Now that the restrictions on indoor dining have relaxed a bit, some Philly diners are happy to head back inside for their meals. Many, however, still prefer to keep it outside. And that’s still easy enough to do these days: Lots of restaurants in Philadelphia have adapted to make al fresco dining happen, even as the weather cools. In fact, thanks to the ingenuity of our restaurateurs, dining out(side) is one of the best things to do in Philadelphia during Covid—if you’re safe.
That said, there’s “outdoor dining” and then there’s “eating on a sidewalk.” The latter has its place—aren’t we all just grateful to be out to dinner?—but for this guide, we scoped out restaurants offering fresh-air dining destinations that are tucked away on patios and in gardens, places that are removed from the world just enough that you might have your meal surrounded by foliage and fountains and strands of twinkling lights rather than sidewalk gawkers and whizzing traffic.
Keep reading for spots across the city that offer all types of cuisine—and give you a chance to support our locally owned businesses this fall. Some offer breathtaking views of the Delaware River, while others are nestled in spots that let you can forget, if only for a moment, that you’re in the middle of a gritty city still semi-locked in quarantine.
Just be sure to check the websites before you go—most spots these days are requiring reservations. (And masks, of course.) Happy outdoor dining!
Where to eat outside in Philadelphia this fall
This laidback Point Breeze bar/restaurant offers sidewalk seating, but try to get in early enough to snag a spot on the backyard patio, which is blocked off from the street by flower boxes and hanging lights. The dining area gives off serious South Philly block-party vibes with folding lawn chairs and umbrellas—and now they’re breaking out the heaters so diners can enjoy the space as the weather gets chillier. A chalkboard menu lists the day’s offerings, including a variety of sandwiches and comfort foods, loads of beers and refreshing seasonal cocktails. 1800 Federal Street, 215-334-2337
A reader tipped us off to the loveliness that is Rittenhouse restaurant Branzino’s lush interior patio, which is filled with trees and surrounded by cool brick and stone walls—a beautiful little space that the restaurant says will remain open as long as people wish to dine outside. A trickling fountain sets the scene for the menu of beautifully prepared traditional Italian pasta and seafood dishes, including, of course, a whole branzino seasoned with lemon caper butter. 261 S. 17th Street, 215-790-0103
You’d be hard pressed to find a restaurant with more stunning views than The Garden at Cherry Street Pier, which sits in the shadow of the hulking Benjamin Franklin Bridge along the Delaware River. More than 200 people can comfortably fit in the open-air, industrial venue, which is open every weekend through the end of October and outfitted with quaint sidewalk café-style seating, a handful of trees, and planters separating each table. The menu boasts casual picnic-style fare (think pulled-pork sandwiches, salads and sides), local ales, wine and craft cocktails. To keep interactions to a minimum, guests are alerted by text when their food is ready to be picked up from the kitchen. Also, stay tuned: The Delaware River Waterfront Corporation, which runs the place, is hoping to lease the outdoor space to a new restaurant or restaurateur come November, so the place will stay open with unbroken service. 121 N. Christopher Columbus Boulevard, 215-923-0818
Dine inside a cozy, glowing igloo at this Northern Liberties poolside eatery. Diners will stay extra warm with heat lamps (and cocktails!) while they enjoy a menu of traditional steakhouse fare, including burgers, crispy chicken sandwiches and French onion soup. 1029 Germantown Avenue, 267-214-0086
If you’re outdoor dining near Rittenhouse, do it at Harper’s Garden, which is so stuffed with greenery that you practically have to hack your way out of it. Here’s one major plus: In addition to the regular outdoor seating, you can also reserve a table for your party of 4 to 6 or 6 to 8 in one of the private, heated garden “greenhouses” — you’ll just want to be aware of the order minimums before you reserve. Beyond the lovely ambience, you’ll also enjoy a menu focused on seasonal, locally sourced ingredients and an all-star cocktail (and mocktail!) list. 31 S. 18th Street, 267-886-8552
The rooftop Bok Bar may have closed up shop for the season, but its sister restaurant in the Bok building, Irwin’s, is hosting a series of pop-ups throughout the fall and winter, featuring some of the city’s best chefs. (Through October 31, they’re hosting Saté Kampar, with a TBA partner set to begin an eight-week residency on November 13.) The pop-ups are held outdoors on the restaurant’s gorgeous eighth-floor terrace, with views to die for, plenty of heat lamps and lots of ambient warmth from the charcoal grill. 800 Mifflin Street, 215-693-6206
As a relative newcomer on the Philly dining scene, this festive Spring Garden joint has added a pop of cheer to these otherwise dark times with colorful seating, vibrant wall murals and kitschy decor like neon-lit signage and a large model ship. It’s pretty, too, brimming with trees and hanging flower boxes. Come here throughout the season—they’ve just added tents and heaters—anytime you’re in the mood for frothy margaritas and Mexican-American fare like guacamole, meat- and veggie-filled tacos, and quesadillas. Bonus: Check out the new fall drink menu. Reservations required. 1033 Spring Garden Street, 267-639-2892
This charming contemporary-Mexican spot in the heart of Fairmount boasts a menu of well-executed crowd-pleasers with occasional surprises (try the bacon fig guacamole) and compelling tequila and margarita lists. On top of that, it also has a twee little courtyard, hidden from the street, with all the wonderful trappings of your typical al fresco “dining room” (Charm? Check. Trees? Check. String lights? Check.). And yet it’s always remained something of a neighborhood secret. Well … until now. Heaters and a tent will keep the place cozy well into the cold-weather months. 2321 Fairmount Avenue, 215-787-9930
This Italian restaurant on East Passyunk Avenue specializes in food from the Abruzzo region of Italy (think hearty seafood stews and heaping, flavorful plates of fresh pasta). The spacious patio has plenty of heaters and is prettily adorned with lights, shrubs and potted plants. Meantime, large canopies keep you covered on drizzly fall nights. 1927 E. Passyunk Avenue, 215-271-5626
It doesn’t get much more secluded—or romantic—than the patio at Gayborhood Italian restaurant Little Nonna’s. Accessed by going through the restaurant (mask on!), the enchanted, heated hideaway is surrounded by four brick walls and sheltered by wooden canopies draped with hanging lights. Owners Marcie Turney and Valerie Safran have removed tables to allow for proper social distancing, so only 12 people can be back there at a time. Be sure to book early—and ask for the patio, because sidewalk seating is available, too. And bring a hearty appetite for Chef Turney’s menu of traditional Italian comfort foods, like BVP meatballs swimming in Sunday gravy, spaghetti and pan-seared gnocchi. 1234 Locust Street, 215-546-2100
The lush PHS pop-up garden is staying put at least through mid-November—longer if the weather holds. The summertime staple with its wooded seating and bar areas, botanical-inspired cocktails and a veritable jungle of flora has now also been outfitted with heaters. The menu reflects the seasonal change, too: Look for spiked cider, spiked hot chocolate and Oktoberfestive foods such as bratwurst, German potato salad and cabbage slaw. At both this pop-up and the large, lovely sister garden pop-up in Manayunk—also well worth the visit—you’ll note the many safety precautions, from socially distanced tables to contactless ordering. 1438 South Street, 215-988-8800
Outdoor seating at Stephen Starr’s Pizzeria Stella is technically street-side, but its location under the Head House Shambles earns it enough points to nab a place on this list. Tables, trendy red chairs and heaters are situated among the brick pillars along the historic Society Hill structure, giving diners ample space to enjoy the pizzeria’s signature wood-fired Neapolitan pizzas with gutsy Italian wines. 420 S. 2nd Street, 215-320-8000
One of the best restaurants in the city offers one of the most beautiful outdoor dining spaces: Suraya, the Levantine-inspired Fishtown star, takes reservations for seats in its 5,000-square-foot outdoor lounge and garden, a space characterized by Persian ironwood trees, Arabic art, fountains, a fire pit. It’s quite the romantic, transporting escape, and it’s also heated—as is the patio seating near the garden entrance. Reservations required. 1535 N. Front Street, 215-302-1900
The lush, tucked-away little patio at Aimee Olexy & Stephen Starr’s popular farm-to-table eatery is always in high demand, and with good reason: It’s incredibly pretty. And now, stocked with heaters and a new fall menu with treats like fig pizza and butternut squash risotto, Talula’s is more than ready for chiller nights (and brunch times, too). 210 West Washington Square, 215-592-7787
You can still experience Michael Solomonov’s award-winning Israeli eatery this season: Zahav’s outdoor seating is located behind the restaurant in a charming (covered, heated) courtyard decorated with greenery and lit by glowing stands of lights. Come hungry: The $66 mesibah menu gets you a seemingly never ending spread of foods, including the restaurant’s renowned hummus-tehina with laffa bread, a generous collection of Israeli small plates, and proteins like branzino and Romanian-style beef kabob. Reservations, as you likely know, are a must, and can be made up to two weeks in advance. 237 St. James Place, 215-625-8800