Outdoor Seats: 50–54
Giving props to a Ken Oringer taco joint feels unsettlingly like recommending, say, a Wolfgang Puck chili dog. But the Mexican street food here is authentic—we’re addicted to the chile relleno torta and the unwieldy cheese-slathered grilled corn called maíz asado. The salsa beats overhead maintain the fiesta groove, and the sidewalk setup—strewn with Christmas lights—is straight out of La Condesa.
Getting a Table: About 100 feet from Fenway, this place is standing-room-only an hour before the game. Then: utter ghost town. People forget that La Verdad is also open for lunch, so on non-baseball days, you’re virtually guaranteed the midday seat of your choice.
One Lansdowne St., Boston, 617-421-9595, laverdadtaqueria.com.
Outdoor Seats: 36
A little patience goes a long way at this Back Bay brasserie, where time creeps by—and dishes are served—in a French manner (translation: très slowly). No matter. Only the most jaded sidewalk-gazer could glaze over while ogling the mix of artsy and fabulous that traverses this block of Newbury. The grilled sea bass, imported daily from France and Italy, will more than make up for temps perdu.
Getting a Table: Steps below street level, this cozy patio is prime real estate. If you want to dine on fricassée de légumes (and trust us, you do) under one of the broad maroon umbrellas, better make reservations—up to two weeks in advance for a weekend table.
261 Newbury St., Boston, 617-587-4200, lavoileboston.net.
Outdoor Seats: 30
Come the season’s first fine weather, Oleana suddenly—with eerily precise synchronicity—occurs to every foodie in the city, thus ushering in abou
t four months’ worth of two-hour waits for arguably the Hub’s loveliest patio. (Only Hamersley’s gives it a run for its money.) Foodwise, this al fresco mecca channels its inner Mecca, with exquisite riffs on pan–Middle Eastern cuisine.
Getting a Table: Arrive as far before 5:30 p.m. as you can, give your name and number, then head down the street to B-Side Lounge for cocktails and wait for the call. Mondays offer the lightest competition.
134 Hampshire St., Cambridge, 617-661-0505, oleanarestaurant.com.
Outdoor Seats: 16
Die-hard Orinoco fans trot out the "winter escape" argument, but summer is when this Nuevo Venezuelan eatery morphs into a genuine roadside taguarita, complete with warm breeze. While neophyte foragers jockey for position on the South End’s main thoroughfares, locals and visiting foodies head to this narrow hallway on quieter Shawmut for the bacon-wrapped, almond-stuffed dates—not to mention the first or blind variety.
Getting a Table: Scoring one of the patio’s 16 seats can be maddening, but grilled chicken and arepas—loaded with creamy guayanés cheese and other delights—travel well. Order to-go and enjoy your picnic at Peters Park (where you can practice similar tongue-twisters).
477 Shawmut Ave., Boston, 617-369-7075, orinocokitchen.com.
Outdoor Seats: 130
The only roof deck in the North End provides an exceptionally upscale experience. White tablecloths cover the wrought iron furniture and overhanging red awnings lend most tables all-weather protection. The homemade tubular pasta, called bombolotti, is best tossed with spicy Italian sausage, tomato sauce, and torn basil leaves. The saltimbocca di pollo—pan-seared chicken baked with prosciutto, fresh mozzarella, and sage—is a savory bite of heaven.
Getting a Table: Get there right at 4 p.m. for a guaranteed seat for dinner at the bar. An hour later, it fills with folks who will likely end up waiting hours for one of only 18 rooftop tables.
250 Hanover St., Boston, 617-371-1176, ristorantefiore.com.
Outdoor Seats: 40
Rocca’s menu of light, fresh Italian fare seems precisely calibrated to al fresco dining, as does the restaurant’s new Ligurian Lemonade stand, pouring a decidedly non–Kool Aid blend of citrus vodka, limoncello, Campari, honey, and lime juice. Lanterns and manicured greenery provide a cozy setting for handmade pastas with pesto and—whenever the chef gets the urge—pizzette and fish served up right from the patio grill.
Getting a Table: The view of the parking lot and nondescript high-rises can seem a tad Soviet. We prefer seats along the curved wall of windows, affording views of fellow outdoorsmen and less strategically positioned indoor revelers.
500 Harrison Ave., Boston, 617-451-5151, roccaboston.com.
Outdoor Seats: 40–45
Although the looming photo of Sophia Loren presides over the dining room inside, the trattoria’s open-air courtyard framed by stucco walls does a fine job of evoking the loveliness of its namesake. Nominally Italian, the restaurant serves a variety of Mediterranean dishes, the most tempting of which are the zesty paella and the excellent mussels with polenta and chorizo.
Getting a Table: Sophia’s Grotto shares its courtyard with several other restaurants—Birch Street Bistro, in particular, is worth considering if the wait gets too long. You can also pass time browsing through dozens of nearby boutiques, or enjoying a pitcher of sangria at the bar.
22R Birch St., Roslindale, 617-323-4595, sophiasgrotto.com.