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These 10 Houston restaurants nail outdoor dining

Most Houstonians require a very special restaurant patio to keep them from running to the comfort of indoor air conditioning, though some city dwellers brave the humid summers for an alfresco meal, no matter how high the rising temps.

A multi-leveled patio at a swanky American spot in Heights/Washington offers soothing views of the rolling hills. A perch under one of the red umbrellas at a Tex-Mex favorite on the Eastside confirms that nothing beats a chilled margarita on a sweltering Houston day. At a Creole restaurant in Upper Kirby, outdoor tables in the shade of massive oak trees feel like a well-kept secret.

Whether you’re after an idyllic picnic-inspired meal or an action-packed open-air happy hour, these spots have you covered. Read on for a guide to the 10 best restaurants for outdoor dining in Houston right now.

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Lauren McDowell
Updated May 10, 2023
A photo of Brennan's of Houston restaurant

Brennan's of Houston

Price: Very Expensive
Creole / Cajun / Southern
3753 reviews

The joie de vivre of New Orleans-style dining is alive and well in the courtyard at Brennan’s, where wrought-iron furniture, white tablecloths, and gas lamp posts set the scene for romance. The burble of the courtyard fountain accompanies diners as they sip on gumbo and dig into pecan-crusted Gulf fish with a Creole meunière sauce. Reservations are highly recommended for popular weekday lunchtime slots when the business crowd cashes in on one of the best deals in town: 25-cent martinis with the purchase of an entree.

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A photo of Rosalie restaurant


Price: Moderate
605 reviews

When dusk falls and the light is just right, the sun setting over Buffalo Bayou is nothing short of spectacular. And yet, that experience is made even more magical with a Margherita pizza and a bowl of spinach and ricotta manicotti in spicy vodka sauce from Rosalie’s kitchen. Comfortable seats and stylish umbrellas draw the Downtown office crowd and theatergoers, who come for standout negronis and arancini. Those looking for a full-fledged Italian meal will be enthralled by heartier dishes conceptualized by Top Chef Masters winner Chris Cosentino.

A photo of Rainbow Lodge restaurant

Rainbow Lodge

Price: Expensive
Heights / Washington
4773 reviews

The century-old cabin that’s home to Rainbow Lodge is a stunner, so it’s only fitting that the restaurant’s multi-leveled patio is equally impressive. The patio’s elevated outdoor tables overlook the banks of White Oak Bayou, where rolling hills provide one-of-a-kind Houston views. It’s an excellent perch for enjoying plates of wild game such as piñon coffee-rubbed grilled elk loin, smoked duck gumbo, or seared halibut on Parmesan risotto. Pair your dishes with a cocktail or a bottle of wine from the extensive list to fuel the ultimate getaway vibes.

A photo of Kau Ba restaurant

Kau Ba

Price: Expensive
353 reviews

Kâu Ba’s colorful shaded patio is a reflection of the creativity that chef Nikki Tran pours into her Viet-Cajun neighborhood restaurant. Dotted with foliage and shaded from the bustle of Montrose’s busiest streets, the restaurant’s outdoor garden is an inviting setting to sample the chef’s innovative fusion dishes. It makes for an equally comfortable place to sit solo with a matcha latte and bánh mì or to visit with a group to share dishes such as lemongrass pork skewers and a plate of baby soft-shell crab with Kâu Ba’s signature Cajun-spiced citrus Viejun sauce and Cajun salt.

A photo of Brasserie 19 restaurant

Brasserie 19

Price: Very Expensive
River Oaks
2471 reviews

Brasserie 19 is home to a see-and-be-seen patio, thanks to its luxe River Oaks shopping center setting. The French brasserie attracts a chic crowd that takes advantage of elegantly plated hors d’oeuvres, attentive service, and an extensive and well-priced wine list. The patio’s sought-after tables are perennially filled with the buzz of diners enjoying caviar and chips or steak tartare and a plate of trout almondine—with a side of some of the city’s best people-watching.

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A photo of B.B. Lemon Washington restaurant

B.B. Lemon Washington

Price: Moderate
Heights / Washington
908 reviews

If B.B. Lemon is New York-inspired, then the fully shaded patio sets the scene for a Hamptons party (sans beach, of course). Channel a summer vacation by sitting in a cane-backed chair and sipping a Pimm’s cup-inspired cocktail. Shared plates of blue crab beignets, steak frites, and cheesecake for dessert make for a convivial group meal. Just know that when it comes to an order of the restaurant’s beloved lobster roll (served Maine-style or Connecticut-style), it’s likely everyone for themselves.

A photo of La Lucha restaurant

La Lucha

Price: Moderate
Heights / Washington
1139 reviews

La Lucha’s outdoor meals were inspired by chef Ford Fry’s childhood visits to San Jacinto Inn, a well-loved but now shuttered seafood and chicken dinner spot. Meals here channel an idyllic picnic, whether you’re seated at a romantic table for two or with a group that lays claim to an entire wooden table. Shucked oysters, juicy fried chicken, and warm flaky biscuits taste extra good beneath the shade of an old oak tree. To all that, add attentive service and soft serve for dessert and it’s hard to find a sweeter outdoor dining spot.

A photo of Eunice restaurant


Price: Moderate
Creole / Cajun / Southern
Upper Kirby / Shepherd Corridor
2297 reviews

The outdoor tables at Eunice still feel like a well-kept secret, hidden in the Greenway Plaza area. Those in the know sit under the shade of massive oak trees while enjoying small plates such as cornmeal-crusted oysters, chicken liver mousse with strawberry and fig jam, and hand-pulled burrata with biscuits and pepper jelly. Crowds come for the weekday special, a $27 deal that includes a main (such as wild boar ragout) and a choice of gumbo or salad plus an iced tea or a three-finger vodka martini.

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A photo of Brenner's Steakhouse on the Bayou restaurant

Brenner's Steakhouse on the Bayou

Price: Very Expensive
River Oaks
5261 reviews

The wild natural beauty of Buffalo Bayou meets a lush manicured garden at Brenner’s Steakhouse’s expansive outdoor terrace. Set back from roads and passersby, the restaurant’s layout shelters diners from city noise and buildings and results in an exclusive feel ideal for special occasions. The swanky menu fits the setting, with specialties such as Akaushi beef ribeye, crispy duck leg confit, and Alaskan king crab legs.

A photo of The Original Ninfa's on Navigation restaurant

The Original Ninfa's on Navigation

Price: Moderate
East Side
2946 reviews

There are few things better on a hot Houston day than a frosty margarita, especially when sipped on the lively outdoor patio at the city’s historic Original Ninfa’s on Navigation. The revitalized East End esplanade makes an energetic backdrop for the happy crowds that regularly gather for some of the city’s most praised Tex-Mex. Regardless of the season, diners can be found under Ninfa’s signature red umbrellas, snacking on tortilla chips and reveling in the arrival of a sizzling plate of Mama Ninfa’s famous fajitas.

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