Mosto This is one of our very favorite restaurants in the city, and they offer a lunch deal that won’t break the bank. Get two courses for ¥80 or three for ¥95. The menu changes weekly based on fresh, seasonal ingredients, and always features salads, ceviches, fish, meat and pasta dishes. Enjoy it on the balcony while over looking out over Nali’s leafy courtyard.
The Elephant Situated just across from the north gate of Ritan Park, this branch of the Elephant offers nice, umbrella-covered tables, decent Russian food and unrivaled Yabaolu people watching. We love the tasty, healthy borsch (¥25) here, and the nine choices of fresh juice (¥25/glass, ¥100/bottle) are perfect for warm weather. We recommend the “lemon apple” and pineapple.
Xiao Wang Fu Right inside Ritan Park, you’ll find this popular Chinese restaurant. They’ve got two levels of beautiful outdoor dining and are especially known for their Beijing duck (¥78/half, ¥138/whole), roasted with wood from fruit trees. The deep-fried crispy bean curd with mild chili sauce (¥48) and fried hot spicy Xinjiang style chicken wings (¥48) are also delicious.
Alba This Gulou restaurant serves favorites like summer pasta (¥38) but has added a number of desserts, gnocchis and lasagnas. The sunny rooftop dining area is equipped with comfortable couches and large umbrellas and offers sweeping views of the Nanluoguxiang and the Gulou neighborhood. Free Wi-Fi makes it a good spot to spend an afternoon.
Another great Gulou spot for outdoor dining is Luce, which offers extremely reasonably priced, and tasty, Western food, as well as a rooftop terrace with views of the Drum and Bell Towers.
Metro This longtime expat favorite features a ¥70 lunch menu that changes regularly, as well as outdoor patio seating out front during warmer months. There are soups, salads and tapas for the first course, and a number of pastas and sauces, as well as other mains, for the second. Add ¥10 and you get tea, coffee or a scoop of ice cream.
Nola The city’s first restaurant serving food from the American South is conveniently located for lunch and offers a nice second floor porch area for outdoor dining. Don’t miss out on the sea bass, shrimp and crawfish jambalaya (¥95) or the deliciously creamy shrimp and grits (¥77). For a Mad Men style lunch, get an authentic mint julep (¥30) before heading back to the office.
With terraces overlooking Tian'anmen Square, Capital M is famous for some of the best views in the city. We think this stellar al fresco dining destination should also be known for having some of the capital's best desserts. We adore the pavlova (¥98), topped with fresh fruit and passion fruit sauce, but for sweet-toothed decadence, you can’t go wrong with a “truly grand dessert platter,” which includes eight different cakes and sweets for ¥108 per person (minimum two people).
Another great dessert spot with a view is Crystal, on the rooftop of The Emperor Hotel. Look out over the Forbidden City while indulging in a slice of fresh seasonal fruit cake (¥57) or a rich American cheese cake (¥67).
Over in Sanlitun, you can relax in Sureno's sunken garden while sharing the famous “TmSU experience” tiramisu (¥111) or the dessert tasting platter (¥148), which comes with five sweet treats.
Just north of the Opposite House, in the Village North, is Colibri. The cafe opened just at the end of al fresco dining season last year, so this summer, it's time to enjoy their pretty cupcakes in the sun.
While better known for their cocktails, Q Bar also serves some excellent desserts. The rooftop terrace, expanded and renovated last summer, is a luxurious spot for the delicious cream yogurt (¥40), raspberry pavlova (¥35) or mousse au chocolate (¥30).