Houston's Best New Patios for Dining and Drinking Al Fresco

The lush outdoor dining area at Cafe Azur.
The lush outdoor dining area at Cafe Azur. Photo by Mai Pham

Springtime in Houston is all about cashing in on the great weather, and whether you're in the mood for a chill happy hour, a see-and-be-seen weekend, a quick burger with the family or a special date night, these new outdoor spaces fit the bill.  All of these restaurants and bars have opened or debuted new outdoor spaces in the past year.  Some welcome dogs. Some offer live music. But all are al fresco hotspots.  

Cafe Azur, 4315 Montrose

A lush green courtyard, with a splash more greenery provided by the balcony, makes for an afternoon or evening spent summoning the likes of the French Riviera at this charming Montrose cafe helmed by chef Sidney Degaine. The restaurant has only been open since October 2016 but is already well known for its branzino carpaccio and sous-vide 'perfect' egg. You'll find both of those popular menu items on the new lunch menu, launching on Tuesday, April 4, along with tartines, salads and more.

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The swanky new outdoor dining area at La Table.
Photo by Jenny Antill

La Table, 1800 Post Oak

This impeccable French eatery in the Galleria, which features two mainstays— Château, the fine-dining room upstairs, and Marché, the more casual area downstairs— has also just debuted a newly-expanded outdoor patio (off of Marché) with ample shade and a vibe meant to evoke a Provencal garden. Add in a midday flatbread and a glass of champagne and it all sounds very soothing, especially considering the traffic nightmare you'll likely have to endure to get to your lunch date here.

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Outdoor televisions at Henderson Heights.
Photo by Gwendolyn Knapp
Henderson Heights, 908 Henderson

This unfussy hidden gem off of Washington does double duty as a neighborhood watering hole and casual eatery with a full bar, a beer list that runs fairly deep and a menu that includes burgers, spinach dip, a steak night on Wednesdays, cheap tacos on Sunday afternoons, and $5 snacks during weekday happy hour.  The yard has four flat screen televisions for games and events and a booming PA system for taking in a side of classic rock with a cold one. Plus, dogs are welcome.

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Family-friendly dining for the wild animals in your pack.
Photo courtesy of Hopdoddy Burger Bar
Hopdoddy Rice, 5510 Morningside, Ste 100

So you've got the kids and they want to run around like a bunch of maniacs during lunch? Well, you're in luck. The newest location of this Austin burger and queso empire features a substantial outdoor eating area with picnic tables and high-tops affixed with umbrellas, plus enough room for kids to act like kids without causing a stir.  The menu features ample selections for the family, including classic burgers, chicken sandwiches, a cult-favorite ahi sandwich that tastes like a tempura sushi roll, fries, adult beverages, and milkshakes for all ages.
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Don't be fooled. The yard at Presidio packs out on weekends.
Photo by Gwendolyn Knapp

Presidio, 911 W 11th

This popular new Heights eatery features two outdoor dining spaces including a covered patio in front and a backyard for relaxing with a cocktail and some live music, all the while noshing on Southern eats from former Pax Americana chef Adam Dorris. Menu items range from beer-friendly pairings such as burgers and chicken wings to locally-sourced lighter fare including whole fish and intriguing vegetable sides of the roasted carrot and crispy Brussels sprout variety.  Now open for brunch, lunch and dinner.

Grab a hotdog and take in the sunshine at Rico's.
Photo by Cuc Lam

Rico's, 401 Gray

Open seven days a week with a menu of locally-sourced snack foods, from breakfast tacos to Akaushi beef burgers to soft-serve ice cream along with beer and boozes, this Midtown munchies shack features one of the biggest new seating areas in Houston—mainly because it opens right up onto Bagby Park.  Check out the happy hour from 3 to 7 p.m. with $5 frozen sake and more drink and food specials.  Open daily for lunch, dinner and brunch, and you can bring your pup.

Upstairs features balcony seating for 60 in Rice Village
Photo by Julie Soefer
Upstairs, 2356 Rice

The recently opened "Upstairs" bar above Hungry's offers bar bites including pizzas, sriracha chicken wings and smoked salmon dip, as well as a full cocktail menu with seating for 60 on a chic outdoor terrace. Happy hour is Monday to Friday, 4 to 7 p.m. Brunch is served Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The restaurant will feature a free tasting on Thursday, April 6, from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. with an open house, snacks, drinks, and door prizes including gift cards. RSVP required.

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Il Giardino is all about luxe, but affordable, alfresco dining.
Photo courtesy of Hotel Granduca
Il Giardino at Hotel Granduca, 1080 Uptown Park

Il Giardino, Hotel Granduca's new outdoor dining venue, is a casual alternative to the luxury hotel's Ristorante Cavour, and is now officially open with a menu inspired by executive chef Enrico Glaudo's upbringing in Italy. Dishes here won't break the bank, with antipasti, salads, panini, shareable plates that include toasted parmesan pizza bread, Fritto Misto or fried calamari, and a cured meat board costing mostly between $10 and $20.

The eatery rolls out a specialty dinner on National Beer Day, April 7, with a four-course meal paired with Italian craft beer from Birradamare, beginning at 7 p.m. Dishes that night include a salted cod mousse beignet, hand-rolled fusilli pasta and Barolo-braised lamb osso buco. $75 per person. 713-418-1104 for reservations.

Also make sure to keep an eye out for new outdoor drinking havens Heights Bier Garden and King's Biergarten, both of which will debut in the Heights in April.
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Gwendolyn Knapp is the food editor at the Houston Press. A sixth-generation Floridian, she is still torn as to whether she likes smoked fish dip or queso better.