Every weekend the question is the same: Where can we plop ourselves down for a few hours to eat and booze in the sun? We’re Los Angelenos, after all, every weekend is outdoor-dining worthy. Yet, this is a time in L.A. when you start to smell smoked sausages grilling on your neighbor’s hibachi and you regularly frequent Joan’s on Third to select a picnic spread for the Hollywood cemetery screenings. It’s a time when you break open bottles of wine and overlook the city at Yamashiro’s Thursday night farmers market and share Bay City’s godmothers after a kickball competition on Venice Beach. In celebration of summer, Eat Your Heart Out L.A. is launching its very first top 10 list, brought to you by a newly appointed EYHOLA brain trust which will continue to be behind future “top 10″ postings. Get ready to break out your wayfarers L.A., here’s our favorite outdoor dining spots.
Alcove Cafe & Bakery, Los Feliz
There’s something comforting about dining in a space that feels like your parents’ backyard and Alcove is just that – a not-so-secret garden outside of two warm bungalows. Alcove understands that sometimes you want pancakes at 3 pm, so their breakfast menu is available until 5 pm, a huge benefit for those of us who won’t get out of bed before noon. Their menu is also extensive enough to accommodate sweet-tooths and vegetarians alike. With an order-at-the-counter and then find-your-own-table protocol, the hunt for a seat can be a little frantic, but it’s impossible not to relax once you’re sipping mimosas under the California sun.
1929 Hillhurst Avenue Los Angeles, CA 90027
Blue Cow Kitchen, Downtown
When it comes to sandwiches, most are forgettable. But then there are others you obsessed about for weeks. Blue Cow is serving up a carte du jour that falls in the latter category, including a French (Onion Short Rib) Dip that merges decadence with comfort; creamy and savory in a warm bun. Luckily, this downtown eatery isn’t a one trick pony – dishes that require utensils are just as impressionable. Like its food, the beverage offerings are both sophisticated and relaxed. The interior decor is a charming farmhouse chic, but it’s hard to resist the spacious patio on a warm L.A. evening. Lounging under the stars with a refreshing honey lemonade cocktail in hand, you start to contemplate the benefits of moving downtown.
350 South Grand Avenue Los Angeles, CA 90071
Mohawk Bend, Echo Park
If 72 beers on tap isn’t enough to make you want to run for Mohawk Bend, perhaps their spectacular atrium will entice you. Technically it’s enclosed but it sure doesn’t feel like it, with skylights stretching to the heavens and vibrant trees blooming in their cholorophllic glory. If you need to feel the outdoor breeze, take a seat on their patio near Sunset Blvd., where a fireplace warms at night but doesn’t overheat during sunlight hours. Care for a barleywine? No problem. How about a doppelbock? They’ve got that too. And because you’ll want to taste as many as beers as possible, they’ve got a substantial menu on hand, including fried egg-topped spinach pizza and vegan buffalo cauliflower.
2141 West Sunset Boulevard Los Angeles, CA 90026
Wood & Vine, Hollywood
The last time we counted, we ended up at Wood & Vine three times in one week, each time for a different reason. The first was for chef Gavin Mills’ cooking, which includes a sensational chicken and waffles, both maple sweet and crispy buttered savory. The second was for the chance to sit fireside on the outdoor patio and marvel at the landscape. Anchored by a chic fire pit and adorned with elegant trees, the surrounding buildings exaggerates the atmosphere. It’s romantic and cinematic - a location unlike anywhere else in the city. The third was for their drink list: close to 70 whiskey offerings, cocktails with a twist and a well-selected craft beer list. Wood and Vine is one of the best things to have happened to Hollywood. In fact, it’s one of the best things to have happened to L.A.
6280 Hollywood Boulevard Los Angeles, CA 90028
Eveleigh, West Hollywood
With its sun-drenched patio, sprawling wood beams and exposed brick, Eveleigh may just be the prettiest country home you’ve ever seen. It gets even better. The boozy lemonade can be ordered by the pitcher, and the brunch menu doesn’t shy away from hearty platefuls of sausages, corned beef, and smoked bacon – just the meal we need after a long Saturday night on the town, if you know what we mean. Nevertheless, the patio is just as picturesque at night, with a flickering fireplace, and lighting that acknowledges everyone looks better in warm, dim illumination. The sophisticated cocktail list won our hearts by serving a mezcal concoction. If we could, we’d move into Eveleigh permanently.
8752 West Sunset Boulevard West Hollywood, CA 90069
What can be said about Gjelina that hasn’t already been written about, buzzed about, tweeted about and then debated over? It is, after all, one of those trendy spots that divides its patrons. Some locals tout it as their favorite restaurant, gushing over the buttery truffled mushroom toast and the extensive pizza carte du jour. Others remark, almost with an elitist sneer, that service there is despicable, and they would never bother to wait for a table again. In regards to our tans, however, we adore Gjelina’s outdoor patio, and it’s even pretty enough to be appreciated long after the sun has set. And if the going gets real tough, that is, the wait for a two-top has climbed past 45 minutes, simply go next door and visit the to-go window. Then enjoy your lamb sausage pizza, toes deep in the sand, on Venice Beach instead.
1429 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice, CA 90291
Wedged on the sandy line where Venice disintegrates from the chic walk of Abbot Kinney to the dingy, often dodgy “slums” of the boardwalk, Larry’s is the gastropub the surfer’s seafront has been in need of for years. With a series of dishes for $15 and under, standouts include all things house-cured like the potted chicken liver and house made meats. The space is divided into three sections, all of which are sun-kissed at different points throughout the day. The airy span of the main dining area hosts a fireplace, which in the evening glows a calm amber while strings of transparent light-bulbs swing under a roll-away tarp for a roof. We like that we can roll into Larry’s sporting beach attire after a dip in the ocean. Nothing makes us appreciate Southern California more than seeing the salt on our skin as we reach for another cold draft.
24 Windward Ave, Venice, CA 90291
Plan Check, West L.A.
One of these things is not like the others, and in the case of Plan Check, a gastropub strategically placed on the “Little Osaka” stretch known for its Japanese cuisine, it’s actually cool to be the new kid in school. Let’s start with our favorite words: ”bacon two ways” and “cheese two ways.” All that plus a fried egg on their chef’s favorite burger, and suddenly we’re nominating Plan Check for class president. Fries are airy and crisp, paired with homemade ketchup, while donuts are delicately fried to a golden crisp, dusted with sugar and served over a cumulus pool of whipped cream. Cocktail monikers such as “Ronin” and “Bento Box” still pay tribute to the neighborhood, but there isn’t a sake bottle in sight. Finally, a patio under the stars where West L.A. residents can escape to for a lambic, without running into the throngs of Bruins nearby.
1800 Sawtelle Boulevard West Los Angeles, CA 90025
Sunny Spot, Venice
As if you need an excuse to taste anything from Roy Choi’s Kitchen. After all, you’ll sit curbside just to eat what he’s cooking. At the aptly named Sunny Spot, you can feel both the warmth of the sun and the cool of the westside breeze while filling your belly with a citrus papaya mango salad or a fiery bowl of prawns. It’s impossible not to love it here, where rooms are dressed in a kaleidoscope of color and the extensive rum menu allows you to choose your own adventure. Our dreams came true when Sunny Spot recently kicked off their weekend brunch. What better way to start your morning than a rummy Jamaican coffee and glazed pork belly? Like all of Choi’s menus, it hits the spot.
822 Washington Blvd, Venice, CA 90292
Zengo, Santa Monica
There are a lot of bottomless brunch joints in L.A. which serve up greasy scrambles and an overpriced bagel and lox, but Zengo‘s take on limitless indulgence is executed with quality dishes and sophistication. $35 buys you an endless amount of small plates such as machengo miso mustard sliders and a refreshing sea bass ceviche. And you’re not confined to sticking with their mimosa. Opt for the bacon bloody mary or lychee bellini, then kick back and breathe in the salty air – that’s how close you are to the Pacific.
395 Santa Monica Place, Santa Monica, CA 90401