There’s nothing better in summer than enjoying a refreshing drink and a good meal (I didn’t have to cook), outdoors on a patio. If you’re looking to get outside to dine, try one of the area restaurants on this list —including Iowa City, Coralville, North Liberty, Solon, and a few others that are worth the drive. Cheers!
Guide to Patio Dining in the Iowa City Area
Big Grove Brewery & Taproom
1225 S. Gilbert St.
The granddaddy of them all, the Big Grove patio/lawn can seat around 700 people (and it kinda seems like there are that many there at all times lately). With fire pits, a climbing structure for kids, some lawn games, lights after dark, and tons of green space to spread out, the vibe is like a chill backyard party, and the food, especially the fries drenched in Milton Creamery cheddar, plus their own beers made on-site, are great, too.
St. Burch Tavern
127 Iowa Avenue
On a bustling corner in the heart of downtown, upscale St. Burch’s roomy patio makes a great place to people-watch while sipping a specialty cocktail or enjoying seafood, mac and cheese, or the delish Green Goddess salad.
North Linn Street
Located between Market and Bloomington streets
The 200 block of North Linn Street will be closed to vehicle traffic through October 31, and a variety of tables have been placed in the street for diners. Grab food from any nearby establishment, including Goosetown Cafe (duck tacos!), Oasis Falafel (secret-recipe hummus!), Hamburg Inn (pie shakes!) or George’s Buffet (locally-famous cheeseburgers!), and enjoy among a convivial atmosphere at a picnic table in the street.
221 E. College
Another downtown spot, located on the edge of the Ped Mall, Formosa is a sushi bar with delicious seaweed salad, miso soup, and a wide variety of specialty martinis (I recommend the Skittles martini).
330 E. Market
A pretty small patio, but the food is worth the wait (kill the time by browsing in antiques store Artifacts across the street). The cute and kitschy Bluebird specializes in breakfast food and is an ideal breakfast/brunch spot, but also has lunch and dinner options.
Pullman Bar and Diner
17 S. Dubuque
Just a wee little patio wedged next to a bustling downtown street, there is plenty of shade and it’s a fun place to relax while still feeling like you’re in the middle of things — you can make a stop here after browsing Prairie Lights Bookstore or any number of downtown businesses, and exchange greetings with all the people you vaguely know who will be walking by. Pullman serves upscale breakfast all day, plus lunch and dinner, and the craft cocktails are fun.
Los Agaves Mexican Grill
2208 N. Dodge
On the far north side, Los Agaves boasts a spacious patio, an extensive menu, and great service. It might be a better choice for younger kids than a downtown patio near a busy street, because the patio is fenced.
Mexico Lindo Grill and Cantina
1857 Lower Muscatine
I’m not sure why this place is so rarely busy, because I’ve always had a nice time here. Sure, the patio overlooks a parking lot, but it is roomy, fenced, and the food is great. They have a vegetarian taco salad! Back on the southside, this is a casual place great for kids and a family night out.
812 S. Summit St
Nestled in a leafy residential neighborhood, this French-style bakery is a great spot to stroll to in the morning and grab croissants and coffee to enjoy on the cafe tables on the sidewalk.
Maggie’s Farm Wood-Fired Pizza
1308 Melrose Avenue
Pleasant, nicely-landscaped seating along Melrose on the west side in which to enjoy what is apparently the best pizza in Iowa City.
Perez Family Tacos
630 Iowa Avenue
New this spring, Perez Family Tacos is an authentic taqueria located in the former Lou Henri’s and former Billy’s High Hat Diner space, on a corner at the very edge of downtown with a good-sized patio. I haven’t had a chance to try it yet, but have heard only rave reviews of the tacos.
Rapid Creek Cidery
4823 Dingleberry Road NE
The balcony patio on this century-old barn seats 60 and offers unsurpassed views of the gently-rolling hills of Wilson’s Orchard and Farm. A limited number of pricey dishes are served family-style.
525 S. Gilbert St.
“Back porch” barbecue, slow cooked over hickory wood, with all the traditional side dishes too. The Iowa City location (there’s one in North Liberty, too) sports a very cool, private-feeling brick alleyway style patio with picnic tables and lights.
3867 James Avenue SW
Outside of town, Walker Homestead is an 85-acre farm producing farm-to-table culinary delights, including meat, wines, honey, flowers, herbs, and more.
Stroll the grounds and enjoy a delicious and ever-changing, fresh menu
. The farm is open Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., as well as for other special events. Check the website to learn more about how they operate.
11 E. College St.
Donnelly’s is an Irish pub that is more focused on alcohol than food, and the patio is small, but it’s just so darn pleasant because it’s right in the heart of the ped mall, it’s elevated and enclosed, and it’s fully shaded. Try the Reueben!
Also consider downtown: Bread Garden Market (a good choice for lunch with burgers, salads, burritos and more, plus gourmet grocery/deli, and adjacent to a playground); Baroncini (upscale Italian with a small patio; they just added pizza to the menu); Quintons (large sidewalk patio; try the TAC sandwich!); Java House (local coffee shop with pastries in three Iowa City locations, the downtown outpost is also connected to Heirloom Salad Company and has a large patio); the Vue Rooftop (it’s fancy! You’re up high!); Noodles and Company (kid favorite!); Basta (butternut squash ravioli!); The Dandy Lion (a breakfast spot that closes at 2!); Bo James (tiny sidewalk patio; great tuna salad sandwich!); Mammita’s Coffee and Flowers (Latin-inspired coffee drinks and pastries; the iced Horchata is perfection!); Get Fresh Cafe (smoothies and wraps!); Her Soup Kitchen (a delicious array of sandwiches and salads!); Nodo (locations downtown and at the North Dodge Ace Hardware both have some outdoor seating; don’t miss the sweet potato fries with aioli!).
Also consider elsewhere in Iowa City: Hudson’s Southside Tap (shaved brussel sprout salad!); Ramen Belly (in the interesting Peninsula neighborhood!); Hy-Vee North Dodge Market Grille (good specials); Shakespeare’s (good tenderloin and a decent patio with a tall fence); Stella (burgers and black bean burgers dominate the menu); Coach’s Corner (classic sports bar atmosphere); Blackstone (comfort food and a good brunch); Jimmy Jack’s Rib Shack (good barbecue in a casual atmosphere, but patio is on a busy street).
900 E. 2nd Avenue
The extremely pleasant, large patio is outdone only by the even more pleasant rooftop seating area, with round arrangements of chairs around fire pits as well as tables, and a rooftop bar. Tons of craft beer is available, and the Chop Chop salad is refreshing.
303 2nd St
A big comfort-food menu includes extensive gluten-free options, plus fabulous cupcakes for dessert.
920 E 2nd Aveune
Interesting pizzas made in a wood-fired oven right before your eyes, with a garage door that rolls up when the weather is good to turn this place into an indoor-outdoor classy good time backyard pizza party vibe.
901 E 2nd Avenue
Imaginative, upscale food served on a roomy patio in the Iowa River Landing area, Tribute is a great date night choice or a place to take friends for brunch.
516 2nd St
Fun craft beers with a beautiful label design (hey, it’s important!), there is also a menu with over 60 food options, including vegan meals, to enjoy on the roomy patio.
849 Quarry Rd
Mediterranean-inspired food with a spacious and relaxed patio that can seat up to 80 in the Iowa River Landing area.
3824 Crosspark Road
Espresso and cold-brew drinks made from locally-sourced beans are the specialty, and yummy pastries are available to munch on while perched on the outdoor seating. There’s also a drive-thru! Friendly service, too!
708 1st Avenue
Not the best location for a patio (parking lot views, next to a traffic-choked road), but that’s okay: the grilled entrees are superb and the margaritas are tasty. This is going to sound weird, but take a peek at the bathroom because it is very cool.
Wig and Pen
1220 US 6 West
Okay, it’s called the Wig and Pen Coralville Strip, but the address is technically in Iowa City, right on the border. An English pub-style restaurant with three different types of crust, the Wigatoni is also a local favorite. The shady patio is surrounded by a high wall to block out the strip’s traffic.
1451 Coral Ridge Avenue
The patio is literally in a mall parking lot, but the food is so good here, I don’t care if I am basically just watching slow-moving traffic jockey for position with people trying to get into Target. Please order the Holy Shiitake pizza. You’re welcome. Your little kids will enjoy the upside-down cow inside. You can buy toothpaste and cat food at Target when you’re done.
Estela’s Fresh Mex
1810 N. Coral St.
Fast and fresh Mexican dishes are the name of the game at this regional chain outpost. A second location on Burlington St. in Iowa City has a few sidewalk tables, but the Coralville location has a quieter patio with more room to spread out.
39 2nd Avenue
Basic sports bar, but with a nice big patio and tons of wing sauce options. The vegetarian buffalo wrap is my go-to!
Also consider in Coralville: Iowa River Power Company (not a huge patio, but incredible river views!), La Vecina (upscale Oaxacan fare cooked exclusively over wood fire), Old Chicago (pizza and beer joint), Backpocket Brewery (craft beers made onsite and pizza), Konomi (upscale Japanese food).
405 N. Dubuque St.
Hands down one of the best patios on the list, Red’s has phenomenal happy hour specials (buy one get one free!), great and unique food (fig and squash salad!), and friendly service on a shady, sprawling, enclosed patio. It’s right on the bike trail, making it a great pit stop or destination on the ride.
840 W. Penn St.
This popular spot boasts an enormous patio with tons of beers on draft, handcrafted cocktails, a decadent weekend brunch, and a big menu full of dishes boasting twists on a classic.
575 Cameron Way
Table seeks to build community with a focus on a smaller menu of upscale dishes including steak, salmon, and short ribs; there is a kid’s menu as well as a tantalizing dessert menu and an interesting wine list.
125 E Zeller St
Featuring a spacious patio, Mosley’s serves up both hickory-smoked barbecue and pizza. There is an Iowa City location with a patio as well.
1850 Scales Bend Road NE
A breezy lakeside hangout where you can boat in or drive in to enjoy the spacious patio, full bar, live music, or sand volleyball and eat some “American grub.”
Also consider in North Liberty: Rocky O’Brien’s Public House (Irish pub with a small patio); Sushiya (pretty patio and sashimi that has been called “melt in your mouth”!); Rusciano’s (authentic Italian fare with a few patio tables).
101 Wildflower Ln
After enjoying fare from a huge and affordable menu (they encourage ordering off the lunch menu anytime of day!), you can round out your meal with delectable Mexican desserts made fresh daily onsite. The strawberry tres leches cake will never be the wrong choice!
Big Grove Solon
101 W Main
The original Big Grove makes its home in downtown Solon and has a different menu than the Iowa City site. There’s a large patio to enjoy, and this is another good bike trail stop, too.
208 E Main
Upscale pizzeria serving up authentic Neapolitan pizza from a wood-fired oven — topped with homemade mozzarella, no less!
Worth the Drive
Baxa’s Sutliff Store and Tavern
5546 130th St. NE, Lisbon
With lovely views of the river and the 1898 Sutliff bridge, enjoy fried favorites on a large patio that sometimes features live music. When you’re done eating and drinking, stroll the historic bridge right across the street. This establishment accepts cash or checks only.
122 S. Iowa Avenue, Washington
Washington’s downtown is arranged around a central square, and it is absolutely charming. The historic buildings, burbling fountain, and bustling locally-owned businesses create a truly enjoyable ambiance. Cafe Dodici features delicious Italian food for brunch, lunch, or dinner, and would make a great date-night choice.
1441 Marak Road NW, Swisher
This winery and distillery features award-winning whiskey and wine as well as wood-fired pizza and snack-type foods. Enjoy complimentary wine tastings, live entertainment, and the family-friendly atmosphere on the patio or lawn.
101 1st St. W, Mt. Vernon
There’s no place cuter than Mount Vernon’s downtown, and Skillet Cafe (open for breakfast and lunch), is a great choice on their vibrant Main Street. There’s a coffee shop with fun antique outdoor seating right next door too, if you come after Skillet is closed.
Stone Wall Brick Oven Pizza
3297 320th St,, Wellman
Pizza on the Farm is every Friday night — bring your blankets or lawn chairs, your own beverages, and grab a whole pie from the brick oven and spread out on the grass. Live music is also regularly featured! Follow the Facebook page, which seems to be updated more frequently than the website.
I want this to be an exhaustive guide or it hardly seems worth doing — so let me know what places you like to go to that I’ve missed!