As we head into the end of the pandemic, the way we live our lives at home has likely changed, but many of us are also resuming activities outside the home, such as going out to restaurants. Still, some people are hesitant to eat indoors and risk exposure to Covid. So having a beautifully designed outdoor space is more important than ever as restaurants continue to recover and thrive. I spoke with several restaurateurs in Los Angeles and New York to learn how outdoor design has become essential to the dining experience today.
Ocean Prime Beverly Hills
Constructed in 2014, just steps away from some of the top retailers in the world, Ocean Prime Beverly Hills, has a chic, sophisticated vibe with comfortable booths, tables and contemporary herringbone flooring. It feels coastal without the kitsch. The space was built in 2014, but refreshed throughout the years with new furniture.
Heaters and fans were added to enhance outdoor during Covid. Similar enhancements were made in other locations such as Ocean Prime Dallas where the patio is completely temperature controlled.
On the other coast, the New York location was significantly enlarged in recent years. “Prior to Covid, Ocean Prime New York could only seat 38 guests on our patio due to a variety of mandates and restrictions. Since then, many city architectural codes were lifted, which allowed us to remodel the entire space and expand to 100 seats. We added drop-down curtains with weather-protection windows, greenery, and decor to liven the space,” says David Miller, President, Chief Operating Officer, and Operating Partner of Cameron Mitchell Restaurants.
Located at The Aster, which is a private members club and hotel in the heart of Hollywood, Lemon Grove provides a cool and unique rooftop dining experience with sweeping views of city. “We wanted to provide an experience that transports people away from the urban landscape of Hollywood back to its roots as verdant farmland. The roof has three distinct areas, all lined with planting beds filled with drought-resistant plantings being conscious of our water consumption,” says Kevin O’Shea, Chief Creative Officer of Salt Hotels.
The Hollywood deck features grouped seating with eclectic furnishings centered around gorgeous views of the iconic Capitol Records building and Hollywood Sign.
On the other side, the South deck has built-in seating groups around fire pits as well as an outdoor movie screen. This space is ideal for small groups and private parties.
With potted citrus trees, the third area was designed as a tribute to the lemon groves that previously covered the land that’s now Hollywood.
This space opened in the Fall of 2022, during a time when Angelinos were more excited than ever to enjoy themselves again. “I think that over the quarantined years people grew tired of cooking for themselves and making sourdough at home. Now folks are ready to be wined and dined again, but want to do so in a safe atmosphere where they can feel the breeze. Not only does The Lemon Grove feature an elevated outdoor dining experience, but it is also one that is extremely spacious,” says Vignon. “Often times people in Los Angeles like to dine al fresco and want to be seen and not necessarily heard. The Lemon Grove offers guests exactly that sort of experience! It is a sanctuary for those that want to see their friends again and break some bread together in an upscale environment with elevated cuisine and remarkable service.”
Just a few minutes away from Lemon Grove is Mother Tongue, located at Heimat, which is also a private membership club. Designed by famed architect Martin Brudnizki, the restaurant opened up in June 2022 and has an outdoor area with fabulous city views and a fun art-deco feel. “A covered terrace, with central bar and warming fire pit, provides guests with the perfect opportunity to relax in style and enjoy the Hollywood surroundings while retaining a sense of privacy and exclusivity. Patterned banquettes with complementary, free-standing furniture lend a relaxed look with statement wall lights and verdant foliage infusing ambient lighting and a sense of intimacy,” says Patric Yumul, CEO of TableOne Hospitality, which is the team behind Mother Tongue.
While the restaurant was built during Covid and planned prior to the pandemic, nothing changed from the original plans. However, Yumul still sees elevated outdoor dining as essential. “I do feel it’s important to have the ability to optimize the outdoor space to be nimble to make change and incorporating this into your plans is necessary in case we ever go through something like this again in the future.”
Although the weather doesn’t exactly permit outdoor dining all year round in New York City, restauranteurs still try to do as much as possible to elevate the experience and make it as comfortable for as long as they can. Loulou is a French bistro in the Chelsea neighborhood that built its outdoor space as soon as it was permitted by the city in June 2020. However, tragedy struck when an arsonist set the space ablaze in August 2021. It needed to be be entirely rebuilt.
Stylish and welcoming, Loulou’s cabanas feature fans and heaters to stretch out outdoor dining for multiple seasons. There are also windows, cheerful floral decorations, as well as signature striped canopies. Each structure is built on wheels so it can be moved when needed. And while these gorgeous dining spaces certainly attract people to dine at the restaurant, according to owner Mathias Van Leyden, while outdoor dining has been a boon to the New York City restaurant business, it’s still not an entirely ideal situation. “When done right, it gives New York City a European feel and it helped save many businesses, but more guidelines are needed.”
Calissa is a dreamy Greek restaurant located in Water Mill. The garden dining space which doubled in size in 2020, feels just as Mediterranean as it does Hamptons. “Creating a comfortable atmosphere outdoors is just as important as having a beautiful indoor dining space,” says Civetta Hospitality partner Kylie Monagan.
Every detail appears to be meticulously chosen. “The Garden has a clear tent with Mediterranean-inspired lighting. Lighting is an important element of the restaurant’s ambiance, so having a dimmable, elegant option outdoors that matches the vibe of the indoors is important to us,” says Monagan.
The restaurant cultivates Mediterranean herbs and plants including oregano, thyme, marjoram, eggplant, tomatoes, figs, and olives, “Some are even used as ingredients in the kitchen or in signature cocktails. Our landscaper helps us care for these plants year-round, and works hard to ensure that something different is blooming every couple of weeks from early Spring, until late Fall.”