Florida Patio Culture: Orlando's Best for al Fresco Dining

We're not going to lie: this list was hard. They all are, actually, but here in Orlando, where the weather is so often exceptional for dining out of doors, there are many venues from which to choose. Submitted here, a selection than runs the gamut from one dollar sign to four, venues suitable for 50th anniversary dinners and junior-high movie dates and everything in between. Their common thread, however, is that each boasts lovely outdoor seating areas where live music, trickling fountains, resplendent lakes and golf course views inspired lower blood pressure (as opposed to the high your game might inspire). For upscale occasions, Norman's is a no-brainer, whether dining inside its well-appointed Ritz-Carlton dining room or out on the beautiful porch. Hillstone, too, has its charms, with excellent food and an enviable setting alongside Winter Park's Lake Killarney. Want the same view without the fuss? Just up the street, Shake Shack beckons, not only via the smell of fryer-fresh onion rings, but water views that pair beautifully with its cold beer and simple, far less expensive fare. Nearby, tucked into a charming nook of Park Ave., Barnie's CoffeeKitchen offers a relaxing outdoor space whether you're visiting for a quick latte or a farm-to-fork weekend dinner. Try them all, we say. And then a bunch more we didn't have room to include. 

Hollerbach's Willow Tree Cafe
Photo courtesy of A.D. Thompson

Willkommen! Hollerbach's Willow Tree Cafe is a family-run operation that many say serves the best traditional German fare in all of Central Florida. Craving your tante's schnitzel? Ready to sample more sausage than a Bears fan at a tailgate?...  Read More

Vanbarry's expansive and mostly covered outdoor section is a haven with fire pits, live music and serene water views. Okay, there's a parking lot, too, but you won't mind. The vibe here is casual, friendly, local – you may already know its...  Read More

With its truly exceptional lakeside setting, fine dining at Hillstone may leave you and your guests stuffed, but no one at the table will find it stuffy. In fact, it's just the sort of place to loosen the tie, slide the power heels off a bit...  Read More

Winter Park's famous Park Avenue is home to many unique local shops and restaurants. And this flagship Barnie's location, while small and cozy, houses a hidden foodie gem, particularly come weekend nights, when the focus – while still on-point...  Read More

Norman Van Aken is a culinary legend – and a proud adopted Floridian, which plays nicely into delicious and often Latin-, Caribbean- and even Key West-infused fare. Sit outside and enjoy spectacular views of lakes, gardens and the...  Read More

Nestled into the lovely, rolling greens of College Park's public Dubsdread Golf Course, the Tap Room enjoys a loyal following of locals who come for lunch, dinner, Sunday brunch and a popular and notably jovial Happy Hour in cozy and comfortable...  Read More

The Shake Shack chain is renowned for tasty burgers, snappy hot dogs, thick milkshakes and the like, so if you're in the mood for a clean, fast-casual, all-American meal – they've got what you need. But if you're in the mood for a posh view...  Read More

Soco offers up loads of plated Southern comfort, though its name is actually a representation of Southern contemporary, which means you'll find some down-home diner favorites that have undergone an evolution into something more upscale. Think...  Read More


This charming, off-the-beaten-path venue is charming and rustic, evocative of some diamond-in-the-rough surprise you'd stumble upon while road tripping. Its food is surprising, too. Sandwiches, salads, scrumptious starters and a whole lotta...  Read More

Mmmmmm. Beer. Homer Simpson said it best. And it's this enthusiasm for all things hoppy that keeps folks coming back to World of Beer locations all over. At the downtown Orlando venue, however, the incredible outdoor section overlooking Lake...  Read More


Meet A.D. Thompson

A.D. Thompson has spent more than 20 years as a professional writer and roughly 15 as a Floridian. The words, she has found, come easier with bare feet and rum.

A roller coaster enthusiast,...  More About A.D.

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