Rest of the Best 2014: Houston's Top 10 Patios

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With unusually cool and sunny April weather, who can resist lunching on a patio and soaking up some sun? This time of year, it's usually getting too hot to bear, but we've been incredibly lucky to have had sunshine and cooler temperatures the past few weeks.

For me, better weather means lunch under the shade of an umbrella, dinner under the stars and possibly some bocce and stiff drinks at one of these spots, which feature the ten best patios in the city.

10. The Grove Nestled in the heart of Downtown in Discovery Green, The Grove is an ideal place to take in trees and skyscrapers alike. It's a popular wedding and party venue, thanks to the many private rooms available and the first- and second-floor patios with views of the park and Downtown Houston. The second-floor patio houses an herb garden for the restaurant, which serves distinctively Houstonian food with an emphasis on Southern cuisine and products from local purveyors.

9. Cedar Creek The sign above the entrance reads "Welcome to the Hill Country," and the vibe on the sprawling patio in the Heights is definitely one of Hill Country cool, with live music, local beer and a little bit of that funky devil-may-care attitude that makes Austin and the surrounding areas so fun. It's a little bit country and a little bit city all rolled into one great party locale where folks come out to celebrate everything from Halloween to crawfish season.

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8. Cottonwood Relative newcomer Cottonwood is just what Garden Oaks needed: Part bar, part restaurant and part epic patio filled with live music, giant Jenga, bocce balls and dogs galore. The bar has a great selection of local craft beer, and the restaurant serves one of the best burgers in town. But who cares about all that when you can hang out on the patio at one of Cottonwood's many events and party the evening away with kids, dogs, food trucks, vendors and as much fun as the unassuming spot can cram into the welcoming space!

7. Boheme The first several times I hung out at Boheme, I discovered a new branch of the patio on every occasion. The interior space is cozy and moody, but the outside seating area is positively sprawling, and on most weekend evenings the entire place is packed. Strings of lights and any number of random old films projected on a back wall outside make for a warm, inviting atmosphere, while the food and drinks make you want to stay a good long while and soak up as much of the hip ambiance as possible.

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6. The Tasting Room at King's Harbor The tagline for The Tasting Room is "A comfortable place to get serious about wine." Emphasis on comfortable. The Kingwood location overlooks King's Harbor, a waterfront village with beautiful views of Lake Houston. Sip some bubbly while you watch the sun set over the lake, or partake in a wine class out on the patio and try to pay attention to the instructor instead of the wildlife and recreation out on the lake.

5. Batanga Arguably the prettiest outdoor dining space Downtown, Batanga's back patio can make you forget you're in a bustling urban area, and instead think you're tucked into a tapas restaurant in Spain. The 3,600-square-foot space is lit with string lights and dotted with red umbrellas for a charming atmosphere during the day and a more sultry, romantic vibe at night.

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4. Brooklyn Athletic Club S'mores over a fire pit in the winter, croquet in the summer, and always a truck serving as a bar with cold beer and tasty cocktails. These are just a few of the reasons why Brooklyn Athletic Club has one of the best outdoor dining spaces in town. During nice weather, every bocce court on the patio will be taken, and young drinkers and families alike will unite in cheering on a favorite competitor. In cooler weather, fire pits and heaters make the space warm and cozy and ideal for roasting marshmallows or sharing an intimate meal by the fire.

3. Brenner's on the Bayou Amid the concrete and asphalt of Houston, it can be difficult to remember that we've got our very own, sometimes lovely, body of water snaking through the city: Buffalo Bayou. And what better place to enjoy it than at Brenner's on the Bayou, which affords diners a view of a particularly lush area of the bayou? It's surrounded by greenery and tropical flowers, and the upstairs Blue Bar is furnished with inviting white sofas and warm fire pits, perfect for whiling away a relaxing evening.

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2. Backstreet Cafe The inspiration behind Backstreet Cafe's patio was a verdant New Orleans garden, and within the confines of the vine-covered walls and beneath the tall trees, you can almost imagine that you're sitting pretty in the Big Easy. Even near the busy intersection of Shepard and Allen Parkway, the patio behind the 1930s-era bungalow provides a reprieve from the hustle and bustle of the city--and wonderful, carefully crafted food and cocktails to boot.

1. El Pueblito The patio at El Pueblito is like an outdoor oasis in the Houston heat, all white awnings and white cabana curtains that billow in the wind. The atmosphere can make you believe--if only for a few hours--that you're not in the heart of Houston, but rather a tropical paradise filled with palm trees and margaritas. The whole effect is cooling, even in the heat of summer, and the combined effect of the great patio and great food and drinks will offer up a mini vacation of sorts, even if, unfortunately, you have to go back to work the next day.

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