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

We're not going to lie: there are lists that are more difficult to compile than others. This is one of those list. Here in Orlando, where the weather is so often exceptional for dining out of doors, there are seemingly countless venues from which to choose. This selection than runs the gamut from one dollar sign to four, venues suitable for 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 help the lower blood pressure. For occasions that call for finer dining, Soco is equally ideal for date night or dinner with the boss in a sidewalk setting that's both comely and cosmopolitan. 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 that feels like a bit of a European vacation, 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

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


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

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

With a rotating menu of New American cuisine and a romantic, lakeside setting, Canvas has made Lake Nona's rapidly expanding culinary scene tastier and prettier, injecting the Sunshine State's flavorful blend of Southern and Latin American into...  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

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

Amy Drew has spent nearly three decades as a professional writer and roughly half her life as a Floridian. The words, she has found, come easier with bare feet and rum.

A roller coaster...  More About A.D.