Top 10 picks of 2021 offering outdoor dining

With Covid-19 cases again on the rise, many diners are opting to patronize restaurants with outdoor seating. We review some of our picks from last year that offer both good food along with outside seating.


As we begin another orbit about the Sun, Covid-19 is ramping up anew and paranoia about dining in restaurants equally so.  Frequently, when I’m asked for dining recommendations, the request is followed by the question, “Do they have outdoor seating?” It’s a concern of mine these days, too.

I’ve reviewed my posts from 2021 in attempt to help answer the question. The choices include a wide variety of eateries – sit-down dining, fast casual, French, Italian, Asian and American. Alas, no Chinese restaurants are on the list; perhaps their owners feel they can make do with carryout.  To me, takeout lacks the experience of dining out and food seems to suffer on the trip from restaurant to home in containers made of paper, foil or plastic.

Before the list, an aside.  A thank  you to our readers. In 2021, more than 18,000 of you visited and together you viewed almost 27,000 pages of the blog.

Now, the list in alphabetical order:

New York-style pizza is the draw.

Aunt Lulu’s New York Style Pizza and Kitchen

Aunt LuLu’s is a true, New York-style corner pizza joint. Nothing fancy. Inside this West Boca Raton eatery there’s just a counter and tables for about 20 and a couple of tables outside facing the parking lot of an isolated strip shopping center known as Hampton Square Plaza that’s located behind a Marathon gas station on Kimberly Drive between Lyons Road and 441. Open little more than a year Aunt Lulu’s popularity has grown as diners have discovered its crisp, large hand-tossed, thin-crust New York-style pizzas with house-made sauce. Sicilian square slices, also huge, are airy with a firm crust, loaded with melted mozzarella and that flavorful red sauce. Cauliflower and gluten-free crusts are available. Garlic knots, gratis with with an entrée, are ethereal, fragrant puffs of airy dough, crispy on the outside and lathered with loads of garlic and butter.  Meatball parmigiana subs feature pool-ball-sized globes of mildly spiced, tender meat topped with melted cheese and red sauce. Chicken francese is tender and golden brown. Finish with a house-made zeppole, an Italian donut. Aunt Lulu’s NY Style Pizza & Pasta, 19785 Hampton Drive, Boca Raton, 561-245-7011.

Covered outside dining.

Chez Marie

It’s not Paris but sitting outside at the Boca Raton French bistro Chez Marie might suggest dining on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées. Tables under the ventilated overhang outside the Chez Marie’s entrance in the rear of the sprawling Polo Shoppes mall are plentiful. French comfort food is served here. Start with the gratis crunchy bread, go onto the quintessential onion soup and then either the bronzed duck a l’orange or the fall-off-the bone braised lamb shank. Chocolate mousse, included on the prix-fixe menu, is a classic with its rich chocolate flavor and creamy texture. Closed Sunday and Monday. Chez Marie French Bistro, Polo Club Shoppes, 5030 Champion Blvd., Boca Raton. 561-997-0027 

Hünkar Beyendi, a Thursday special.

Happy Lavash, Inspired Mediterranean

This Turkish delight is a modern, fast-casual eatery on Gateway Boulevard, just west of I-95. Outdoor seating is plentiful on the adjacent patio. Named for the hand-rolled, thin, flat-bread known as lavash, served with every order, the restaurant offers kabobs, gyros, shawarma salads, lentil and tripe soups, hummus and kofte(beef, lamb or plant-based Beyond Beef meatballs). Also, on the menu are tantooni wraps and rice bowls, filled with marinated grilled meat or chicken. My favorite here is Hünkar Beyendi, a classic, offered only on Thursdays, with chunks of delicious, braised lamb ragout served over creamy eggplant puree. Accompaniments included rice, shepherd’s salad, tiny yellow peppers. hummus and, of course, lavash.  Be sure to try the Turkish desserts available in the refrigerator case: sutlach, a baked rice pudding was incredibly creamy; and an almond pudding called keshku. Closed Monday. Happy Lavash, 1010 Gateway Blvd., Suite 101, Boynton Beach 561-903-7007.

Prime Rib is the attraction.

J. Alexander’s

This is a chain eatery that doesn’t want to be seen as a chain. The Boca Raton location at University Commons on Glades Road (near Whole Foods) is one of 46 nationwide offering upscale farm-to-table dining. Outside dining is plentiful in front and on the side of the restaurant. The food is tasty, and service informed and attentive.  The prime rib, a buttery-soft slab was a beautifully crusted, perfectly rare-cooked, and flavorful piece of beef. It’s is a  major attraction.  The juicy steak burger is unbeatable. Carolina crab cakes are composed of sweet crab meat and minimal breading and topped with squiggles of zesty chili aioli and pimento bits and plated atop a puddle of mustard sauce. Chose the Not Your Average Mac & Cheese for a side.  And finish with a square of the popular carrot cake. J. Alexander’s Restaurant, 1400 Glades Rd., Boca Raton. 561-347-9875.

Outside dining in front.

Nana Noodles Sushi & Thai   

This casual sushi and Thai eatery offers tasty, affordable fare in a hidden neighborhood setting in the Marketplace of Delray (Winn Dixie) shopping center in western Delray Beach. A handful of tables line the sidewalk outside the front doors, but at night, the headlights of cars used by an unending flow of food-delivery services glare the eyes of outside diners.  The offerings are simple and satisfying – and affordable.  Sushi is firm and fresh, and the Thai offerings are okay to superior.  Go with the chicken skewers, tom kha soup—almost a meal in itself; crispy duck with tamarind sauce (for those who fear spice); and Massaman curry. Nana Noodles Sushi & Thai, 5195 W Atlantic Ave, Delray Beach. 561-450-6912

Sabai Thai’s outside seating.

Sabai Thai

This small eatery in the Shops of San Marco on Jog Road in Delray Beach pleases varying palates in a big way with fresh sushi; properly spiced Thai dishes and a variety of entrees for those who fear heat.  There are a handful of outdoor tables, but the restaurant will accommodate a request for more tables, if the need arises. Sushi is fresh and varied. Dishes are genuinely “Thai spicy” upon request, including a creamy version of tom yom soup and yellow chicken curry. Papaya salad is textbook, and, pork larb, another salad dish, is layered with flavors. Me krob, a sweet noodle appetizer is a good introduction to the cuisine, as is the orange duck, pad thai and pad see ew. A glass of sweet Thai-iced tea is the perfect antidote for the spicy food. Sabai Thai,13900 Jog Rd., Suite 205, Delray Beach. 561-774-2612.

Queen of Sicily Pizza.

Sicilian Oven

Sicilian Oven is a step up from neighborhood pizza joints. It offers unique spins on pizza, has a host of other Italian offerings, and a full bar. The west Delray Beach location is in a new strip center, Plaza Delray, on the south side of Atlantic Avenue, east of Lyons Road. There’s a sizeable outdoor dining patio.  Pizzas and wings are cooked in a wood-fire oven. The wings are juicy and savory, not spicy, from a long time marinating in garlic, olive oil, rosemary, salt and pepper, and charred from their stay in the wood-fired oven.  Pizzas, which come in two sizes, range from plain cheese to the more creative, such as the delicious Queen of Sicily pie topped with fresh mozzarella, raw tomato slices, fresh basil, tender bite-size pieces of fried eggplant and a fruity balsamic glaze. The crust is cracker thin and crunchy at the edge. Try the house salad, a customer favorite. Sicilian Oven, 8858 W. Atlantic Ave., Delray Beach. 561-639-0099.

Pizza over bakes at 1,100 degrees.


This small Naples-style pizzeria offers a slice of Italy on Jog Road in West Delray Beach. It’s fast casual with a handful of tables under a covered outdoor atrium. There are no New York-style pizzas, New Haven pizzas or Chicago-style pies. Spadella offers pizzas – and more – handcrafted by Italian expats the way they’re made in Naples, Italy, the birthplace of pizza. All the ingredients are imported from Italy. There are  14 pizza variations, each cooked for a minute in a 1,000-degree oven.  Try the charred bottom Spadella pie with a nicely balanced red sauce, bright white fresh mozzarella and bites of tender eggplant Parmigiana and extra virgin olive oil. House-made pastas are cooked to order in just minutes with a high-tech gizmo.  The menu includes panini and other Italian specialties. Closed on Sundays. Spadella, 15280 Jog Rd., Delray Beach. 561-270-3442.

Dining on Palmetto Park Road.

Uncle Pinkie’s Market and Deli 

This breakfast and lunch only spot is a modern spin on the traditional Jewish-style deli by local celebrity chef Eric Baker. Sidewalk seating at this fast-casual style boite is the only dining option at this eatery, which shares a kitchen with Baker’s Rebel House, next door. The food blends traditional deli classics with modern twists. Aunt Edith’s Chicken Soup is a meal by itself with a golf-ball-sized matzo ball, bits of carrots and celery and pieces of chicken. Thick-cut pastrami on rye is tender, tasty and moist and heavily smoked. Thick-cut corned beef, almost perfectly pink, comes sandwiched between two thick slices of seeded rye slathered with dark mustard.  The traditional potato knish turns savory with a creamy filling of potatoes with bits of earthy black truffle and leek. Chopped liver is a dense, creamy puree, closer to a pate than the minced product grandma might have made. House made bagels and locally smoked lox are available as are bacon, egg and cheese sandwiches. There is no Dr. Brown’s, but you can quaff on an egg cream or coffee (from Wells in Fort Lauderdale) and draft beer, or consider the Manischewitz Margarita, a refreshing cocktail that combines tequila blanco, triple sec, and the grapey kosher wine. Open daily from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Uncle Pinkie’s closes at 3 p.m. on Saturday and is shuttered on Sundays.  Uncle Pinkie’s Market & Deli, 293 E. Palmetto Park Rd., Boca Raton. 561-931-2902.

Outside dining at Yen’s in Lake Worth.

Yến’s Kitchen

This small, immigrant family-run eatery in a sprawling Lake Worth strip center just east of Florida’s Turnpike will transport you halfway around the globe with its menu of flavorful Vietnamese street foods and beverages. Several bright-red steel tables can be found outside under an overhang strung with lights. Join the local Asian patrons dining on the flavorful pho (fuh), the classic Vietnamese noodle soup; other daily special noodle soups; savory rice-flour crepes; and the crusty French-inspired Vietnamese sandwiches known as banh mi. Wash them all down with an incredibly refreshing homemade lime soda or calamondin iced tea, a sweetened beverage made with calamondin, a citrus fruit with a sour and tangy juice that tastes like a cross between lemon and tangerine. Vietnamese coffees and teas also are available. Closed Thursday. Yến’s Kitchen, 7364 Lake Worth Rd., Lake Worth, 561- 619-8255.



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