Summer means ballgames, concerts, trips to the beach, and weddings with people who you haven’t seen in years and who are definitely going to judge you for being the first one at the bar when the reception starts. When you spend that much time in big crowds, it’s nice to be able to get away from it all for a few hours. This is where hidden patios come in - those little places that seem separate and apart from the city itself. Here are Boston’s best.
Update June 10th 2020: After months of being closed, Boston restaurants have been allowed to reopen. Check out the list of Boston Restaurants Reopened For Outdoor Dining for up-to-date info.
the outdoor spots
If you don’t have a backyard, the patio at Oleana is going to make you want one. If you do have one, the patio at Oleana is going to make you mad that yours is nothing but chain link and overgrown weeds instead of a space that appears to be filled with enchanted garden elves. The meze at this Turkish spot outside of Inman Square is outstanding, but you’d be happy if you came here and just ate saltines under fully grown trees in what is essentially a rock garden.
Atwood’s in East Cambridge looks like your standard Irish pub on the inside, but as our first grade teachers reminded us, it’s what’s on the outside that counts (at least when it comes to patios, not basic human decency). With picnic tables, hanging lanterns, potted herbs, and a great selection of craft beer on tap, you’re going to want to hang here for hours, so don’t forget your sunscreen (another good lesson from first grade - thanks, Mrs. Williams!).
SRV has tables on its Columbus Street sidewalk, which is where to sit if you want to share some small plate pastas and watch the groomed dogs of the South End parade by. But if you really want a great outdoor evening experience, grab one of the tables on the deck out back. You won’t see any poodles wearing pink bow ties (probably) but you’ll feel like you’re at a party in the backyard of a South End row house for a night that happens to be catered by someone who makes excellent Italian small plates and pasta.
If you’re looking for a hidden patio not because you want a romantic evening but because you actually want to hide, then Casa Romero is your spot. Not only is the patio hidden, but the restaurant itself is hidden, tucked into an alley off Gloucester Street. It’s the perfect place to enjoy tacos and a few margaritas while your pursuers run around the streets of the Back Bay comically bumping into each other but failing to track you down.
The patio at B&G isn’t hidden in the sense that it’s hard to find - in fact, there’s a giant “BIVALVES” sign on Waltham Street pointing at the restaurant. But it is sunken below street-level and surrounded by a giant stone wall that looks like it should have medieval archers standing on the top. With hanging vines and cafe lights, it’s a great spot for drinking wine and eating oysters, which should be your number one priority every day during the summer anyway.
Given that it’s located in a Beacon Hill mansion, it’s appropriate that the tiny patio at the Hungry I looks like the sculpture garden of a 19th-century railroad magnate (the garden that’s in their urban pied-a-terre, anyway, not the one at their country house). The rich, classic French dishes here like duck l’orange and venison au poivre aren’t going to blow you away, but they get the job done and seem fitting at what is one of the most elegant spots in the city.
The patio at Orinoco in Harvard Square looks like the “after” shot in a Scotts Turfbuilder commercial. If that’s not enough to entice you to sit under one of the umbrella tables here, know that there’s also a really good menu of Venezuelan specialties and good cocktails that you can enjoy for either lunch or dinner. We recommend the mojo marinated pork.
When you get to the patio at Audubon, a gastropub in the Fenway, you might be tempted to try to climb up the bamboo trees Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon-style. But you’re probably not an ancient Chinese warrior, and if you fall down, you won’t get to finish your cuban sandwich and chardonnay, so maybe just enjoy the way the trees blow in the breeze instead.
Brewer’s Fork’s patio is pretty basic: picnic tables, string lights, and pine bushes that hide you from the streets of Charlestown. In this case, the simplicity is welcomed. You’re coming here for two things: great pizza and summer weather, and seeing as how those are two of the best things civilization has to offer, you don’t want to clutter things up too much.