Outdoor Seats: 72
Local flâneurs dine and drink in style beneath the flicker of the namesake gaslights in this cobblestone oasis, where greenery shields diners from the prying eyes of passers-by. The solid brasserie food—like the poêlée espagnol (a creamy seafood pan roast spiked with chorizo) and the béchamel-slathered croque-monsieur—tastes even better when masochists from next door’s Boston Sports Club are strolling past. Plus: free parking!
Getting a Table: Regulars get priority, but time goes by quicker when muddled. Spend your wait at the authentic Parisian zinc bar downing a stiff Five Grape Fizz.
560 Harrison Ave., Boston, 617-422-0224, gaslight560.com.
Outdoor Seats: 50–55
Southern France, eat your heart out. During Boston’s rare weeks of perfect weather, Nice has nothing on the Hamersley’s brick patio, on the South End’s most prime corner, Tremont at Clarendon. Nor the Provençal food, even: The pork tenderloin stuffed with asparagus and Morbier cheese and the lemon-lavender layer cake with raspberries are so fabulous, you may become too distracted to people-watch.
Getting a Table: Reserve inside but come early, request the patio, then bask on the wooden benches—or sip a fresh grapefruit gimlet at the bar. Garden proximity is a hot commodity, though we prefer mocking hipster wannabes from the Beehive side.
553 Tremont St., Boston, 617-423-2700, hamersleysbistro.com.
Outdoor Seats: 40
This city has no shortage of fair-weather fresco options. But on drizzly days, the renovated Harvest patio’s got us covered. Literally: The new retractable awning offers UV protection and refuge from passing showers, while the outdoor fireplace, along with the light jazz warbling overhead, provides a dose of romantic ambiance. We love the dayboat halibut served with asparagus, braised radish, and lemon-chamomile beurre blanc.
Getting a Table: Go at lunchtime, when diners tend not to linger. Otherwise, arrive at 5:30, and while away your wait over a Ruby Red (vodka, blood orange juice, Chambord).
44 Brattle St., Cambridge, 617-868-2255, harvestcambridge.com.
The Hungry I
Outdoor Seats: 20
Six marble tables are fenced in by surrounding Beacon Hill brownstones, creating an intimate nook that on weekends fills with tourists. The classic French menu from executive chef Peter Ballarin includes decadent dishes like a pan-seared sirloin topped with pâté and drizzled with a burgundy-butter sauce.
Getting a Table: This is one of the few spots that actually takes outdoor reservations. Thursday evenings are quiet and draw a more social, local crowd. Reserve a two-top in the rear right corner before 8 p.m. to catch a glimpse of the rosy summer sky.
71 Charles St., Boston, 617-227-3524, hungryiboston.com.
Outdoor Seats: 90
The best seat in the house is on whatever high-powered private yacht happens to be moored up against the side that day. Beyond that, they’re all still pretty terrific. So what if the service is spotty: The menu, by Daniel Bruce (of Meritage fame), nails the refined yet casual vibe with steamed lobsters and grilled pizzas. Hey, does Fort Point Channel (just across the harbor) have any foot traffic yet? You’ll be the first to know.
Getting a Table: Avoid the queue during the hotel’s series of summer music (Tuesdays) and film (Fridays) events. Less competitive: weekday breakfast. The sour cream and raspberry pancakes are heavenly.
Boston Harbor Hotel, 70 Rowes Wharf, Boston, 617-439-7000, bhh.com/intrigue.
Joe’s American Bar & Grill
Outdoor Seats: 100
This crowd-pleasing hangout commands one of the choicest spots on the waterfront, with views of Christopher Columbus Park and the Boston Yacht Haven Marina, plus a skyline backdrop. The food is formulaic—nachos, crab cakes, brownie sundaes—but it’s consistent, as well as nicely priced, with entrées in the mid-teens.
Getting a Table: For the finest water views, ask for the tables at the end of the deck, but be prepared to wait more than an hour. Meanwhile, check out the new top-floor bar for appetizers and cocktails. Or forgo the scenery and take one of the tables on the front patio, which are easier to score.
100 Atlantic Ave., Boston, 617-367-8700, joesamerican.com.