Austin is a city that’s at its best outdoors. We have a world-famous swimming pool, we make up reasons to have music festivals (Eeyore’s Birthday Party should be on your radar), and we congregate anywhere there’s shade to sip cold drinks. And there’s no better way to combat the triple-digit heat and catastrophic traffic than by hanging out on a patio.
But not all of them are created equal. Here are our 21 favorites, ranked by highly scientific means (i.e. doing a lot of eating and drinking outside).
We’re pretty sure this is the only patio in the world where you can enjoy A++ breakfast tacos (from Veracruz All Natural, nitro cold brew on tap, draft beer, and entertainment ranging from movies to vinyl listening nights to live bluegrass. You can schedule meetings and dates here, use it as a meeting spot for your whole crew, or get some solo work done. It’s our all-time favorite patio hang.
This enormous, funky patio is a flagbearer for Keep Austin Weird. Spider House is covered with a colorful hodgepodge of steampunky yard furniture that feels like it was created by Tom Waits in a secret side career as a metalworker. Even though it’s in the crosshairs of UT’s campus area, the crowd is always a good mix of people. They serve food, brew coffee, and have plenty of quality local beer on tap, as well as a full bar with affordable prices. Spider House’s patio is never not an enjoyable place to be.
This converted old house not only serves some of our favorite Mexican food in Austin - they also have one of the best outdoor areas in which to eat it. The front yard is covered by a giant string-light-covered tree, and lined with charming little tables for sharing bowls of queso fundido and fajitas. If it’s crowded, the mural-covered backyard patio is no slouch either.
The French invented neighborhood bistros with prime sidewalk seating (we think), and Justine’s is the Austin version. Inside, this place feels like Paris in Austin; an intimate date night dinner spot. Step onto their patio and the vibe shifts into a see-and-be-seen backyard covered with string lights and picnic tables perfect for having some frites with your Bordeaux. Justine’s is located away from the hubbub of downtown, which makes the entire experience feel more exclusive and better suited for conversation with a group.
This is one of the more communal patio situations in town, and they also serve fantastic pizza. It gets crowded, which means parking real estate is dicey, which also means that once you find a spot you will inevitably lounge around and stay a while. They often have live music inside with plenty of room to square dance. Expect to make some new friends here.
You’re probably familiar with Easy Tiger’s wizard-like baking skills, as their bread is served everywhere in town. But go beneath the bakery and you’ll find their beer garden with a patio beside Waller Creek. And while that creek itself basically just an even-more-disappointing version of the San Antonio Riverwalk, it does give the patio a feeling of being hidden away in a concrete jungle. Easy Tiger is a cool place to impress an out-of-towner, and definitely our favorite downtown patio. Come for drinks (they have a full bar in addition to beer and wine), and snack on pretzels and sausages when you get hungry (they serve food until 2am).
Over the years, Guero’s has become an Austin postcard-establishment - their solid Tex-Mex and strong margaritas have made it a favorite entry point for out-of-towners who have no idea what Austin is (and just as fun for people who live here). The spot does get crowded, which is when you’ll want to consider stepping outside onto their patio - the only spot in town where you can sip margaritas, eat queso, listen to live music, and people watch, all while sitting in an oak tree-shaded garden facing South Congress.
These two veteran bars/music venues have cemented themselves as East 6th fixtures. Part of the reason for their continued success is their enormous shared patio complete with cheap drinks and picnic tables. The interiors are small, hot, and inhospitable for conversation due to very loud music. But once you get outside - especially at night - you’ll have a hard time convincing yourself to go back to the music when there’s so much action (and so much more space available) on the patio.
This list would be incomplete without a lakeside patio you can drive a boat up to. Hula Hut is another Austin classic that’s been thriving for over 20 years, thanks in large part to its patio that’s literally on Lake Austin. While their Tex-Mex isn’t going to win them any awards, it tastes great once you’ve had a few of their strong cocktails that are as endearingly tacky as the Hawaiian decor.
Not to be confused with their mostly to-go-oriented Lamar location, Fresa’s on South First has a spectacular laid-back patio facing Bouldin Creek. Their queso challenges Torchy’s for best in town status, while their chicken is as juicy as the fresh-squeezed margarita you’ll realize you need as soon as you sit down. They also are kid-friendly, and the playscape should keep them occupied while you have another margarita or three.
Hanging out with dogs is a whole lot cheaper and more fun than therapy, so here’s your chance to do so even if your landlord doesn’t allow pets. The entire “patio” at Yard Bar off Burnet is an enormous fenced-in dog park/playground, with a full bar inside. Sometimes you just need a cocktail after a long day at work - but most other times adding hounds into the mix cures all ails.
You’re on South Congress, but looking for something more upscale than Guero’s. You’re looking for Perla’s. Once you get past the inevitable wait, there’s plenty of room to enjoy cocktails, oysters, and some of the finer seafood in town. The sleek patio faces the street, which makes for excellent people watching, as you feel like you have one foot in Austin and one foot in Los Angeles. It’s pricey, but considering this town is nowhere near the origin of the Blue Point Oysters you’re springing for, it’s worth it.
If your priorities are twinkly lights and striped straws and the general feeling that you’re in the middle of an Instagram photo, you’ll want to be at Josephine House. This is the place to sip a fancy gin cocktail in a cozy outdoor both while eating the kind of food that tastes as good as it looks in pictures.
Hidden under a bunch of trees in front of some train tracks on a side street, you’d probably never know Yellow Jacket Social Club was here. This divey spot isn’t just a great place for a low-key hang in the shade - they serve a surprisingly good brunch, with out-of-this-world shrimp and grits. Get the frozen mimosas if you’re looking to start the day off right.
This gourmet doughnut Airstream trailer turned brick-and-mortar is more than just a late-night donut shop. The well-designed ‘public house’ branch of the Gordough’s empire has a full bar and a fantastic backyard patio covered with picnic tables and yard games. This is the spot to hit if you’re with a giant crew that appreciates the finer things in life, like gigantic beer towers paired with donut burgers.
Skylark’s recent patio addition is a wonderful place to get some fresh air after dancing to the best live soul music in Austin. It feels like a spacious backyard - nothing especially distinct, but a really comfortable place to hang.
An Austin institution located around the corner from The Greenbelt, Zilker Park, and Barton Springs. Shady Grove have live music all summer long, and the menu is a mix of Southwestern diner and Tex-Mex. As the name suggests, their patio is a shady oasis covered with tables and chairs. Unless it’s over 100 degrees, there’s absolutely no reason to be sitting inside here.
Not only do they serve some of the best breakfast tacos in town, but Cherrywood also has a spacious, dog-friendly, tree-covered patio/music venue where you’ll sometimes see the gardener carefully nurturing his potted plants. If this wasn’t clear from our previous sentence, Cherrywood is a highly Austin-y place to have some laid-back time outside.
With its huge patio, high-quality Texas-inspired bar food, and full wine, beer, and cocktail lists, Contigo is a crowd-pleaser. Bring coworkers or any other group when you don’t necessarily want to spend concentrated amounts of time with one person in particular - or a group of people you want to be able to mingle with equally. Come on the earlier side to make sure you can get a table.
This is a far better bar than it is a patio. But when a bar makes some of the best cocktails in town, then you don’t need fancy furniture or twinkly lights. Whisler’s is basically a glorified cement parking lot with tables and chairs within 10 yards of the bar (which is most important here), and the Thai Kun truck for when you get hungry.
This patio’s claim to fame is their small pool for Brooklyn transplants who are just happy to be out of the highly variable Northeastern climate. Otherwise, Kitty Cohen is designed to feel like a Palm Springs house in the 1970s, complete with beachy cocktails and bright blue umbrellas. If you want to feel like you’ve left Austin for a few drinks, come to this spot.