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Commentary: Dining al fresco in Arlington

🕐 6 min read

If your mind is turning to outdoor dining, there are a number of places to scratch that itch in Arlington.

It’s spring and balmy, which means it’s time to dine – or maybe imbibe a trifle – al fresco in Arlington. That’s an high-minded way of saying we need to find the chillest, liveliest restaurant patios in town.

Linguistic update: al fresco derives from the Italian, loosely translated to “in the cool air.” Except that in Italy, it’s slang for being locked up in the cooler – jail.

Those semantic nuances straightened out, here’s a starter list of the most popular restaurant patios al fresco in Arlington, with one worthwhile side trip to Grand Prairie.

Check them out:

El Gabacho Tex-Mex Grill – No, there’s no view (a common issue with patios) unless you like checking out the Kroger across the street.

The main building a half century ago was a popular roller rink. There’s a pleasant little patio with shading umbrellas, a strange assortment of John Wayne memorabilia, a decent menu, handy bar and semi-Mexicanish décor.

“El Gabacho” translates to somebody who doesn’t speak Spanish well, originally referring to French types but now a sort of gentle, semi-humorous pejorative, about which it is uncertain whether the reference is to staff or customers.

2408 West Abram St., just west of Bowen Road

Grease Monkey Burger Shop and Social House – There’s a fair-size patio outside this downtown watering hole restaurant, which features eclectic burgers, interesting variations on wings and a long bar full of a mix of regulars and visitors waiting for a shuttle to ball games.

Lots of musicians play here (Maren Morris sang her high notes here before she hit it big). The whole place might as well be a patio since garage-type doors stay open as long as the weather is temperate.

There’s a University of Texas at Arlington affiliation, with out-of-town basketball games usually piped in to a variety of big screen TVS. UTA’s Jazz Ensemble hits licks there on occasion, as do musicians such as Jim Bowies, Reid Farris, Kyle Redd and Legacy 4s. It’s also a handy place to strike up new acquaintances regardless of gender preference.

200 N. Mesquite St.

Texas Live! – It’s a big place – okay, massive – with numerous restaurants and is no doubt a must-see anyway for town newbies, but if you’re a patio aficionado you’ll have three good choices.

First, check out Troy’s (live music, cold beer), and yeah, it’s Hall-of-Fame Cowboys’ former quarterback Troy Aikman’s place. For an upstairs patio, try the Miller Tavern and Beer Garden.

Or if you prefer a view of both the current Globe Life Park and the construction on the new indoor Globe Life Park, hang out at the expansive patio of the Sports and Social Club.

1650 E. Randol Mill Road

(Parking is free if there’s no game on TV. Also, there are many humongous TV screens).

El Arroyo – Yes, it’s Mexican Tex-Mex cuisine, an offshoot of the original Austin place, except the Arlington version doesn’t have a gulch running through the middle of it.

What the Arlington El Arroyo does have, however, is a big covered patio with fans and misters that make it comfortable even when Texas really heats up. Also, heaters in winter.

There’s even a bar outside, which makes the place as popular a watering hole as it is a dining destination – maybe more so.

Live music adds to the festive atmosphere each Thursday through Saturday night and Sunday afternoon from March through October. A warning: Musicians have big speakers. Guacamole mixed at the table and frozen margaritas recommended.

5024 S. Cooper St.

Rio Mambo – (Yes, it does seem like more Mexican restaurants have patios.) The cuisine here is a trifle more eclectic than your average Tex-Mex and there’s an expansive covered patio, which happens to be right next to an oversize bar.

The shopping center location was designed by funky architect Mojy Haddad, who tends to favor designs with elements like waterfalls/fountains and big, bronze statuaries, both of which are incorporated into the al fresco patio component, perhaps in hopes you won’t notice all that traffic zipping by.

6407 S. Cooper St.

Social House – Not to be confused with a place with a similar name in Texas Live!, Social House is relatively new – a casual restaurant-bar, the south side of which opens up almost completely to make the journey to the adjoining, multi-lighted patio seamless – the better to order a beer, if you can figure which of the 50 on-tap varieties you’d like to try next.

It’s also maybe five minutes from Cowboys or Rangers games, so it makes a good pre-game or post-game stop. It’s a different style, “kitchen scratch” menu but try the Angry Shrimp or Beef Sliders. It’s in Champions Park, around back.

1705 N. Collins St.

The Oasis – Technically, barely, in Grand Prairie, what you have is a floating restaurant with giant (also floating) patio on Joe Pool Lake. It’s in a marina, so boats are coming and going, and the patio is situated for a good view of water traffic. There are free slips for boats if that’s the way you arrive.

Check out the school of almost domesticated carp (some of substantial size) below the crossover bridge. Yes, you may feed them. No, you can’t fish for them.

The patio has misters for cooling, the bar is expansive and the menu includes an impressive seafood offering. There’s also an upstairs view room with a patio in the summer – find a cool breeze and it’s a good hangout.

5700 Lake Ridge Parkway

(Exit Great Southwest Parkway on Interstate-20, navigate south and there’ll be a merge with Lake Ridge). If you cross a bridge across the lake, you’ve gone too far.

Other good bets?

Tipsy Oak, 301 E. Front St., offers a patio bigger than the restaurant and a chef-driven icehouse style menu. Flying Fish, 300 E. Abram St., has a comfortable, shaded patio. Both Pappadeaux Seafood, 1304 E. Copeland Road, and its sister restaurant, Pappasito’s Cantina, 321 W. Road to Six Flags, offer shaded patios. So does Lupe’s Tex Mex, 770 E. Road to Six Flags.

Or try the patio at Cartel Tacos Bar. Watch – and feel – Union Pacific freight roll by really close, plus there’s a big bar, a smallish patio and a variety of unusual tacos.

506 E. Front/Division streets

O.K. Carter is a former editor and publisher of the Arlington Citizen-Journal and was also Arlington publisher and columnist for the Star-Telegram and founding editor of Arlington Today Magazine. He’s the author of the definitive book on Arlington’s colorful history, Caddos, Cotton and Cowboys: Essays on Arlington.

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