Just as you would expect from a cafe oasis in the middle of the Thompson + Hanson nursery, the patio at Tiny Boxwood's brings the pretty in a big way. Overlook the grassy lawn from a covered solo or communal table, or, if your noshes are minimal (quelle horreur!), try to stake out the cushioned bench for two across the open space. Casual contemporary fare from buffalo burgers to quiche populate the limited menu. (Don't miss the homemade chocolate chip cookies.)
Baba Yega, serving familiar cafe fare in the heart of Montrose, is the granddaddy of patio spots because after the expansion to the adjacent property it has not one, not two, not three, but four open-air spaces to choose from. The best spots in the house: along the terrace in the second-floor Jasmine Room, out front, or tucked in the back corner next to the waterfall. Vegetarians will find this a happy home. But no worries carnivores, plenty of meat on the menu.
Could this be New Orleans? No, but making that mistake is easy enough here with the cozy eatery's patio rich in wrought-iron details, brick features and old growth shade trees. The '30s-era bungalow on the edge of River Oaks opens to the splendid patio where you can savor award-winning chef Hugo Ortega's talents. There is live entertainment for Sunday brunch. But don't forget your reservation.
The grande dame is back and perhaps better than before with preservation of the ever-stately brick patio area, which remains reminiscent of New Orleans' French Quarter. Though the original oak was lost to Hurricane Ike, two new trees have been planted in its place. The "new" Brennan's is receiving rave reviews for its fresh but familiar decor and New Orleans-inspired menu.
When it comes to chic patio parties, nothing beats La Griglia, with stately but beachy furniture, a soothing water feature and plenty of umbrellas for shade (so necesary). In fact the only other outdoor society scene that comes close is ... Brasserie 19's version, just a stone's throw away in River Oaks Shopping Center.
If you're looking for fine French fare in a lakeside setting, you'll need to drive up to Lake Conroe for this acclaimed eatery where dining al fresco means more of deck than patio. But we're not prepared to quibble over vocabulary when it comes to these lakeside views. Check what time the sun sets, make your reservation and head out I-45.
It might be located in the middle of the city, but this former hunting lodge is nestled among the pines and oaks overlooking Buffalo Bayou and nothing is more enchanting than brunch in the verdant outdoor setting with the caramel-colored bayou flowing slowly past. Dinner at sunset or under the stars is equally beautiful on the terrace. Happy hour is a riot of heavy appetizers, well-priced drinks and thirsty, thirsty professionals taking a break between office and home.
Who paves over a parking lot to create a patio oasis? Only El Pueblito Place. If you find yourself seated inside here, you are doing it wrong. Take a date and make for one of the elevated, semi-secluded cabanas or grab a party in the middle and let the lit up palm trees and tropical music convince you you've teleported to Puerto Vallarta circa 1963.