The South has a love affair with outdoor dining. It takes many forms: the college football tailgate, the neighborhood or church picnic, hog roasts, oyster roasts and shrimp, crawfish or crab boils, just to name a few.
Atlanta restaurants know this and take advantage of their location in a temperate, tree-filled city boasting a picturesque skyline and attractive neighborhoods. In a market where restaurants have patios as a rule, what makes some stand out above the others?
Maybe it’s the location or that dreamlike view. Maybe it’s the menu offerings combined with the vibe for an ideal combination that’s equal parts comfort and cool. And sometimes, it’s simply a little je ne sais quoi that you can’t quite put your finger on. With spring finally ushering in warmer weather, we’ve combed through metro Atlanta’s patios to bring you a hit list of coveted outdoor spaces that will have you covered — both figuratively and sometimes literally — this patio season.
The Big Ketch Saltwater Grill (Roswell)
In historic Roswell, grab the whole gang for a meal at the Big Ketch Saltwater Grill. The seafood restaurant, which goes for a “beach chic” feel, features a family-friendly outdoor patio that seats 50 diners, and also offers a soft seating area for embracing your inner beach bum. It may not be as restful as kicking back on a hammock while listening to ocean waves, but the relaxed atmosphere makes for a chill spot for a family outing. The best part: The patio is fronted by a large green space where you can play a host of lawn games, including corn hole, Jenga and ladder ball. 1105 Canton St., Roswell. 770-993-5749, thebigketch.com.
For a low-key lunch outdoors in historic Norcross, head to the Bleu House, which represents the merged menus and locations of the Bleu House Café and the Market. Now residing in the former Market building, the homey eatery serves up a bevy of sandwiches and Southern comfort food for weekday lunch. The adorable blue cottage seats a dozen diners on the front porch and almost 30 on the simple yet welcoming deck, where you can sink your teeth into a hefty sandwich like the Five P — pulled pork, pimento cheese, provolone and pepper jam on a pretzel bun — while lounging at the tables under bright cherry-red umbrellas. 62 College St., Norcross. 678-527-6278, bleuhousenorcross.com.
Crú Food & Wine Bar (Alpharetta)
The patio game is strong at Avalon in Alpharetta, with most eateries offering some type of outdoor seating. From a cozy European-style sidewalk cafe with couches beneath a pergola at Rumi’s Kitchen to a pet-friendly patio and rooftop bar offering a European beer selection on tap at Barleygarden, there’s a little something to suit every mood and craving. But the best seat in the Avalon house just might be at Crú Food & Wine Bar, with a bustling patio for people-watching and wine tasting, and a rooftop with killer views of Avalon Nights Live — a free live music series in the Plaza every Friday night from 6-8 p.m., April through October. Order a wine flight, cheese plate and shareable apps, then kick back and enjoy the tunes. Date night complete. 300 Avalon Blvd., Alpharetta. 678-248-5181, cruawinebar.com.
King + Duke
One of Atlanta’s most visible patios, the outdoor dining area at King + Duke overlooks the intersection of Peachtree Road, Roswell Road and West Paces Ferry. This location has known excellent patios before: Nava, the prior tenant, served prickly pear margaritas by the thousands during its long run of al fresco dining dominance. Thanks to a few smart updates, King + Duke’s patio has several things going for it, including a dedicated outdoor bar, comfortable seating and plenty of shade. Sipping on a cocktail and watching Buckhead’s most stylish cars creep by, it’s easy to feel content when the power brokers stuck in traffic are sending jealous glances your way. 3060 Peachtree Road NW, Atlanta. 404-477-3500, kinganddukeatl.com.
Ladybird Grove & Mess Hall
As evidenced by its always-packed patio beckoning thirsty walkers from the Beltline, Ladybird might be the current titleholder in Atlanta’s heavyweight “al fresco” division. According to Michael Lennox, the restaurant’s owner, part of Ladybird’s popularity stems from having developed over time the area known as the Grove. As it became an outdoor eating and drinking destination, the Ladybird team was able to anticipate needs like a large bike parking area. Comfortable patio seating and a menu that’s built for outdoor dining also help create an environment that draws a crowd on any warm, sunny day. 684 John Wesley Dobbs Ave. NE, Atlanta. 404-458-6838, ladybirdatlanta.com.
The Westside sushi joint has a rooftop patio that enjoys one of the best views imaginable of the Midtown skyline. Arrive before dusk to watch the setting sun turn Atlanta’s skyscrapers gold for a few minutes. A strong cocktail list will keep you refreshed even on warmer evenings, and the excellent sushi will invite you to stay long after the sun has set. 1085 Howell Mill Road NW, Atlanta. 404-500-2383, o-kusushiatl.com.
Six Feet Under (Grant Park)
It was voted Atlanta’s best patio in an Access Atlanta poll last year, and the wisdom of the crowd holds true: The stunning view of Oakland Cemetery with the Atlanta skyline in the background is hard to beat. Oakland is one of Atlanta’s true cultural treasures, and enjoying a basket of fried seafood and a beer at Six Feet Under’s rooftop patio after a walk among the tombstones is an Atlanta rite of passage. 437 Memorial Drive SE, Atlanta. 404-523-6664, sixfeetunder.net.
Table & Main
Refined Southern elegance is the vibe at Table & Main in historic Roswell, which boasts a brick-paved garden patio surrounded by lush greenery for a serene, casually romantic atmosphere just steps from Canton Street’s main drag. On cooler evenings, a stone fireplace keeps diners toasty. Sample one of the gems from the extensive bourbon bar and order some of the seasonal Southern fare on the menu like its signature fried chicken. But save room for dessert; the brown butter cake is our current favorite. 1028 Canton St., Roswell. 678-869-5178, tableandmain.com.
Victory Sandwich Bar (Inman Park)
There’s no shortage of excellent patios in Inman Park. You can’t go wrong with Bartaco or Pure Taqueria, and One Eared Stag has a peaceful, secluded back deck. But the beauty of Victory is that when they open the doors and windows, the whole place feels like a patio. Work up a sweat playing pingpong, then cool down with icy cocktails that go well beyond its famous frozen Jack & Coke. 913 Bernina Ave. NE, Atlanta. 404-963-1742, vicsandwich.com.
Wade’s Fine Eatery and Good Time Emporium
Enjoy casual al fresco dining in Smyrna at Wade’s Fine Eatery and Good Time Emporium, located on the Concord Road Linear Park, with beautiful views and space for kids to play while you wait. A 700-square-foot patio offers an indoor/outdoor bar for libations, while an adults-only rooftop deck with bar pours Tiki-inspired cocktails in addition to a regular craft cocktail menu. The restaurant focuses on casual eats, like sandwiches and burgers, with a curated craft beer and cocktail selection that matches the playful nature of its food (think dishes with cheeky names, like “Everybody Loves Ramen,” “Too Lazy to Cook” and “Americans Ruin Everything,” among others). 1061 Concord Road SE, Smyrna. 678-239-4147, wadesofsmyrna.com.