Nashville's best outdoor dining: 15 of our favorite al fresco hot spots

From pizza to brew houses to barbecue to fine dining, here's a list of awesome places you might feel safer eating outside during the pandemic

Brad Schmitt
Nashville Tennessean

Do you feel safer eating outside during the pandemic? Many folks do, so several Nashville restaurants have added outdoor seating in the last few months. And some of it looks really cool.

City House in Germantown strung some white lights to add vibes to a parking lot now covered in four-top tables. East Nashville's Lockeland Table borrowed some sidewalk space from the city along 16th Street. 

Perri Dugard Owens, of Nashville, enjoys lunch at Local Distro in Nashville, Tenn., Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2020.

The Local Distro in Salemtown has a mini-dog run so you can bring your fur friends to dinner.

And others are seeing more customers take advantage of the outdoor seating spaces they've had all along.

Old or new, here are 15 of our favorite outdoor dining spots in and around Nashville. These are in no particular order. (Or are they?)

The Local Distro, Salemtown

614 Garfield St.

Brothers Will Radford, left, and Rha Radford, right, own The Local Distro in Nashville, Tenn., Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2020.

So many things to love here: The Local Distro is a family-owned, Black-owned market and mini-restaurant that sells products from local merchants only. And the jerk chicken bowl? Oh man, really delicious and big enough for two meals.

Outside, there are three big, covered picnic tables on one side, a mini-outdoor dog run and a cornhole area on the other.

Total outdoor tables: 3

Hours: 7:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. weekdays; 10 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday

City House, Germantown

1222 Fourth Ave. N.

Popular Germantown restaurant City House turned an adjacent paved lot into an outdoor dining room for safer pandemic dining.

This hipster Italian restaurant turned its employee parking lot into an outdoor dining room, complete with white lights strung between poles. Vibe-alicious! City House also has a covered, screened-in patio on the side.

Total outdoor seating: 16 tables with a capacity of 66

Hours: 5 to 10 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday

Reservations: cityhousenashville.com/reservations

Urban Grub, 12 South

2506 12th Ave. S.

One of the three outdoor dining areas at high-end Urban Grub in 12South

These folks do their outdoor seating with style and safety. Urban Grub has three distinct outdoor area, each with its own look.

My favorite has high tables tucked between a big stone fireplace and a cozy bar, all with giant metal ceiling fans spinning slowly to keep the air moving.

And there's hand sanitizer on each table, inside and out.

Total outdoor seats: 80

Hours: 4 to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Friday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday

Reservations: urbangrub.net

Plaza Mariachi, South Nashville

3955 Nolensville Pike

Plaza Mariachi in South Nashville set up an outdoor seating area for 80 on AstroTurf they call "The Green."

Collaboration is the name of the game at Plaza Mariachi, a Hispanic community epicenter with shops, restaurants, a grocery store, live music and more.

So it certainly makes sense that an outdoor seating area known as "The Green" is collaborative too.

The area is open to customers of all eateries inside Plaza Mariachi and the restaurants "in the wings" around it.

That means diners can choose from Taqueria Hidalgo, Torito Hot Bar, Trinity Cafe, Paletas Tocumbo, Tres Gauchos Argentine Steaks, Juicy Seafood, Taj Indian Cuisine, Chismes Cafe, WIN Bubble Tea, Panca Peru, Little Caesars Pizza and China Moon.

And there even are drive-in movies in the parking lot from time to time.

Total outdoor seating: 14 tables, capacity of 80

Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday

More info: plazamariachi.com

The Rooftop Lounge at Bobby Hotel, Downtown

230 Fourth Ave. N.

The Rooftop Lounge at Bobby Hotel downtown offers some great views of downtown

There are so many great rooftop bars and lounges downtown.

What makes Bobby Hotel's stand out? An old Greyhound bus. Yup, there's a bus on top of the hotel, gutted and converted into a cool private dining area.

And you can see all the skyscrapers downtown a little more up close and personal. 

Outdoor seating: 15 tables (including the bus), total capacity of 60

Hours: Noon to 10:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday; noon to 8 p.m. Sunday

Reservations: bobbyhotel.com/rooftoplounge

E3 Chophouse, Hillsboro Village

1628 21st Ave. S.

The third-floor screened-in, covered outdoor dining room of E3 Chophouse in Hillsboro Village

First of all, the beef here is amazing, with a melt-in-your-mouth filet that's the best I've had. Second, country fans might get a kick out of knowing that Jason Aldean and Luke Bryan are co-owners.

Third, the third-floor outdoor seating may be the nicest in the city. I mean, I'm not even really sure it's outdoor — it's more like fancy, tropical resort dining with giant, floor-to-ceiling screened windows and giant metal ceiling fans. Beautiful.

Outdoor seating capacity: 60

Hours: 5 to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday

Reservations: e3chophousenashville.com

HoneyFire BBQ, Bellevue

8127 Sawyer Brown Road

HoneyFire BBQ in Bellevue has 13 tables outside

Friends, I have four words that will endlessly delight you — peanut butter banana pudding. Shut UP! This may be the single best food product I've ever tasted in Bellevue.

Smooth, delicious, with a Nutter Butter cookie in it. And they sell a quart of it for $12.95. I mean, sure, they have individual servings, but why bother? Oh yeah, they have some good barbecue there, too. But have I mentioned their take on 'nanner puddin'?? 

Outdoor seating: 13 tables with a capacity of 46

Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily

Margot Cafe & Bar, East Nashville

1017 Woodland St.

One of two patios at Margot Cafe & Bar in East Nashville

A wonderful Nashville classic, Margot delivers charm in spades, and owners have been particularly cautious during the pandemic.

There are two outdoor patio areas here, open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Margot also now is serving delicious treats from the nearby Marche Artisan Foods, which closed for good in June, citing difficulties created by this year's tornadoes and pandemic.

Outdoor seating: 10 tables

Hours: 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4:30 to 9 p.m. Friday; 4:30 to 9 p.m. Saturday; 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday

Reservations: margocafe.com/reservation

It'Z A Philly Thing, Bellevue

7609 Highway 70S

New Bellevue food shack It'Z A Philly Thing often gets long lines on the four days a week it's open

The very best — and maybe the only? — authentic Philly cheesesteak in Nashville is right here. And what a story — owners actually opened this food truck in the middle of the pandemic.

The place has caught fire. There are long lines nearly every day, and demand is so great that employees had to stop taking pre-orders on the phone. You wanna cheesesteak? Get in line, ya mooks! (The owners actually are much nicer than that, BTW.)

There only are a few picnic tables nearby, so you may end up enjoying your sandwiches and water ices in your car. Talk about some safe social distancing though, amirite?

Hours: Noon to 5:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday; noon to 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday

Butchertown Hall, Germantown

1416 Fourth Ave. N.

The patio at Butchertown Hall in Germantown

Sorry, Arby's, but Butchertown Hall has the meats. Brisket, chicken, ribs, pulled pork, burgers, all fresh, all tasty. The Tex-Mex offerings — enchiladas, queso, street corn and more — are also delicious.

And this Germantown hot spot's patio had it going on well before the pandemic hit. The restaurant has spaced out its outdoor seating to make things a little safer, though.

Outdoor capacity: 60

Hours: 4 to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 4 to 11 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday; 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday

Reservations: butchertownhall.com/reservations

Nicky's Coal Fired, West Nashville

5026 Centennial Boulevard

Patio at Nicky's Coal Fired in West Nashville

This is some Italian home cooking. How home-y is it? The chef named the restaurant's oven Enrico after his great grandfather who immigrated from Italy.

The restaurant has changed to a fast casual approach, so you order at the host stand, take a number, sit down and a server brings the food.

I'm also excited about the fact that Nicky's just added a bagel shop. Yes!

Outdoor seating capacity: 35

Hours: 3 to 8 p.m. Wednesday through Monday; closed Tuesday

answer. restaurant, Sylvan Park

132 46th Ave. N. 

Many folks reached out to me on Facebook to say casual fine-dining restaurant answer. (yes, the lowercase "a" and the period after are on purpose) is their favorite al fresco spot.

The patio at answer. restaurant in Sylvan Park

It's not just the patio. Food offerings are eclectic. Here are the suggestions from Tennessean food writer Nancy Vienneau in 2017:

"Consider dukkah-spiced lamb with ratatouille and harissa yogurt; mojo pork with gigante beans, roasted tomato and fresco; mussels steamed in beer with lemongrass, lime, ginger and mint."

Fancy, huh? Exotic. Oooooooo. I'll meet you there.

Outside seating: 6 tables can accommodate about 26 people on the patio

Hours: 5 to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday

Reservations: answerrestaurant.com

Slim & Husky's, North Nashville

911 Buchanan St.

The patio at the North Nashville location for Slim & Husky's

I've eaten Slim & Husky's indoors, outdoors, in my car, in the middle of a parking lot. I mean, I don't care where I eat this amazing thin-crust pizza, as long as I'm eating it!

Having said that, there is a patio at the original location, so check it out. Ms. Cheap will want me to tell you that you can save $5 on the larger $15 Husky pizzas on Tuesdays, so that's your best time to check it out.

Outdoor seating: Six tables with a total capacity of 24

Hours: Noon to 8 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; noon to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday

Tennessee Brew Works, Pie Town

809 Ewing Ave.

The giant outdoor spaces at Tennessee Brew Works add to the party atmosphere there

Boy, there is something about drinking beer outside. It's so much more fun, right?

The thing about Tennessee Brew Works is, lots of folks talk about how much they enjoy the food there. The Five Beer Burger turns up on lots of best burgers lists. And what other brew house serves curried pea hummus? (Rhetorical question, but if you have an answer, I'm all ears!)

Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday; 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday

Lockeland Table, East Nashville

1520 Woodland St.

East Nashville's Lockeland Table added a bunch of tables on the sidewalk on the 16th Street side of the restaurant

In hipster East Nashville, this might be the ultimate hipster restaurant, and residents flock to the community tables to eat the awesome food and to see each other.

No more big community tables during the pandemic, but Lockeland Table found a way to keep a community feel outside — add a bunch of two-tops right on the sidewalk.

What's more neighborly than being able to chat with your neighbors as they're walking by?

Outdoor seating: 11 tables

Hours: 4 to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday

Reservations: Call 615.228.4864