In Texas, we try our damnedest to extend patio season beyond the boundaries of comfort. Even as temperatures start to creep into the triple digits, we are committed to finding a restaurant where we can dine and drink outdoors.
Reservation site OpenTable has capitalized on this seasonal concern by publishing the 2014 edition of the awkwardly phrased 100 Best Outdoor Dining Restaurants in America. Three Dallas-Fort Worth favorites were deemed worthy: Saint Ann Restaurant & Bar in Dallas, Woodshed Smokehouse in Fort Worth and Cafe Malaga in McKinney.
To determine the winners, OpenTable analyzed more than 5 million reviews of nearly 19,000 restaurants across the country. These establishments offer a mix of incredible views, great cuisine and, above all else, a noteworthy outdoor dining experience.
This time, we have to hand it to the OpenTable users, who got it right on all three counts.
Saint Ann does boast one of the more exceptional al fresco dining experiences in Dallas; in fact, it was a pick on our 2013 list of the best patios in Dallas. It's located in the Harwood District, an almost-private pocket of verdancy with trees and rolling patches of grass you wouldn't expect to find in the inner city. Indoor-outdoor bars and strings of lights create a sense of electricity and excitement.
Tim Love's Woodshed Smokehouse easily represents one of the top patios in Fort Worth; the entire focus here is outdoors. The L-shaped restaurant encloses an expansive good-time patio with picnic tables, community tables, cow statues, games for the kids and a live-music stage. The patio overlooks the Trinity River and is adjacent to the Trinity Trails, where joggers and bicyclists whiz by. All eyes are inevitably fixed outside (unless you're gawking at the animal-on-a-spit visible via a window into the kitchen).
Cafe Malaga brings Collin County and vintage flair into the mix. The Spanish-style tapas restaurant inhabits a 130-year-old house off McKinney's downtown square, with a sprawling outdoor courtyard-patio that feels like some rich aunt's backyard. Stone walkways wend their way through clusters of trees. Strings of lights criss-cross the area, creating a festive ambience, while a fountain in the center lends Old-World charm.
Overall, California had the greatest number of winning restaurants on this year's list, followed by Florida, Hawaii and Arizona. Texas had only one other noteworthy patio: Eden East in Austin.