Union Street, Old Town Pasadena; photo by Michelle Shiers
Union Street, Old Town Pasadena; photo by Michelle Shiers

Best Outdoor Dining in LA this Summer: Closed Streets, Parklets, and Restaurants with Pop-up Patios

Dine-in service at indoor restaurants may have been re-shuttered, but Mayor Garcetti is encouraging restaurants to open up outdoor seating in parking lots, sidewalks, and closed streets—helping communities to dine and local businesses to stay afloat. After months of cooking at home or eating take-out, it will be really nice to go out for a bona-fide, fully serviced meal in a restaurant at one of LA's newly created outdoor dining experiences. Families worldwide have not had a normal summer (though we hope we’ve been able to help with some outings and activities), so we’ve scouted out the best, most creative outdoor dining around LA this season.

The cities and restaurants below have been re-purposing outdoor spaces, installing barriers, and creating unusual seating for a safe dining experience. Some of these outdoor spaces are downright charming. It’s heartening to see cities and businesses innovate and find a way to thrive during the pandemic, offering communities much-needed respite and some semblance of normalcy. Because the situation remains fluid, remember to call the restaurant ahead of time to confirm seating availability and business hours. And of course, as always, bring your masks. Support your local businesses and treat your family to a meal out while dining al fresco safely.

Outdoor Dining and Street Closures for Restaurants around LA

1. Old Town Pasadena

The City of Pasadena has moved over 50 restaurants outdoors into the streets, sidewalks, and alleyways of Old Town. Partial street closures along Colorado Boulevard and East Union Street began on July 11 and have been a huge success so far, offering European-style dining experiences at local restaurants serving cuisine from Spain, Italy, France, Japan, and more. To find a list of participating restaurants, visit the dining directory and use the drop-down “Outdoor Dining” filter.

2. Al Fresco Glendale: Montrose Shopping Park

Montrose, Glendale’s charming historic old town, has more than 150 mom and pop shops and restaurants. With the Al Fresco Glendale initiative, Honolulu Avenue is able to create new outdoor dining areas on city streets, sidewalks, and private parking lots. Families can enjoy everything from pizza and Mexican to pho and ramen in these newly created parklets.

3. Downtown Burbank

Burbank has closed vehicular access to three blocks of San Fernando Boulevard in order to open outdoor dining on sidewalks and in private parking lots. These three blocks begin at Angeleno Avenue and end at Magnolia Boulevard. The plan is for these streets to remain closed through Labor Day. The stretch is home to Burbank's densest row of restaurants, allowing families to enjoy a variety of Asian, Indian, vegetarian, and American comfort food on the new pedestrian zone.

4. Downtown Sierra Madre

Sierra Madre has permitted restaurants on West Sierra Madre Boulevard and North Baldwin Avenue to expand their seating into sidewalk areas, parking lots, and stalls. The truly small town feel, with local families, friends, and neighbors waving between tables, makes this is a great place to bring kids for a meal out. And there's plenty of comfort food on offer, including pizza, Mexican, American, and British pub food.

5. Green Leaf Promenade: Uptown Whittier

The City of Whittier has opened Greenleaf Promenade for its outdoor dining and shopping program. Uptown Whittier is temporarily closing Greenleaf Ave. to vehicle traffic and making a pedestrian-friendly Promenade extending from Wardman Avenue to Bailey Street. The Promenade offers open air seating for al fresco dining from 8am to 10pm. Visit the website to see participating restaurants; highlights include steak houses, seafood, BBQ, Mexican, sushi, crepes, and pho.

6. Mainstreet Al Fresco Santa Monica

Santa Monica launched its Main Street Al Fresco Project on June 29th, installing a new streetscape that allows outdoor dining, shopping, and recreation along public sidewalks and parking spaces. Main Street now boasts the largest collection of outdoor restaurants in Santa Monica, including Italian, French, Japanese, Indian, Mexican, Thai, vegetarian, and one or two world-famous gourmet spots.

From Pico Blvd. To Pier Ave., the street is converted for customers to eat and shop outdoors while maintaining physical distance. Businesses, working with the city, have created parklets between Pico Blvd. and Hollister Ave. with sidewalk extensions between Hollister Ave. and Pier Ave., and sections of Hill St., Kinney Ave., and Pier Ave. Vehicle turn-lanes and parking spots have been re-imagined for pedestrians, diners, and shoppers.

Since much of the parking on Main St. has been re-purposed for the new streetscape, the city is adding new parking signage to guide visitors to lots behind Main St., on the west side. Locals, of course, are encouraged to walk.

Photo courtesy of City of Long Beach

7. Long Beach Open Streets

Long Beach has launched a Business Open Streets initiative for sidewalk dining or temporary parklets in parking and travel lanes. As of July 14th, 80 parklets have been installed in the city. Expect more to come as the citywide program works with the community to safely open up the streets to provide space for physical distancing. Use this map to find participating restaurants that include burgers, sushi, Thai, pho, Peruvian, and even indulgent breakfasts.

8. Downtown Torrance Does Dining Alfresco

Torrance has launched a Downtown Does Dining Alfresco program which runs Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays until September. Sartori Street closes to vehicles between El Prado and Marcelina in order to provide guests with open seating in a safe, outdoor space. Visit the website for a list of participating restaurants (there are nine so far) and to see the most updated hours for street closures.

9. Redondo Beach: Riviera Village

Redondo Beach launched the Riviera Village parklets program on the evening of July 3rd to add outdoor space in sections of Catalina Avenue. Parking stalls are now reserved for al fresco dining as well as outdoor shopping stalls set up by retail stores. These barricaded spaces between Avenida del Norte and Vista del Mar are carpeted with fake grass and filled with tables and chairs. Breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner are covered in every cuisine you could wish.

Lady Byrd Cafe in Echo Park. Photo by Ali Buck

Other Unique Outdoor Dining Options at LA Restaurants

10. Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park: Taste of Calico

The theme park is still closed but Knott’s Berry Farm is hosting a unique outdoor dining experience for customers, where they can take a stroll down Calico area. Face masks can be removed during eating, since tables are placed at a safe distance from each other. Safety measures including thermal cameras check temperatures as guests walk by, and hand sanitizing stations and a mask requirement guarantees a safe experience.

Taste of Calico began July 17-19 and runs weekends from 12pm - 8pm through August 9th . Tasting cards are required to get in and can be purchased online for adults for $25 and $15 for kids ages 3-11.

11. Beach Eats To Go

Beach Eats To Go brings a rotation of gourmet food trucks to the Marina on Thursday evenings this summer. This is a grab-and-go event, with online ordering only; no payments are accepted on-site. Once the food is collected, though, there are some nice spots in the Marina to lay out a picnic.

12. Magic Castle Dine and Delight 

Ever wanted to go to Hollywood's exclusive Magic Castle? Dine at the world-famous Magic Castle with curbside pick up—and with kids! People are invited to bring their own seating (tables and chairs welcome) for this makeshift outdoor dining room in the parking lot. Guest passes, which are normally required, are not needed with this program, and neither is an ID proving age 21. The dinner program also features "Dinner and a Show" on Saturday night: anyone purchasing a meal is invited to enjoy a live, interactive online magic show. (Note the show is also available for purchase a la carte, for anyone not dining.)

13. Lady Byrd Cafe in Echo Park

This cafe has done something truly remarkable: made social distancing the coolest thing that ever hit our pandemic lives. Each table gets its own greenhouse enclosure for maximum social distancing in a beautiful patio garden setting. Menu options include sandwiches, pastas, and pastries. 

 

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Bob Baker Marionette Theater - 10:00 AM Pick
Knott's Taste of Fall-O-Ween
Knott's Berry Farm - 12:00 PM Pick
Beach Eats To Go
Parking Lot #11 - 5:00 PM Pick
Drive-In Concerts at the Muck
Muckenthaler Estate & Cultural Center - 7:30 PM Pick
The Frida Cinema 2020 Pop-Up Drive-In
Various Locations, including Zion Lutheran Church & School - 8:30 PM Pick
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