Over the course of Seattle’s less beautiful months, you’ve had to be creative with your dates. Whether you escaped the weather by staying in and cooking, exclusively eating in close proximity to light rail stations, or huddling together at romantic tables covered in candle wax drippings, you did it. You proved that dating is possible in the rain.
But you can quit all of that now, because summer has arrived. Here’s a guide to our favorite places for a romantic dinner outside, most of which involve at least one of the following date night power-up items: a garden, twinkly lights, a water view, or a pergola. Good luck out there.
The parlor-style dining room at Harry’s Fine Foods is nice, but during the warmer months, the back patio is even better. It feels like someone’s backyard, but with antique touches like crystal chandeliers hanging from exposed beams and San Marzano can utensil holders on each table. Split small plates like crudo or caramelized brussels sprouts, and then move on to more important things: the excellent cheeseburger and some negronis.
Maybe you both performed some kind of physical activity today. Like jogging. Or climbing a tree. And you’re really feeling good about that, so you want to get a sort-of-healthy meal for date night. Head directly to Manolin, sit on the patio, and get cocktails and fresh seafood dishes like rockfish ceviche and grilled cod with mole and cilantro cream. The patio’s not big, but this is the kind of food you want to be eating outside, surrounded by string lights and a fire pit. You still get a great view of the restaurant’s pretty interior, too. Wave to it on the way out.
It would be a shame to waste this place on a bad date, so come here when you already know you like each other, so you can just have fun. Sit out on the plant-lined back patio, drink mules made with housemade ginger beer, and share the wheat noodles with braised beef cheek in a Sichuan oil sauce, or some fried rice with cubed pastrami and chili jam. Then play hand shuffleboard and eat some more.
If you’re feeling optimistic about this person but still kinda testing the waters, do an al fresco dinner at Red Cow. The upscale French food (mainly steak frites) here is delicious - and the wooden picnic tables on the string light-covered patio keep things laid-back. Always start with the short rib croquettes, order the bordelaise with your steak, and ask for extra aioli for your crispy, rosemary-infused fries. If nothing else, you’ll definitely figure out whether your date likes steak (don’t worry, there are other options, too).
If you’re not including Bottlehouse in your Madrona one-two punch before (or after) a dinner at Red Cow, you’re not doing this season correctly. Not only is Bottlehouse our favorite wine bar in Seattle, but its outdoor garden is also the perfect place to do a flight or frozen wine cocktail over charcuterie selected by cheesemongers. There are fuzzy blankets available in case it gets a little cold, and the staff is equal parts knowledgeable and unpretentious about the many interesting wines on the menu - which means they won’t embarrass you in front of your date for definitely pronouncing “Gewürztraminer” wrong.
Casco Antiguo, in Pioneer Square, serves some of the city’s best Mexican food. We like the fish tacos and braised pork enchiladas, but whatever you order, you want to be chasing it with delicious on-tap margaritas in the small but colorful outdoor space. For some reason, not too many people know about the patio here, which means for the moment, it’s nice and relaxed. Hurry up and check it out.
Westward is a classic for a reason, and summertime is when it really comes alive. The Adirondack chairs overlooking Lake Union have a lot to do with that, but in general, when the garage doors swing open and you can look at the water while eating delicious braised lamb shoulder and/or wood-fired gigante beans, you quickly remember why Seattle is so awesome. Arrive a bit early to sit on the aforementioned Adirondacks with a cold glass of wine in one hand and your date’s hand clasped in the other. Yeah, we’re really good at dating.
Speaking of classics, The Pink Door in Post Alley is another one. Book a table on the back deck balcony for kitschy-in-a-good-way floral tablecloths, a great Puget Sound view, and the sweet, sweet freedom to eat the best lasagna in Seattle while kicking it in the great outdoors.
San Fermo is a nice Italian spot in the shell of a historic Ballard home, which means you’re going to be eating homemade pasta on a porch, complete with rickety wood floor, white siding, and exposed brick. There’s a good amount of shade, too, so it’s a great way to escape things like sunburn and the chaos that comes with the Sunday Farmer’s Market.
Maybe you’re so good at relationships that you’ve done most of the things in this guide, and you’re sitting there with your feet up, scrolling down and yawning. All right. You’re looking for something a bit more special - maybe for a birthday, or to celebrate a promotion, or because you want to finally pop the question. It’s time for Aqua, a classy waterfront spot that serves reliably excellent seafood. If you do decide to propose here, just remember not to drop the ring over the railing into Elliott Bay - that’d be a funny story to tell the kids one day, but sort of a buzzkill in the moment.
Hanging out in the backyard here, with its communal tables and string lights, you’ll feel like you’re on the townhome patio you wish you owned, eating the perfectly-charred Neapolitan pizzas you wish you made at home. Start with the arancini, stick with either the margherita or the homemade sausage and pickled goat horn pepper pie, and then, if you really want to seal the deal with this person, finish with a homemade gelato affogato.
You’ve probably seen pictures of, or heard things from your SLU sources (a.k.a. your friends who work at Amazon) about, the rooftop at M Bar. Yes, it’s just as attractive in person. It’s a swanky situation up there, so expect a big to-do involving an elevator ride to the top floor, a walk down a comically long hallway, and, finally, bar stool or swing chair seating with a gorgeous view of South Lake Union. Plus snacks that range from roasted cauliflower and hummus to charcuterie. Be sure to make a reservation.
The Corson Building works for pretty much any relationship milestone. If it’s pretty early in the game but you want to make things official, an a la carte meal outside on the beautiful garden terrace, overlooking wood nymph sculptures and string lights, can only help you. If things go well, come back in a few years to propose in the backyard after doing a tasting menu in the antique-looking dining room. You could even get married here - it’s a wedding venue that does catering, too. Not to get ahead of ourselves.
If you’re looking for something more along the lines of small plates and wine, The Whale Wins has a nice outdoor space for that. It’s partially covered, but there are various plants to remind you that you’re not inside. Eat things like serrano ham, burrata, and really good bread from Sea Wolf bakery alongside glasses of cava. If you’re having such a good time that you decide to stay for a full meal, get the salt-roasted half chicken. You won’t regret it.