As we lurch into the second year of the pandemic, many bars and restaurants that didn't already boast great outdoor spaces have cleverly adapted. What was once a few parking spaces is now a dining area; a once bare area beneath a massive live oak now holds three picnic tables. We've never been so versatile, or flexible, on where we'll sit to eat and imbibe. Despite the recent (premature) relaxation of state mandates, Austin's plethora of patio oases are some of the places we can safely gather as strangers, six feet apart and masked when bumbling about, to enjoy our wealth of sunshine. These spots are some of our favorites that offer the total package: plenty of (COVID-safe) great dog-friendly outdoor space, stellar drinks, delectable food, and a killer ambience.
Better Half has managed to adapt and add space to an originally counter-service-only model, consistently delicious food (from the hot Sichuan chicken sandwich to the ever popular cauliflower tots). They also sling one of the best cheeseburgers in town. The coffee program is on point, the cocktails are well-crafted, the draft beer is brewed right next door by Holdout Brewery (which also hosts a nice covered and open-air patio), and the wine list is well-curated with natural and biodynamic vintners (half-price bottles on Tuesdays, party people).
The North Austin mainstay houses a rather large and completely covered patio, so you're outside while being inside, if that's your thing. Casa Chapala has a vast menu of traditional Mexican favorites and house-made corn tortillas, but the move here is their regional fare composed from traditional family recipes from Zacatecas and Jalisco, Mexico. Think carnitas Zacatecas, cochinita pibil, and lamb rubbed with spices and pasilla and arbol chiles. Their formidable agave spirit selection's prices won't break the bank, and they host an excellent happy hour. Tequila!
LoLo's assortment of back patio tables is a complement to its natural, biodynamic, low-impact, and organic wines. Wine and patios go together like beer and chicken wings, and LoLo is in symbiosis. On the natural wine reeducation/introduction front, which was bound to follow the craft beer boom, LoLo expertly provides a well-curated list of domestic and global offerings. The wine bar also offers a small menu of thoughtful snack pairings for their juice, ciders, and beers. When the weather is pristine, it's a see-and-be-seen affair. But of course, to-go options are always available.
Alas, live music venues aren't what they used to be, but these neighbors pivoted to a full sit-down patio situation with tons. Of. Room. Remember seeing the Oh Sees here two South by Southwests ago? You won't get anywhere near that snuggly, but they still have DJs on select nights and the vibe is still rocking, socially distanced. (Check respective calendars for events and DJ schedules.)
Contigo consistently makes nearly every listicle of great Austin patios, thanks to high-quality, reasonably priced happy hours with snacks like crispy green beans and charred avocado. It was built in the spirit of a ranch house, and even after enclosing some of their fully alfresco dining room, the patio is still spacious and just what the doctor ordered. Don't skip the sparkling rosemary lemonade.
Batch is picturesque, with its very large backyard butting up against Contigo's east fence. The house-brewed beer is amazing, the kolaches and klobasniky are well-executed, and the coffee program is in the upper echelon. Their spacious and relaxing back patio is as safe as can be during a pandemic, with plenty of room to move around, almost two dozen picnic tables, and spaced out chairs. Batch PM just recently opened in place of Taco Bronco if you'd like something more savory in the afternoon or evening.
A South Austin darling, to be certain, this unique yet quintessential neighborhood watering hole is a throwback to a former Austin. Fire pits during cold weather; cold drinks for the other nine months. They run three food menus: a lunch menu consisting mainly of sandwiches, salads, and some apps; a dinner menu adding a few more apps and entrées such as crab cakes and chicken parm; and weekend brunch with farmstand quiche and fried chicken & waffles. Unpretentious, classic Austin.
This Menchaca spot offers coffee, of course, but they also have a solid beverage program of drafts, wine, and cocktails. The spicy marg is indeed spicy, made with house-infused pineapple serrano tequila. They also host three food trucks: Veracruz All Natural, Dee Dee (farm-to-table Northeastern Thai food), and Da Boot Po-Boys' authentic New Orleans fare. That NOLA shrimp po'boy is the real deal and worth the wait.
This three-in-one spot has been offering that patio life since the Before Times. The triumvirate of artistic expression, fresh handmade pasta, and quality bevs is funky in a good way – with an Austin circa 1990s, bohemian vibe. The Butterfly Bar is comforting with its lounging cats, laissez-faire attitude, and wall projector; Patrizi's food truck is one of the best Italian eateries in town, and the bar slings expert craft cocktails plus some. How often do you get to soak up some culture, eat well, party, and hang in a nationally certified butterfly sanctuary?
It's dirty, in a good way, and with a newly renovated patio James Hilton might just approve. This one is definitely still a bar – you still actually order at the bar, a rarity these days. More than a few tables are spaced out on the back patio, slick and red in that sanitized playscape fashion. They're definitely sporting tiki vibes, but they serve for all moods and occasions. For eats, Baton Creole serves up Cajun specialties like dark roux gumbo and crawfish étouffée.
Aba off of Music Row is a different animal, with multitiered decadent patio dining. They boast a Mediterranean menu meant for sharing; treat yourself and order from the reserve cocktail list. Try the Last Call Pegu Club: Built around Monkey 47's Schwarzwald dry gin, it's a well-crafted, refreshing, balanced cocktail. The Frozen Pina Express features Chairman's Reserve spiced rum, coconut, pineapple, and lime. It's to die for.
The converted Eastside filling station has always been outdoor-space-focused, and feels like a revamp of the classic Austin-style cafe with liquor, hipper wine, cider, local beer, and a cocktail program. The food menu accommodates carnivores, vegetarians, vegans, omnivores, and dietary restrictions. How can you go wrong with booze pops and a house-made CBD waffle? Or chips and queso and a pulled jackfruit sandwich.
When Justine's reopened, they stepped up their already immaculate patio game multiple notches, providing the same quality Euro-style patio cafe dining situation, but also offering socially distanced private canopies – incredibly stylish and sexy nooks to wine and dine in. Great food, great wine, a solid classic cocktail program, plenty of amari to wrap up your meal, and super hip vibes. Justine's is the unofficial date-night spot of Austin proper. Steak frites, côtes de porc, and the Bolognese are highly recommended, but anything goes with a bottle of bubbly.
Their original East Sixth location shuttered in 2020, but Easy Tiger took over the former Red's Porch spot on South Lamar, with a stunning view of the Greenbelt from their second-story patio. This location boasts three large patios – two covered, plus the third, an open-air beer garden. The newest addition to the Tiger family is an incredibly airy, roomy space, with over 20 drafts, a full bar, coffee program, baked goods, house-made sausages, sandwiches, and breakfast fare.
Scholz Garten claims "oldest working beer garden in the nation" status. Their patio is enormous, the largest single on this list, and they offer a significant selection of German and local drafts, plus packaged beer, cider, and hard seltzer, and, of course, a full bar. Their hearty menu features bratwursts, kraut, and schnitzels galore.
For perspective, Banger's takes up three addresses on Austin's infamous Rainey Street. With 70-plus drafts on the wall, the beer program is serious, and they have their own smokehouse. Before COVID-19, Banger's would stay packed most days and nights regardless of the weather, elbow-to-elbow at communal tables. Now it's decidedly less packed but probably still the boldest of pandemic-era diners.
To say that McGuire Moorman Hospitality group has the Midas touch would be an understatement. Perla's is no exception, one of MMH's early concepts, with a sprawling, oak-shaded front patio overlooking South Congress. Fresh seafood abounds, with 14 oyster varietals on the menu – it's a bivalve lover's paradise, still going strong after 12 years. Go for "Afternoon Snacks," a limited menu between lunch and dinner services with $2 off beverages and 50 cents off of all oysters.
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