As spring's blooms burst forth from every corner of the city, locals re-emerge, sunglasses in hand, to reclaim their seats atop Atlanta's beloved rooftop hot spots and umbrella-speckled patios.
- JCT. Kitchen & Bar
As intended, JCT's second-story patio is the kind of place where you can't help but sit back and allow the soft breezes and boozy concoctions lull you into a state of serious relaxation. While the eatery's industrial-hip surroundings are always abuzz with activity, there's a sense of peace atop this beloved Westside deck. Try anything from executive chef Brian Horn's bar menu, from upscale snacks like the steak tartare, to down-home bites like the deviled eggs. Opt for a festive taste of Cuba with the Little Havana, boasting white rum, Georgia strawberries, lime juice and sugar. Stay past dark, taking in the twilight hues and passersby as they dawdle atop the adjacent pedestrian bridge.
The city's ultimate patio is undoubtedly Atlanta Botanical Garden, which is where this dining destination is located. Inside this oasis, each hour drifts by gently like a passing cloud, especially when spent atop Longleaf's rooftop terrace, nibbling savory, Cajun-inspired snacks and sandwiches. The newly opened restaurant pulls its culinary inspiration from its roots at celebrated Atlanta chef Linton Hopkins' garden café, but also adds new flavors under the direction of executive chef Jason Paolini. Take in the lush view of Storza Woods below. Would-be botanists might even spot the evergreen conifer tree -- the Longleaf Pine -- from which the restaurant derived its name.
- South City Kitchen (Midtown)
South City Kitchen enjoys the hum of faithful patrons and Southern food lovers year-round. Yet when the calendar flips to March, this Midtown mainstay's patio really buzzes. The restaurant's refined yet down-to-earth atmosphere draws business diners, couples and families. Nibble biscuits, cornbread and house-made honey butter while savoring a refreshing country thyme lemonade, concocted with American Spirit White Whiskey, thyme-infused syrup and fresh lemon juice. Then, loosen your belt and order the famed shrimp and Red Mule grits. Finish with the sticky-sweet pineapple upside-down cake.
- Dolce Italian
Travel to Italy without leaving Peachtree Street. Pull up a bistro chair, taking in the authentic ambiance at Dolce's charming outdoor wrap-around terrace overlooking The Shops Buckhead Atlanta, one of the city's most luxurious new shopping districts. The terrace is ideal for al fresco dining, perfect for enjoying the seasonally focused menu or lingering over the signature Aperol Spritz.
Start with a refreshing and beautiful Margarita Italiana pizza and pair it with the most tender and savory octopus starter you've ever nibbled. After dining, finish with a burst of sweet freshness – the limoncello semifreddo topped with local strawberries.
Whether you're in the mood for a quick bite or a candlelit, three-course meal, Atlas and The Tavern at Atlas, both located inside The St. Regis Atlanta, have you covered. Moreover, both concepts extend out into the restaurant's outdoor space – an exquisite Secret Garden that woos guests with its glimmering lights and white tablecloths. For a memorable meal, start with the truffle potato pierogi dumplings, featuring braised Wagyu beef so tender there's no need for a knife. For course two, try the veal tenderloin with garlic polenta, sunchokes and cauliflower. Finish with the refreshing mandarin yuzu semifreddo with coconut crumbs, kumquats and ice cream.
- No Mas! Cantina
Castleberry Hill is home to one of Atlanta's liveliest patios. Join the celebration of all things South of the border with Mexican food, drinks and artisan-crafted décor. Down an ice-cold margarita poured from a decorative glass pitcher and feast on fajitas, tacos and shrimp skewers. Top it off with a cuatro leches cake or sopapillas dusted with cinnamon sugar. Once you've had your fill, head across the patio to the No Mas! Hacienda Furnishing Gallery where gifts, jewelry, accessories, lighting and art beg to be purchased.
- Watershed On Peachtree
Watershed chef Zeb Stevenson gets really excited about the season. The chef's celebration of spring shows up in unexpected places, such as fresh-picked violets in his seasonal kale salad. Join in the fête by situating yourself beneath a sunny yellow patio umbrella and ordering a Provençal cocktail – a bright mix of gin, lavender, limoncello, grapefruit and lime juices. Next, snack on house-made crackers with pimento cheese and pepper jelly. Save room for chef's chicken and dumplings; it's cherished dishes such as this that originally made Watershed one of Atlanta's most treasured restaurants.
More Rooftops and Patios
These outdoor havens are placed on all ends of the city at some of the most popular and delicious restaurants. When the weather finally reaches that springtime summit, you can see the crowds flocking to any of these spacious establishments.
- Varuni Napoli (Midtown)
A cross between a patio and a rooftop, Varuni Napoli is in a league of its own with this Miami-chic outdoor lounge. The dimly lit dining area is open year-round with tables large and small, all surrounding a beautiful old tree. The next time you're looking for pizza, make it over to Midtown to try out this unique alfresco seating.
- King + Duke (Buckhead)
The spacious wrap-around patio at King + Duke has a fully functioning bar, a covered and uncovered section, and service that's just as quick as eating indoors. We could eat mounds of the pimento cheese hush puppies, but tasting them outdoors puts them on a whole new level.
- Ladybird Grove & Mess Hall (Old Fourth Ward)
Ladybird's whole shape, look and location is centered around the outdoors. The (covered and uncovered) patios serve as the foundation for this restaurant while the indoor seating and bar are merely to oblige the overflow (or large parties and freezing weather). Springtime is the perfect season to take a seat at Ladybird and enjoy brunch, lunch or dinner plus some prime people watching along the BeltLine.
- Alon's Bakery (Dunwoody)
Alon's is known for superb pastries, fabulous sandwiches and gourmet foods but the outdoor space at the Perimeter location is also noteworthy. Whether you're visiting for a cup of coffee and a croissant, lunch or dinner, Alon's patio is covered and ready to seat a crowd. Bright sunshine pours in and adds something special.
- O-ku (Westside)
Talk about food with a view! The rooftop of O-ku sits high above the Midtown skyline and can be clearly seen whether day or night. There is a full bar upstairs, and everything on the dinner menu is also available from this section. Now that it's staying light longer, this is the perfect restaurant for that "Food In The Air" Instagram shot.
- Cru Wine Bar (Alpharetta)
Cru Wine Bar is a gem in the middle of Alpharetta's restaurant conglomerate – Avalon. Springtime is when this restaurant shines because the upstairs rooftop seating finally becomes available. A flight of wine with a cheese plate, tapas, pizza or big plate serves as a great escape form the crowds and noise below.
Stacy Shade is a guest blogger for Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau.