Some outdoor restaurants evoke memories of European street cafes, while others are uniquely Southern Californian. Whether hidden in canyons or in the middle of the city, their trees, flowers and umbrellas provide havens for beleaguered city dwellers.
Here is a sampling of 10 restaurants that offer outdoor seating year-round (barring inclement weather):
Ranch House, South Lomita Ave., Ojai, (805) 646-2360. A fragrant and intimate garden, eclectic cuisine and the warmth of owners Alan and Helen Hooker have drawn visitors here for 30 years. The dinner menu, featuring such entrees as lamb Arabian, changes at least once a month. More than 100 herbs from the garden flavor the food and several of the teas. Much of the patio is covered and remains open in the rain. Open for lunch in the summer Wednesday- Saturday, 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Sunday brunch 1-2 p.m. Dinner Wednesday-Friday, 6-8:30 p.m.; Saturdays, 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.; Sundays, 1 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. and 6-7:30 p.m. Heated. Casual. Reservations recommended. Lunch entrees $5.95-$8.95. Lot parking.
Inn of the Seventh Ray, 128 Old Topanga Canyon Road, Topanga, (213) 455-1311. Plan to linger here amid the oak trees. A creek flows beside the terraced brick patio, which is lighted by candlelight after dark. Cold poached salmon, vegetable fondue with cheese and wine sauce and homemade baked goods are typical of the inn's health food. Open for lunch Monday-Friday, 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m., Saturdays, 10:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday brunch 9:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Dinner daily, 6-9:30 p.m. Brunch reservations recom- mended. Heated. Casual. Lunch entrees $1.75-$7.95. Lot parking.
Moreno's, 4328 E. Chapman Ave., Orange, (714) 639-2181. Three California pepper trees and a fountain cool this patio, part of a century-old restored Quaker church and Sunday school. Carnitas and mole con pollo, chicken sauteed in a red sauce, highlight the traditional Mexican fare. Watch tortillas being made from scratch daily from 5 p.m. and during Sunday brunch. Mariachis stroll outside Sundays, 10:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., warm Sunday evenings, 5-9 p.m. and summer Fridays and Saturdays, 6-10 p.m. Open Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sundays, 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Mexican bakery open Tuesday-Sunday, 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Casual. Lunch entrees $2.75-$9.95. Lot and street parking.
Greeter's Corner, 329 S. Coast Highway, Laguna Beach, (714) 494-0361. If you like to people-watch, take a seat next to Main Beach beneath the Corner's blue-and-white umbrellas. A redwood carving of Eiler Larsen, Laguna's greeter, welcomes visitors to the city, as Larsen himself once did in the same location. Scallops, skewered shrimp and lobster tails are a few of the broiled seafood specialties. Open daily in winter, 8 a.m.-sunset, in summer, 8 a.m.-10 p.m. Casual. Lunch entrees $3.25-$16.95. Street parking.
Casa de Bandini, 2754 Calhoun St., San Diego, (619) 297-8211. Juan Bandini's house, completed in 1827, lies within Old Town San Diego State Historic Park. The extensive courtyard overflows with rosebushes, fountains, citrus trees and umbrella-shaded tables. Mexican seafood dishes like camarones rancheros and sauteed shrimp in ranchero sauce are the specialties. Enjoy mariachis Wednesday-Sunday, 5:30-10 p.m., and a strolling guitar trio Sundays, 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Open Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sundays, 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Heated. Casual. Lunch entrees $3.95-$9.95. Park in Bazaar del Mundo's lots on Juan Street.
Pioneer Boulangerie, 2012 Main St., Santa Monica, (213) 399-7771. One of the Boulangerie's patios has a sliding glass roof; the other, umbrellas. Ocean breezes and French music waft through both. Choose breakfast or lunch from the indoor buffet and carry it out to a table. There is table service at dinner. There are four daily homemade soup choices and one daily stew. On the premises are a bakery, wine shop, delicatessen and coffee store. Open Fridays and Saturdays, 7 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sundays and Mondays, 7 a.m.-9 p.m.; Tuesday-Thursday, 7 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Heated. Casual. Lunch entrees about $5; menu and prices vary daily. Street parking.
Hotel Bel-Air, 701 Stone Canyon Road, Bel-Air, (213) 472-1211. Several swans grace the lake and luxurious garden beneath this elegant terrace. Bougainvillea, trees and flowers complete the setting. A harpist plays during high tea, served Monday-Friday, 3-5 p.m. Summer hours 7 a.m.-5:30 p.m.; Saturdays and Sundays, 7 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday brunch served 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m.; reservations recommended for all meals; call a week in advance for brunch. Heated. Casual to dressy; coat required at dinner. Lunch entrees $15-$20, brunch entrees $22-$30. Valet parking.