Those of us who live in North Texas think of it as our just reward for having survived another summer of brutal heat.

For those who just happen to be visiting these parts in late September or October, it’s more akin to winning the lottery.

I’m talking about our state’s exquisite autumnal weather – as well as the wealth of al fresco dining options that you can choose from this time of the year. If during the rest of the year, North Texans are make do with patio misters and shading trees, late September and October allows us to enjoy the splendor of outdoor eating, without ever breaking a sweat (or risking death by giant ball of hail).

So what are the best places in Fort Worth if you’re looking to idle the afternoon away with friends over a long outdoor lunch or to savor a romantic dinner for two beneath the moonlight? Here are five of my favorites on the Fort Worth dining scene:

1) Joe T. Garcia’s: The patio by which all others in Fort Worth are judged, a sprawling, tree-filled garden – located near the Fort Worth Stockyards -- where you can enjoy tasty Tex-Mex and those famously potent margaritas. For visitors, this decades-old culinary institution is every bit a must-see as the Kimbell Art Museum or the Fort Worth Water Gardens. One bit of warning: On warm October weekend nights, get there early or be prepared to wait on a long line.


Joe T. Garcia's Patio in Fort Worth

2) The Woodshed Smokehouse: Still a relative newcomer to the patio scene, Tim Love’s restaurant -- which opened in early 2012 – features picnic-style tables, a stage for live music and views of the Trinity River. (You can even bring your dog.) The menu is a lively mix of small and shareable plates, nouveau tacos (we especially like the bourbon and coke pork “bahn mi”), and traditional barbecue.

3) Fred’s Texas Café: Live music, cold beer and for my money the finest hamburger in all of Dallas-Fort Worth – I speak of the fiery-hot, wondrously juicy Diablo Burger – combine for an unforgettable evening.

4) Yucatan Taco Stand : Not to take anything away from Chimy’s – which some patio partisans consider the best in the region – but for me if I’m in the mood for tacos, I try to  grab one of the outdoor tables at Yucatan. Design-wise, there’s nothing especially fancy about this patio, a rectangular storefront space with circular tables and chairs. But the mood is relaxed and the people watching opportunities along Magnolia Avenue are excellent. (And, oh, those frozen sangria swirls are deliciously deadly.)


5) Reservoir: Part of the ever-growing West 7th District, Reservoir is another newbie on the Fort Wortth dining scene, having opened just last November. But the rows of cushion-seated outdoor tables – along with a tasty menu that puts a fresh spin on bar-and-grill staples like nachos, wings and burgers -- have quickly attracted a young and stylish crowd.

But that’s just my list of my favorites – which is by no means comprehensive. Comment below with your favorite al fresco dining spots we should be checking out this autumn.

In the meantime, remember to enjoy the weather while it lasts – who knows how long it will be before the freakish ice storms send us scurrying indoors.