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Outdoor Dining in DC

When warm weather descends on the nation’s capital, outdoor dining is key. Get the low-down on all kinds of alfresco experiences, from historic chili dog vendors to exotic food trucks or from patio lunches to restaurants with retractable rooftops.

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Foie gras grits meet fried green tomatoes at this chic bistro known for its sophisticated take on Cajun eats.

After cutting his teeth in the Bayou, chef Jeff Tusks opened Acadiana to show off his elegant take on the back-country fare he’d been plating for years. Both Tusks and executive chef Brant Tesky woo diners with everything from blackened catfish po’ boys to saffron-hinted grilled mahi mahi. Stop in—or better yet, sit on the patio—while relishing all the sumptuous, artfully executed New Orleans signatures – all while gazing out at the iconic Carnegie Library.

Art and Soul Restaurant

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Art Smith showcases his tantalizing Southern-style fare at this restaurant located in The Liaison Capitol Hill Hotel.

Once Oprah Winfrey’s personal toque, and more recently Lady Gaga’s business partner, the James Beard Award-winning chef Art Smith is behind this slyly eponymous Southern restaurant. An inventory of locally sourced and seasonal ingredients stock Art’s kitchen. Consider grass-fed New York strip steak and breadcrumb-bedecked oysters touched with fresh herbs. Everyone’s made to feel welcome, and as if to prove it, the outdoor patio offers seasonal specials including a dog-friendly menu.

Opened by Ben and Virginia Ali in 1958, Ben’s Chili Bowl draws hungry crowds from early in the morning until late at night. Ben’s stays open until 2 a.m. during the week and until 4 a.m. on weekends.

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Half-smokes and chili cheese fries are the stuff of DC legend. Get stuffed on ‘em here.

U Street Corridor’s popular Ben’s Chili Bowl, revered for its half-smokes and icy milkshakes, has been a down-home favorite since its 1958 opening. Ben’s has hosted many a celebrity, including Bill Cosby and Bono plus a who's who of presidents—including President Obama. The site is a history buff’s dream and was a safe haven from the 1968 race riots, serving food past curfew to those trying to restore order. If the weather's nice, get your eats to go and head to nearby Meridian Hill Park—with plenty of napkins in hand.

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The Biergarten bustles with thirsty scholars, locals and the like. Build a base for the beer with savory Bavarian delicacies.

In the heart of H Street NE, any lederhosen-clad German transplant will feel right at home with steins of frosty lagers and dunkels at the Biergarten Haus. And when the weather is nice, those lederhosen shorts come in handy on the rooftop bar here, which in addition to the suds serves traditional German fare such as veal-encased wursts, traditional Bavarian pretzel rolls and mushroom-infused jägerschnitzel.

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Straightforward and time-honored culinary practices are all on full display here.

A distinctly upscale American eatery with an emphasis on regional dishes and products, Blue Duck Tavern is an exercise in sophisticated dining. The eatery makes stellar use of its wood-burning oven and unique Molteni range in dishes like duck confit and slow-cooked beef rib. Meanwhile, the outdoor space features a cooling fountain, shady umbrellas and a communal table on which to share signature dishes including the Chesapeake Bay jumbo lump crab cakes.

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If you’re into tapas, the outdoor patio here is the way to go.

Located a mere two blocks south of Dupont Circle, Boqueria brings the flavors of Barcelona to the DC set. From small plates of garlicky shrimp to Serrano ham-stuffed croquettes, a luscious array of tapas are the main draw here. As expected, a robust wine list can complement the entire selection, but don’t forget about the other well-known Spanish drink: sherry. Head outside for a decidedly Spanish vibe, whether for a few small plates over lunch or a full-on feast.

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Fire pits and a courtyard provide the ideal ambiance – perfectly cooked steak seals the deal.

The in-house eatery at Four Seasons Hotel Washington, DC, Bourbon Steak provides an education in delectably aged cuts of meat. The eatery is helmed by award-winning executive chef John Critchley and has a dynamic cocktail program run by acclaimed mixologist Duane Sylvestre. Maybe the best news of all here is that the full dinner menu is available in the outdoor courtyard, which is dotted with four fire pits when chilly.

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Off-the-boat catches delivered right to the neighborhood? Sounds like a dream but it's reality at Hank's.

Chef/owner Jamie Leeds’ wildly successful restaurants serve up “urban beach food,” including lobster rolls, popcorn shrimp and raw oysters. Hank’s Oyster Bar (named after her dad) is not only a favorite for its rotating list of oysters, but also for its ice-cold draft brews and cocktails. Dine alfresco and soon enough you’ll confuse your surroundings with a beach-side eatery.  Ponder locations in Capitol Hill and Old Town Alexandria, too.

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Patio power is the name of the game at this beloved scene for Mexican nosh and margarita slushes.

Sister restaurant to Cactus Cantina—no slouch itself when considering its outdoor digs—Lauriol Plaza teases locals with two levels of ample open-air dining space. Don your shades, enjoy the breeze, and get to work on resolving a most savory dilemma: sizzling chicken fajitas, tomatillo-topped enchiladas or the spicy Camarones Diablo. Ice-cold margaritas and crisp Mexican beers will hold the heat at bay.

10

Sandwichdom will never be the same after the SUNdeVich experience.

Housed in a nondescript garage near the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, SUNdeVICH floats under the radar. Talk to anyone about who serves up one of DC’s best sandwiches though, and the sandwich slinger will be right among the top of the list. Pick a sandwich from the international menu—think: Beirut with steak and hummus; Kingston with what else but jerk chicken and pineapple salsa; and the Paris with ham, egg, Dijon mustard and Gruyère—and the most important part of any picnic is already in the bag.

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In the game of cooking Neapolitan-style pizzas, the establishment with the retractable roof wins.

With four Red Rocks locations throughout DC, the H Street outpost serves up its hand-crafted pizza pies under clear skies. You can bet that the wood-fired oven fills the space with that cozy, smoky smell, a good indicator of the authentic pies to come. Aside from ‘za, the restaurant offers up cured meats and cheeses, plus savory pasta dishes.