Al Fresco Dining
The Carolina Sandhills’ tall pines pen-and-ink sketch the horizon in striking views. Restaurants with outdoor seating in Pinehurst and Southern Pines are perfect for soaking up all the natural beauty.
Whether you’re grabbing breakfast before a round of golf, blasting your darn slice over beers or toasting that albatross with top-line kwine, these are the best restaurants and bars for pulling up a chair on the patio.
Many places on this list are causal. Some are family-friendly, and a few are fancy enough to get dressed up. Each one is worth a spot on your Sandhills NC bucket list.
By LIZ BIRO
195 Bell Ave., Southern Pines, NC
Escape the world that judges your golf scores by finding this hidey-hole patio behind a zen block wall, affording views of nothing but treetops and blue sky. Bonsai hold court on opposite sides of a soothing waterfall. You’ll feel at ease no matter your putt. Longtime beloved chef Prem Nath whisks you farther away with fusion creations like Indian chicken korma and organic raita. Shrimp and vegetables crown spinach ravioli in tomato basil cream sauce. Chile relleno and black beans accompany grilled salmon. Do not skip dessert. Cheesecakes are famous, including a silky chocolate version made with tangy goat cheese and a creamy pumpkin slice that will make you rethink Thanksgiving dessert.
Chapman’s Food & Spirits
157 E. New Hampshire Ave., Southern Pines, NC
Tavern? Bistro? Paris side street? Pick a mood and settle into your dreams. Happy red bistro tables stand under matching umbrellas, a scene that makes you wonder if the spirit of F. Scott Fitzgerald might stroll by, tagging behind Hemingway, of course. Dishes are creative but not at all contrived. The chef’s version of poutine is a pile of fries covered in lobster and chipotle cream sauce. Kimchi spices blackened fish tacos. Caramelized onions, smoked bacon and Swiss crown the grilled chicken sandwich. Feeling famished? Try Dr. Pepper pork ribs or a nearly 1-pound Angus rib-eye with something from the impressive wine list that includes bold and reliable Mount Veeder Winery cabernet.
Char Bar No. 7
100 Pavilion Way, Southern Pines, NC
Ceiling fans whisper overhead as you laze on rattan bistro chairs. Huge doors open onto the brick patio, lending an indoor-outdoor feel to the restaurant’s contemporary lodge setting, which includes a fireplace. The menu is as classic as the surroundings – craft burgers, build-your-own salads, prime rib French dip sandwiches and up-to-date sides like sweet potato tots and cranberry kale slaw. Sometimes, it’s nice to just nibble fried pickles and shrimp scampi flatbread on the patio while sipping a blood orange old fashioned with Bulleit Bourbon or the Moscow mule punched up with a shot of ginger liqueur.
Drum & Quill Public House
40 Chinquapin Road, Pinehurst, NC
Tall tales start great friendships at Irish pubs. Park your golf cart out front and boast your par on the patio surrounding this traditional-style pub a couple blocks from Pinehurst Resort. The name honors famous golf writer and Emmy-nominated broadcaster Bob Drum. Quill represents golf writers’ pens, the tool they used before laptops to write about great golf moments that became legends. Debate the merits of your game or hang out with the family over burgers, tacos, snacks, sandwiches, fish and chips and even a few dinnertime entrees like meatloaf. Yes, Guinness is on tap.
Full Moon Oyster Bar
134 Brucewood Road, Southern Pines, NC
910- 246-2048, fullmoonoysterbar.com
Craving sea breezes and salty oysters? The rustic patio’s heavy wooden tables beneath indigo umbrellas hark to easy backyard oyster roasts like they do Down East. Get steamed half and whole pecks, Rockefeller-style oysters, baked oysters with bread crumbs and blue cheese or chargrilled oysters on the half-shell, bubbling with herb butter and melted cheese. Don’t stop yet. The seafood menu is huge and diverse, everything from classic crab cakes and fried calamari to over-the-top king crab nachos and savory crawfish alligator cheesecake with creole mustard sauce.
9735 U.S. 501, Pinehurst, NC
Slam some wings and watch the game at this fun-for-days sports bar that has twice been an ESPN finalist for best sports bar in America. Garage doors open onto the covered patio, letting the inside action spill outside. If you’re lucky, an oil-drum barbecue cooker will be ablaze, smoking a mess of pork butts, but charred wings and barbecue ribs are always on the huge menu. Forget your diet or spend some time pacing the patio as your team inches toward a win. The kitchen puts fried chicken on BLTs. Both American and jack cheeses ooze down the double cheeseburger stack, pattied in house. Yes, you can get a salad, but it tastes a whole lot better with fried grouper, avocado and applewood bacon on top.
2176 Midland Road, Pinehurst, NC
Under the towering magnolias, you may hear yourself saying “I do declare this is the place I want to spend the rest of my life.” Peering from your table through the blossom fountain’s majestic water flow, you may spot chefs picking your dinner. The nearby gardens grow myriad herbs, flowers and vegetables. Freshness flavors soups, salads and sandwiches and colors creative plates like bibimbap stir-fry at lunch. Sunday brunch brings bacon-dusted deviled eggs, Irish whiskey French toast and cornflake-coated fried chicken on red velvet waffles set in a pool of rosemary maple syrup. Dinner serves tradition with a few surprises, namely pork osso bucco atop gorgonzola polenta, jazzed up even more thanks to crispy Brussels sprouts and pea shoot salad.
Maxie’s Grill & Tap Room
35 McIntyre Road, Pinehurst, NC
Little things matter, like this simple and cheerful patio fronting a small pub trimmed in old-school black lanterns and pane-style windows. It’s like a blast from the colonial past, a place where Tom Jefferson himself might have considered his golf game while taking a break from documents outlining independence. These days, Sunday fun-day is fueled by hand-cut fries, jumbo wings and cold beers. Chargrilled skewers of meat, shrimp or veggies, all three if you want, are popular as well as fried catfish and homemade soups.
2160 Midland Road, Southern Pines, NC
The little, sunken, red-brick patio among the pines is as welcoming as a neighbor’s home. Pop in for a cup of locally roasted coffee. Linger under umbrellas at breakfast as you tuck into lemon mascarpone melting into warm malted waffles with blueberries on top. A sunny-side-up egg crowns The Croque Bistro sandwich full of brie and Swiss cheeses, Canadian bacon and Dijon mustard between sourdough toast. Join friends for decadent lunches of lobster sliders with a side of silky lobster bisque. Add bubbles, and never skip dessert. If you feel guilty, you may return the next day for yogurt and fresh fruit over, shh, homemade blueberry coffee cake.
Pinehurst Brewing Company
300 Magnolia Road, Pinehurst, NC
Consider this the mother of all the area’s outdoor spaces. First, there’s the beer garden’s heavy lumber, light-strung pergola that mimics sitting under a railroad bridge in the mountains. Then, there’s the covered bar where you can sip your fill of pints and ask the bartender questions about the house suds. Look for the juicy Motuek-hopped Pivot IPA and the blueberry-doughnut-infused Community Blues fruit beer. There are also a fireplace and a television and remnants of the late 1800s steam plant that once occupied the building. Play with your pup in one area. Toss cornhole on the lawn or brave trivia at single-tree slab tables. And, oh yeah, pulled pork, beef brisket, ribs and chicken come from the chef’s smokehouse.
The Bell Tree Tavern
155 NE. Broad St., Southern Pines, NC
A timber gazebo centers a grand patio where you can hit the full bar or lounge on the couch in front of one really big screen. The roll-down is especially popular when the Kentucky Derby is playing. Ladies night is every Wednesday. No matter when you go, 40 whiskeys await at this gem where T-shirts, shorts, ball caps and jeans are just fine. Plenty of N.C. beers are on draft, but wine by the glass and cocktails are offered, too. The no-fuss menu fits the vibe. Think mozzarella sticks, Reuben egg rolls, chipotle wings, ribs, rib-eyes, fish tacos and a host of salads, sandwiches and burgers.
The Market Place
246 Olmsted Blvd., Pinehurst, NC
Don’t be fooled by the elegance of this spare, brick patio’s curved quarter-walls and heavy wrought-iron furnishings. The look may say formal garden, but the menu makes it clear that morning and mid-afternoon meals are chill. Good luck resisting pie for breakfast. Who says you can’t have deep-dish apple and a scoop of ice cream with your coffee. If you go dessert-first at lunch, save room for venison and chicken Brunswick stew and the smoked turkey “Southern reuben” with green tomato chutney on a big croissant. The slogan here is “not just a sandwich,” hence the shrimp salad plate, quiche of the day and chocolate cake to have, of course, as your second dessert.
The Sly Fox
795 SW. Broad St., Southern Pines, NC
You may be tempted to vote the pergola-covered brick and tile patio as the most beautiful outdoor dining space in Sandhills N.C. Tucked under trees and surrounded by shrubbery, it’s a true getaway even more striking at night when strung lights twinkle. The British gastropub theme means innovative twists on classic pub fare. Rare beef, shallot marmalade and truffle mustard come on Yorkshire pudding sliders. Crisped Indian naan bread pieces serve as chips for curried beef nachos with mango salsa. Chefs use whiskey to braise collards, a house favorite. A rotating selection of craft beers are on tap, but the full bar also stocks bottles, wine and cocktail fixings. Cap off dinner under the stars with the Carolina Iced Tea blending N.C. gin with lemon, Earl Gray tea, tonic and elderflower liqueur.
The Villager Deli
6 Chinquapin Road, Pinehurst, NC
Build-your-own sandwiches? Check. Correct reuben? Check. Chef salad, tuna salad plate, soup and grilled cheese? Yes, yes and yes. The thing is, this deli’s patio looks more like a fine Southern beach cottage than a sandwich shop. Potted plants and hanging baskets drip colorful flowers that change with the seasons. Bacon-and-egg favorites load the breakfast menu. Oatmeal, pancakes and biscuits are there, too. The most exciting thought, however, may be milkshakes and ice cream floats, best enjoyed, no doubt, on the patio in summer.
38 Chinquapin Road, Pinehurst, NC
When Golf Digest says a restaurant is a top must-do in Pinehurst, you have to listen. A glowing review and a patio garden that transports you to Greece, where dining outside is one of life’s great pleasures, adds up to a double bonus. But wait, there’s more. The owners and family import their own olive oil from Dalitsouris Estate in Sparta, Greece. Sit under the garden’s pergola, ponder the statues and drizzle that oil over hummus on the meze plate. The family-friendly restaurant does lots of familiar Greek fare such as gyros and chicken souvlaki, but also find pasta, chops, sandwiches, burgers and a kid’s menu.
615 SE Broad St., Southern Pines, NC
Walk the streets of any great Italian city, or small village for that matter, and you’ll see outdoor tables set in front of nearly every restaurant you pass. That la dolce vita is in the Gironda family’s blood, and the enclosed, covered patio feels like an extension of their home. Comfortable and roomy rockers and a fireplace provide added comfort. The food and wine are pure amore, tried and true Italian favorites like lasagna, spaghetti bolognese, veal picatta, eggplant parmesan, Italian wedding soup and penne in tomato sauce with homegrown hot peppers, a spicy dish to pair with a bottle of Calabrian gravello from the huge wine list. There’s pizza, too, including thick Sicilian-style pies.
160 W. Pennsylvania Ave., Southern Pines, NC
Genteel. Refined. Elegant but unpretentious. Wolcott’s is special, and the cozy, enclosed patio is a lovely place to experience this hidden treasure. Make a reservation, plan on dressing nice and enjoy a romantic evening at one of Southern Pines’ best restaurants. The patio is a charming bit of Southern hospitality ― white trim and a wooden floor ― but the menu displays classic French technique and contemporary American flourish. Offerings change seasonally, which may mean five-spice rack of lamb with onion risotto at a pre-fall wine dinner or bluefin poké with compressed watermelon and chili aioli in July.