Best Outdoor Dining Spots
Depending on your tolerance for heat and your love of humidity, you could arguably eat outdoors in Nashville about nine months out of the year. Personally, I opt out once the temps get higher than about 75, but springtime is an amazing time to enjoy the great attached outdoors (because if it’s not attached to an indoors, it’s not an outdoors I’m going to explore.) A perfect patio experience doesn’t necessarily require a fancy set-up or even a great view. Just good service and great food in the company of people you enjoy — and a margarita on the rocks doesn’t hurt, either.
East: 908 Main St., Nashville. 615-873-4085
12South: 2706 12th Avenue South, Nashville. 615-953-2951
Edley’s has one of those slick buildings that basically turns into a convertible when the weather turns warm. The walls are more like doors, so the indoor space and the outdoor space are nicely connected, letting the sun-worshippers soak up all the rays well into August while those of us with latent vampire tendencies can still take in the A/C while enjoying the outdoor view from a slight distance. It doesn’t hurt that barbecue and fixin’s go with outdoors like politicians and plausible deniability. And oh, what barbecue it is. We’re talking a low and slow until the meat’s so tender it almost melts in your mouth. Don’t miss: the pulled pork or the brisket. Barbecue is a very personal thing, but you won’t regret either choice.
The Yellow Porch
734 Thompson Lane, Nashville. 615-386-0260.
You can scarcely have the word “porch” in your name without boasting a decent al fresco situation, right? The Yellow Porch is prepared, with a rustic, intimate covered outdoor seating area. It’s right in keeping with the vibe of the restaurant, which is definitely romantic for evening. It’s also a laid back place to have a business lunch, where you can prod your boss for a raise over a quinoa black bean burger or some chicken salad. She’ll feel so relaxed back she’ll probably say yes. Come back later with your honey to celebrate with dinner entrees like filet mignon, cardamom and ginger rubbed lamb chops or the perfectly-spiced paella. Do make reservations, and don’t miss: the vanilla bean crème brulee for dessert.
900 Rosa L. Parks Blvd., Nashville. 615-880-2001.
You come for the fresh produce, trucked in from area farms. That helps you shop seasonally and support your local farmers. Plus you can satisfy gardening jones at Gardens of Babylon. But you can support your local restaurants here, too. On any given sunny day, you can choose cuisines from around the world — Swagruha for Indian, Jamaicaway for Jamaican, B&C for good ol’ American barbecue — and grab a spot outside overlooking the Bicentennial Capitol Mall. Walk the mall after lunch to justify something sugary from The Sweet Stash, Butter Cake Babe or newly-opened Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams. Come with a friend or two to secure your
spot and don’t miss: Bella Nashville, serving up some of the best pizza in town, with mozzarella made in-house and toppings sourced locally.
Cafe, Frist Center for the Visual Arts
919 Broadway, Nashville. 615-244-3340
There’s almost no better feeling than slipping away from the office on a sunny weekday, walking down (or up) to the Frist, skipping lightly up the steps and enjoying the free art along the corridor as you make your way to the back of the art deco building. The cafe is on the left, and you can make your picks cafeteria-style before heading out the back door with your tray. Even though there’s ample seating, some of it semi-shaded beneath a pergola, the seats get snapped up quickly on pretty days. Go early, get two desserts and maybe stop off in the gift shop on your way back to work. If you’re really feeling inspired, play hooky for the rest of the day and enjoy the featured exhibit. Don’t miss: The rotating menu of daily soups, from Cowboy Beef and Loaded Potato to Lemon Artichoke and Turkey Chili.
Coco’s Italian Market
411 51st Ave., Nashville. 615-783-0114
When you not only have outdoor seating, but games to play as well -- there’s a bocce ball court out front -- you know you’ve hit the al fresco motherload. In Italian, al fresco means going to jail. If this is jail, I’m totally going to knock over a bank. Casual and delish, you can load up on all of your various carbs in the form of pastas and pizza, not to mention cannoli, cheesecake and aselection of gelato. Plus, there’s a little storefront where you can peruse shelves of tomato
sauce and pasta, Italian candies and other treats, and there deli cases where you can buy meats and cheeses or press your nose against the glass and stare at all the gelato flavors until they offer you a sample. Don’t miss: Follow your own heart’s pasta desire, but I can’t NOT get the Tortellini Elliston every time I go.
731 McFerrin Ave., Nashville. 615-712-9517
Tater tots, milkshakes and burgers, oh my. That alone is enough to explain the line out the door at mealtimes. And for our warmer seasons, there’s no better place to be than the outdoor beer garden, a terraced slope filled with picnic tables, covered and non, and criss-crossed by twinkling lights. You’ll struggle over whether to get the house-made sodas, the hand-dipped milkshakes or the dozens of beers offered on tap, on ice, in the bottle or carried to you in hummingbird beaks. There’s no wrong choice of burger, whether you’re a cheese-only purist, a vegetarian craving falafel or someone who wants to pile on the bacon and eggs, wasabi or stroganoff. Chicken and house-made sausages hold their own here, too. Don’t miss: Some of the finest tots on either side of the Cumberland.