One of the very few upsides of the pandemic has been the increased availability of outdoor dining. In Texas, where the weather is often inviting—even during the summer, all you need is some shade and a cold drink to survive the heat—this has been a particular boon. And it’s hard to imagine the trend reversing once we emerge from the current crisis. Food and drink and a big Texas sky were made for each other.
A vine-covered trellis shelters much of the broad terrace at Easy Tiger Bake Shop & Beer Garden’s new South Lamar satellite.
The shade is deep in the oak grove at Mexican restaurant Fresa’s South 1st location.
Why eat your mushroom manicotti inside Juliet Italian Kitchen, on Barton Springs Road, when you can relax in the pavilion, with its smart black-and-white awning?
Romance is in the air at French restaurant Justine’s, with outdoor tables sectioned into private bungalows.
At the white-marble-topped tables on Launderette’s covered porch, guests snack on fried shrimp with Old Bay aioli.
Ancient oaks shade many of Loro’s picnic tables, which are filled with folks devouring barbecue and Asian snacks.
With its red-umbrella tables encircling a large koi pond, Matt’s El Rancho is ideal for outdoor margaritas and cheese enchiladas.
Stars twinkle over the downstairs terrace and upstairs deck at Italian-oriented Olive & June.
Watch the boulevardiers on South Congress from the big, breezy wooden deck at Perla’s seafood restaurant.
The famed North African city inspired this latter-day Casablanca, filled with a young clientele inhaling cocktails and wolfing down Asian- and Mediterranean-inspired nibbles on a tile-covered patio.
Eclectic Dahlia Bar & Bistro has plants high overhead and a cocktail-ready terrace.
With its cacti, vintage cars, and ballpark nachos, Desert Racer is just plain fun.
Mexican specialties—from short-rib enchiladas to coconut ceviche—are presented with great style at tables surrounding the colorful fountain on José’s ample covered terrace.
Adults, kids, and dogs devour loaded cheese fries around shaded picnic tables at the Katy Trail Ice House.
Popular Mexican chain Mi Cocina has settled in at Klyde Warren Park, complete with skyscraper views and museums within walking distance.
From downtown’s Jaxon Texas Kitchen & Beer Garden, you can see part of AT&T’s dazzling multistory “media wall,” which features digital displays worthy of Times Square.
With one of Dallas’s largest outdoor areas, Paradiso has it all: a blue-and-white-tiled fountain and glittering lights in a pretty, Mediterranean-style space.
At longtime favorite Parigi, a classy menu, smart striped awning, and little round tables out front evoke a picture-postcard Paris.
With vines and ferns galore, the big, family-friendly grounds of Smoky Rose are great for enjoying everything from barbecue sliders to jalapeño hush puppies.
The massive covered patio at Fort Brewery welcomes people—and pups—of all ages for live music, craft beers, and exceptional pizza.
Expansive, profusely flowering courtyards at Joe T. Garcia’s promote the leisurely consumption of margaritas by the pitcher.
The Magnolia Wine Bar’s outdoor living room serves up charcuterie boards, bubbles, and a possible sighting of singer Leon Bridges.
Press Cafe offers steak salads and great people-watching on a patio with oversized blooming planters and a view of the Trinity River.
Overhead fans and walls of succulents keep the Righteous Foods alfresco dining area chill for guests consuming cinnamon-dusted churros.
The plant-filled, festively lit rooftop at Tinie’s affords unbeatable downtown views to accompany tasty Mexico City–style tacos.
Amid strings of lights and a bubbling fountain, Backstreet Cafe dishes out brisket wraps and Gulf shrimp and grits.
At Brennan’s of Houston, the brick terrace, with ivy-covered walls, is made for a Sazerac at sundown.
Accompany your house-made brew and smoked birria nachos with a fantastic Houston skyline vista at Buffalo Bayou Brewing Co.
The pasta and pizza at Coltivare are perfect for the backyard garden, with its gravel walkways, towering plants, and sea of umbrellas.
With two spacious decks, one with treetop views, stylish Hungry’s offers everything from Mama’s Meatloaf to a veggie burger.
Barbecue joints seldom have classy digs or fabulous views of downtown, but J-Bar-M Barbecue is a happy exception.
Kuu’s handsome outdoor space makes a dramatic backdrop for colorful sushi and sashimi.
You’ll find Maryland crab cakes and fifty-plus wines by the glass at sleek Mutiny Wine Room’s elegant terrace.
Enjoy a cheese-and-meat board and glass of pinot noir in Tiny Boxwoods’ delightful, spacious courtyard.
Bliss has a flagstone patio where palms sway and fire plays as you dine on a diverse, global menu.
Families get their burger fix at the The Friendly Spot Ice House, with its play area, cavorting dogs, and ginormous television.
La Fogata’s Vance Jackson location dishes up fajitas and stellar ’ritas amid a hodgepodge of outdoor tables, twinkling lights, and, frequently, mariachis.
Savor the ultimate hacienda patio—white stucco walls, colorful tiles, enormous oak—at La Fonda on Main.
Have a focaccia pizza on the flagstone courtyard at lovely Jardín, at the San Antonio Botanical Garden.
La Gloria, in the Pearl district, augments a varied Mexican menu with tables along the river’s edge.
At Pinkerton’s Barbecue, tote your “candy paint” ribs out to the rustic covered porch or vest-pocket park.
The Cove’s vast selection of beer on tap, casual eats, and grackle-friendly grounds are a citywide destination.
You can enjoy better-than-average bar food, such as addictive queso, at one of the Dakota East Side Ice House’s picnic tables.
This article originally appeared in the March 2022 issue of Texas Monthly with the headline “Who Needs Walls?” Subscribe today.