Style / Restaurants : Top-Down Dining
In LA, eating outdoors is a way of life. And there so many ways. Want a meal on the deck with an ocean view? Or dinner on the terrace in the mountains? Perhaps an elegant patio supper at a posh hotel is more to your liking. Whatever your style, we’ve got the restaurant with the food and fresh air to match.
Up on the Roof
BARNEY GREENGRASS:The stylish deli-cafe atop Barneys New York has a wonderful umbrella-decked terrace with a view of Beverly Hills. You can even see the Hollywood sign off in the distance. All this and some of the best smoked fish to be found on either coast, flown in from the respected Manhattan purveyor, Barney Greengrass. I, for one, can’t get enough of their superb Nova Scotia salmon and sable, preferably with a couple of toasted bialys on the side. The herring is terrific; so is the chopped liver, the tuna fish and the whitefish salad.
Barneys New York, 9570 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills; (310) 777-5877. Expensive.
THE ROOF GARDEN: Surrounded by roses, palms and fragrant herbs, the Peninsula’s smart California cafe on the roof is just a few steps down from the pool, where power breakfasters settle in for fresh fruit smoothies, spa cereals and fluffy strawberry ricotta pancakes with raspberry butter. Housemade pastries are delicious, and at lunch there are pretty little salads and one of the best burgers in town, grilled Angus beef with Tillamook cheddar.
Peninsula Beverly Hills Hotel, 9882 Little Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills; (310) 551-2888. Moderately expensive.
By the Sea:
BACK AT THE BEACH: A spinoff of the casual Santa Monica restaurant Back on Broadway, this is a terrific spot for a late breakfast. Tables and molded plastic chairs set on the sand put you about as close to the sea as you can get in a restaurant setting. Bring your shades and an appetite: Fresh-squeezed juices, huge omelets filled with mushrooms or feta, tomatoes and spinach, and piles of roasted potatoes.
445 Pacific Coast Highway, Santa Monica; (310) 393-8282. Inexpensive.
WEST BEACH CAFE: Ever since this classic California cafe added a large, breezy patio with tall palm trees, heat lamps and strings of lights a couple of years ago, there’s been a rush for the outdoor tables on balmy summer evenings. At lunch, enjoy shelter in the shade of the big canvas umbrellas for the cafe’s Mexican breakfast (quesadilla, huevos ranchero and chile relleno all on one plate), crisp Belgian waffles smothered in berries or eggs soft scrambled with smoked salmon.
60 N. Venice Blvd., Venice; (310) 823-5396. Moderately expensive.
THE TERRACE: Set in a quirky oceanside hotel that dates from 1888, the casual Terrace restaurant boasts a setting that looks right onto the beach. The So Cal menu is, if nothing, eclectic: burgers and pizzas, Thai ribs and Chinese chicken salad to rock shrimp tostadas and swordfish fajitas.
Hotel Laguna, 425 S. Pacific Coast Highway, Laguna Beach; (714) 494-1151. Moderate.
CAFE ZINC: Imagine sitting at a zinc-topped French cafe table sipping a glass of fresh peach juice or a frothy cappuccino, nibbling on flaky homemade scones or a wedge of vegetable-laced frittata. The food is tasty and sophisticated but the setting is beachy casual: a lovely patio lush with potted plants. Breakfast until 11 a.m., lunch until 5 p.m.
350 Ocean Ave., Laguna Beach; (714) 494-6302. Inexpensive. Cash only.
RUBY’S: With the promise of sun and a salty breeze, there’s few better places for a juicy burger and a cherry coke than the rooftop deck of Ruby’s at the end of Balboa Pier. Polish off that RubyDoobyDoubleCheeseburger[ (substitute turkey or veggie patties for the choice ground chuck if you like) and basket of shoestring fries with a double vanilla shake. There’s a pretty good malted waffle for breakfast, too. Soon to open at the Huntington Beach pier.
#1 Balboa Pier, Balboa; (714) 675-7829. Inexpensive.
SADDLE PEAK LODGE: For more than 90 years, the impossibly romantic Saddle Peak, a former hunting lodge of stone and rough-hewn timber, has been a mountain escape for city folk. Its doors open wide against a backdrop of rugged mountain scenery onto a broad, shady terrace for brunch and early evening dining beneath the stars. With Josie LeBalch back in the kitchen, the food has improved: pumpkin flapjacks with mesquite-broiled ham at brunch, and at dinner, the sophisticated game specialties.
419 Cold Canyon Road, Calabasas; (818) 222-3888. Expensive.
INN OF THE SEVENTH RAY
In the dog days of summer, try a drive into woodsy Topanga Canyon to the Inn of the Seventh Ray. Let’s face it, the new age food is nothing to get excited about--and it’s pricey to boot. But there is that terraced garden next to a murmuring brook. The best meal here is Sunday brunch (“A day of reflection and creating anew,” intones the menu) with both a vegetarian and a traditional buffet, plus “Ohm letts” of various sorts, vegetarian or crab quiche, and Belgian waffles drizzled with real maple syrup.
128 Old Topanga Road, Topanga; (310) 455-1311. Expensive.
BEL-AIR HOTEL: Sheltered by an extravagantly blooming pergola of bougainvillea, the Bel-Air’s ravishing terrace is as alluring in the evening for a posh French-influenced dinner (on cool nights, the floor is heated) as it is on sun-dappled mornings, when you can enjoy a splendid breakfast. Afternoons, bring a book and dawdle over a pot of Darjeeling and an array of finger sandwiches, scones and pastries.
701 Stone Canyon Road, Bel-Air; (310) 472-1211. Expensive.
FENIX AT THE ARGYLE
Ken Frank’s sleek art deco restaurant in the landmark Argyle hotel has only a handful of tables outside on a terrace overlooking the pool and the skyline. But it’s such a swell place to linger over Frank’s saucy Franco-American cooking. And because it’s a hotel restaurant, Frank also does lunch (thin-crusted pizza with porcini, flank steak with cracked pepper and Jack Daniel, grilled half chicken) and breakfast (soft scrambled egg with caviar in the shell). At any hour it would seem these few tables are in high demand.
8358 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood; (213) 848-6677. Expensive.
On the Patio
GEORGIA: The outdoor courtyard patio is quieter than the vaguely New Orleans-inspired restaurant, somehow cozier, and you can still hear the live jazz. Of course, the Georgia peach daiquiri is required drinking before you dig into the substantial Southern fare: blue crab cakes with remoulade, fried oysters, gumbo laced with shrimp and andouille sausage.
7250 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles; (213) 933-8420. Moderately expensive.
CAMELIONS: Set back from the street, Camelions’ series of serenely lovely patios welcomes diners for an elegantly casual French meal. To start there’s a piquant tomato tart tatin or red lentil crepes with sumptuous smoked salmon. Almost every dish has a graceful, original twist. Osso buco is cooked with preserved lemons and fava beans; rabbit is stewed with peppers and sweet garlic. And don’t forget brunch in this romantic setting.
246 26th St., Santa Monica; (310) 395-0746. Moderately expensive.
PINOT HOLLYWOOD: Sheltered by a high stucco wall, Pinot Hollywood’s patio, with its oversized yellow umbrellas and young Hollywood crowd, is the restaurant’s best--and most requested--dining room. Stop in for dry martinis, splendid oysters on the half shell, frisee salad with bacon and poached egg, whole fish roasted in the wood-burning oven, and steaks, chops and frites.
1448 N. Gower St., Hollywood; (213) 461-8800.
PIACERE: This may be the Valley’s loveliest patio, with its towering pepper tree, stone fountain and country flowers. With its fresh baked breads and fragrant pesto and homemade linguine with clams, you can almost imagine you’re eating somewhere on the Ligurian coast. Steer clear of the more creative pizzas and pastas and opt for the more traditional fare, such as capellacci filled with spinach and ricotta
22160 Ventura Blvd., Woodland Hills; (818) 704-1185.
In the Garden
CAFE PINOT: This, the second of Joachim Splichal’s Patina spinoffs, has tables set out under the gnarled trees of Maguire’s Garden next to the Central Library. Bring your library card and dine (or lunch) on oysters, rustic sandwiches, inventive salads and crisp-skinned rotisserie chicken. The plats du jour are always good bets.
700 W. 5th St., Los Angeles; (213) 239-6500. Moderately expensive.
MICHAEL’S: Michael’s has of course, the great garden, 14 years old now, covered with a retractable canvas roof, dense with trees and fragrant plants, and sheltered enough for outdoor dining all year long. Michael’s California cuisine--gorgeous salads, delicious pizzas, rich pastas, straightforward grilled fish and meats--begins to look like a classic after all these years. And the wine list is as phenomenal as ever.
1147 3rd St., Santa Monica; (310) 451-0843. Expensive.
GARDENS: The Four Seasons’ savvy French-California restaurant boasts a series of outdoor terraces. In fair weather or foul, it is a premier power breakfast spot, and a good choice for lunch or a leisurely dinner.
Four Seasons Hotel, 300 S. Doheny Drive, Los Angeles; (310) 273-2222.
KNOLL’S BLACK FOREST INN: Drink icy steins of seasonal draft beers under umbrellas and large shade trees strung with lights on this traditional German restaurant’s roomy patio. Order up some Black Forest ham with melon, some of the simpler salads, and a platter of knackwurst, bratwurst and other German-style sausages.
2454 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica; (310) 395-2212. Moderate.
ALTO PALATO: 755 N. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles; (310) 657-9271. Moderate.
On hot summer nights, the courtyard to one side of Alto Palato, covered with a ripply canvas roof, glass doors flung open to catch a breeze, is the place to enjoy great Italianate platters of antipasti, earthy pastas or a terrific version of chicken cacciatore. Or one of the thin-crusted pizzas (mozzarella and artichoke, say) and, to cool off, some granita di espresso with a dollop of softly whipped cream.
TWIN PALMS: The original Pasadena restaurant, basically a tent built around two enormous palms, is packed every night with revelers at the bar and tables. It feels like an outdoor village square in the south of France landscaped with potted citrus trees, jasmine and Mediterranean herbs. Michael Roberts cooks inexpensive French-inspired food, soulful brandade de morue, pizzas and hearty pastas, and rotisserie-roasted poultry and meats.
101 W. Green St., Pasadena; (818) 577-2567. Also 630 Newport Center Drive, Newport Beach; (714) 721-8288. Moderate.
MANHATTAN WONTON COMPANY: The two-tiered courtyard garden, with a fountain and black-and-white striped awning overhead, is delightful at lunch and romantic at night, a wonderfully offbeat setting for nostalgic Brooklyn-Cantonese cooking. Try the egg drop soup, the sesame noodles and the chicken in lobster sauce.
8475 Melrose Place, Los Angeles; (213) 655-6030. Moderately expensive.
IL MORO: An oasis in the canyon between two office buildings, Il Moro’s courtyard is shaded with pepper trees and cooled with a stream and fall of water. Antonio Tommasi’s Venetian-inspired menu offers pasta e fagioli, big, juicy salads, pizzas, whimsically shaped pastas and more.
11400 Olympic Blvd., West Los Angeles; (310) 575-3530. Moderate.
IVY and IVY AT THE SHORE: Fans of the Ivy love to see and be seen behind the picket fence in the sweet little front garden at the original West Hollywood Ivy. The Santa Monica restaurant has a secluded back garden with fountain and lots of those ruffly flowered cushions gracing the benches and chairs.
113 N. Robertson Blvd., West Hollywood; (310) 274-8303; and 1541 Ocean Ave., Santa Monica; (310) 393-3113. Expensive.
Al Fresco People Watching
REMI: This stylish Venetian restaurant, somewhat of a specialist in risotto, has a handful of tables right out front, perfect for taking in the action of the Third Street Promenade over a plate of tk tk pasta or fegato all’ Veneziana.
1451 Third Street Promenade, Santa Monica; (310) 393-6545. Expensive.
BROADWAY DELI: At Broadway Deli, with its clutch of outdoor tables, you can get anything from hefty pastrami sandwiches and matzoh brie to macaroni and cheese, TK and TK. For dessert, it’s the tapioca creme bru^lee, hands down.
1457 Third Street Promenade, Santa Monica; (310) 451-0616. Moderate.
FELIX CONTINENTAL CAFE: This appealing Cuban cafe has a flurry of umbrella-covered sidewalk tables looking out on Orange’s Plaza Square, just the place to indulge in an overstuffed Cuban sandwich, chicken breast rubbed with garlic and lemon or roasted leg of pork in garlicky mojo ajo. For dessert, no question: the flan al caramelo.
36 Plaza Square, Orange; (714) 633-5842. Moderate.
BOOK SOUP BISTRO: Hey, it’s across the street from Tower Records and next door to one of L.A.'s great newstands, not to mention premier bookstore Book Soup. So step right up, make your glam rag selection and settle into one of the outdoor tables for a good, long read over a Bookburger with blue cheese and fries.
8800 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood; (310) 657-1072. Moderate.
PORTA VIA: Enjoy terrific scones, homemade brown sugar coffeecake and the best hazelnut biscotti in Los Angeles at the handful of sidewalk tables outside this modest but terrific Italian cafe and takeout. At lunch, there are wonderful panini--rotisserie chicken and roasted veggies on homemade focaccia, prosciutto, mozzarella and black olive tapenade on ciabatta.
424 N. Canon Dr., Beverly Hills; (310) 274.6534. Inexpensive.
ALEGRIA CAFE AND TAPAS BAR: On Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, Alegria, a tapas bar owned by the folks at L’Opera down the street, features live flamenco music, which you can easily hear from the tables outside. Plan to settle in for a while, nibbling on tapas, some inspired, some not.
115 Pine Ave., Long Beach; (310) 436-3388. Moderate.
LA SERENATA GOURMET
Grab one of the umbrella-sheltered tables outside against a watermelon pink wall and feast on La Serenata’s delicate fish tacos, the lovely empanadas bursting with rosy shrimp and gorditas piled with pork simmered with chile.
10924 Pico Boulevard, Los Angeles; (310) 441-9667. Inexpensive.
RED: The tables on the sidewalk outside of this stoplight red cafe are always occupied by a black-clad crowd tucking into juicy turkey burgers and grilled chicken breast sandwiches smeared with aioli. Later, there are hearty soups, grilled pork chops and Red’s massive spicy meatloaf with garlic mashed potatoes. And at breakfast, enormous build-your-own omelets. 7450 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles; (213) 937-0331.