16. Pax Americana, 4319 Montrose
By now, most people know that chef Adam Dorris's food at Pax Americana has earned a great deal of acclaim. Almost hand-in-hand with the praise have been comments that it can get pretty loud inside when the place is packed — and the popular restaurant is packed almost every night. However, there are not one but two different peaceful seating areas outside. Choose between sidewalk dining along Montrose or the covered patio, where there are also sofas for lounging around with cocktails in hand.
15. El Big Bad, 419 Travis
Get a bird's-eye view of downtown from the third story balcony. One side overlooks Prairie; the other Travis. This is a fine place to enjoy one of the cocktails featuring the infused tequilas El Big Bad is known for, featuring fruit, spice, peppers or even vegetables. Nosh on tortilla chips dipped in one of the many inventive salsas, or get down on the Mexican Roadside Chicken — a half-chicken marinated with ancho chile, baking spice, citrus and garlic.
14. The Shack, 16602 Cypress-Rosehill, Cypress
Not every cool patio is inside the Loop. The Shack in Cypress is almost 100 percent patio and yard. Who stays inside to eat? The big, brick-paved covered patio provides a congenial, funky space for dining on outrageous burgers. There's a play area for kids, and in the evenings during good weather, there are live musicians on the backyard stage.
13. Tony Mandola's Gulf Coast Kitchen, 1212 Waugh
Tony Mandola's has made some strides toward modernizing its fare a bit while not messing too much with the standards that have brought regulars in for decades. The restaurant also has a lovely patio to enjoy them on. Enjoy hearty gumbo, fried oysters and fresh Gulf fish in the serene setting, replete with a big stone fountain right in the center.
12. Ibiza, 2450 Louisiana
Ibiza is one of the most underrated, overlooked and consistent dining establishments in Houston. The sunny patio is a very quick jaunt for downtown workers and a good excuse not to seek lunch in the tunnels. The lot isn't huge, but bring a little cash for the valet to make parking a breeze — a rarity in Midtown. Once you're seated, enjoy traditional favorites like the simply prepared fresh fish of the day (salt, pepper, lemon and olive oil is all that's needed) and the funny-sounding (but seriously tasty) Trailer Park Gumbo, which includes a scoop of tangy potato salad right there in the roux.
11. Galveston Restaurants
Think of it this way: Galveston is Houston's beachfront patio. Why not take a little drive and dine somewhere that overlooks the Gulf? Here are just a few ideas: Enjoy a view of the boats swaying in the harbor at Number 13, visit the newly opened Ocean Grille at 1228 Seawall to enjoy a meal by the shore or indulge in Cajun seafood at Benno's down the street at 1200 Seawall. Check out this helpful list of other places for waterview dining.