The Great Outdoors
4 great eateries where you can celebrate summer with alfresco dining
Written byTiffany Shinn
At Stanley’s, where you can find perfection in a simple grilled artichoke, the inviting back patio is as much a part of the institution as the menu (30 years and counting!) The outdoor enclosure is a Southern California oasis—water trickles from a tiny fountain, and corner tables are surrounded by ferns, trees and a trail of pink roses.
During daylight, take a seat under the oversized umbrellas and enjoy a bowl of carefully constructed greens. (A new chef has added several innovative new dishes to the menu.) The signature grapefruit salad, lightly tossed with shreds of chicken and butter lettuce and sprinkled with cashews, is a perennial favorite.
As night falls, the patio is transformed into a romantic spot for two. With considerably less noise than most eateries, conversation is an easy pleasure here.
13817 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, 818-986-4623
Twenty-five years since opening, La Loggia is still a neighborhood hot spot, and there’s no better seat than on the tranquil piazza on a balmy summer evening. Designed as an open terrace connecting the indoor dining room to the neighboring tapas lounge, Next Door, this is alfresco dining at its most romantic. A retractable roof and hanging lanterns, which emit a soft red glow, add to the enchantment.
Start with the chopped salad: diced tomatoes, chicken, pine nuts and hearts of palm, dressed in lemon mustard vinaigrette. Then move on to a seafood classic where a medley of sea creatures is served over buttery twirls of black-and-white linguine.
There are less traditional dishes, too. A crisped short rib and ricotta lasagna comes in a lake of pomodoro sauce, and a puff pastry sandwich with vanilla ice cream over a bed of sliced bananas makes the evening all that sweeter.
11814 Ventura Blvd., Studio City, 818-985-9222
On any given night, you’d be hard-pressed to find another neighborhood patio where you can sip local honeycomb bourbon and bump elbows with celebrities. At this perpetually busy night spot (opens at 5 p.m.), the entirety of the dining room rests under a cross-beamed ceiling where glass panels reveal a stretch of sky.
Along one wall, dramatic, fabric-draped canopies make for a more private meal setting, while tables near the leafy hillside are steps away from the terrace bar. The space plays with shadow and light, with candles nestled in walls, an open fireplace and latticed sconces glowing overhead.
At Firefly, it’s perfectly satisfying to kick back with nothing more than a glass of bubbly and a skillet of mussels doused in butter and lemon. Heartier fare includes roasted hen on a bed of farro and tempura lobster—fried and served in its shell. The crowd tends to skew younger (30-somethings), but expect classics like The Clash and The Rolling Stones to be your soundtrack for the night.
11720 Ventura Blvd., Studio City, 818-762-1833
If it’s been a while since you were in Italy, have a glass of barbera on Ca’Del Sole’s open-air courtyard, where you’ll be transported to the Italian countryside. The 20-year-old establishment is home to a spacious patio accented with sprays of colorful bougainvillea and tangles of tiny white lights strewn between tree branches overhead. Couples looking for an intimate evening may want to dine in the private cabanas, although during day the ideal seat lies at the sun-drenched tables.
Northern Italian cuisine comes in the form of veal ossobuco over handmade gnocchi and pleasantly rich mezzelune pasta, stuffed with pureed pumpkin and sauced with butter, crisped sage and a toss of parmesan. Seafood dishes conjure up Venetian flavors—a mound of steamed Manila clams on a bed of linguine has just the right amount of heat. End the meal with assorted biscotti or refer back to the antipasti and finish with house-cured meats and cheese.
4100 Cahuenga Blvd., Toluca Lake, 818- 985-4669
They’re roadside attractions.