Best Outdoor Dining [East Bay, but anywhere, really] in our uncertain times

We’re firmly in the era of parklets (some quite nice, some quite haphazard, but mostly set up to be temporary), but even still, what’s your best outdoor dining experience recently that surprised you?

Wat Mongkolratanaram Thai Temple Sunday Brunch has always been a treat during good weather days, but that’s no surprise. (And also perennially crowded, but that’s no surprise either.)


Check out Nido’s Backyard, near Jack London Sq, run by Nido’s restaurant. I haven’t been but walked by often. It’s a nice outdoor space. Gets nice daylight. I liked Nido’s regular menu so I assume this is close or similar.

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I feel that all dining has suffered during the pandemic, but recently we went o VIKS Chat on Fourth Street in Berkeley and while the prices have gone up so much that they don’t have them on their website It is just as good as it ever was. There tables in the parking lot.

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Went to Hopscotch last night. Ate outside in their parklet around 6. It was in the high 40s but with the heater, high walls (esp on the street side) and a puffy jacket, it was fine. Food was good, hamburger with fresh chuck and tongue a nice touch.

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Lovelys in Oakland, if you don’t mind long lines, the vibe and food are both enjoyable.

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I loved all the availability of outdoor dinning, it is sad to see it disappear before summer.

I like the bustle at the little plaza on Fourth, with Peet’s, Pollara, Market Hall, and Tacubaya. It’s hard to find seats during lunch hours, though.

“Study Hall” just opened, roof top bar/restaurant on top of the new Marriott Residence Inn. I have no idea about the food but imagine the view is about as good as it gets.

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For a warmer day: Understory Oakland and OakCali Cafe have been my latest outdoor dining go-tos.
Also don’t forget there’s always everything in and around Swan’s market!

But you asked for surprising - I was surprised to find a nice outdoor patio when I went to newly-opened Ceron Kitchen in Alameda. Complete with heat lamps. I was also pleasantly surprised by how warm and nice the heat lamps are at Calaveras in Uptown.

We don’t make it to the East Bay too much, especially the last couple years, but stopped by Rose Pizzeria on our way to the Berkeley Botanical Garden a couple weeks ago.

They have a nice, small deck in the back (there’s a bigger outside seating area below/next to it but looks like the vegan place next door uses that).

They do a “neo -Neapolitan” style. We had the “Old Faithful” which had some good fennel sausage and spigarello (a bitter green I never knew before). The tomato sauce is Bianco DiNapoli and they use local cheeses when appropriate. Definitely good pizza in that style.

We also had a “Spicy Caesar Salad” which was pretty good and of the more creamy style (has some local miso) rifts on the classic. It worked with some bitter chicorys included along with some little gems.

I only had a beer since it was lunch but they’re into hipster wines (have a wine club as well) so could be nice to have a pie and some wine out on the deck during summer for sure.


Using the term “dining” loosely here’s what we like best for our family…

Cafe Durant (Berkeley) has a large upstairs patio with umbrellas/awnings and a great inexpensive menu including breakfast all day type stuff (like crepes, chilaquiles, hash and eggs, benedicts) done well. Also tacos, nachos, burgers, wings, beer and that sort of thing. Great price, friendly family owned and operated and overall unpretentious and fun spot to take the kids if you are going to the lawrence hall of science, tilden park or just want to mess around the campus area.

Just a few doors up on Durant is the “Asian Ghetto” which is a sort of courtyard surrounded by Indian, Thai, Chinese, Sushi, Korean BBQ, falafel stuff you can enjoy outside. Chose your own adventure. Also a decent donut shop there. Folks in Berkeley surely know these joints but folks coming from across the bay or elsewhere may not. I wouldn’t call any of these joints in the Ghetto remarkable, but they are good cheap and fast and outdoors.

2517 Durant Ave, Berkeley, 94704

I was surprised to find out a few blocks up from the Grand Lake Theater was a public rose garden. It’s probably more exciting when the flowers are in bloom, but it’s a nice option to lug your takeout to on a good weather day.

It’d be interesting if the plans for development around the Berkeley Marina went towards a multiple vendor route. It’d be nice to have something like an Asian Night Market there with a million food stalls though I guess parking would be impossible.

Any other spots people like to take their food to for improvised outdoor dining?

Sando + Drink → INDIAN ROCK

I sometimes go to RAYMOND PIZZA and then work at the cafe around the corner [KALEIDOSCOPE] … I guess there might be some good outdoor spaces linger/eat by the water near there?


Have been meaning to try (analyze) DEVOUT COFFEE @LAKE CHABOT MKT.


East Bay rarely surprised me with “wow” experience but here are the outside places on our list that we would quickly do again in this era:

San Ramon - Dellarossa has a nice patio and a fun Adrian Paganini menu.

Danville - Harvest has a lovely patio and the delivery on the menu is solid; Piatti has a good patio.

Walnut Creek - Main St Kitchen: expensive but worth a splurge for brunch or dinner; Torsap Thai has a great outdoor patio and is solid; Vanessa’s Bistro is here as well next to a Limon and Lokanta. All three have parklets so you can choose your region of flavor on one block.

Lafayette - Grab bucket of chicken for a picnic in the park at Sideboard; Postino which has lots of lovely lawn seating; Kiku opened a second sushi place here and it has a lovely patio.

Emeryville - pull up a roadside table at Los Moles for the buffet (I’ve been very happy with their covid protocol.)

Berkeley - strong second for Viks Chaat; the Patio at Vanessa’s Bistro on Solano; Fourth street “next to”Tacubaya is Isayare and both have great patios.

Oakland - highly recommend Nido’s Backyard or grab food from somewhere takeout and sit on the patio at Heinhold’s at Jack London.

El Cerrito - sandwiches and a bottle of wine at the Junket or Trader Vics patio for some pupu/tiki fun.


Rocky Island Oyster Company (in the Assemble Marketplace) - Richmond. There’s also Tommy’s BBQ in the same location, so you can do surf and turf.

Standard Fare - Berkeley

Lulu - Berkeley

Barcote Ethiopian - Berkeley has a nice back patio

Easterly Hunan Cuisine in Berkeley has a few outdoor tables front


Townhouse in Emeryville has a large, pleasant mostly sheltered deck. (With a big redwood tree!) I’d never been there before. Was looking for nice outdoor dining for a birthday. It turned out to be a good choice. The Gambas al Enrique and the mussels both were great. My dad liked the salmon, but then he always likes the salmon. The strawberry shortcake was too deconstructed for my taste, but that’s a quibble. Service was good. We’d reserved a table outside for 5PM on a Wednesday and it was mostly empty when we got there but filled up fast. There’s even a parking lot.

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