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Dining Out 2 minutes 21 August 2020

11 Must-See Outside Meals

From picnics on a farm to city rooftops with unbeatable views, restaurants are making the most of outdoor dining.

Outside Dining COVID-19

We’re months into a global pandemic and restaurants across the country continue to adapt to an ever-changing situation. By law, dining rooms remain closed in California and New York but open in Chicago and Washington, DC. But across all four regions, outdoor dining is allowed. Some have taken this opportunity to relocate temporarily to new environs. Others have repurposed rooftops and sidewalks into dining spaces. And some were just plain beautiful to begin with but are especially in-demand right now.

Here are 11 MICHELIN-recommended restaurants across the country making the most of outdoor dining.

Three MICHELIN Stars


Alinea: AIR (Chicago)

Chef Grant Achatz has taken to the skies with Alinea in Residence or simply, AIR. His flagship Lincoln Park restaurant has temporarily relocated to a rooftop in Chicago’s West Loop just across from One MICHELIN-Starred Next. No expense was spared: Custom designed plates and geometric sculptures for walls that move throughout the evening only enhance the kitchen’s creative whims.

Photo Courtesy of Alinea Restaurant
Photo Courtesy of Alinea Restaurant

Quince at Fresh Run Farms and McEvoy Ranch (Marin)

It’s not every day that a Three MICHELIN Star restaurant tells you to wear sunglasses, hats and casual footwear for your reservation. But it’s advice worth heeding if you’re joining Chef Michael Tusk for lunch on the farm. At Fresh Run Farms, a 25-acre space in Bolinas that supplies his various restaurants, guests dine in open-air greenhouses set among the fields and even pick their own veggies. At McEvoy Ranch, a socially distanced lunch is set among 80-acres of olive trees.

Photo Courtesy of Quince Restaurant
Photo Courtesy of Quince Restaurant

SingleThread at Kistler Vineyards (Sonoma)

SingleThread has partnered with Kistler Vineyards and set up in nearby Forestville at the winery’s beloved Trenton Roadhouse in idyllic Sonoma. Chef Kyle Connaughton’s 10-course dinner, dubbed the Summer Wine Dinner Series, will also feature wine pairings from the estate. *Due to the unfortunate fires in Sonoma County, SingleThread has temporarily closed its dinner series at Kistler Vineyards. The restaurant's Instagram page has updates.

Two MICHELIN Stars


Blue Hill at Stone Barns (Tarrytown, New York)

Ever wonder what a Two MICHELIN Star picnic might look like? Chef Dan Barber and his team has prepared custom picnic baskets featuring a wide array of provisions sourced across the farm’s 80-acres of fields and pastures. Seated either on the patio or on the lawn, guests are encouraged to dress casually.

Photo Courtesy of Blue Hill at Stone Barns
Photo Courtesy of Blue Hill at Stone Barns

Daniel (New York)

Manhattan isn’t exactly known for spacious sidewalks, but that’s exactly where guests can now enjoy Executive Chef Jean-Francois Bruel's cooking—just outside Restaurant Daniel's front door. The menu is condensed with an emphasis on a la carte classics like pâté en croûte and duo of beef with red wine-braised short ribs and filet mignon.

Photo by Bill Milne. Courtesy of The Dinex Group
Photo by Bill Milne. Courtesy of The Dinex Group

One MICHELIN Star


Yūgen (Chicago)

Yūgen’s pandemic pivot might be one of the more dramatic ones we’ve seen. The tasting menu is still offered in the dining room, but the Kaisho Tiki Takeover on the patio is not unlike a Japanese izakaya. Essentially a second restaurant, the patio menu offers casual items like binchotan-grilled skewers, fish collars brushed with tare and bagged cocktails (yes, bagged) are all available.

Photo Courtesy of Yūgen Restaurant
Photo Courtesy of Yūgen Restaurant

MICHELIN Plate


Cabra (Chicago)

Located on the 12th floor of the Hoxton Hotel, this Peruvian rooftop hotspot offers gorgeous views of Chicago’s skyline. Greenery at every turn, a swimming pool and wrap-around glass lend to the sleek vibe. Brunch is particularly strong with Chef Stephanie Izard’s clever creations like waffles with hoisin coffee maple and spiced pineapple.

Photo by Anthony Tahlier. Courtesy of Boka Restaurant Group
Photo by Anthony Tahlier. Courtesy of Boka Restaurant Group

Officina (Washington, DC)

The Wharf has seen a hive of activity in the last few years and that includes Chef Nicholas Stefanelli’s multi-story complex featuring a café, market, butcher shop, and restaurant. The rooftop terrace is the largest in the area. Drop in for cocktails or enjoy pasta by this talented chef behind the One MICHELIN Star Masseria, which just debuted its own patio.

Spago (Los Angeles)

Where there once was a train of luxury cars in line for valet, there are now tables draped in white tablecloth. So goes dining in Beverly Hills at Wolfgang Puck’s flagship restaurant, which has taken up a considerable chunk of the sidewalk. This is also one of the few outdoor tables in the city where guests can order a full tasting menu.

Photo Courtesy of Spago Restaurant
Photo Courtesy of Spago Restaurant

The Stonehouse (Santa Barbara)

This is the bucolic oasis we’ve been looking for. Set in the foothills of Montecito, San Ysidro Ranch’s restaurant is open for dinner on the patio, which is set amid lush garden grounds redolent of lavender and rosemary. Book a room overnight for the full getaway experience.

Photo by Peter Malinowski/InSite. Courtesy of San Ysidro Ranch
Photo by Peter Malinowski/InSite. Courtesy of San Ysidro Ranch

Sunset Tower Bar & Restaurant (Los Angeles)

Head to this aptly named destination for one of the best skyline views in Los Angeles. With a storied history dating back to 1929, the hotel offers dinner on the terrace or by the pool.

Photo by Aaron Lyles. Courtesy of Sunset Tower Hotel
Photo by Aaron Lyles. Courtesy of Sunset Tower Hotel
Hero Image: Quince at McEvoy Ranch. Photo by Dora Tsui, Courtesy of Quince Restaurant.

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