August 5

Outdoor Dining in South Lake Union

Six Places For Al Fresco Eats

Everything tastes better outside, where the fresh air can mingle with the smell of fresh fish on your plate or you can watch seaplanes land as a 24-ounce porterhouse lands on the table. Duck away onto a restaurant’s welcoming patio or deck, order an ice-cold beverage, and forget all about the hustle and bustle of South Lake Union (and the rare Seattle heat wave). No matter what time of day or what you’re looking to eat, these restaurants in South Lake Union have the best seat in the sun (or shade—your choice) waiting for you.

Nestled into three historic cottages, leftover from South Lake Union’s previous life as a shipbuilding center, Row House Café offers multiple patios, set up for a quick coffee on the front porch or a long group happy hour at one of the wooden tables on the back deck. The all-day café offers a menu as effortlessly stylish and slightly rustic as the ambience, starting with hearty breakfasts of eggs or French toast, moving on to one of the best grilled cheese sandwiches in town for lunch, and a cocktail menu that’s discounted from 3 to 6pm every day.

For a more boisterous place to grab a brew—and gourmet burgers—head to Brave Horse Tavern, where Seattle’s most famous chef, Tom Douglas, has planted his German-inspired pub. Out on the patio, you’ll find five picnic tables, shaded by umbrellas: the perfect place to snack on Brave Horse’s famous house-made pretzels, served with three kinds of mustard, or to consult the creative sketches on the table for the ever-changing, always-exciting burger of the week. The second-floor vantage point offers a bit of a view of the neighborhood, but the crowds packed in for a fun afternoon in the sun are really what’s worth watching here. For a more seriously German bar, look to neighboring Feierabend, where the beer comes in boots (they’re made of glass) and the patio is simple, full of sausages, and street-side.

The best views in the neighborhood, of course, are at the restaurants overlooking the lake. And if you’re eating with a view of the water, it’s only fitting that you order some seafood—from a place with nearly three decades of reputation for stellar shellfish. The sprawling waterfront sundeck at Chandler’s Crabhouse offers an elegant spot to soak up sunshine while cracking open fresh local Dungeness crab or digging into a halibut filet. If you’re more of a landlubber, find a similar view with similar classic elegance, but a menu of serious steaks at Chandler’s sibling, Daniel’s Broiler. Want to get happy? Duke’s Chowder House, known for its award-winning chowder unique seafood creations, offers signature “Duketails,” “Appeteasers,” and more during two daily happy hours, seven days a week.

Local ingredients are also the stars at nearby Osteria Rigoletto, though here they come dressed up in Italian flavors, served on bruschetta and over house-made pastas. Hidden in the courtyard of the beautifully designed Stack House building, the patio—and the restaurant itself—seem secretive and private. Luckily the bright, bold décor and festive yellow-and-blue serving ware remind diners of the cheer involved in platters of salumi and dinners of veal osso buco.

—Story by Naomi Tomky, Duke's photo by J Hobson Photography

At The Center

SLU is the geographical center of Seattle