Seattle Alfresco

45 ways to hit the deck—and the dock, the courtyard, and the sidewalk just in time for outdoor dining season.

By Kathryn Robinson With Jena Vuylsteke January 3, 2009 Published in the May 2008 issue of Seattle Met

WHETHER IT’S THE RELENTLESS gray of a Seattle winter or the city’s startling capacity for beauty—no place on this earth does summertime like Seattle. And here’s how we do it: On a breezy deck, under a Cinzano umbrella, sipping something frosty, nibbling something perfect, sky and water and mountains reflected coolly in our shades. There may not be many perfect days in Seattle’s annual allotment, but here’s the good news: They’re all lined up ahead of us like sails on a Lake Washington Duck Dodge. We’ve told you where to go, what you’ll be looking at there, whether to bundle up to go, and what to order when you do. So what are you waiting for…sun’s out!




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Urban Vibes

Osteria La Spiga
A refurbished Seattle garage with a patio straight out of Greenwich Village.
Number of tables 8
Reserve outdoors? Yep.
Overhead A patch of city sky that never goes all the way dark.
View Huge gray wall on one side, portion of Seattle skyline on another, best restaurant interior in town through the windows.
Cure for the cold Two freestanding heat lamps.
Eat this Housemade tagliatelli.
Drink this How about a half-ounce flask of 25-year-old balsamic vinegar to jazz up a dish—or to quaff as a digestif? It’s six bucks on the condiments menu.
Best for… Italian movie nights, which transform the big wall into a big screen.
1429 12th Ave, Capitol Hill, 206-323-8881;


Café Campagne
Sidewalk bistro tables within a wrought-iron enclosure along a Pike Place Market alleyway.
Number of tables 7
Reserve outdoors? Requests only, no reservations.
Overhead A partitioned awning, which should protect all but the most broad-shouldered in the event of a cloudburst.
View The mad passing parade of Post Alley.
Cure for the cold Two electric heaters, installed in the awning.
Drink this A glass of Chateau de Jau rosé.
Best for… A midday pause for a nosh and a swig.
1600 Post Alley, Pike Place Market, 206-728-2233;


King’s Hardware
Sprawling patio in back of Ballard’s most soulful haunt, with long tables and an outdoor bar.
Number of tables 25
Reserve outdoors? Nope.
Overhead Canvas covers part of the patio, and umbrellas some of the tables. Aside from that it’s either sunshine or night sky.
View You could probably see the water if you stood on a table—oh yes, it’s been done—but what say we just stick with the brick wall and Magnolia hill vistas?
Cure for the cold Heaters.
Eat this A fat Misty Isle Farms burger with barbecue sauce and a mess of sweet potato fries.
Drink this PBR on tap.
Best for… Debauchery.
5225 Ballard Ave NW, Ballard, 206-782-0027;


A narrow Old World, cobbled alleyway just inside the iron gate.
Number of tables 16–20
Reserve outdoors? Yes.
Overhead Sunlight dappled through arching boughs.
View Twinkling lights, faux stucco walls, casement windows, blooming boxes, blissed-out patrons.
Cure for the cold Whatever’s spiciest off the world-ranging menu.
Eat this The Chef’s Whimsical Tasting Menu.
Drink this A fine Brazilian caipirinha.
Best for… First dates.
2331 Second Ave, Belltown, 206-441-9842;


All the Matadors (Redmond, West Seattle, and Ballard) draw the young and the fleshly, but only Ballard has all that plus rectangular concrete tables right on the sidewalk, European-style.
Number of tables 8
Reserve outdoors? First come, first served.
Overhead An awning.
View Occupying the epicentral corner of Northwest Market Street and Ballard Avenue Northwest, the evercrowded Ballard Matador offers vistas of roaring (traffic) and scoring (singles).
Cure for the cold 85 kinds of tequila.
Eat this Four-dollar nachos at Happy Hour (4–6pm; 10pm–1am).
Drink this Um…duh.
Best for… Hookups. (Pssst: If you bring Fido and snag an outdoor table, he can “eat” with you as long as he sits outside the patio railing.)
2221 NW Market St, Ballard, 206-297-2855;


The Pink Door
The rooftop in Pike Place Market.
Number of tables 36
Reserve outdoors? Yes—and better do it at least a week ahead.
Overhead An enchanting latticework of twining vines or the new retractable roof.
View The sun painting the sky as it sinks into Elliott Bay.
Cure for the cold Western exposure.
Eat this Spinach lasagna, justly famous.
Drink this It’s wine food, but a martini-festive kind of place.
Best for… The kind of giddy midsummer merrymaking that starts before work was supposed to end and usually winds up in a cab ride.
1919 Post Alley, Pike Place Market, 206-443-3241;

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Marco’s Supperclub
A 30-foot by 30-foot enclosed courtyard behind the great Marco’s, at once hidden and smack dab in the middle of Belltown.
Number of tables 15
Reserve outdoors? First come, first served.
Overhead A soft breeze.
View Skyscrapers all around the courtyard, flowers all around you.
Cure for the cold That enchanting little yak-hair sweater you bought at the flea market in Istanbul.
Eat this Marco’s kitchen always does well by a steak.
Drink this A Sidecar.
Best for… A twilight digestif in late June, when twilight lingers till half past 10.
2510 First Ave, Belltown, 206-441-7801;


Tamarind Tree
The corner of asphalt upon which the patio of this Vietnamese treasure improbably finds itself is bounded by a screen and a Vietnamese garden.
Number of tables 9
Reserve outdoors? Yes.
Overhead A retractable awning.
View A bubbling waterfall fountain and garden greenery.
Cure for the cold Five heaters, plus fleece blankets on request.
Eat this A shocking amount of excellent Vietnamese fare for your dollars and cents.
Drink this A tamarind martini.
Best for… Dinner next time it’s your treat.
1036 S Jackson St, Ste A, 206-860-1404;


22 Doors
The side yard of this Capitol Hill haunt looks a little like a pretty Victorian parlor, only outdoors.
Number of tables 7
Reserve outdoors? You can reserve for parties of six or more; otherwise it’s first come, first served.
Overhead A canvas “roof” that stretches over the yard like a horizontal sail.
View Brick walls, wicker chairs, wrought-iron tables, 15th Avenue scenesters.
Cure for the cold Two heat lamps.
Eat this Evenings, the ambitious kitchen pulls off fancy meat dishes with verve. Try the leg of lamb with lentils.
Drink this For sure, because their cocktails are famous.
Best for… Bloody Mary brunches.
405 15th Ave E, Capitol Hill, 206-324-6406;


A sliver of a brick-lined courtyard off the back room of this San Sebastián–style tapas bar wasn’t open yet as we went to press, but will be by the time we’re all dying for it.
Number of tables Maybe 7, maybe 8.
Reserve outdoors? No.
Overhead The sun, the moon, the stars.
View Classic urban alfresco: the world over a brick wall, a scattering of tables, a diverse assemblage of interesting people.
Cure for the cold Heat lamps.
Eat this Three or four pintxos (Basque tapas).
Drink this A bottle of cava.
Best for… A light nibble to gently punctuate the start or the end of a Belltown revel.
2207 Second Ave, Belltown, 206-204-9771;


A cozy patio dotted with planters masquerading as a wide-spot-in-the-sidewalk, where tables surround a large shade tree.
Number of tables 8–10
Reserve outdoors? First come, first served.
Overhead Tree branches creating pockets of intimacy or drips—depending on the weather.
View Ballard Avenue, in all its youthful exuberance.
Cure for the cold A couple of freestanding heaters.
Eat this Wild boar tenderloin with Gorgonzola sauce.
Drink this A bottle of Tua Rita Toscana Perlato Del Bosco, 2004.
Best for… Sunday brunch, when the Ballard Farmers Market turns Ballard Ave into a carnival and you have a front-row seat.
5411 Ballard Ave NW, Ballard, 206-789-5100;

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Neighborhood Hangouts

French doors lead out to an enclosed Parisian patio fringed by trees, flowers, and trellis vines.
Number of tables 6
Reserve outdoors? Nope.
Overhead A little coverage from a bay tree.
View A little less romantic now that the condo went up next door, but the patio itself provides stage set aplenty for a fine romance.
Cure for the cold Two heaters.
Eat this Pommes frites.
Drink this Any cocktail the best bartenders in town care to produce.
Best for… Culinary foreplay.
425 NW Market St, Ballard, 206-784-3463


Barking Frog
Grapevines trail romantically from a trellis on the patio of Woodinville’s big wine-country restaurant destination.
Number of tables 16
Reserve outdoors? Yes.
Overhead Umbrellas at about half the tables.
View Tables on the hedge—secluded patio surround a burbling fountain and pond.
Cure for the cold Five heaters.
Eat this In this joint, you order your food to go with your wine.
Drink this A bottle from one of Woodinville’s 40 wineries, of which Barking Frog’s list represents at least 28.
Best for… Splurges.
Willows Lodge, 14580 NE 145 St, Woodinville, 425-424-2999;


Brad’s Swingside Café
Two cedar decks on the Fremont Avenue side are breezy and fine, but the real find is the backyard oasis, currently used only for private parties.
Number of tables 6 on the front decks; 12 out back.
Reserve outdoors? First come, first served for the decks; large-party reservations required for the back.
Overhead Retractable awnings for the decks; open air in the rear.
View From the decks: Hog exhaust from the legendary Buckaroo Tavern across Fremont Avenue North. In back: the leaves on the trees, the stars in the sky.
Cure for the cold They’ll rent heaters for private parties in 
back, but in front it’s just you and the warm glow of your contentment.
Eat this Aglio e olio, good and oily.
Drink this Montepulciano. Lots.
Best for… Casual, convivial groups who like their music live and their Grateful Dead.
4212 Fremont Ave N, Fremont, 206-633-4057


Café Nola
A multitiered patio with wrought-iron chairs and square tables, surrounded by golden bamboo and hanging plants to filter noise from the street traffic.
Number of tables 12
Reserve outdoors? Yes.
Overhead Trellis with hanging plants and an awning.
View Peer through the bamboo for a look at the old Eagle Harbor church steeple and downtown Winslow.
Cure for the cold After walking from the ferry dock a quarter-mile away, you’ll be warm enough.
Eat this Weekend brunch (a recent pick of the Food Network’s Italian diva, Giada De Laurentiis).
Drink this Mimosas.
Best for… Summer daytripping.
101 Winslow Way, Bainbridge Island, 206-842-3822;


A serene garden patio with intimate round deuces on two levels, surrounded by glorious blooming flora.
Number of tables 11
Reserve outdoors? Yes.
Overhead Upper patio is under 
an arbor.
View Out here you’re part of the herb garden, along with trees and flower boxes and the firefly-glow of strung white lights.
Cure for the cold Two infrared heaters warm the upper level; flannel blankets upon request.
Eat this Whatever the chef whips up from the heirloom tomatoes and sweet corn of late summer.
Drink this Tahitian-blend iced tea, bursting with citrus and tropical fruits.
Best for… Herbivores—but any-vores will love it .
7314 Greenwood Ave N, Greenwood, 206-706-7703;

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There are a few tables on the Eastlake Ave sidewalk, but the lush secret courtyard in back takes “Tuscan terrazzo” to a whole new level of intimacy and charm.
Number of tables 6 tables in front; 15–16 tables in back.
Reserve outdoors? Request only, with priority given those who’ve reserved in the restaurant.
Overhead Umbrellas in front and back; retractable awning in back.
View In front, the traffic of Eastlake. In back, brick buildings, leafy architectural tree branches, smug looks on the faces of diners who’ve snagged a table.
Cure for the cold Four gas heaters between tables on the terrace.
Eat this Whatever big platter of rustic grilled meat and braised greens they’re serving that day.
Drink this Something Italian from the thoughtful wine list.
Best for… Wine dinners, thrown by Italo-phile chef John Neumark.
2043 Eastlake Ave E, Eastlake, 206-323-0807;


El Camino
It’s a back patio room whose ceilings, walls, and windows roll clean away in the balmy months, partly away in the transitional months.
Number of tables 17
Reserve outdoors? Yes, but for no more than eight people.
Overhead Ceiling or sky, depending on the season.
View South-of-the-border-style tables, green chairs, and colored lamps, with the multihued apartments of Fremont rising up around you.
Cure for the cold Three heaters and a fireplace.
Eat this Plantain chips with guacamole.
Drink this Margaritas that get the job done.
Best for… Excess.
607 N 35th St, Fremont, 206-781-4883;


Madison Park Café
The leafy courtyard entrance of a house restaurant.
Number of tables 11
Reserve outdoors? Yes.
Overhead The graceful boughs of a variegated box elder.
View Madison Park Playground, across the street.
Cure for the cold None at press time, but warming lamps planned.
Eat this French onion soup.
Drink this Something from the great selection of French wines.
Best for… A civilized meal with Mother and Dad.
1807 42nd Ave E, Madison Park, 206-324-2626;


Roanoke Inn
Three outdoor alternatives at this historic 1914 roadhouse: the old-time front porch, the fratlike fenced patio (frat-io?), and a grassy back croquet court genteelly dotted with tables.
Number of tables Porch: 6. Patio: 6. Backyard: 7.
Reserve outdoors? Nope.
Overhead A roof covers the front porch; the other two areas have umbrella tables.
View Only the backyard offers glimpses of Lake Washington.
Cure for the cold Only the porch offers heat lamps.
Eat this The Ro is renowned in spite of its food. Stick with a burger.
Drink this Whichever IPA’s on tap.
Best for… A belt with granny.
1825 72nd Ave SE, Mercer Island, 206-232-0800;


Tin Room Bar
A cheerful deck behind the soulfully refurbished Tin Room Bar (nee Hi-Line Tin Shop), plus a few sidewalk perches out front.
Number of tables 8 in back; 6 in front.
Reserve outdoors? No.
Overhead It’s shady on the street side—and on the back deck, once they position the umbrellas just so.
View Burien’s main drag in front; the restaurant in back.
Cure for the cold Heat lamps; blankets on request.
Eat this Marinated flank steak sandwich with cilantro and aioli.
Drink this A whiskey sour with fresh-squeezed orange juice.
Best for… Regulars—and anyone else who wants to become one.
923 SW 152nd St, Burien, 206-242-8040;


Lots of tables, high and low, set off from the sidewalk by wrought-iron fencing along the southwest corner of the Heathman Hotel’s farm-fresh Trellis restaurant.
Number of tables 10 at press time, with more on the way.
Reserve outdoors? First come, first served.
Overhead The overhanging roof.
View The vital center of a remarkably urban downtown Kirkland.
Cure for the cold The overhang has gas heaters built in.
Eat this Chef Brian Scheehser’s Two-Hour Salad, featuring produce just harvested from his own farm.
Drink this Napa chardonnay.
Best for… An impressive business dinner.
The Heathman Hotel, 220 Kirkland Ave, Kirkland, 425-284-5900;

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Beach Café at the Point

Beach Café at the Point
A crescent-shaped patio following the curve of the point right at the lapping edge of Lake Washington.
Number of tables 28
Reserve outdoors? Only the big table for six to 12, with a food-and-beverage minimum.
Overhead Awnings and umbrellas.
View The whole panoramic reason we live here: the boats on the lake, the Olympics on the horizon.
Cure for the cold Natural gas heaters, blankets by request, and a glass wall protecting diners from the wind.
Eat this Fish-and-chips with chermoula-tartar sauce.
Drink this A frothy Mac and Jack.
Best for… Those who can arrive by boat.
1270 Carillon Pt, Kirkland, 425-889-0303


Agua Verde Café and Paddle Club
Two viewy decks on the water side of an amiably frayed Mexican institution.
Number of tables 9 on the main deck; 7 on outside deck (used evenings as a bar holding pen for the crowds)
Reserve outdoors? Only for parties of eight to 14, and not in June, July, or August.
Overhead On the main deck, an insulated awning roof with skylights. On the other deck, a crank-out awning to protect against both drizzle and rays.
View From both decks, the whole dazzling sweep of the Lake Washington Ship Canal as it connects Lake Union with Portage Bay.
Cure for the cold Heaters in the zip-windowed deck; “people who know to bundle up” on the other.
Eat this Mahi mahi tacos with creamy avocado sauce.
Drink this A margarita, silly.
Best for… Diners patient enough to wait the hour or so for a killer deck table on a July Saturday night. (Pssst: Four o’clock Happy Hour usually affords a pretty decent chance.)
1303 NE Boat St, University District, 206-545-8570;


Big round tables clustered on a greenery-bedecked patio just west of the ever-welcoming Chinook’s.
Number of tables 14–16
Reserve outdoors? Nope.
Overhead Umbrellas at several tables.
View The best part of a meal on Chinook’s patio is the outlook onto the salty docks of Fisherman’s Terminal, home of the North Pacific Fishing Fleet and center of Seattle’s seafaring culture.
Cure for the cold Pretty much a bowl of cioppino.
Eat this The catch of the day, fresh and fairly priced.
Drink this A cold Maritime, brewed right across the canal in Ballard.
Best for… Jolly groups of merrymakers.
1900 W Nickerson St, 206-283-4665;


Daniel’s Broiler
Both the South Lake Union and Leschi outposts of this classic steakhouse have grandstand views of their respective water bodies and the deck tables to enjoy ’em.
Number of tables 15 at SLU and 14 at Leschi
Reserve outdoors? For dinner yes, for happy hour no (both locations).
Overhead Retractable awnings at both.
View Lakes, steaks, occasional drakes.
Cure for the cold Heat lamps; blankets at Leschi.
Eat this USDA Prime filet mignon.
Drink this A Manhattan. Double.
Best for… Doing deals.
809 Fairview Pl, South Lake Union, 206-621-8262. 200 Lake Washington Blvd, Leschi, 206-329-4191;


Duke’s Greenlake Chowder House
Duke’s big triangular patio just off Greenlake Drive North presents the most inviting place to hang out near the big pond. (Other Duke’s, at Alki, South Lake Union, and Kent, also feature outdoor dining, but not quite as much of it.)
Number of tables 30
Reserve outdoors? No. First come, first served and only open if the weather cooperates.
Overhead Umbrellas at some tables, which keep the sun off the balding pates of Duke’s aging fan base midsummer but aren’t as effective for the slantier rays of spring and fall.
View Peekaboo views, through palm fronds and fir boughs, of Green Lake.
Cure for the cold Straight shots.
Eat this The burgers are the best thing to eat at this chowder house.
Drink this It’s a rum-and-coke kind of place.
Best for… People who care more about drinks (which are imbibed copiously here) than food (which is hit-and-miss).
7850 Green Lake Dr N, Greenlake, 


A marvelous deck fronting Lake Union with lots of rounders, a few booths, an onyx bar, and a clientele right out of an Abercrombie catalog. (The Bellevue Joeys has no water view, but plenty of tables, in the Hyatt courtyard.)
Number of tables 14 in Seattle; 25 in Bellevue
Reserve outdoors? Sorry!
Overhead Just sky, sunshine, stars, and seagulls on Lake Union; just a few umbrellas in Bellevue.
View In Seattle, a stunning vantage point up the shaft of Lake Union, seaplanes and all. In Bellevue, the courtyard’s large fountain, twinkle-lit trees, and valet parking station. (Another set of views, cleavage, are amply in evidence at both locations.)
Cure for the cold In Seattle, heaters and a glass half-wall for wind screening. In Bellevue, heaters and blankets. (At both…new companions.)
Eat this Ahi wonton “tacos.”
Drink this A cosmo or two (they can be weak).
Best for… Prowling singles.
901 Fairview Ave N, South Lake Union, 206-749-5639;


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Alki: two levels of patio dining on a deck looking across Elliott Bay to the downtown skyline. Redondo: tables at the end of a wraparound pier across from Maury Island.
Number of tables Alki 50; Redondo 53
Reserve outdoors? Requests yes, reservations no.
Overhead Alki has a heated awning in one area but puts up umbrellas by request; at Redondo it’s just umbrellas on request.
View From Alki: civilization—the full panorama of Seattle’s skyline, nowhere better viewed than from here. From Redondo: wilderness—Maury Island, Puget Sound, and the snow-capped Olympics.
Cure for the cold At Alki, gas heaters, plus a clear–plastic, heated tent for use by large parties. At Redondo, eight heat lamps on the south deck; eight built-in heating units on the north; and blankets.
Eat this Sunday brunch.
Drink this At brunch there is a chocolate fountain.
Best for… A meal next time it’s their treat.
1936 Harbor Ave SW, West Seattle, 206-937-1600. 28201 Redondo Beach Dr S, Des Moines, 253-272-0607;


Maggie Bluffs
Kids romp on the nearby grass while their come-as-you-are parents relax at bistro tables on the casual marina-side patio.
Number of tables 34 in summer
Reserve outdoors? Nope.
Overhead Six sun umbrellas, but wear sunscreen or a hat: An awful lot of sun gets between them.
View Bobbing watercraft, the Seattle skyline from the north, the Space Needle.
Cure for the cold Four heaters.
Eat this A blue-cheese burger with caramelized onions and a side of tots tots on the side.
Drink this Bottomless glasses of strawberry lemonade.
Best for… Dropping in after a family bike ride.
2601 W Marina Pl, Elliott Bay Marina, 206-283-8322;


Ponti Seafood Grill
Patio amid the herb 
garden rockery on the canal 
side of the building.
Number of tables 12 on the side patio, 6 on the rear deck
Reserve outdoors? Request only.
Overhead Retractable awning.
View One of the most exceptional waterfront vistas in this watery burg: the Lake Washington Ship Canal, just west of the Fremont Bridge.
Cure for the cold Four heaters.
Eat this Grilled marinated calamari at Happy Hour.
Drink this Five-dollar wines by the glass at Happy Hour.
Best for… Happy Hour.
3014 Third Ave N, Queen Anne, 206-284-3000;


Ray’s Café
The second-story deck of Seattle’s classic fish house.
Number of tables 30, opens 
in spring when the weather 
gets balmy.
Reserve outdoors? First come…
Overhead There’s no relief from the sun at the aptly named Ray’s, so bring your sunglasses and—seagull incoming!—a hat.
View The whole jaw-dropping 180-degree layer-cake of sea, islands, snow-crowned Olympics, and Technicolor sunset.
Cure for the cold Blankets on request. (You’ll need them; it’s always windy.)
Eat this Chatham Strait sablefish in sake kasu, one of the best imports from the better menu downstairs at the higher-ticket Ray’s Boathouse.
Drink this A frosty German Celebrator Doppelbock, or any one of some three dozen other well-chosen draft microbrews and bottled imports.
Best for… Your out-of-town guests, who will undoubtedly spend dinner plotting ways to move here.
6049 Seaview Ave NW, Ballard, 206-789-3770;


Sostanza Trattoria
A few sidewalk tables, fewer (and sweeter) deck seats.
Number of tables 9 sidewalk, 4 deck
Reserve outdoors? Yes.
Overhead The sky or a scrap of awning on the sidewalk.
View Here at the tag end of Madison Street, Lake Washington shimmers through the trees and the Madison Park Beautiful People are showing plenty of shoulder.
Cure for the cold It gets shady here on the other side of sunset, so bring a very fond companion.
Eat this A big creamy plate of penne alla Grappa.
Drink this A bottle of Valpolicella.
Best for… Rrrromance.
1927 43rd Ave E, Madison Park, 206-324-9701;


A patio along the south side of Pier 70.
Number of tables Nearly 50
Reserve outdoors? Dinner yes, cocktails no.
Overhead Table umbrellas—but your waiter’s wearing shades so you might want to, too.
View Elliott Bay, Bainbridge, West Seattle, plying ferries.
Cure for the cold Blankets on request.
Eat this Grilled Yukon River king salmon.
Drink this A mojito so fine it was featured in Bon Appétit magazine.
Best for… Big groups. If you’ve never found enough seats for the gang on restaurant patios before—you just might here.
2801 Alaskan Way, Waterfront, 206-956-9171;

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