Market by Julia Stevens

Published on July 24, 2021

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Photography by Meghan McNeer

Sure, you could bring your fine china out to the backyard picnic table for an alfresco meal, but when kids and clumsy guests are involved, using plates and glasses that are made to withstand the elements (including potential crashes to the ground) is essential. That means looking for materials such as melamine, bamboo, and thick glass.

In the past, melamine plates and bubble glass have gotten a bad rap, but today’s versions are as stylish as they are durable. There are ones that set a beachy boho vibe and others that are delightfully nautical. Whether you’re eating poolside, on the patio, in the backyard, or on your stoop, here’s the best tableware for dining outside, divided by material.

Bamboo and Melamine Dreams

Melamine isn’t just for the kids’ table. With a mix of wild colors and patterns, your outdoor table will draw just as much attention as the party’s natural surroundings, and in some cases guests might be truly fooled that they’re not eating from stoneware. The best part? Each of these options, even the bamboo and melamine blends, are dishwasher safe, so you can reuse them all summer long. 

Enamel Everything

No matter what you’re making for dinner, enamelware gives your table a cool retro vibe—and it’s heavy-duty enough to keep from flying off the table when a strong breeze blows by. (No wonder it’s a camping staple.) Also, no two patterns are alike; from melt-y marbling to Splatterware, you’ll always be serving up a one-of-a-kind meal.  

Plastic Fantastic

You guests might do a double take when they pick up one of these acrylic options and realize it’s not made of glass. Plus their unbreakable nature means they’re perfect for poolside cocktails, and the pitchers (big-batch margs, anyone?) ensure your glass will stay full all afternoon. 

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