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America's best outdoor dining

Andie Diemer / via Food & Wine

Seating is first-come, first-served on the rooftop terrace of Alma, a Mexican favorite in Brooklyn's trendy Carroll Gardens neighborhood.

From rooftops with panoramic city views to exquisite hidden gardens, there’s a new crop of restaurants with terrific food and fantastic outdoor spaces popping up across the country.

Slideshow: See where to find America’s best outdoor dining

“Recently the al fresco eating and drinking situation has improved exponentially,” says Kate Krader, Food & Wine’s restaurant editor. “Your ‘safe’ drink at the groovy rooftop bar no longer need be a Long Island Iced Tea; the go-to snack is not pre-frozen pot-sticker skewers.”

At his new restaurant, The NoMad in New York City, "Food & Wine's best new chef 2005 Daniel Humm reinvents dishes like fruits de mer, creates new classics and borrows favorites from his Eleven Madison Park,” writes F&W editor in chief Dana Cowin. The restaurant's rooftop has quickly become a coveted reservation, both for its phenomenal food and its in-your-face view of the Empire State Building.

In Dallas, the most impressive restaurant with outdoor space may be the timeless Mansion Restaurant at Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek. Chef Bruno Davaillon, formerly of Alain Ducasse’s Mix in Las Vegas, serves luxurious dishes like wagyu beef tartare and foie gras with pistachio butter on the restaurant’s elegant, oak tree–shaded red-brick terrace.

Fine-dining restaurants aren’t the only places offering great food in open air. The hottest new spot in Dallas is chef Tim Byres’s fantastic new fried chicken restaurant Chicken Scratch, which shares its sizable backyard with his new bar, The Foundry, where bands play live music every weekend. In NYC, restaurateur Danny Meyer’s original Shake Shack take-out kiosk in leafy Madison Square Park has spawned 15 locations over the past four years. Its fantastic burgers have a cult following among Gotham burger geeks.

“Once upon a time, it was challenging to find restaurants where you could consume truly good drinks and food in natural daylight, or twilight or moonlight,” says Krader. “The best cocktails were in deep, dark speakeasys accessed through unmarked entrances and phone booths. The places with good food were protected by thick walls; invariably, light wasn’t pouring in from the outdoors, it was coming from the open kitchen.” Not anymore. 

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