With COVID-19 hospitalizations continuing to climb and ICU beds and ventilators in short supply, some people are retreating to dining behavior from last year.
Every restaurant I’ve visited requires staff to continue to wear masks, and many are recommending, if not yet requiring, diners wear masks when not eating and drinking at their tables. And a recent poll from the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research showed more than half of Americans favor mask mandates for dining at restaurants. Such a mandate is illegal in Texas.
I, like many diners I’ve spoken with, am once again eating almost exclusively on patios. Good news: There are a lot of great patios at Austin restaurants. There are also some great breweries with food trucks and outdoor seating. Below are 25 of my favorite choices for al fresco dining.
Austin Beer Garden Brewing. 1305 W. Oltorf St. 512-298-2242, theabgb.com. Puffy pizzas, fat sandwiches and fresh salads are on tap along with beer on the patio.
Austin Eastciders. 1530 Barton Springs Road. 512-893-7000, austineastciders.com. Smart bar food and a selection of local ciders can be enjoyed on this restaurant’s patio and deck.
Better Half. 406 Walsh St. 512-645-0786, betterhalfbar.com. All-day dining from a creative, chef-driven menu and all-night drinking, as well, if you want.
Birdie’s. 2944 E. 12th St. birdiesaustin.com. Rely on the flavors of the Mediterranean and a natural wine list to keep you cool at this new counter-service addition to the East Austin dining scene.
Clark’s Oyster Bar. 1200 W. Sixth St. 512-297-2525, clarksoysterbar.com. Yacht club meets Manhattan oyster bar at this MML Hospitality jewel box of a restaurant ringed with outdoor seating that now spills into the parking lot.
Contigo. 2027 Anchor Lane. 512-614-2260, contigotexas.com. A restaurant in the city that feels like a South Texas ranch. Has an argument as best patio in Austin, and the dining room is open air.
Easy Tiger. Multiple locations. easytigerusa.com. This bake shop and restaurant offers expansive outdoor areas at its East, South and North Austin locations.
El Alma. 1025 Barton Springs Road. 512-609-8923, elalmacafe.com. Quesadillas and a margarita on the rooftop here: one of the best ways to spend happy hour in Austin.
Huckleberry. 2340 W Braker Lane. 512-900-5818, huckleberrytx.com. Crunch into a fried shrimp po’ boy from this Gulf seafood truck while dining in Circle Brewing’s parking lot, which also features smash burgers from Ike-N-Aves.
Jacoby’s Restaurant and Mercantile. 3235 E. Cesar Chavez St. 512-366-5808, jacobysaustin.com. The owner of Jacoby’s grew up on his family’s ranch, and that sense of style and expansiveness is brought to this pastoral space overlooking the Colorado River.
Justine’s. 4710 E. Fifth St. 512-385-2900, justines1937.com. Austin’s saucy grand dame of patios turns into a late-night garden party almost nightly. Their COVID-19 protocols have given me comfort at each visit.
Kinda Tropical. 3501 E. Seventh St. 512-373-8430, kindatropical.com. This restaurant-bar is great for all-day hangs and snacking on dishes like a jackfruit barbecue sandwich and chicken wings with a, well, kinda tropical flare.
Launderette. 2115 Holly St. 512-382-1599, launderetteaustin.com. Consistent executions of global flavors are served at this restaurant that has expanded its patio seating this year. It was thwarted by state government officials earlier this month when the restaurant tried to institute a vaccination requirement for indoor diners.
Lenoir. 1807 South First St. 512-215-9778, lenoirrestaurant.com. The wine garden at one of Austin360’s Top 10 restaurants feels like an outdoor version of the restaurant’s dining room.
Licha’s Cantina. 1306 E. Sixth St. 512-480-5960, lichascantina.com. Rustic charm, abuela-style home cooking and great cocktails can be found at this bungalow with outdoor seating out front and around back.
Loro. 2115 S. Lamar Blvd. 512-916-4858, loroaustin.com. A frozen sake with some Asian-inspired smoked meats make for a unique take on an al fresco Texas barbecue experience.
Lou’s. 1900 E. Cesar Chavez St. 512-660-5171, lousaustin.com. Rotisserie meats, burgers and more can be ordered at the window and eaten on this patio.
Meanwhile Brewing. 3901 Promontory Point Drive. 512-308-3659, meanwhilebeer.com. Sample an array of IPAs on the expansive grounds of this Southeast Austin brewery while dining on smoked meats from Distant Relatives or big, puffy pizzas from Dough Boys.
Nixta Taqueria. 2512 E. 12th St. 512-551-3855, nixtataqueria.com. One of Austin’s best Mexican restaurants upped its outdoor game considerably during the pandemic, and guests can now enjoy sublime tacos and tostadas (along with beer and wine) at outdoor seating areas on both sides of the restaurant.
Odd Duck. 1201 S. Lamar Blvd. 512-433-6521, oddduckaustin.com. The patio at one of Austin’s best restaurants can be climate controlled to fit the elements, and it offers a nice contrast to the mood inside.
Olive & June. 3411 Glenview Ave. 512467-9898, oliveandjune-austin.com. There are multiple outdoor seating areas at this mod Italian treehouse that serves good homemade pasta and an intriguing list of Italian wines and aperitifs.
Perla’s. 1400 S. Congress Ave. 512-291-7300, perlasaustin.com. Arguably Austin’s best patio, whether you’re just having oysters and white wine or going big with a bold red and steak.
Polvos. 2004 South First St. St.512-441-5446; 360 Nueces St. 512-494-4064, polvosaustin.com. Old Austin vibes, pitchers of strong margaritas and sizzling platters of fajitas at the original, with a slightly more cosmopolitan feel downtown.
Sour Duck Market. 1814 E. MLK Blvd. 512-394-5776, sourduckmarket.com. The family-friendly patio is great for cocktails, baked goods, sandwiches, seasonal salads and chill neighborhood vibes.
Summer House on Music Lane. 1101 Music Lane. 512-442-5341, summerhouseonmusiclane.com. The restaurant at the Hotel Magdalena designed by Lake Flato Architects blends aesthetics of the Hill Country with a refined backyard cookout of a menu.