Maybe it's the fresh salty air, maybe it's the cool breeze between your knees, maybe it's the sunshine on your shrimp scampi, but one thing's for sure: Everything tastes better on a deck, in a courtyard, or out on the patio. Luckily, Seattle has plenty of outdoor eateries.
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For people watching—or for pretending to be European or at least on the East Coast—sidewalk dining can't be beat. Our favorites are 35th Street Bistro (709 N. 35th St., 206-547-9850, www.35bistro.com) in Fremont; Bleu Bistro (202 Broadway Ave. E., 206-329-3087) on Capitol Hill; and Cyclops (2421 First Ave., 206-441-1677, www.cyclopsseattle.com), Le Pichet (1933 First Ave., 206-256-1499, www.lepichetseattle.com), and Nijo (83 Spring St., 206-340-8880) in the downtown area.
If car horns and dog-walking passersby don't do it for you, this city has some great secluded garden patios as well. With its vines and rustic furniture, the walled-in patio at Marjorie (2331 Second Ave., 206-441-9842, www.trenchtownrocks.com) feels far away from the Belltown crowds even though it's just slightly set back from the sidewalk. Out in Ballard at Madame K's (5327 Ballard Ave. N.W., 206-783-9710) or in Georgetown at Smarty Pants (6017 Airport Way S., 206-762-4777, www.smartypantsseattle.com), the industrial landscape—as glimpsed through gaps in the fencing and around tree limbs—lends an air of urban renewal. Similarly, the patio at 22 Doors (405 15th Ave. E., 206-324-6406, www.twentytwodoors.com) on the Hill splits the difference between city cool and quiet remove. The deck at the Pink Door (1919 Post Alley, 206-443-3241, www.thepinkdoor.net) keeps you in the Market but away from the hustle.
To some, the great outdoors is synonymous with sports. If you want to eat, drink, and keep score all at the same time, try bowling and billiards at Garage (1130 Broadway Ave., 206-322-2296, www.garagebilliards.com) and Ping-Pong at the Roanoke Park Place Tavern (2409 10th Ave. E., 206-324-5882), or go to Filiberto's Italian Restaurant (14401 Des Moines Memorial Dr., Burien, 206-248-1944) for bocce ball. That's right: bocce ball.
On the Eastside, the deck at Issaquah's Iris Grill (317 N.W. Gilman Blvd., Issaquah, 425-557-7899, www.theirisgrill.com) puts you in the heart of Gilman Village, while the Yarrow Bay Grill and the adjoining Beach Cafe (1270 Carillon Point, Kirkland, 425-889-9052, www.ybgrill.com) set you down lakeside in Kirkland.
Of course, the quintessential Seattle outdoor dining experience requires saltwater. If arriving by boat, Palisade (at Elliott Bay Marina, 2601 W. Marina Pl., 206-285-1000, www.r-u-i.com/pli) and Anthony's Bell Street Diner at Pier 66 (2201 Alaskan Way, 206-448-6688, www.anthonys.com) give new meaning to the notion of a drive-in. Landlubbers who prefer terra firma and really only want to look at the water could do worse than Ray's Boathouse and Cafe (6049 Seaview Ave. N.W., 206-789-3770, www.rays.com), Ponti Seafood Grill (3014 Third Ave. N., 206- 284-3000, www.pontigrill.com), or Salty's on Alki (1936 Harbor Ave. S.W., 206-937-1600, www.saltys.com). For a cheaper chair in front of more or less the same view on offer at Salty's, try Alki Crab and Fish Company (1660 Harbor Ave. S.W., 206-938-0975), where the oysters come on no-nonsense plastic cafeteria trays but are no less divine.