Once, a patio was kind of a special feature at a restaurant, and in some places that set the standard — we’re looking at you, Joe T. Garcia’s — it still is.
But now, it almost seems like a requirement that a restaurant have a patio, even if that restaurant is an inexpensive, fast-casual chain restaurant facing a freeway (actually, there’s a Chipotle in far north Fort Worth with a patio set just low enough that you can watch a sunset without looking at a traffic jam). And although there are some exceptions (Le Cep, one of Fort Worth’s best restaurants, has no patio), patios are becoming the rule.
Enough of a rule that compiling a list of some good new ones is becoming an annual event.
The ones below distinguish themselves by managing to separate from the outside madness, tucking you away from the parking lots and the car exhaust that might be mere feet away. All of these patios are at restaurants that have opened in the past 12 months in Fort Worth and a couple of nearby cities.
America Gardens: Situated between Fred’s Texas Cafe and Rodeo Goat, both of which have nifty patios of their own, this recently opened bar-restaurant boasts that it has the biggest patio in the West 7th area, more than 10,000 square feet of dog-friendly, red-white-and-blue motif and rustic seating with an outdoor bar and several game areas. Games include fowling — a game that combines football and bowling — as well as table tennis, foosball, air hockey and more. Check out the painting by the fowling area of Uncle Sam, Ben Franklin, George Washington and Abe Lincoln hoisting beers. 2833 Morton St., Fort Worth, 817-439-9660, www.americagardensusa.com
Americado Mexi-Food Hall: Better-known as just Americado, this “dining hall”-inspired concept might have a confusing ordering system inside, but outside, its patio is pretty self-explanatory: Picnic tables shaded by umbrellas and by the restaurant itself, which has garage-style doors that open in nice weather. Wall plants and a green belt just east of the restaurant separate it from nearby railroad tracks and the busy Eighth Avenue-Berry Street intersection. 2000 W. Berry St., Fort Worth, 817-759-9107, www.americadofw.com
Earl’s 377 Pizza: This Argyle joint, which opened almost a year ago, has a mostly covered patio with the kind of lawn furniture those of us who are old enough to remember the ’60s had in our back yards. There’s also an outdoor bar with saddle-style stools that fit in with the rquirky decor (you’ll have to go inside to see the “banjo-lier,” a chandelier made from banjos, though). It’s dog-friendly, and the staff seems to be composed entirely of dog-lovers. And the pizza is great. The restaurant comes from a Denton group that recently launched other spots close by: the outdoorsy Bumbershoot BBQ, and Kimzey’s Coffee, which has a striking roof that appears to be melting. There’s also a Fuzzy’s Taco Shop across a green from Earl’s — not related to the other restaurants; Fuzzy’s had a pretty cool patio of its own. 427 U.S. 377 N, Argyle, 940-464-4444, http://earls377pizza.com
HG Sply Co.: The original Dallas location of this (mostly) virtuous-food-minded restaurant is renowned for its rooftop and its Dallas skyline view, but Fort Worth’s may have outdone it with a long Trinity River-front patio with a bar area and a game area, all of it alongside the Trinity Trails where you can watch people jog, bike or walk by — or walk off that big HG cherry chocolate-chip cookie you had for dessert after opting for a quinoa-based dish for dinner. The patio was added after the restaurant (which has pretty good river views from inside as well) opened in August; this is a case of good things coming to those who wait. 1621 River Run, Suite 176, Fort Worth, 682-730-6070; hgsplyco.com
Lazy Dog Restaurant & Bar: When this chain was founded 13 years ago in California, the concept of a dog-friendly restaurant wasn’t common, and founder/CEO Chris Simms and his organization worked with California and Los Angeles officials to get dogs allowed on restaurant patios. Since then, dog-friendly patios have become more common — it’s always worth calling ahead to check, but many restaurants allow dogs on their patios. Lazy Dog has three DFW locations, with the first in Tarrant opened in January in Euless’ Glade Parks development. But you don’t need a dog to enjoy this patio, a rustic 1,300 square feet with a fire pit in its center, with a skylight over the pit. “Rustic” is becoming a restaurant cliché, but it fits Lazy Dog, whose decor was inspired by a Simms family mountain lodge in Wyoming. 2521 Texas 121, Euless, 682-738-0861, https://www.lazydogrestaurants.com; locations also in Addison and Plano.
Meso Maya: The first Fort Worth location of this Dallas-based, interior-Mexican-food restaurant, opened at the beginning of May in the Trinity Commons shopping center in southwest Fort Worth, features two patios. One is all-weather and more enclosed, and both are set far enough back to keep Hulen Street traffic and parking-lot bumper cars from interfering with the outdoor vibe. You might even forget that there’s a big grocery store in the background. 3050 S. Hulen Street, Suite A, Fort Worth, 682-316-8266, http://mesomaya.com
On the Patio: Opened in the fall in Azle, this restaurant puts its patio right up there in its name, befitting a sports-bar-esque place that happens to have an 80-by-35-foot deck that’s large enough to accommodate a sizable oak sprouting up through its floor, as well as around 100 patrons who can drink, eat and be merry sports fans thanks to five big-screen televisions. You can get sports-bar staples such as nachos and a mouthful of a burger here, but the restaurant also aims past that with such items as mini-crabcakes and a sirloin stir-fry. 501 N. Stewart St., Azle, 817-406-4570, http://www.onthepatioazle.com
Piattello Italian Kitchen/Taco Diner Waterside: Both restaurants have nice patios, but the bigger attraction may be what they face: The Grove, a family-friendly hangout area in the Waterside development, where you’ll also find a semi-enclosed area with a large-screen TV and another patio at the nearby Whole Foods Market. The Grove recently introduced Sunset Sessions at the Grove, a Friday-afternoon/evening concert series featuring such local artists as Jacob Furr (May 19), Alexander Rhea (May 26) and more; for a full schedule, check out http://www.watersidefw.com/events/. Piattello: 5924 Convair Drive, No. 412, Fort Worth, 817-349-0484, piattelloitaliankitchen.com; Taco Diner: 5912 Convair Drive, No. 212, 817-763-8840, http://tacodinerrestaurants.com
Press Cafe: This Trinity River-front restaurant in southwest Fort Worth has been open for more than a year, and had quite a ground-level patio scene from the beginning (and long waits at peak hours to go with it). The upstairs patio, however, didn’t open for several months, and it’s proved to be a hit, with its views overlooking the Clear Fork of the Trinity (as well as the downstairs patio area). Press Cafe was one of the first tenants in the growing Clearfork shopping-dining development, where there’s often a buzz. On a nice day, with a little ambition, you can walk the Trinity Trails from Clearfork to other riverfront restaurants, such as Woodshed Smokehouse and HG Sply Co., or if you’re more jockish, you can complete the loop faster by running or biking. 4801 Edwards Ranch Road, No. 105, Fort Worth, 817-570-6002. https://www.presscafeftworth.com/
Tia’s on the Bluff: A few months ago, the Star-Telegram did a story on “hidden” restaurants, places that don’t have exterior signage, are tucked away on back streets, or both. This one wasn’t open yet, but it would’ve qualified: It’s a couple of blocks north of downtown, fairly accessible via Hampton Street — although if you turn north early to dodge downtown traffic, you’ll go through a maze of streets before you arrive at Tia’s. Once you’re there, you get a tree-lined, Christmas-lighted patio with downtown views and some classic Mexican food. 1301 E. Bluff St., Fort Worth, 817-349-0964, Facebook @moretias
Tributary Cafe: This Cajun-Creole restaurant, opened in late 2016 in the River East district just northeast of downtown Fort Worth, is in a 1940s bungalow — and its patio feels like you’re eating in someone’s well-appointed back yard, especially when the sun shines through the pergola covering, casting a checkerboard shadow over the white-tablecloth setting. Like some other spots on Race Street — the Gypsy Scoops ice-cream parlor quickly comes to mind — this place makes you feel like you’re part of the neighborhood. 2813 Race St., Fort Worth, 817-744-8255, Facebook: @tributarycafe
Wild Salsa: Sundance Square Plaza in downtown Fort Worth is bordered by restaurants with patio dining, and the plaza itself is big on al fresco hanging out. A few blocks to the west is the smaller Cityplace development, with a courtyard bordered by the Italian restaurant Avanti (which has a pretty nice patio itself), Wild Salsa’s corporate sibling Chop House Burger, and a controversial, not-yet-opened Hooters, as well as Wild Salsa itself. But Wild Salsa wins patio honors with its outdoor bar (including a couple of swing-style seats among the bar stools), its tables with views of downtown buildings and its game area. The restaurant has an extensive tequila menu, so don’t be surprised if patio patrons get a little noisy. 300 Throckmorton St., Fort Worth, 682-316-3230, http://wildsalsarestaurant.com