Spring has sprung. The weather is getting warmer, flowers and trees are blooming and restaurants have expanded their options for outdoor dining. Though indoor dining is technically an option, why not take the opportunity to bask in the sunlight and soak up some vitamin D while keeping safe during what might be the last months of this pandemic?

The College Park area is full of fast food and counter service options, and many sit-down restaurants just don’t have the space for outdoor seating. Some, such as Looney’s Pub and Cornerstone Grill and Loft, try to offer as much patio space as they can, but trying to get a table during peak hours is nearly impossible. 

So I set out to find restaurants in the area that have large, socially distanced patio areas where you won’t have to wait an hour for a table, and I was excited to find a few options that I will definitely be returning to when I’m too lazy to cook my own food. The list isn’t exhaustive — there are a couple restaurants I didn’t get to try, like Hook and Reel in Greenbelt and the local Buffalo Wild Wings — but you can use it as a jumping-off point to branch out and find some new restaurants while enjoying the warm weather.

The Hall CP

Of all the outdoor dining options in the area, The Hall CP is by far the largest and most convenient. It’s located right behind The Hotel at the University of Maryland, so students who live on or around the campus will have no trouble walking if they don’t have access to a car. Painted shipping containers block out the surrounding parking lots and construction sites, walling off the restaurant’s huge patio and making it feel more private.  The food is incredible, and there’s a good variety — whether you order the pizza, tacos, a salad or just an appetizer, you will not be disappointed.

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Denizens Brewing Co.

If you like drinking beer, and especially trying new beers, this is the restaurant for you. It has a great selection of craft beers and hard seltzers on tap for pretty cheap, as well as a decent menu with bar food such as wings, burgers and sandwiches. The patio is in front of the restaurant, so you have to deal with passersby as you eat, but I think this offers a great excuse to people-watch. The restaurant isn’t too busy — I went on a Saturday night and there was an ample amount of seating — so you shouldn’t have any problems. Reservations are always an option, though, if you want to be safe.

Busboys and Poets

I’ve heard a lot of people rave about this restaurant in my time at this university, so I was super excited to try it for myself. And I have to say, it lived up to the hype. It has a pretty large outdoor area, and the string lights lining the space offer the perfect ambient lighting once the sun goes down. Brunch is served until 3 p.m. daily, which is great for people like me who hate waking up early. It also has a ton of options for vegans and vegetarians; I tried the crispy brussels sprouts and I highly recommend them. There’s free Wi-Fi if you want to study or work on homework while you eat, and there are multiple Pokéstops if you happen to play Pokémon Go. 

The Jerk Pit

This spot probably has the least put-together outdoor seating area on this list, but the sunlit, grassy space is perfect for taking pictures with friends. There are even two bubbles to sit in if you want to be extra safe. I recommend ordering for pickup ahead of time so your food is ready when you arrive, because sitting outside next to the smoker, with the mouth-watering smell of freshly-made jerk chicken, will only make you hungrier. It’s cheap — a meal with two sides costs around $11— and you’d be hard-pressed to find similar Jamaican food options anywhere else in College Park.

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Located in Greenbelt, this is the farthest restaurant from campus, but it’s well worth the 15-minute drive. My boyfriend calls Chevys “the Applebee’s of Mexican food,” but in a good way. The menu is huge and the prices are relatively low, plus they have great drink deals. It’s a smaller patio area than some of the other options on this list, but you can always make a reservation if you’re going during a busy time. You won’t find the cute lighting and Instagram-ready backgrounds some of the other restaurants offer, but you won’t even think to take pictures when you start bingeing on free chips and salsa as soon as you sit down and your food arrives 15 minutes after you order.