Patio dining in Houston isn't quite the rage it is in more temperate cities. In fact, even cities like Chicago -- which arguably enjoys the same amount, perhaps even less, of patio-appropriate weather as we do -- seem to clamor for outdoor dining more than Houston does. Despite that fact, we are in the midst of ideal patio weather and Houston has no shortage of enjoyable outdoor space in which you may enjoy the next 17.5 days before we find ourselves in 90 degree-plus weather once again.
With glorious, short-lived patio weather in mind, here are our top 10 (give or take) patios in Houston:
10. The Creeks
Everyone in Houston has thoughts on the Creek family of restaurants -- good, bad or otherwise. Luckily for Houston, we have four to choose from. Since no two Houstonians can seem to agree on which one is best, we lumped all four here. Because all of the Creeks sit within a five-mile radius of one another, we've made it easy for you by picking all of them. For a more laid-back social vibe, we like the simplicity of Onion Creek or the so-called Austin-esque, sprawling hodgepodge that is Cedar Creek. If you prefer to BYOB, Dry Creek's small front patio is the way to go. If you can't be bothered with crushed granite gravel on your nice shoes, Canyon Creek is a far tidier if more stark patio.
9. El Pueblito
Surely you've seen the curious little cabanas and banana trees on Richmond. It's a just another random sight-- this oasis of white and green -- on the patchwork strip of Richmond home to rebuilt Talk of the Town porn shop and just blocks from the Menil. Stepping onto the greenery-draped patio, we wouldn't be surprised if you forgot you were in Montrose at all, even if it is just for a moment.
With shopping, restaurants, bars and even a theater ringing its central green,The Woodlands Market Street offers something for most everyone. That central green area really is the highlight here and to that end, Jasper's and 1252 Tapas both offer enjoyable views on their patios. While we prefer 1252's fare to the curiously stacking-obsessed platings at Jasper's -- seriously, go look at its Facebook page -- you can't deny that Jasper's slate- and steel-lined patio is stellar.
At a just under three months old, this is the youngest restaurant on our list. Not content with the perfectly acceptable patio inherited from Zimm's Little Deck, Brooklyn Athletic Club has gone full bore, adding a full array of lawn games and a beer bar out back while retouching the front deck as well. We can't wait to spend spring camped out on Richmond with a pint.
There is a solid reason Backstreet Cafe always finds itself on lists like these. While the elegant old house is nothing to scoff at and the menu is as solid as ever, it's the patio that draws the attention. The outdoor seating is as classically beautiful as the people you see dining there. For our money, skip the weekend circus and stop in during the week for a more low-key look at a Houston tradition.
Discovery Green does double duty here, serving as the backdrop to two exceptional patio spaces at two vastly different eateries just yards apart. For casual bite to eat, The Lake House is steps away from the activities and playgrounds of Discovery Green. For a more refined patio space, The Grove offers a small front patio with a view that actually exceeds the tree-shrouded rooftop deck. Both patios have tables offering exceptional views of the highly underappreciated east side of the downtown skyline, which has changed dramatically in the past few years.
Overlooking the serene Lake Houston in Kingwood, The Tasting Room's patio has a view unavailable anywhere else in town. The brick paver patio lined in clean black steel fencing offers a peaceful surrounding to enjoy a glass of wine and dinner over the lake. Just don't go expecting the exact menu found at the Uptown Park or River Oaks locations, as each menu varies. You can still get the truffle fries, though, and they are a sure winner.
We are suckers for a New Orleans courtyard-style patio, and Brennan's rebuilt patio is a great example. The central oak tree may need another decade or two to fill out, but considering Brennan's stood for over 40 years before succumbing to a fire during Hurricane Ike, we have a feeling that tree will be shading customers for years to come.
With the addition of chef de cuisine Amanda McGraw in the kitchen, things are looking even brighter for one of Houston's sunniest spaces. Sharing a spot with a nursery and landscape architecture firm, it is with good reason that the restaurant boasts one of the most beautiful and unique outdoor spaces in the city. Nighttime is looking up as well, as Tiny Boxwood's has added dinner service and have begun screening films on the grass terrace every Saturday evening.
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Now helmed by executive chef Jonathan Jones, Monarch is still a see-and-be-seen hot spot with tongue-in-cheek decor that is unmatched in Houston. The sweeping canopy patio offers views of Mecom Fountain and the 100-year-old oak trees lining Main Street. At night, the patio is illuminated by strands of red lights, adding to the sex appeal of the already swanky patio.