Outdoor Recreation

Houston's Best Patios: The 10 Best to Pretend You're On Vacation

With patio weather season in full swing, Houstonians are absolutely spoiled for places to enjoy the day outside. And sometimes all you know is that you're in the mood for a patio, but can't figure out where to go. So how do you choose?

Over the next five weeks, we'll be guiding you around Houston's best patios in several different categories:

  • Unexpected treasures
  • The best places to catch up with friends
  • The best places to bring the kids
  • The best places to drink a glass of wine

And this week's category: The best place to pretend you're on vacation. All of these places are certainly less expensive to dine at than the cost of a plane ticket and a hotel room, so treat yourself to a fake-cation on the cheap (yes, fake-cation).

El Pueblito

Destination: Guatemala

Being inside one of El Pueblito's signature white cabanas on a sunny day, surrounded by lush tropical foliage, is a surefire way to forget you're in swampy Houston for a while.

Cafe Mawal

Destination: Jordan

Is there anything more exotic than dining on freshly cooked Jordanian cuisine and smoking shisha in an authentic Bedouin tent?

Brasserie Max & Julie

Destination: France

The top and bottom decks of this charming brasserie have a way of tricking you (along with the food) into thinking you're living la vie française, even on busy Montrose Boulevard.

Istanbul Grill

Destination: Turkey

For full effect, order a strong Turkish coffee after your meal and stay a while; the friendly service and cozy patio will almost ensure you don't want to leave until you absolutely have to.


Destination: New Orleans

The lovingly rehabbed post-fire patio at Brennan's is the quickest way to the Big Easy. And just like at its big sister in New Orleans, Commander's Palace, you can get 25 cent martinis at lunch during the week. (We recommend indulging on Fridays, if at all possible.)

Pico's Mex-Mex

Destination: Oaxaca

The palapas, the strong margaritas, the great musicians strolling as they serenade diners, and Oaxacan specialties like mole, tamales in banana leaves and cochinita pibil make it seem like you took a quick jaunt south.

Flora & Muse

Destination: Belgium

There's something about the pan-European menu -- French here, Turkish there, high tea and Belgian waffles -- that gives this Flora & Muse the vibe that you're in the crossroads of Europe, perhaps Brussels or Bruges. The invitingly shaded patio that obscures a view of CityCentre and the parking garages helps too.


Destination: Chincoteague

Robb Walsh's favorite little ramshackle oyster bar gives off an impression eerily similar to that of Chincoteague, the Virginia island famous for its oyster shoals, and the landscape surrounding Gilhooley's -- all sea air and scrub -- does this same. (Just don't bring the kids.)

Las Ventanas

Destination: Puerto Vallarta

Just look at the place. It's gorgeous. Of course, you'd expect nothing less from the guys who originally brought us Las Alamedas on Buffalo Bayou. Think a Mexican resort (minus the pool and hotel) at its finest, and you have Las Ventanas.

Cedar Creek

Destination: Austin

Sure, it's only right up the road. But you can essentially capture the same manufactured quirk of modern-day Austin along the tiny bayou and rolling landscape at Cedar Creek, where the drinks are good even if the food isn't.

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Katharine Shilcutt