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 in the open air. 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, 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. —Besha Rodell
8905 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood; (323) 978-2170, graciasmadreweho.com.
Elysian has gone through a number of incarnations, but the glory of that patio has never changed. Given that the restaurant is located in a mostly industrial area next to the L.A. River, the charming enclosed outdoor area feels a bit like a hidden jewel. The faux-industrial look is done perfectly here, the bare bulbs and aluminum siding offset by plenty of greenery. Right now the restaurant is only open Wednesday to Saturday evenings, but that just means it's perfect for romance. —Katherine Spiers
2806 Clearwater St., Elysian Valley; (323) 522-6625, elysianla.com.
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, 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. —Jessica Koslow
8221 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood; (323) 656-1010, chateaumarmont.com/therestaurant.php.
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. —B.R.
176 N. Canon Drive, Beverly Hills; (310) 385-0880, wolfgangpuck.com/dining/spago/.
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. —B.R.
23000 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu; (310) 456-8820, malibu-farm.com.
The Eveleigh is like a garden-party oasis in the midst of West Hollywood, and the barnlike back room, which is actually a patio, is one of the loveliest parties in town. The 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. —B.R.
8752 W. Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood; (424) 239-1630, theeveleigh.com.
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 6-8 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. —J.K.
3626 W. Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake; (323) 666-6116, cliffsedgecafe.com.
Step inside A.O.C. 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. —J.K.
8700 W. Third St., Beverly Grove; (310) 859-9859, aocwinebar.com.
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SHOW ME HOW
This will be the coolest outdoor eatery downtown this summer — and given downtown's current burning-hot hipness, that is a bold statement. But I stand by it. The setting is just too charming and perfectly L.A.: herb planters, murals and $15 cocktails? It's our city in a nutshell. —K.S.
907 E. Third St., downtown. (323) 849-0480, manuela-la.com.
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. —J.K.
22706 E. Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu; (310) 317-9140, noburestaurants.com/malibu/experience.