On a recent First Friday in Leesburg, the town looked like a trendy neighborhood of Paris or Rome. While shoppers carried bags out of boutiques and musicians strummed in beer gardens, diners sipped cocktails and savored oysters, cheese plates and woodfired pizza at sidewalk restaurants and al fresco patios. There’s something about outdoor dining – pavement tables, rooftop bars, sun-filled back gardens – that conjures up the sophistication and style of Europe. As we head into warmer weather, we select seven great outdoor dining spots in Loudoun – and what you should order in them.
The Wine Kitchen, Leesburg
The four sidewalk tables at The Wine Kitchen – increased to seven on First Fridays and when the street closes on summer weekends – are set so close together you could sample your neighbor’s gnocchi. Somehow, this only makes it more appealing. Order a glass of Walsh Family Wine Rosé and tuck into inventive Chef Rowley dishes such as Roasted Beet Carpaccio, New Bedford Mussels and Braised Short Rib Ravioli as you watch the people walk by.
Fire Works Pizza, Leesburg
Everyone’s favorite wood-fired gourmet pizza restaurant doesn’t only take care of your family – it looks after your dog. On the wrap-around patio of the Leesburg location the “Pups on the Patio” program comes with a Food for Fido Menu (dog biscuits, meatballs, chicken), a “Dog Beer” (a pork bone broth from Anheuser Busch) and a free bowl to take home after Fido is done. For the human guests, the Smokey Blue pizza is extraordinary and the Danger Zone IPA from local brewery Solace soothes the soul.
Magnolias at the Mill, Purcellville
The 1905-built Purcellville grain mill turned-farm-to-fable restaurant is famous for its showcase interior – soaring ceilings, sturdy timber beams, wood-paneled walls and cozy booths – but come spring and summer the sun-dappled patio out back is the place to be. With a dozen tables set under a canvas tent adjacent to the Washington & Old Dominion Trail, (you can watch the cyclists ride by) it’s perfect to while away a few hours over fried green heirloom tomatoes, almond-crusted trout and a bottle of Willowcroft 's 2020 Albariño.
Clyde’s Willow Creek Farm, Ashburn
Who doesn’t love a restaurant with a sun-dappled terrace on a spring afternoon? The centerpiece of venerable east Loudoun institution Clyde’s Willow Creek Farm is its flagstone al fresco courtyard set under a creeper-covered arbor strung with outdoor lighting. There’s a babbling fountain, a bar to the side, and it’s all nestled between the two historic barns that make up the main restaurant. Menu-wise we recommend the Jumbo Lump crab cakes with fries, coleslaw, tartar sauce and lemon or the Steak Frites: a New York strip with fries and a watercress and shallot-Dijon cream sauce.
Lowry’s Crabshack, Hamilton
The laid-back atmosphere at this Hamilton favorite would be hard to beat in any beach town. The wooden deck is a great place to relax and enjoy fresh oysters, steamed-to-order blue hardshell crabs, crab cakes or fish tacos. Pair your meal with cold beer or an old-fashioned black cherry soda. Add live music on the weekends and you’ll swear you’re at the ocean.
One Loudoun, Ashburn
Can’t decide what kind of open skies dining experience you want? Head to swanky retail and residential complex One Loudoun in Ashburn, which has a slate of al fresco bars and restaurants in walking distance of each other. Our pick? Start with a bowl of guac and a spicy margarita at a sidewalk table of modish Mexican restaurant Uncle Julio’s, then head to the scenic roof deck of classy farm-to-fork eatery Lost Fox Hideaway. Located above the City Tap Loudoun bar, the menu is divided into small plates, big plates and sweet treats and the cocktails and wine selections are out of this world. Try The Fox & The Mule refresher: Tito’s vodka, Virginia apple hard cider, ginger puree and lime juice.
Red Horse Tavern, Middleburg
As the host of the star-studded Middleburg Film Festival, the celebrity-rich Family Reunion culinary event and numerous glam equestrian events, Middelburg is no stranger to the rich and famous. There’s no better outdoor location in town to people watch than from the spacious patio of the Red Horse Tavern on the western edge of downtown’s Washington Street. Food-wise the salads, wraps and burgers are all good, but opt for either the Reuben, Grilled Shrimp or Cuban sandwich, the latter made with Swiss, pork tenderloin and pickles on a hot sub roll. Get yourself a street-facing table, wait to be fed and keep your eyes peeled.