It may seem strange to talk about outdoor dining when we’re constantly checking AQI levels on our phones, but it’s precisely because blue sky days aren’t guaranteed that we should know our options ahead of time. How best to take advantage of those beautiful, clear days? Outdoor dining combines food, fun, and a chance to soak up the sun. June is ideal for sitting al fresco – it has none of July’s baking temperatures or May’s lingering coolness. Whether it’s a cup of Vietnamese coffee in a siheyuan, a barbecue with live jazz, or Sunday brunch under a glass roof, there’s something for you and your family.
Recently re-opened after a lengthy renovation, Cafe Zarah (pictured above) has expanded to three or four times its original size. The Gulou fixture is known for its contemporary decor and German-style breakfasts. As of press time, Cafe Zarah was still in its soft opening phase. For now, you can get coffee, sandwiches, pasta, and a smaller breakfast selection on the first-floor restaurant and courtyard. The venue is expected to be fully completed this summer with a second-floor rooftop patio. The owner, Zhang Lin, has a 3-year-old; as a result, the cafe is also working on a kids’ menu to better accommodate young diners and their families.
Daily 9am-midnight. 46 Gulou Dongdajie, Dongcheng District (8403 9807) 东城区鼓楼东大街46号
baby international 国际宝贝
This three-in-one restaurant, play center, and baby gear store has been popular with Lido families since opening late last year. Located just next to Beijing United Family Hospital, baby international is often packed with families for Sunday brunch (starting at RMB 149). Catered by a German chef with over 20 years of experience, the dishes are simple but healthy. Expect a selection of salads, German sausages, pastas, soups, and desserts. The Pirate Bay restaurant’s outdoor dining area is now open, allowing parents to kick back with a coffee (or wine) and a book in the sun while the kids burn off some energy in the pirate-themed indoor play area.
Daily 10am-9pm. 2 Jiangtai Lu, Chaoyang District (8450 1189/1589) 朝阳区将台路2号（比邻和睦家医院）
It’s hard at first to find this Dongsi-area restaurant, but once you do you’ll want to come back again and again. Nestled in a courtyard off Qianliang Hutong, Susu serves authentic Vietnamese fare. You’ll find delicately-balanced food made from fresh ingredients and minimal oil. Pair your meal with a selection from the drinks list or a Vietnamese iced coffee. In the summer, sit on the rooftop patio and enjoy the shade from Susu’s resident tree. Reservations are recommended; if you need a highchair, mention it on the phone.
Tue-Sun 11.30am-11pm. 10 Qianliang Hutong Xixiang, Dongcheng District (8400 2699) 东城区钱粮胡同西巷10号
Element Fresh 新元素
Since starting in Shanghai in 2002, this chain of American restaurants has been hugely popular with families. Expect consistent quality, healthy fare, friendly service, and particular attention to younger diners. The new summer menu includes the generous American Summer BBQ Pork Salad (RMB 98) and irresistible Guava Honey Juice (RMB 38/50). Enjoy a cold drink on the rooftop patio in Lido, the sidewalk seating at Solana, or on the third floor of Taikooli in Sanlitun. On smoggy days, head to the branch at Indigo Mall, which is just a glass roof away from the sun. This location also has an outdoor play area for kids.
See Directories for a complete list of locations.
Trendy but cheap, spacious but cozy, Cafe Alba somehow works. Hutong hipsters, families, and hip young Chinese alike descend on this Gulou restaurant every weekend for brunch on the sunny rooftop terrace. The food isn’t the best we’ve ever had, but it’s inexpensive and hits the spot. Expect standards like salads, sandwiches, pasta, and extensive breakfast choices. There’s only one highchair though, so stake your claim before it starts getting busy around 1pm.
Daily 8am-1am. 70 Gulou Dongdajie (east of Nanluogu Xiang), Dongcheng District (6407 3730) 东城区鼓楼东大街70号
The trendy jazz bar rather unexpectedly transforms into a family-friendly dining venue on Fridays and Saturdays, with an outdoor patio on the ground floor, attentive service, and lots of food choices. The semi-buffet features salads, barbecue, drinks, music, and a great vibe for RMB 128 per person.
Fri-Sat 5-10pm. 1/F, EAST Beijing, 22 Jiuxianqiao Lu, Chaoyang District (8414 9810) 酒仙桥22号北京东隅酒店一层
Cafe Noir 浓咖啡
For those who love being surrounded by greenery, head to Cafe Noir at Traders Upper East Hotel. The recently-opened outdoor dining space is just across from the quiet, well-maintained garden behind the hotel. Linger over your meal while the kids play in the bouncy castle in the lobby or run around outside. The lunch buffet costs RMB 148 (including free-flow soft drinks) and the dinner barbecue buffet costs RMB 218 (including free-flow local beer, iced tea, and juice). Children under 12 eat for half price and children under 6 eat for free. Cafe Noir has highchairs and a changing table.
Daily 11.30am-2pm (lunch), 5.30-10pm (dinner).1/F, Traders Upper East Hotel, 2 Dongsihuan Beilu (southeast of Xiaoyun Qiao), Chaoyang District (5907 8416) 朝阳区东四环北路2号 (霄云桥东南角)上东盛贸酒店