Eleven “Al Fresco” Dining Spots in Loudoun
It’s the time of year when we seek out outdoor dining. Get out in the fresh air, enjoy some great cuisine, and sit back and relax while listening to live music. Or just simply unwind after your travels and soak up the local atmosphere. From seafood-serving joints that you’d expect to find on the beach, to the casual elegance of some of our destination restaurants, to a local favorite that is the perfect lunch spot after taking in the shops and sites of historic downtown Leesburg, Loudoun can please any outdoor dining seeker. Of course, this list is not inclusive by any stretch. And they are not in any particular order. These are just some of our favorites and we thought we’d share them with you. Let us know what you think – if you enjoyed these places and think we hit it on the head, or not at all. And if you have other favorites, let our other readers know about those, too (you may then see us there…). So enjoy! And don’t forget the sunblock! We only want you to take home a goody bag.
Döner Bistro, Leesburg
Look for the neon “Mighty Midget Kitchen” sign to guide you to this hopping spot just across from Market Station in Leesburg. Have a seat at one of the communal tables in the Biergarten and let the smell of meat cooking and spices mixing excite your senses and your appetite. The signature item here is the Döner, and their Turkish-German version of this popular dish features thinly sliced rotisserie beef or chicken wrapped in their specialty flat bread with lettuce, sweet’n’sour coleslaw, tomato-cucumber salad and onions, topped with garlic yoghurt sauce and fresh cucumbers (Tzatziki). Pair it with one of their great German beers and you’ll think you’re dining in the Old Country.
Clyde’s Willow Creek Farm, Ashburn
Clyde’s Willow Creek Farm features a large flagstone terrace under a vine covered arbor strung with outdoor lighting and a babbling fountain, tucked between two façades of the historic barn structures that make up the restaurant. The terrace also has its own bar, housed in a small outbuilding. This is a great place for lunch, dinner, or Sunday brunch. You’ll find it easy to find a spot here, as there are more than 100 seats outside.
Sweetwater Tavern, Sterling
Sweetwater Tavern boasts outdoor dining on the porch and deck, with a view of the large pond and fountain. It has a significant outside bar that is always hopping with locals, and a menu that is considered one of the best around. To top it off they serve fresh beer tapped right from their onsite brewery, which produces 35 varieties of beer a year, five at any given time. This place can get busy, so call ahead for seating – as early as 11am for lunch and 4pm for dinner.
Magnolias at the Mill, Purcellville
The outdoor terrace at Magnolias at the Mill in Purcellville is a nice, quiet place for a refreshing meal. Situated right at the end of the W&OD Railroad Regional Park, it’s a popular spot for hikers, bikers, and others enjoying “Virginia’s Skinniest Park.” And there’s a lot to like about Mags (as the locals call it) – the freshly prepared cuisine, local wine, and a wonderful atmosphere in a restored grain mill. You’ll want to linger here for a while.
Hunter’s Head Tavern, Upperville
Set in the rolling and scenic heart of Virginia horse country, just past Middleburg in a hamlet called Upperville, is Hunter’s Head Tavern. A brick walkway leads you to a wrought iron gate, purportedly from a local jail. But there’s no need to worry, for just through this historic threshold sits one of the nicest stone patios you’ll find. Step inside to order your food at the window and then find a peaceful spot and relax under a shady umbrella while enjoying organic and sustainable agriculture at its best, sourced from nearby Ayshire Farm.
Lightfoot Restaurant, Leesburg
Lightfoot has a relatively new outdoor dining space, but it was worth the wait. A lovely stone fountain sets the tone for a wonderful and delightful meal. Rich red-colored umbrella covered wrought iron patio tables are complemented by potted trees and a canopy of old growth trees, making this an elegant place to dine outside. Of course, the best part is Lightfoot’s delicious cuisine. Enjoy their signature fried green tomatoes or their grilled cheese of the day. Top it all off with the world’s smallest hot fudge sundae. Say it with me: yum!
Lowry’s Crab Shack, Hamilton
The laid back atmosphere rules at this local favorite in Hamilton which would be at home in any beach town. Their wooden deck is a great place to relax and enjoy some great seafood like their fresh, steamed to order live blue hardshell crabs, crabcakes, or new fish tacos. Pair your meal with some cold beer or their old fashioned black cherry soda. Add some live music on weekends and you’ll swear you’re at the beach. Who knew you could actually taste summer?
There’s no better place to sit and people watch than from the patio at Red Horse Tavern. Offering front row seating for Main Street Middleburg, locals know they’re bound to see someone they know while visitors love to keep an eye out for any of the many famous faces that have called Middleburg home (Elizabeth Taylor, Jackie O, and Robert Duvall have all been regulars). You’re just as likely to be sitting next to a biker or jockey, as a member of the town council. Relax and enjoy the live music. Oh, and the margaritas are amazing too.
The Restaurant at Patowmack Farm, Lovettsville
No restaurant in Loudoun, and perhaps in all of Northern Virginia, embraces al fresco dining quite like The Restaurant at Patowmack Farm. Housed in a glass conservatory overlooking the Potomac River, Patowmack Farm’s focus on farm-to-table dining permeates every aspect of the restaurant. Go for Sunday brunch and enjoy live jazz music intermingling with the fresh air and warm sunshine flowing through the open restaurant. Come early for dinner to watch the sunset and rising stars and moon over the mountains.
Grandale Farm Restaurant, Hillsboro
If you’re looking for outdoor dining heavy with the solitude and peacefulness of the countryside, head to The Restaurant at Grandale Farm. The wooden deck feels nestled in the valley of the Short Hill Mountain, offering stretching views of the rolling farmland that produces much of the expertly prepared food from Grandale’s kitchen. Chef Author Clark plans the farm’s gardens every year and prepares the harvest with the respect it deserves. It doesn’t get any fresher than this.
South Street Under, Leesburg
Order inside (and don’t be scared if there’s a line - it moves fast – and trust us, its popular for a reason!) then get your number and grab one of the umbrella covered tables outside. Situated in historic Market Station, just behind their sister restaurants Tuskies and Fireworks (another great outdoor dining spot), South Street Under is a great place for lunch. Enjoy their ciabatta bread sandwiches, homemade soups, and fresh-brewed iced tea. Finish your meal with their homemade pastries and cookies. And look for Beth, the woman behind the counter who seems to know every customer that walks through the door – she’ll take good care of you, too.