Each patio is in a different Dallas neighborhood.
Dallasites’ love for patios runs deep; it has for years. But as the pandemic wears on, patios are more than a spot to sip drinks in the open air. They’re a space that public health officials say are mostly safe during the coronavirus pandemic, though patrons and restaurant owners must be vigilant and follow safety guidelines.
Those are: People who dine outdoors should wear a mask when they enter and exit, and they shouldn’t mingle with people outside of their household. Tables should be spaced 6 feet apart and servers should wear masks. And don’t visit a patio if you’re not feeling well, if you’re in a high-risk category or if it makes you feel uncomfortable.
Dallas County’s risk level is red, and county COVID-19 documentation says dining indoors should be avoided. So, outdoors we go: for picnics in parks, for barbecues in your own backyards, and for occasional patio outings.
I tested some patios in Dallas with my family, and I found comfortable, fun spots serving great food.
It should be noted that this list of restaurant patios looks a lot different than it might have a year or two ago. Whereas we might’ve picked a jam-packed patio as a favorite in 2019, when hanging out with new friends was part of the spirit of an outdoor space, now, we’re looking for spacious patios where you’ll never feel too close to your neighbors. We also passed on patios that require reservations a few weeks in advance or that have lengthy valet lines.
It’s 2020, and our lives are plenty complicated already.
We’re mourning the loss of some patios that didn’t outlast the pandemic. Examples include The Lot in East Dallas, Savor in Uptown/downtown Dallas, Off-Site Kitchen in Trinity Groves, and The Foundry/Chicken Scratch in Oak Cliff — outdoor areas that might have otherwise made this list.
Grab your mask and let’s grab a seat.
Guadalajaran restaurant José is a favorite among Park Cities and Bluffview folks. When the pandemic hit, chef Anastacia Quiñones-Pittman and her team got to work feeding healthcare workers, as so many other restaurant workers did. Today, the restaurant is settling into its new normal, with masked servers interacting with smiling customers drinking Squozens (frozen margaritas with fresh-squeezed juice) and noshing on Quiñones-Pittman’s excellent dishes, like roasted chicken with mole and seared red fish a la Veracruzana.
On a sunny Saturday afternoon, José had a moderate amount of customers, all seated, and no large crowds.
Pick a type of patio and you’ll find it here: There’s the covered patio with a fountain and fans, offering total shade. There’s a partially-covered patio a few steps down with pretty plants and carefully spaced tables. And then there’s a set of picnic tables on one side, with optional umbrellas overhead.
José is at 4931 W. Lovers Lane, Dallas. Find Jose’s COVID-19 protocol here.
Vector Brewing in Lake Highlands
Vector Brewing feels like a Lake Highlands neighborhood secret; that’s one of the best things about it. This family-owned taproom and pizza joint in a strip center has a delightful patio, especially for families with kids. A designated kids’ area in the back will keep the youngsters occupied, though you’ll want to keep the kids in your own household together, per public health officials’ suggestions. On a recent visit, it wasn’t swarmed with children. Parents were careful to let kids play for a few minutes, then let another family take a turn.
You’ll will find ample TVs for weekend football watching on the open-air patio with sun shades above. My favorite spot was a picnic table against the wall, which offered views of the TVs, views of the rest of the patio, and a safe-feeling space where my family could eat and drink. Dogs are welcome, too.
Stop into Shady’s Burgers across the street — another patio that’s kid-friendly — if you want to make a day of it.
Vector Brewing is at 9850 Walnut Hill Lane, Dallas. Find Vector’s COVID-19 protocol here. Shady’s Burgers is at 9661 Audelia Road, Dallas.
Terry Black’s Barbecue in Deep Ellum
Even before the pandemic, Terry Black’s Barbecue felt like a breezy, indoor-outdoor place. The smokers are on full display, just past the two-story beer garden at the front of the restaurant. You will need to walk inside the restaurant to order barbecue — so bring a mask and pick a time when crowds might be thin. After securing a tray of smoked meat and a drink, head back outside for a seat upstairs or down.
When Terry Black’s opened in late 2019, it was an exciting moment for barbecue folks. The Black family has a long (and complicated) history in the barbecue capital of Texas, Lockhart.
Terry Black’s travels well, and its jalapeño-cheese sausage, turkey and creamed corn are good options for an at-home picnic, too.
Terry Black’s Barbecue is at 3025 Main St., Dallas.
S&D Oyster Company in Uptown Dallas
You’ll hardly know you’re still in Dallas when you step onto S&D Oyster Company’s back patio, a New Orleans-inspired courtyard with red brick columns and French Quarter style gas lanterns. Note that you’ll need to put on a mask and walk through the restaurant to get back to the patio.
The patio almost feels like a private space, probably because of the slim number of tables and the tall walls keeping Uptown traffic out of sight. Order a dozen oysters, or make it two, and toast to one of Uptown’s happiest restaurants, which just celebrated 44 years in business.
S&D Company is at 2701 McKinney Ave., Dallas.
Jaxon Texas Kitchen & Beer Garden in downtown Dallas
Take a walk through the AT&T Discovery District in downtown Dallas and you’ll notice that it’s the new hot spot in Dallas for Instagram photos and videos. But if that isn’t your vibe, the district still can be: Jaxon Texas Kitchen & Beer Garden is tucked near the back of the plaza and feels like a good place to sit down in the center of the city.
On weekends, Jaxon has live music and an impressively large TV showing football on Saturdays and Sundays. (From Jaxon’s front porch, you can’t see the 104-foot-tall by 84-foot-wide “media wall” on one section of the Discovery District, but you won’t need to, with the built-in entertainment.)
You’ll find a likeable menu of fried-chicken sandwiches, burgers and snacks like Luscher’s corn dogs. The hand sanitizer stations are never far away.
Jaxon Texas Kitchen & Beer Garden is at 311 S. Akard St. (at a new development called the AT&T Discovery District), Dallas. Street parking can be tricky; free parking is available at the garage at 1212 Jackson St., with validation from Jaxon. Find Jaxon’s COVID-19 protocol here.
The Wild Detectives in North Oak Cliff
Technically not a restaurant, The Wild Detectives is more like a bookstore-bar-backyard that serves food. It’s a great place to go alone, to enjoy a glass of wine and a side of sunshine out front or out back. And, because you should be careful not to co-mingle with people outside of your household, going to The Wild Detectives solo makes a lot of sense. It’s super low-key: Great if you need to get some work done.
Check out the events page before you go, as those will indicate times when the shop will be a little more crowded.
While you’re in North Oak Cliff, take a 5-minute walk to the patio at The Salty Donut. Grab a horchata doughnut — you read that right, yum — and take a seat. There’s lots to see as customers pop in for sweets at this new-to-Dallas shop.
The Wild Detectives is at 314 W. Eighth St., Dallas. The Salty Donut is at 414 W. Davis St., Dallas. Find Salty Donut’s COVID-19 protocol here.