When I lived in the Bay Area, it was warm enough to dine outside only three, maybe four nights a year — and even then I sometimes had to hand out sweaters. L.A., though, is paradise for those like me who'd eat outdoors every night if we could. And restaurateurs are beginning to realize what an asset a patio or courtyard garden or sidewalk terrace can be. Those tables tend to get booked up first. Here are three terrific options for alfresco dining in the Los Angeles area.
Anchored by a giant ficus tree, the sprawling back garden at this long-running Silver Lake Mediterranean restaurant is spectacularly romantic with its tiers of white-clothed tables and banquettes with flowered cushions. Partner Pierre Casanova is constantly improving the garden setting. Meanwhile, chef Vartan Abgaryan turns out dishes like English peas with morels and smoked honey, hamachi wrapped in paper-thin kohlrabi or duck breast with za'tar, pickled roasted plum and candy-striped beets. On summer Wednesdays, bartender and forager Matthew Biancaniello makes cocktails from farmed and foraged ingredients at his outdoor pop-up bar. And on Thursdays, oysters are $1 apiece until they run out.
3626 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 666-6116, www.cliffsedgecafe.com. Dinner items, $7 to $34. Brunch items, $6 to $16.
At the newish AOC, just a few blocks west of the original, it's all about that glorious courtyard garden with its potted olive trees, bougainvillea spilling over the wall, Suzanne Goin's svelte cooking and Caroline Styne's terrific wine list. Of course, as befitting a wine bar, there is cheese and charcuterie. But also Spanish fried chicken with romesco, rounds of focaccia topped with burrata and baby broccoli or a farmer's plate of summer vegetables. A wood-burning oven turns out clams or black rice, and for the hearty and hungry there are platters of house-made sausages, roasted chicken or rack of lamb to share.
8700 W. 3rd St., Los Angeles, (310) 859-9859, www.aocwinebar.com. Dinner items, $9 to $44. Lunch items, $9 to $22. Brunch items, $5 to $22.
You can drop a bundle eating sushi at Nobu's glam new Malibu digs. Or you can head over to Malibu Farm for a chopped salad or a grass-fed burger at this cafe at the very end of Malibu Pier. Order at the counter and then find a table outside, or even better upstairs on the rooftop deck with a straight shot of the Pacific on three sides. Much of the produce for the casual California fare comes from owner Helene Henderson's farm. For breakfast, get the quinoa oatmeal with coconut milk or the fried egg sandwich. At night, be sure to bring a sweater.
Pacific Coast Highway (at the end of Malibu Pier), Malibu, (310) 456-1112, www.malibu-farm.com. Reservations for dinner only. Closed Tuesdays. Breakfast and lunch items, $9 to $22. Dinner (Friday to Sunday) items, $6 to $25.