato with Mare; the former closed and the latter opened after this list was published.
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