Outdoor dining in DFW used to be a novelty a happy, little diversion during the too-few, fleeting days of spring.
But as the areas restaurant scene has flourished, so has our desire to dine al fresco.
On sidewalks, rooftops and makeshift backyards all over the Metroplex, we drink in the patio experience like some bottomless pitcher of margaritas.
No longer can the four walls of a well-appointed restaurant contain our expectations. We want garden-party settings and eye-popping views to go along with our seared salmon and locally sourced salad.
And so, as DFWs dining scene has grown more sophisticated, so has its selection of patios from powerhouses to pretty little hideaways; funky backyard getaways to elegant rooftop retreats.
We decided to dive into the outdoor dining frenzy, while spring is still in full bloom, and discovered at least a dozen dynamic new patios that have planted their flags, or umbrellas, in the last year. We also rediscovered some old favorites, some hall-of-fame patios and we got a tan in the process.
If youre looking for a patio, weve split them up into these categories, which the links will take you to directly: hall-of-fame patios, rooftops, back-door patios, people-watching spots, patios that have had makeovers, pooch-friendly patios, and foodpark patios.
Plus: We take a behind-the-scenes look at two terrific patios: Joe T. Garcias in Fort Worth, and The Rustic in Dallas.
Up on the roof
Live Oak Music Hall and Lounge
Live Oak has a ground-floor patio, but where you really want to be is on the roof, where theres ample seating, a bar, food service and a gorgeous view of downtown Fort Worth to the north. Theres also a nearly wide-open view to the west-northwest, making this a perfect sunset spot. Live music on the roof Wed-Thur; $4 dinner plate available 6-8 p.m. Wednesdays. 1311 Lipscomb St., Fort Worth. 817-926-0968 ; theliveoak.com
Only open for a couple of months on the western edge of Fort Worths West 7th district, this eclectic-menu restaurant transcends its corporate origins with a rooftop patio that has a view of the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, the Will Rogers Complex tower and the sky to the west and northwest as well as the seemingly never-ending growth in the West 7th area. Theres a street-level patio, too, but its upstaged by its upstairs sibling. 3028 Crockett St., Fort Worth. 817-210-4216; www.konagrill.com
Old Texas Brewing Co. Grill & Skybar
Walk out the back door of this joint in Burlesons bustling Old Town district, and youll find a pair of long staircases leading to a rooftop patio that has views of the street scene below and of rural Johnson County and good sunsets in the distance. You can go up there with a beer any time its open, but table service starts in the evening, when it can sometimes get too crowded to move. And its brave of Old Town to open so close to a Babes, whose fried-chicken aromas waft over to the Skybar, adding another temptation. 112 W. Ellison St., Burleson. 817-447-2337 ; old-town-brew.com
LSA Burger Co.
The upstairs bar at this popular Denton burger joint opens up to a view of the Denton County Courthouse across the street. LSA stands for Lone Star Attitude, and theres plenty of it in the quality burgers and in the Texas music that helped give the joint its name (check out the irreverent Great Texas Supper painting downstairs). And you can see lots of North Texas from this roof. 113 W. Hickory St., Denton. 940-383-1022 ; www.lsaburger.com
HG Sply Co.
Another new addition to the plethora of patios, this restaurant has a comfortably large wood-lined deck with views of rejuvenated Greenville Avenue below and downtown Dallas in the distance. Theres a a limited menu of food available up there, as well as wooden canopies to shield you from sun or rain. Bottom line: You never have to leave your perch. Bonus points if youre an omniovore: dishes include venison, bison, lamb chops and all variety of meat. Anthony Bourdain would be very happy here. (If you want even more meat, the celebrated new-generation charcuterie Blind Butcher is across the street.) 2008 Greenville Ave., Dallas. 469-334-0895 ; www.hgsplyco.com
Looking out the back door
Lonesome Dove Western Bistro
A fire caused Fort Worth chef Tim Love to close his signature restaurant for a couple of months in 2013, but you cant keep a good Love down, and he brought Lonesome Dove back better than ever, with a redesigned kitchen and an improved dining room and a downstairs patio that gives Dove the outdoor seating that Loves restaurants are known for. Relatively small, especially compared with the patio at Loves Woodshed Smokehouse, it has a fire pit, a smoker, lots of trees and a view of Saunders Park, where Marine Creek snakes through the Stockyards. Its an easy after-dinner walk to the creekside trail, which is one of Fort Worths better-kept secrets. 2406 N. Main St., Fort Worth. 817-740-8810; lonesomedovebistro.com
Cane Rosso Fort Worth
Most of the restaurants on Fort Worths busy West Magnolia Avenue have some sort of outdoor space; Cane Rosso, the buzzy Neapolitan pizza place that arrived in January (after two Cane Rossos in Dallas) goes for a small, intimate patio thats hidden from the Magnolia side of the building but sort of hard to miss since the entrance is in the back. Got all that? Now go for one of the pizzas with the hot soppressata on them, such as the Paulie Gee. 815 W. Magnolia Ave., Fort Worth. 817-922-9222 ; ilcanerosso.com
This funky coffee bar/beer & wine bar/restaurant next door to Cane Rosso has a large patio with outdoor dining tables and a couple of fire pits for cold nights. Check it out for a Saturday brunch, which tends to be less crowded than the Sunday brunch. 801 W. Magnolia Ave., Fort Worth. 817-945-1545; brewedfw.com
This highly respected sushi/Japanese restaurant gets a lot of attention for its food, but its secluded patio, with trees, Christmas lights and well-spaced dining tables, deserves a nod of its own. On a Magnolia stretch thats appreciative of al fresco dining, this might be the best outdoor space. 711 W. Magnolia Ave., Fort Worth. 817-923-2695 ; shinjuku-station.com
Rodeo Goat Ice House
The winner of the 2013 DFW.com Battle of the Burgers and an upstart challenger to 2009 winner Freds has an expansive, picnic-table-loaded backyard beer garden. Because lets not forget, Rodeo Goat also has a good craft-beer menu to wash down all those Hot Bastard and Caca Oaxaca burgers. 2836 Bledsoe St., Fort Worth. 817-877-4628 , rodeogoat.com
Chadra Mezza and Grill
You can find sidewalk tables set up at this Mediterranean restaurant near the Mistletoe Heights and Berkeley neighborhoods in Fort Worth. But the real gem is the patio, which is surrounded by hanging plants and feels like someones great back yard. Adding to that backyard feel: Dogs are always welcome. 1622 Park Place Ave., Fort Worth. 817-924-2372; chadramezza.com
Cafe Medi (Keller)
On your first visit to this spinoff of a popular Hurst Mediterranean restaurant, you might not even notice the patio, because the interior has its own cozy charm. But then youll see people drifting out a back door and curiosity will lead you to find out why and youll see a spacious oasis that shuts out the chaos of nearby U.S. 377. On nice weekend nights, youll find more diners outside than inside. 129 E. Olive St., Keller, 817-337-3204 ; cafemedi.com
This Dallas spot is a contender for our next Patio Hall of Fame category. (Read more about The Rustic by clicking here.) This place even calls its patio The Backyard, which is a huge expanse of picnic tables, old lawn furniture, a concert stage and even a lawn its like the lawn at Gexa Energy Pavilion and the patio at Woodshed Smokehouse had a baby. Seating is first-come, first-serve, and that can be a challenge on a Friday or Saturday night. And its amusing to watch well-dressed uptown Dallas women navigate the dirt parts of the Backyard in high heels. But once you find a spot, the food, beer and cocktails are worth it, as is the escape from the chaos of nearby Central Expressway. 3656 Howell St., Dallas. 214-730-0596 ; therusticrestaurant.com
Fireside Pies (original location)
While the Fort Worth Fireside Pies is a big hit, the popular West 7th pizza joint doesnt serve food on its patio just drinks. The original Fireside Pies in Dallas Knox-Henderson area has a full-service, garden-like patio thats a good place to split a pie and sip one of Fireside Pies killer sangrias. (Note: The Grapevine location has a pretty good patio, too.) 2820 N. Henderson Ave., Dallas, 214-370-3916; firesidepies.com
The Wild Detectives
This Bishop Arts District bookstore, named for a novel by Chilean writer Roberto Bolaño, is about more than just the printed word. The bar serves coffee, beer, wine, and some food, and the large, bench- and table-filled back yard means you no longer have to choose between stimulating your intellect or spending time outside. 314 W. Eighth St., Dallas, 214-942-0108; www.wilddetectives.com
Also: Flips Patio Grill, 6613 Fossil Bluff Drive, Fort Worth, 817-847-4424; www.facebook.com/flipsfortworth; (and 415 W. Texas 114 at South Main Street in Grapevine); The Ginger Man, 3716 Camp Bowie Blvd., Fort Worth, 817-886-2327, ftworth.gingermanpub.com; Hannahs Off the Square, 111 W. Mulberry St., Denton, 940-566-1110; www.hannahsoffthesquare.com
Sundance Square Plaza
This is really one large patio, and you can brown-bag your meal here or you can take a seat on the patios of Bird Café or Del Friscos Grille on the east side, or Taco Diner on the west. Or just grab a drink and a sandwich from the Starbucks on the northwest corner and watch the kids playing in the jet fountains one of the Plazas most popular features. Downtown Fort Worth (bounded by Third, Fourth, Commerce and Houston streets); sundancesquare.com
The Bearded Lady
A great craft-beer bar with good food, the Bearded Lady is in a converted craftsman house near the west end of the Magnolia Avenue restaurant row and it has the front-yard patio to go with it, a tree-lined, umbrella-festooned hangout where you can soak up some sun rays (or moon rays) while also drinking a Revolver Blood & Honey, a Lakewood Temptress or any of the dozens of other beers. 1229 Seventh Ave. (at Magnolia Avenue), Fort Worth. 817-349-9832; search Facebook for The Bearded Lady .
Lilis Bistro/Spiral Diner/Nonna Tata
These three restaurants are at or very near the busy intersection of Sixth Avenue and West Magnolia Avenue, with Avoca Coffee and craft-cocktail bar The Usual nearby, making for some of Magnolias busiest foot traffic. Lilis and vegan haven Spiral Diner have limited sidewalk seating, and Italian jewel Nonna Tata has a small patio (thats still larger than the tiny interior). With all that action, weve almost invariably run into friends whenever we partake of outdoor dining at these places, increasing the Near Southside neighborhood feel. Bonus: The foods good at all of them. Lilis: 1310 W. Magnolia Ave., 817-877-0700; lilisbistro.com. Spiral Diner: 1314 W. Magnolia Ave., 817-332-8834; spiraldiner.com. Nonna Tata: 1400 W. Magnolia Ave., Fort Worth, 817-332-0250; search for Nonna Tata on Facebook.
Bar Louie Hurst
This recently opened location of the Bar Louie chain has a two-tiered front patio with high-top and regular-level tables. The top-tier patio leads to the restaurant entrance, which has a garage-door-like wall that can be opened for open-air dining even if youre inside. Blues and Brews on Thursday nights. 1101 Melbourne Road, Hurst. 817-537-0440; barlouieamerica.com
Just west of Dallas Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge is this complex of stores, drinking establishments and restaurants mostly restaurants, many of which feature outdoor dining. Theyre lined up, one after the other, so that curious diners can cross from one patio to the next before finding a place to settle. Sometimes a belly dancer from Souk Moroccan Bistro & Bazaar will stop traffic. Sometimes youll just stop yourself to find out what the Asian-Latin fusion at Chino Chinatown is all about. Sometimes you just want a beer and a bite at LUCK (Local Urban Craft Kitchen). And theres more and still more to come. Information center: 425 Bedford St., Dallas. 214-744-0100 . Restaurant addresses vary; for a list, visit trinitygroves.com
Patios that have had makeovers
Freds Texas Cafe
Freds has always had a popular patio, but in late 2012 it underwent a transition. Gone are the picnic tables that used to be there; in their place are tables in an expanded area surrounded by a cedar fence. Check it out on Wednesday nights, when Outlaw Chef Terry Chandler likes to experiment with potential new menu items. 915 Currie St., Fort Worth. 817-332-0083; fredstexascafe.com\
Bronson Rock Bar & Grill
If you dont live in Keller, Watauga or north Fort Worth, you might not be aware of one of the coolest patios in Tarrant County, which has undergone an expansion since the restaurants 2012 opening, with more seating and a margarita bar. Live music Wednesday-Saturday nights. 250 S. Main St., Keller. 817-431-5543 ; bronsonrocktx.com
Flying Saucer Draught Emporium
In 2012, Flying Saucer moved from its longtime downtown Fort Worth spot (now home to Bird Café) into its new location in the old 8.0 space, giving it the best patio in downtown. Since then, the beer palaces new site has taken full flight, with the same large, tree-shaded patio and stage, with some new touches such as picnic tables. The menu of some 200 craft beers adds to the hangout feel. 111 E. Third St., Fort Worth. 817-336-7470; www.beerknurd.com
Pour House West 7th
Eric Tschetters sports bar/beer palace has beaten the odds, lasting 13 years in downtown Fort Worth before moving to the West 7th area, where the bar continues to thrive despite ever-increasing competition. The Pour House has a laid-back patio as well as a garage space with its own bar, and with the doors thrown open in nice weather. The most impressive thing about Pour House is its craft-beer wall, which was expanded to some 75 taps last year. So pull up a patio table and have a cold one. 2725 W. Seventh St., Fort Worth. 817-335-2575; www.pour-house.com
A lot of people who come to Fort Worths year-old drive-in movie theater dont stay in their cars; they come up to the Coyote Canteen, where you can get better-than-average concession-stand food and much better-than-average craft beers and even a few wines. And as you might expect at a place with a canine name, leashed dogs (and other leashed pets) are welcome. 223 N.E. Fourth St., Fort Worth. 817-717-7767 ; coyotedrive-in.com
Mutts Canine Cantina
Dont think of this as a restaurant and bar with a dog park think of it as a dog park with a restaurant and a bar. The food menu is mostly burgers, salads and pardon the expression hot dogs, with shakes, coffee drinks and beer also available. And there a couple of, er, dishes for canine customers. Dogs (with certain well-posted restrictions) are allowed on the patio and at the bar, but most will want to frolic in the spacious dog park. 2889 CityPlace West Blvd., Dallas. 214-377-8723 ; muttscantina.com.
Patios with wheels
Clearfork Food Park
Opened in late 2012, this food-truck park near Fort Worths University Drive has space for a half-dozen or so trucks (with room to expand for special events), a shady pavilion to protect you from the elements, and umbrella-protected tables. But its real draw is its location: a primo spot right on the Trinity River Trails. Weve been tempted to eat here, then walk down the trail to Woodshed Smokehouse for a Tuaca-infused drink. 1541 Merrimac Circle, Fort Worth. 972-850-8736; clearforkfoodpark.com
Greenville Avenues renaissance became official last year with the opening of Dallas first Trader Joes and, right across the street, this food-truck park/outdoor bar-cum-beer garden/Philly-cheese-steak shop/small-batch ice cream stand with lots of used furniture and truck tires strewn about. If that sounds like too much hipster trendiness for one address, rest assured you dont need a fedora or fixed-gear bike for entry. Founded by Jason Boso of Twisted Root fame, Truck Yard is a casual, funky spot that feels like someone lifted a little bit of Austin and dropped it into Dallas. While the in-house cheese-steak sandwiches are always available, the food trucks rotate as do the flavors of Carnival Barkers ice cream, and many of the beers are local. Whats not to like? 5624 Sears St., Dallas. 469 -500-0139; texastruckyard.com
The DFW Al Fresco Hall of Fame
Joe T. Garcias: The granddaddy of DFW patios is actually several lush patios that seem to stretch on forever, with strolling mariachis providing some entertainment. For more on Joe Ts, see accompanying story here. . Cash only. 2201 N. Commerce St., Fort Worth. 817-626-4356 ; joets.com
Woodshed Smokehouse: Tim Loves Trinity River hangout might be only a couple of years old, but go there on a warm spring or calm autumn Friday or Saturday night and youll know why it made the hall of fame so quickly. 3201 Riverfront Drive, Fort Worth. 817-877-4545; woodshedsmokehouse.com
Reata: The rooftop bar offers good views of ever-evolving downtown Fort Worth, while keeping you above the noise and bustle of the streets. The margaritas are a pretty good reason to hang out there, too. 310 Houston St., Fort Worth. 817-336-1009; www.reata.net
Central Market Southlake: Yeah, its a fancy grocery store, but its also got a cafe, with an adjacent patio that feels more like an expanded picnic area than something thats right off a parking lot. Very family-friendly, as you can tell by all the kids on the playground. 1425 E. Southlake Blvd., Southlake, 817-310-5600; www.centralmarket.com
Glass Cactus: Wanna catch the pretty people partying, or just get a close look at Lake Grapevine? Go to this nightclub with a 13,000-square-foot patio/deck area in the sprawling Gaylord Texan complex. 1501 Gaylord Trail, Grapevine, 817-778-2805; marriott.com
Katy Trail Ice House: This bar and beer garden on Dallas Katy Trail took off fast after it opened in 2011, and has been featured on Bravos Most Eligible Dallas and Styles Big Rich Texas, which gives you a clue about the kind of crowd it draws. Parking is well its best to use the valet. Or just walk up. Its right on a trail. 3127 Routh St., Dallas. 214-468-0600; katyicehouse.com
Ozona Grill & Bar: This large, tree-shaded patio attracts a college crowd, which makes sense, since its near SMU. Its been around longer than similar patios at the Woodshed and the Rustic, but it still shares their rustic feel, even with all those attractive 20-somethings hanging out. 4615 Greenville Ave., Dallas. 214-265-9105; ozonagrill.com
Bar Belmont: Not only does the patio bar at the Belmont Hotel have the best views of downtown Dallas, its also just a short walk away from Smoke, Tim Byres meaty restaurant at the hotel. (Byres other properties, Chicken Scratch and the Foundry, are not far away and also have good outdoor spaces.) 901 Fort Worth Ave., Dallas. 866-870-8010; belmontdallas.com
Piola Restaurant and Garden: Maybe Hall of Fame doesnt apply to a hideaway a lot of people still dont know about, but were putting Bobby Albaneses small cultural district spot here anyway, because its mini-oasis patio might be second only to Joe T.s when it comes to Fort Worth outdoor dining. 3700 Mattison Ave., Fort Worth. 817-989-0007; www.fwpiola.com
Lightcatcher Winery & Bistro: Another secret that deserves to be discovered by more people, this winery is so far west in Fort Worth that it almost feels like the Hill Country. Jazz Sundays from 4 to 7 p.m. on the first and third Sundays of the month, April through November. Dinner reservations recommended. 6925 Confederate Park Road, Fort Worth. 817-237-2626; www.lightcatcher.com
The Point on Lake Worth: This has been around for nearly 60 years and still manages to stay under the radar. But its got tables overlooking a dock leading out to Lake Worth. You cant exactly pretend youre in a Corona commercial at this place, but its about as close as you can get on one Fort Worths lakes. 1349 Bomber Road, Fort Worth. 817-246-9168 ; www.pointlakeworth.com
Lee Harveys: First of all, theres that name. Then theres that patio, which is larger than this popular dive bars interior space. Theres a stage for local bands, wooden tables, benches and fire pits, which come in handy on nippy winter nights. 1807 Gould St., Dallas. 214-428-1555; leeharveys.com
Bolsa: This casual spot helped kick Oak Cliffs foodie revolution into gear, and it has a comfortable patio with a mix of communal picnic tables and smaller tables for intimates and introverts. The foods good the cocktails are even better. 614 W. Davis St., Dallas. 214-943-1883; bolsadallas.com