Our Five Faves

Best outdoor patios in Durham

Posted May 19, 2014

Outdoor dining at Brightleaf Square in Durham. (Image from Hadassah Patterson)

— Looking for great patio dining environs now that the weather is warming up? There are a plethora of options to choose from in Durham. What sets an exterior restaurant dining experience apart from the others? Mindful service is essential. Also of importance is a great view and ideal atmosphere or location.

Below are a few establishments which combine these elements adroitly.

Fairview Dining Room at The Washington Duke Inn and Golf Club – Few patios in Durham can boast scenic views, diverse and well-trained wait staff, and highly awarded cuisine, but the Fairview Dining Room certainly can. The patio service and kitchen is attentive and responsive, even to special dietary needs. Executive Chef Jason Cunningham harmonizes local products and global delicacies skillfully. The prix fixe menu is an excellent value for early dinner diners between 5:30-6:30 p.m., with selections of three courses for $35. Their Wine Spectator recognized wine list has a range of offerings to complement dinner and dessert. 

Brightleaf Square Area Restaurants – Durham is uniquely identified by the panorama of bustling patios with happy diners in the Brightleaf Square District. Alivia’s maintains a full patio with covered outdoor dining and station. El Rodeo and Piazza Italia offer representative ethnic food and busy service against a charming backdrop. Parker and Otis has consistently pleasant staff with fast-casual convenience and covered balcony dining.

Guglhupf Bakery, Restaurant, and Café – Guglhupf expanded with a café in 2004 and dinner service in 2009. The welcoming and eclectic patio dining offers a relaxed and convenient option for diners looking for a breath of fresh air. Aside from the historic baked goods are salads and savory options for every taste.

Tobacco Road Sports Cafe – Tobacco Road Sports Café has the ultimate Diamond View experience during games, multiple TV screens, and a bar on the patio. They have expansive balcony service and hours for dining and relaxing whether a game is in full swing or not.

Bull McCabe’s Irish Pub – Recently expanding to a building-length covered patio with plenty of green space for neighborhood gathering and more, this is one to try on the outdoor dining scene.


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  • Classified May 20, 2014

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    Who would want to go out and listen to someone’s incessant whining anyway? I'm pretty sure you won't be missed.

  • Itsmyopinion67 May 20, 2014

    The best outdoor patios in Durham are the ones you don't get shot at.

  • jackaroe123 May 20, 2014

    Cool pub for Durham!

    They missed a few, but I like the elbow room, so I'm not telling... ;)

    One odd thing: In a city as diverse and artsy as Durham, it's odd seeing the Washington-Duke, of all places, praised for the diversity and scenic environment over so many others. I mean, it's a great place, but it's very closely associated w/ the eponymous private university, and it's fairly exclusive both in location and price. For outdoor dining in an urban setting, what qualifies as scenic is broader than just trees and nature, as well.

  • ncsd105 May 20, 2014

    Glad to see the Bull City love! I think Tyler's outdoor seating by the river at the American Tobacco campus is pretty nice, too.

  • independent_thinker May 19, 2014

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    Thankfully, I'll never run into you at any of the fine places mentioned.

  • Ginger Lynn May 19, 2014
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    the music on friday nights in the summer on the patio at brightleaf is wonderful and so many food choices from inexpensive mexican, Satisfaction to upscale Piazza Italia and Chamas!

  • 68_dodge_polara May 19, 2014

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    Again false, it's still against the law to have any alcohol in one's blood stream when legally carrying a concealed hand gun.

  • DURHAMBULL May 19, 2014

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    If you don't have something positive to say just keep your mouth shut, Debbie Downer. Durham is a great place with a wide variety of people to interact with and things to do. Many of us enjoy lving here.

  • Super Hans May 19, 2014

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    Well, don't worry. Now that every Tom, Dick and Jane is encouraged to bring their piece while they get liquored up, it will only be a matter of time.

  • 68_dodge_polara May 19, 2014

    There are even better than many of those listed like The Federal and James Joyce, many are very dog friendly. Just stay in Cary super Hans, better yet, go back to Europe where one has little to no rights.