If there's one thing Houstonians look forward to more than sweather weather, it's patio weather. And this weekend—while still a little hot for mid-November—should be ideal for enjoying the sunshine and cooler temperatures. Bring your furry buddies along, too; most of the spots on the list are dog-friendly.
The patio experience you'll receive at 1252 Tapas depends entirely on which one of the two Houston-based Spanish restaurants you visit. Head to the original at Market Street in The Woodlands and you'll find a small-town town square vibe (say that five times fast) as you watch families stroll across the grassy central lawn. Head to the second location at Uptown Park and you'll find a surprisingly European feel on its patio, encouraged along by elegant fountains and soaring three-story arches.
9595 Six Pines Dr., Ste 670
1101 Uptown Park Blvd
This Montrose mainstay has expanded several times over the years, starting with a small bungalow that's slowly accreted to include the home next door as well as the vast yard in between the two structures. That massive back patio, punctuated by small manmade brooks, tiny bridges, bubbling fountains, koi ponds, and plant life, is the place to be for a sunny Sunday brunch (Baba Yega's biggest meal of the week).
2607 Grant St
Brooklyn Athletic Club
One word: s'mores. The bocce ball, croquet, and shuffleboard courts at Montrose date night destination Brooklyn Athletic Club may be the main draw for other, more sport-inclined diners and drinkers. I am there for the s'mores, which you can cook yourself while huddled around one of the inviting firepits on the patio.
This brand-new second location of Coppa is more relaxed and more casual than its big sister on Washington Avenue, which means even more outdoor dining. It's tough to resist the cheery, sunshine yellow umbrellas on the large, wraparound patio with pleasant views onto the quiet West U neighborhood next door. On chilly nights, the Coppa staff hauls out plenty of tall, propane-fired heaters to keep their diners (and their slices of pizza) warm.
5210 Morningside Dr
This spot in the GOOF (Garden Oaks/Oak Forest) is really just one giant patio. Part icehouse and part restaurant, Cottonwood takes all comers. This means not just your dogs, but your kids too—a must in this family-filled area. Daytime means open-air brunches and laid-back day-drinking (on the weekends, that is). Nighttime means live music and firepits. Any time of day means great food and beverages.
3422 N. Shepherd Dr
If an Austin vibe in Houston is what you're seeking, fine. Go ahead. We can't stop you. And there's no better place to pretend you're in the Hill Country than at one of the Creeks scattered throughout the Heights: Onion Creek (our favorite, with the singularly best Frito pie in town), Dry Creek (beware: "dry" means no booze here), Cedar Creek (the largest of the four, set on a creek's rolling banks), and Canyon Creek (which we still can't figure out if we like or not). One thing can't be argued: the outdoor seating at the first three is among the finest you'll find in Houston.
Gratifi Kitchen & Bar
When Ziggy's in Montrose became Gratifi, it made a few other changes too: The menu at the mansion-turned-restaurant has been amped up—both in terms of food (all made in-house from scratch) and drink (both the spirits and beer list are all Texan). The patio has been prettied up too, with lovely wisteria that shades during the day and smells intoxicating by night. It's the best spot from which to watch the bustling corner at Fairview and Taft, too, which grows busier by the day.
Everyone knows the patio at Hugo's sister restaurant, Backstreet Cafe, is legendary. So legendary, in fact, it barely necessitates inclusion on any "best patio" lists; like the gardens at Tiny Boxwood's, Backstreet Cafe's patio transcends lists. But did you know that Hugo's boasts an equally pretty patio, with a gently trickling fountain and canopy of trees that make you forget you're facing one of the noisiest streets in the city? Now you do. And during the winter, it's the perfect spot to enjoy one of Hugo's signature desserts: churros and hot chocolate.
Natachee's Supper 'n Punch
As with Cottonwood, this is the place to come when you've got the kids in tow but still want to enjoy some grown-up fun. Amidst the umbrellas, picnic tables, and live music on this sprawling quarter-block of patio you'll also find sandboxes for the little ones and even kid's meals served in old-school lunchboxes. No kids? Make a day out of it at "The Best Block in Houston," and go shopping at Sig's Lagoon, My Flaming Heart, or The Tinderbox, get a haircut at Big Kat's or Kat's Meow, grab coffee at Double Trouble, cocktails at Alley Kat, and catch a show at Shoeshine Charlie's Big Top Lounge or The Continental Club.
The Red Lion
While the fireplace inside this most British of British pubs is alluring, it's the firepits outside on the lovely little patio I like best. Cozied up to one with a pint in hand is one of my favorite ways to pass a quiet Saturday night; alternatively, Sunday roast on the patio in the weekend sunshine is equally attractive.
2316 S. Shepherd Dr