CT Guide to Outdoor Dining: 40+ Restaurants for Summer

April Guilbault

There are some ingredients in this world that, when you add them to anything, they pretty much make it spectacular. Bacon, for example. It would probably make a sneaker taste good. “Air” is another ingredient. Air-a bizarre ingredient on an episode of Chopped? No. Air, as in fresh air. Eating outside. Have you noticed that when you eat a lobster roll outside on a deck overlooking the ocean, it makes you happy? Or eat a grilled burger at a picnic table on a warm summer evening?  Or sip a frothy cappuccino at a sidewalk cafe? What is the common ingredient here? Fresh air. Good food combined with a hefty dose of the outdoors.

And lucky for you, we’ve put together a long list of our favorite eateries (40+) that have lovely outdoor dining spaces. 

If we missed an outdoor venue you frequent, please share your find below. 

For more Summer Eats see our Guide to The Best Warm Lobster Rolls on the CT Coast. 


Fortina (17 Maple Ave.)- Classic, yet hip, Italian food (pizzas, pastas, lots of prosciutto) prepared in wood-fired ovens. Serving brunch, lunch, and dinner at their good-sized, sidewalk seating area as soon as Mother Nature cooperates (hopefully by end of April). www.fortinapizza.com


Ecco Rooftop Bar (8 PT Barnum Square, on top of La Zingara)-Brick-oven fired pizzas, craft beers, cocktails-the whole she-bang served on a big ol’ rooftop. Serving brunch, lunch and dinners gastro-pub style. Anything place offering bacon jam on a salad is worth checking out, don’t you think so? www.eccorooftop.com


Darien Social (10 Center St.)-Casual American comfort food, cocktails shaken and stirred in the old’ fashioned way, brunches, social hours, cocktail hours and lots of fun. Great for groups who want to chill and enjoy local, New England-y offerings. Cute patio in the back where they will light the fire pit for the night crowd. www.dariensocialct.com

Meatball & Co.(20 Center St.)-Beneath a quaint green-and-white striped awning, you can partake in what Meatball and Co. calls “the ballin’ lifestyle” (they said it, not me). Choose your balls, choose your sauce, hunker down. These aren’t your grandma’s balls either (this is getting ridiculous)...The Gyro-Ball, The General Tso’s Ball, The San Gennaro Ball. Hang on for the ride. www.meatballandco.com

Scena (1077 Post Rd.)- Wood-oven fired pizzas, made-from-scratch pastas and a wall of wine are the highlight at this jumpin’ “scene” that highlights Mediterranean cuisine. It’s busy and fun and you can camp yourself at their “L”-shaped outside eating area (complete with heaters for chilly evenings). www.scenawinebar.com


Barcelona (4180 Black Rock Tpk., Stamford and Norwalk, too)- In Fairfield, sit on the deck under beach-casbah-like awnings (with lots of seating) and enjoy little bite after little bite for lunch, dinner and late night fun. Meats, cheeses, paella. The only thing missing will be Javier Bardem. www.barcelonawinebar.com

The Chelsea (12 Unquowa Place)-Enticing gastro-pub food while you can sit in a greenhouse or outside, watching the world go by. Try a Black Rock Lemonade (organic vodka/fresh lemonade/black cherry-jalepeno puree) and some lobster salad on their pretzel roll. The hippest little cottage-y place you’ll ever dine in. www.thechelseaff.com


HOME (1114 E Putnam Ave · Riverside) - The glass doors from the restaurant open to a patio to seat an additional 80 guest under a canvas lined pergola. The atmosphere is relaxed on numerous chairs and sofas to enjoy some fantastic Italian food under the stars. Scheduled to open late May. www.jhousegreenwich.com/greenwich-restaurants-en.html

L'Escale (500 Steamboat Rd.) - The fine French cuisine and a view of Greenwich Harbor captures the feel of the South of France. Extensive and beautiful outdoor seating runs along a considerable stretch of dock. Don’t forget where you parked the yacht, honey. Terrace opens for the season April 15. www.lescalerestaurant.com


Boulevard 18 (62 Main St.)-Escargot, oysters on the half shell, and duck confit are the beginnings of your Parisian evening at this bistro. Several little tables at which to enjoy their extensive wine and cocktail list and “en plein air” seating. Bon Appetit! www.boulevard18.com

Carpe Diem (26 Locust Ave) - With a self-enclosed pation that is an extension of the dining room, Carpe Diem may have the most beautiful of the patios in New Canaan. Enjoy pastas and entrees from the extensive menu. carpediemnewcanaan.com/

Cava (2 Forest St.)-Classic Italian specialties, from pasta to pizza to a wide variety of antipasti. A Flirtini or a Coconut Margarita will round out any summer night nicely as you enjoy the quaint atmosphere of Forest Street at their sidewalk tables. www.cavawinebar.com

Chef Luis (129 Elm St.)-Steaks, burgers, salads but with a nice touch of Central American flavor influences. Dinner, lunch, brunch and a kids’ menu items to enjoy outside as the restaurant spills out to the Elm Street sidewalk during the warm months. www.chefluis.net

Elm (73 Elm St.) - Brunches, lunches, bar dining and beyond highlight modern American cuisine at this sleek New Canaan eatery, which also has a smallish but lovely sidewalk dining space. Local, seasonal, and organic ingredients are showcases and shown the love. Enjoy a Nonsense and Sensibility cocktail while you partake. www.elmrestaurant.com

Locali (32 Forest St.)-Wood-burning oven fired pizzas, small plates, decadent desserts and outdoor seating (to rival the indoor seating) ramps up towards the end of April. Kale on a pizza? Uh-huh! www.localipizzabar.com

Tequila Mockingbird (6 Forest St.)-Saddle up to a classic this summer. Tequila Mockingbird, with its over-the-top Mexican decor, will take you South of the Border with their extensive list of tequilas and mezcals (one of the largest in the NE), sizzling fajitas, Baja fish tacos, tortilla soup. If it’s Mexican, they have it. Outdoor dining on adorable Forest Street when the temps gets caliente. www.tequilamockingbirdnc.com


Figs Wood Fired Bistro (105 Church Hill Rd.)-Lots of variety on this lengthy menu, with everything from their Open Face Lobster Crab roll to Pomegranate Short Ribs. Enjoy lunch or dinner outside under several umbrella-ed tables this season on their terrace. www.figswoodfiredbistro.com


Bar Sugo (102 Wall St.)-Simple Italian food (simply delicious!) for brunch and dinner. Lots of meatballs, cheeses, pizzas, Italian faves presented in new ways-”where modern Italian meets peasant food”. Smallish outdoor seating area compliments their small plates...but oh, ho, ho those flavors are as big as your Italian grandma’s hugs. www.barsugo.com

Burger Bistro Bar (60 N. Main St.)-Enjoy such bistro faves as *real* potato chips, stacked burgers (blue cheese...onions...), lobster sliders and a tall drinks. Small outdoor dining areas, lots of people watching. Happy hours, tabletop s’mores, trivia night, kid’s stuff. www.burgerbarandbistro.com

Estia’s (88 Washington St.)-Open for lunch and dinner, enjoy a quick trip to the Greek Isles. The Katsikisio (goat cheese baked with honey, almonds, and apricots) is worth the trip alone. Go for a generous entree or several appetizers, but go early if you want to eat outside-they only have a few tables. www.estiagreekrestaurant.com

Harbor Lights (82 Seaview Ave.)-Nothing says summer like seafood and overlooking a harbor while you enjoy it. Strangely enough, here you can feel like you are outside without actually being outside, as their wall of windows overlooks the harbor and sits just a few feet from it. Raw bar items and plenty of offerings from the sea. www.harborlightsrestaurant-ct.com

The Spread (70 N. Main St.). Situated in SoNo, this industrial rustic fave offers up homey foods with international influences. There is a nice handful of outdoor seating for you to enjoy small plates, medium plates and large plates of their seasonally driven delights such as fois gras, black truffle risotto balls or seared lamb saddle ...and find out which fits you juuuuust right, Goldilocks. And pssst...on weekends, their bar stays open late (a rarity around here! woot!). www.thespreadsono.com/

Mama’s Boy (19 N. Water St.)- “Come, sit, eat” they say at this Southern bistro. Get your grits on and enjoy slowing down time Southern-style at their outdoor seating area, right next to the Maritime Aquarium. Plenty of space, plenty of salty breezes, plenty of sweet tea. www.mamasboyct.com

Match (98 Washington St.)-Nibbles, cravings both big and small along with good things fresh from the farm and sea to round things out. Carpetbaggers, Osso Bucco, the Match Burger (Thursday night is the only night you can get it)-there is no Match for Match! Come by and see their newly redesigned space. Outdoor tables will be available as soon as the weather warms, hopefully soon! www.matchsono.com

Mediterraneo (353 Main Ave.)-Perched so that diners can view the rambling river and waterfall below, Mediterraneo offers up seafood dishes and specialty pizzas to entice for lunch and dinner. The roof top will be open this year to the public from 4 pm till sundown...bar, raw bar and reggae on Sundays.http://www.zhospitalitygroup.com/mediterraneonorwalk/food-and-wine.php

Oak + Almond (544 Main Ave.)-Go for lunch, dinner or late night and sit under the twinkled trees on their roomy patio. Many locally sourced ingredients, organic wine selections, earthy presentation, modern yet homey. www.oakandalmond.com

Overtons (80 Seaview Ave.)-Classic clam shack goods, along with burgers and hot dogs. Top it all off with a chocolate shake and you’ve got the ultimate sit-by-the-dock-of-the-bay lunch. Picnic table seating.www.overtons-seafood.com

Sails Bar and Grill (148 Rowayton Ave.)-A bit of Nantucket on the mainland for brunch, lunch and dinner. Cute, white-picket fence surrounded outdoor patio. Stuffed Quahogs, “indulgent” mac and cheese with crispy pork belly and “fry bowls”...feta fries, truffle fries, gravy fries. Be sure to wear your Nantucket reds. www.sailsamericangrill.com

Sunset Grille (52 Calf Pasture Beach Rd.)-Buried beyond the boats and near the beach, enjoy summer seafood eats out on a deck at the perfect time...sunset. You’ll love it and wish that every night could be a summer evening. Classic by-the-beach fare-chowder, fish and chips, grilled sword. Opens April 17th. www.sunsetgrille.net

Valencia Luncheria (164 Main St.)-Venezuelan beach food...in...Norwalk. Go figure. Arepas, ceviche and all things tropical. Put your feet in the sand (really) and dine alfresco with tiki torches and picnic tables. www.valencialuncheria.com


Artisan (275 Old Post Rd.)-They get the award for squeezing the most twinkly lights and fire sources into one gorgeous space. You’ll never want to leave. An extensive wine list and Americana cuisine that is rounded-out with local ingredients will please and keep you hanging out by the fires. www.artisansouthport.com


Barrique Bistro & Wine Bar (188 Bedford St.) Located on the corner where downtown Stamford’s sidewalk café scene began, Barrique’s large wood doors fold open on both sides of Bedford and Spring streets revealing a large outdoor dining space. A few steps from the Art Deco Avon Theatre, Barriques menu mostly focuses on France, with Italian, Spanish, Latin, Asian and Latin influences. Perfect spot for summer. www.barriquestamford.com/

Dolce Cubano (78 Southfield Ave.) - With a million dollar view of the harbor leading to the mouth of the Rippowam River, Dolce Cubano offers numerous selections of small plates, pastas and entrees to pair with loads of wines and cocktails. dolcecubano.com/

F.I.S.H (245 Bedford Street) - Brought to you by the owners of Quattro Pazzi and Osianna, F.I.S.H. is the newest addition to al fresco dining on Bedford St. Enjoy many of their raw bar selections or go straight to the main event and order some of the freshest fish in the area. www.fishstamford.com/

Harlan Social (121 Towne Street) The concept at this Harbor Point favorite is "American Gastropub," a New York style array of small plates, entrees, sandwiches, cheeses, and pastas, all seemingly familiar to the local palate, but flavored with intriguing surprises. Comfortable and elegant outdoor seating can be found for brunch, lunch and dinner. Note: The burger is outstanding! www.harlansocial.com/

Volta (30 Spring Street) - Looking for outdoor brunch of crepes and espresso on a lazy Sunday morning or enjoy some excellent gelato, Volta offers both on Spring St. www.volta.us/


Knapp's Landing (520 Sniffens Ln)- When enjoying one of the best views in CT, stick to the “King Lobster Roll.” Chunks of claw and tail meat are first poached in butter, and then ladled onto a grilled soft roll. A generous 6 oz. portion (the meat found in a two pound whole lobster) makes this colossal sandwich the heftiest along the coast. knappslanding.com/menu.html

Outriggers (555 Broad St.)-Sitting dockside at Brewer’s Marina on the Housatonic River, enjoy dining at heir sizable outside deck or saddle up to the Buoy Bar. Lunch and dinner served, with lots of seafood options-chowder, lobster ravioli, crab cakes...good seafaring food. www.outriggersrestaurant.com


Aqua (43 Main St.) Lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch Mediterranean specialties, from the light (think arugula salad with fennel and figs) to the homey-and-comforting (parmesan crusted halibut or porcini mushroom and spinach ravioli), will be enjoyed on the outdoor deck that somehow manages to be cute and inviting despite jutting into a parking lot...brushed silver tables, rattan seats and topiaries frame a space with plenty of tables where you can hang and enjoy la dolce vita.zhospitalitygroup.com/acqua/

Bartaco (20 Wilton Rd. also Stamford and Portchester)-Beachy goodness on the shores of the Saugatuck. Well, there’s a surprise! Enjoy the unique tacos (wild boar, fried oyster and more) dining on their river-side deck and top your laid-back, tropical interlude off with a chocolate tamale. Life is good. www.bartaco.com

Java (44 Church Ln.)- A funky bohemian blast from Idaho has landed in Westport. Coffees, teas, breakfast offerings like a Dirty Hippi Burrito, kale and quinoa salads, paleo baked goods. Enjoy your Bowl of Soul hangin’ outdoors on this sweet little street. javabowlofsoul.com/#/824386/HOME

Post 154 (154 Post Rd. E)-Sit under umbrellas at the old post office and people-watch in Westport as you sip a cocktail and enjoy Puerto Rican and tropically influenced dishes.  Open for brunch (yuca fries! tiny cinnamon buns!), lunch and dinner. www. post154.com

Rive Bistro (299 Riverside Ave.)-A bit of France alongside the sweet Saugatuck and plenty of tables underneath their striped awning. Put your imagination to work and it will be the Rhone, lights dancing on the water and all. When you are craving some Croque-Monsieur, some moules frites provencal or a salad nicoise, head here-Tout de suite! www.rivebistro.com

Terrain (561 Post Rd. E)-Eat or shop, shop or eat. A classic conundrum. Organic and local brunch, lunch, dinner served in a greenhouse-y area of the store or their good- sized patio. What to eat? Lots of veggies, artisanal cheeses, grains, bread in cute, terra cotta pots. You might be surrounded by plants, but there are offerings for the meat-eaters, too. www.shopterrain.com

The Whelk (575 Riverside Ave.)-Overlooking the quaint Saugatuck River, The Whelk brings sustainable, local seafood and ingredients to the lips of it’s diners in the glorious way that only The Whelk can. Caviar, oysters, clams, and don’t forget the crispy fried pigs tails.www.thewhelkwestport.com