For the next 20 weeks, we'll be rounding up the runners-up to our 2011 Best of Houston® winners. In many categories, picking each year's winner is no easy task. We'll be spotlighting 20 of those categories, in which the winner had hefty competition from other Houston bars and restaurants.
That said, there are so many truly fabulous patios in Houston that it's difficult to limit the list to only ten. So this isn't a definitive list of the city's best patios for all time -- but rather a list of the places where I'm enjoying dining al fresco at the moment. I hope you will, too.
10. 901 Postoffice
Cozy, cute and charming -- with the added bonus of the sea breeze from Galveston's shores and some of the best food found on the island.
9. Las Ventanas
The lush, tropical patio here makes it feel like you're taking a vacation in the Caribbean -- even if you're only in West Houston. There's even a playground to keep the kids occupied.
Bocce ball and BYOB reign here, and you're encouraged to linger with a pizza and some of Luigi's equally terrific wings on this blissfully quiet end of Midtown near the Third Ward.
7. Cedar Creek
Sure, you have to endure some bad bros and equally bad service, but the rambling "creek" (it's a drainage ditch, but it's been nicely landscaped) and rolling "hills" (again, it's Houston) make it feel like you've escaped to the Hill Country for the weekend.
6. El Pueblito
Probably the best-known patio along Richmond, it's hard not to notice the billowing white sheets of El Pueblito's cabanas from the road. It's even harder not to pull over and ensconce yourself in one, margarita in hand, and escape from the sun for a little while.
5. Lucio's BYOB
The stunning, clean-lined patio at this Montrose BYOB looks like something out of a modern art museum, complete with giant copper sculpture and gray stones scattered across the two-level deck.
4. Baba Yega
Sprawling, eccentric and covered with old oak trees, just like the rest of Montrose, Baba Yega's patio has been the neighborhood's go-to brunch spot for decades.
With a view onto Hermann Park, the Mecom Fountain and the lush Museum District, dining at the Hotel Zaza feels a little like noshing at a swank Central Park spot -- especially as you traipse through the elegant lobby to get there.
The newest location of The Tasting Room is on the shores of Lake Houston, with a relaxing sunset view that can't be beat, with or without a glass of wine in hand.
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The original, the best: This is where Houstonians have enjoyed the perfect patio spot -- tucked behind a 1930s-era home -- for nearly 30 years.