Best Patio Dining Not Overlooking A Parking Lot (2001)
Carlsbad Tavern and Restaurant
Originally a seafood restaurant, the property wraps around a Disney-style "pier" overlooking an "ocean" that's more blue-painted concrete moat than splashing shore. Thick, tall stucco walls seclude the patio in a cozy, quiet courtyard decorated with wagon wheels, hanging chiles and a fountain.
It's a fine, fair-weather spot to kick back and sip on a major margarita and enjoy specialty dishes like Santa Fe duck ravioli (crispy chipotle pasta with smoked duck and Brie cream sauce), carne adovada or a searingly spicy habanero cheeseburger (with a free glass of milk to extinguish the flames). For a comfortable price -- about $8 at lunch, $15 at dinner -- and a laid-back outdoor experience, park it at Carlsbad Tavern.