Al Fresco Finds

OC dines outdoors at new and expanded spaces

As restaurants struggle to survive, cities and landlords are pivoting to allow new and expanded outdoor dining options. An entire block of Forest Avenue in Laguna Beach has been closed to driving and parking, dedicating the public space to dining, shopping, and promenading. 

With restaurants among the industries most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, new and expanded al fresco dining opportunities are opening in many areas of coastal Orange County. Here are some of our favorites, defined by the outdoor aesthetic, quality of the cuisine, but most importantly, by how safe and welcoming they feel for customers. 

Forest Avenue, Laguna Beach Locals had long been asking for the one-way stretch of this downtown street to be dedicated as a pedestrian promenade. It took the pandemic to push it through. The promenade includes six new dining decks for restaurants that include Alessa, 230 Forest, Moulin, and Brussels Bistro. Masks are required for access, with young officials enforcing the rule. 

Old Towne Orange The two blocks of Glassell Avenue that radiate out of the circle in downtown Orange have been closed to cars, with each restaurant allowed to put tables and chairs in the street. Masks are required to enter the restaurants, but not elsewhere. Provisions Deli is our top choice for casual cuisine, craft beer, and comfort.

Old Vine Kitchen & Bar, Costa Mesa The rooftop at The Camp has achieved its highest and best use so far as an outdoor dining area for Old Vine. The eclectic upstairs space (there is also seating in the original patio and under the stairway) has bit of a steampunk vibe, with separated tables, touch-less QR code menus, and masked servers. 

Farmhouse at Roger’s Gardens The al fresco environment has been a draw from the beginning. It remains one of the most comfortable spots in Newport Beach.

Five Crowns and Sidedoor Open-air meals in the backyard of the historic restaurant are graciously served, with masks required to enter, and all servers taking safety seriously.

Selanne Steak Tavern With outdoor terraces and patios, reduced capacity, and masked servers, Teemu’s place is a top option.

Additional restaurants that have new, expanded, or improved outdoor spaces include Bistango, Broadway, The Hall, AnQi, Descanso, Gracias Madre, Sol Cocina, Sushi Roku, 4th Street Market, and Benchmark.   

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