al fresco dining
Outdoor dining with kids at Square Cafe

Dining al fresco in Pittsburgh has never been easier
The only thing more enjoyable than a great meal is taking it outside. As recently as five years ago, al fresco dining wasn’t big in Pittsburgh. But now it’s a whole new scene. Here are a few—ok, quite a few—of our favorite places to dine outside.

There’s nothing quite like brunch outdoors on a beautiful day. For that, Pittsburgh’s best option remains Square Cafe, which comfortably seats diners on both sides of the Braddock Avenue sidewalk without disturbing pedestrian traffic.

The back patio at Round Corner Cantina has been one of Pittsburgh’s favorite outdoor spaces since it opened in 2008, but when the weather is nice, space is at a premium. If you’re planning a happy hour, make sure to get there early.

About 10 blocks up Butler Street, Gus’s Café sports long picnic-style tables on a fenced-in side patio to complement its building’s neighborhood bar vibe. The café, which opened in December of last year, offers an eclectic mix of craft beers and a gluten-free food menu. Gus’s Café’s namesake is Konstantinos “Gus” Haritos, who in 1951, founded what became one of Pittsburgh’s most popular al fresco dining spots, the Harris Grill. Gus’s son George sold Harris Grill in 2003.

In the Strip District, Marty’s Market serves up breakfast and lunch on its side terrace during the week with brunch on Saturdays and Sundays, and on nice days keeps the garage door to its front coffee bar open.

No Pittsburgh neighborhood has seen a spike in outdoor dining quite like Downtown. Market Square’s Il Pizzaiolo can hold 32 diners on its front patio. Just next door, Winghart’s Whiskey & Burger Bar can accommodate about 20 seats. Across the square, Diamond Market has room for nearly 40. They join mainstays like Meat and Potatoes, the sunroof bar at Six Penn Kitchen and The Garden Café at Heinz Hall.

Il Tetto, the newly opened rooftop beer garden at Sienna Mercato, has room for about 150 customers, and a retractable roof allows for the space to be used year-round.

If you’re in the mood for Thai food, hop across the Allegheny to Nicky’s Thai Kitchen on the North Side, where you’ll find one of Pittsburgh’s most exotic dining gardens. You’ll feel like you’re in Thailand. Pusadee’s Garden on Butler Street in Lawrenceville has a lush and intimate space that’s equally delightful.

Noodlehead, its sister restaurant on Highland Avenue in Shadyside, specializes in street-style Thai cuisine. Noodlehead’s outdoor seating is limited and the restaurant doesn’t accept takeout orders online or by phone. Be part of Pittsburgh’s great summer dining experiences by showing up and placing your order, then head down a few doors to Mad Mex or Buffalo Blues to have a beer while you wait. When your food’s ready, pick it up and find a comfortable space in the park of your choice.

The back patio at Kelly’s Bar & Lounge is a Pittsburgh summer tradition, and just across Centre Avenue, BRGR has roof deck dining that’s not to be missed.

In Point Breeze, the Café at the Frick offers patrons the opportunity to dine in the picturesque gardens of early 20th century splendor. The café, which grows all of its vegetables in on-site gardens, serves lunch Tuesday through Sunday with afternoon tea service beginning at 2:30 p.m.

In addition to an eclectic menu which changes daily, Bistro To Go on the North Side has a serene and charming brick patio.

Sipping a cold beer on a warm day is one of summer’s pleasures, and Pittsburgh is increasingly full of great local options.

Il Tetto, mentioned above with its newly opened rooftop beer garden at Sienna Mercato, has plenty of room and a retractable roof that allows for year-round use. Newly opened Grist House Brewing in Millvale and Hitchhiker Brewing in Mt. Lebanon both offer sizable outdoor decks in close but quiet Pittsburgh suburbs.

If you feel like local beer but don’t want to limit yourself to just one brewery’s worth, the Independent Brewing Company in Squirrel Hill recently obtained a permit allowing tables and chairs on its newly-paved sidewalk and will offer outdoor seating early this summer.

Lots of coffee shops have great outdoor space where you can sit and enjoy a cool beverage, but none of them are more inviting than the back patio at the Make Your Mark Artspace & Coffeehouse in Point Breeze. In addition to a full coffee bar and some great tea selections, MYM offers a vegetarian lunch menu complete with daily specials. Though they’re only open until 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, owner Hemi Braunstein has been known to let customers continue using the café’s wifi and back patio until he locks up around 6 p.m.

The outdoor deck at Biddle’s Escape in Wilkinsburg is nearly as scenic, and its lunch and dinner food truck schedule makes it an attractive option off the East End’s beaten path.

Did we miss any of your favorites? Let us know in the comments section.

Oakland Restaurant Week on the way
A consortium of Oakland restaurants, including Hello Bistro, Prince of India, Joe Mamma’s, Red Oak Café, Sushi Fuku and others are teaming up for Oakland Restaurant week, which will run from June 2 to 6. A number of participating restaurants plan to offer five-dollar lunch specials, and with each one purchased, the diner has a chance to win a slew of prizes, including free lunch in Oakland for a month.

For a complete list of participating restaurants and their specials, visit the event page.

Matthew Wein is a local writer, editor, blogger, storyteller and proud native Pittsburgher. Once described as "a man of things," he covers city design, spirits and craft beer for NEXT, where he keeps all of the editorial meetings light-hearted and interesting. His interests include sorting books, looking at old things and candles which smell like old-growth pine forests.