Winter is, for most of the rest of the country, the time when you bunker down and start eating hearty soups. Here, however, we have cool temperatures and we can enjoy the outdoors for a while. It’s the time to grill at home, and the time to visit places where you can eat al fresco. If you’re considering outdoor dining, here are a few suggestions in no particular order:
Café Degas is, I believe, the best French bistro in town. It’s also pretty much all “outdoors” all the time, given that their dining room is centered around a huge tree and is covered primarily by large, heavy curtains.
Broussard’s is a place I got to know when Chef Gunther Preuss was in charge. He’s no longer there, alas, but the courtyard is one of the best places to dine in the French Quarter. It’s a classic Creole place that can’t be beat for brunch on the weekend.
I can’t say anything more about Bayona than I have in the past. It’s one of the best restaurants I’ve ever patronized anywhere in the world and after a fairly recent renovation to repair some damage, it’s even more beautiful than ever.
Lilette and Bouligny Tavern are side-by-side restaurants in the Garden District that never disappoint me when I visit. I know Lilette, in particular, has the reputation for being a place where “ladies” dine for lunch, but if that turns you off the place, you’re missing out and Bouligny is a great place for a weekend date night.
The Delachaise is another great place to bring a date, especially if you like wine. They have a tradition of hiring inventive chefs to make food that pairs with their ambitious list, and their French-centric menu is always a winner.
There are tons of options on the lakefront for outdoor dining, but one I don’t see mentioned often enough is Sala. Owner Joe Riccobono is a member of the storied restaurant family, but he’s not resting on laurels. He’s got a stylish place that gives you a ton of options as a diner – bring the kids, bring the grandparents, or bring friends from out of town and everyone will be happy with the food, drinks and the service.
I first got to eat food cooked by Chef Michael Gulotta when he was at August. When he opened MoPho, it instantly became one of my favorite restaurants. His imaginative takes on southeast Asian cuisine are top-class, and the Mid-City restaurant also has a great patio.
This is by no means a definitive list, and I hope you will share your thoughts on great outdoor dining places in the comments.