Every couple of years, when the weather starts to get warmer but before it gets oppressively hot, DFW.com does a whirlwind tour of the best patios and rooftops out there for alfresco dining. Some of them are so familiar — Joe T. Garcia’s, Woodshed Smokehouse, Reata’s rooftop, Glass Cactus in Grapevine — that in 2014, we inducted a few into a DFW Alfresco Hall of Fame.
But, like in sports, there are always some future Hall of Famers coming up in the ranks. Some have even opened in the last couple of years.
As we settle into sun-splashed seats for the season, we’re reminded of how time flies: Can Sundance Square Plaza, the Bearded Lady and the Rustic really be more than 2 years old?
Actually, time does rocket by when you’re sipping margaritas on a patio in springtime.
Here are 10 new outdoor oases to check out.
For the past few years, Woodshed Smokehouse has ruled the patio scene along the Trinity River Trails. Now, a 45-minute walk to the west, Press Cafe has joined the party with its own riverside patio. The restaurant, opened in January, has been very popular — occasionally to the point where you wonder if Press Cafe was prepared for its own success.
But as you wait for the hostess to text you that your table is ready — we had a 35-minute wait on one visit — you can stroll by the river, or just hang out in one of the Adirondack chairs, watching the kid- and dog-friendly patio scene, checking out the healthy joggers along the river, and spying the occasional heron fly in for a landing on the Trinity.
And then take a seat on the patio, enjoy some of the creative dishes by chef/owner Felipe Armenta — everything from breakfast burritos to a New York strip — and soak in the view.
A popular food truck on the Fort Worth scene for several years, Taco Heads opened a brick-and-mortar in a former Mexican restaurant on Montgomery Street early this year. The inside has been hopping every time we’ve visited, but the outside is where the action is: Picnic tables, Christmas lights and oak trees reminded us of some Austin patios we’ve visited.
Some of the seating is communal, so you might get chatted up by the couple next to you, which can lead to some cool conversations. Just outside the main building is a series of seats elevated above Montgomery, where you can get a look at the trucks pulling into the Will Rogers complex for whatever big event is going on there (this was a lot of fun at Stock Show time) as well as a view of the Fort Worth skyline in the distance.
The restaurant’s beverage building is due to open any day, but it is serving a full beer and cocktail menu, and the fact that our beers came out of a picnic cooler on our most recent visit added to the alfresco feeling. The taco menu — eight lunch/dinner tacos, four breakfast tacos — emphasizes quality over quantity, and we’re big fans of the queso blanco with sweetcorn chips.
1812 Montgomery St., Fort Worth. 817-615-9899; www.tacoheads.com.
This White Settlement Road joint, a little more than a year old, managed to scrap its way into the Final Four of the 2015 DFW.com Burger Battle (and the burger menu has expanded since then). It also has a taco menu, inspired by the border joints that chef/owner Coby Baumann grew up with.
Then there’s the outdoor space, which is actually three levels — an upper deck, a lower deck and a garden area with a music stage — and a just-opened “garden bar” adjacent to the stage. Baumann says that 86 percent of his business comes on patio-friendly weekend days, and that 91 percent of his business has come on days that are 75 degrees or higher.
On weeknights, Thurber Mingus screens movies in the garden area, and Baumann has been hosting a farmers market Saturday mornings.
You may have heard that this new West 7th-area spot is a magnet for the frat-boy crowd, and maybe it is, with its sports-bar interior and bleachers for TV-watching.
But it’s also got food that’s a cut above, and on the outside, it’s pretty diverse, with a ground-level, artificial-turf patio filled with games (Jenga, cornhole, etc.) and a bunch of empty plastic trash cans that made for inventive play among a slew of kids when we dropped by on a Sunday afternoon.
Then there’s a rooftop bar for a more grown-up hangout experience, and if you wander over to the east side, there are some pretty good views of downtown Fort Worth, including an Instagram-ready frame-style spot with Fort Worth’s longitude and latitude on it. If only we could have gotten the guy holding a long cellphone conversation out of the frame …
World of Beer
Opened in early 2015, the Fort Worth location of World of Beer has a cozy, tree-lined patio with a mix of restaurant-style seating and more laid-back furniture that looks as if it came from someone’s back yard.
We’re betting, however, that no matter who’s back yard you’ve been hanging out in lately, their beer list isn’t as extensive as WOB’s (we’re talking 50 taps and more than 500 bottles).
It’s easier to hold a conversation on the patio than it is in the noisier interior, and the trees and placement help shut out the traffic from Seventh Street. It’s not far from Fort Worth’s museums, making it a good place to stop for a quick one (or a bite) after a day in the Cultural District.
La Perla Negra
Aside from Sundance Square Plaza and the Flying Saucer, most downtown patios tend toward the small side. But a few fairly new downtown restaurants — Vivo 53, Hoya Korean Kitchen and, as it’s commonly known, La Perla — have managed to make room for patio seating.
We like La Perla’s intimate patio the best, maybe because it’s on the south side of Seventh Street, away from the crowds that skew north. Or maybe because La Perla has a way with a cocktail. Or because it has Taco Tuesdays. Or because it has one of the better Cuban sandwiches in town. Or …
Black Walnut Cafe
The recently opened Colleyville location of this Woodlands-based chain manages to get away from the traffic of Colleyville Boulevard and the busy-ness of a shopping center across the street. Its patio is further respite, much of it facing a small pond on the quieter side of the building — quieter, that is, if you don’t count the music coming out of the sound system.
Black Walnut has a large breakfast/lunch/dinner menu, but it also prides itself on its coffee bar and dessert station; we’re thinking it’s best to check it out on a weekday morning if you can find some time just to sip and stare before work.
Kent & Co. Wines
Founded by Frank Kent Motor Co. scions Will Churchill and Corrie Watson, this Magnolia Avenue spot reflects their family’s automotive background — check out the classic cars, sometimes elevated on old-school garage jacks, that are part of the decor.
But a garage this isn’t; it’s an elegant space, with an open-window, dog-friendly “porch” that’s slightly below the Adams Street side of the building. The food menu, as you’d expect from a wine bar, is mostly made of charcuterie and cheese boards, along with a couple of salads and some snacky nuts, hummus and bruschetta, but the wine is the big draw here.
And if wine isn’t your thing, there are also coffee drinks and other nonalcoholic libations. All of which you can enjoy on the porch, which feels like a living room and a back yard all at once. It should really get hopping when Heim Barbecue opens its brick-and-mortar location next door in the spring.
Fixture Kitchen & Social Lounge
Toward the eastern end of Magnolia Avenue, a street where patios are so common they seem like a restaurant requirement (even old-school Benito’s has expanded its sidewalk seating), there’s a sort of new-old patio: Fixture, opened in April 2015, is in the spot where the all-too-short-lived 24 Plates used to be.
But long live Fixture, which we like even better (especially the chicken and waffles), and has improved on the patio by adding a roof and ceiling fans, more greenery and, most recently, some patio games that you might not find at other outside-friendly restaurants. It’s behind the building, facing the restaurant’s bar, where you can get served an inventive cocktail at seats outside or inside the restaurant.
It shares a building with laid-back cocktail bar Proper and Thai restaurant Spice, each of which also has a slice of outdoor space.
Lola’s Trailer Park
Depending on who is playing on any given night, Lola’s Saloon, the popular bar and music venue, could get cramped inside pretty quickly. But with the addition of an outdoor patio, and now the added Trailer Park, Lola’s has continued to spread its wings.
It’s not exactly a dining spot, but you will find food trucks on the premises, which is populated by eating/watching-friendly picnic tables as well as some more intimate tables on a covered porch.
On Sunday nights through April 3, the Trailer Park is hosting The Walking Dead watching parties. And on Sunday, it will host the 7th Annual KNON Fort Worth Blues Festival.