RECOMMENDED: Full guide to outdoor activities for kids in NYC
There's nothing like a meal outside in the sunshine on a beautiful day. That's why we've rounded up the best outdoor dining in the city that suits you and your pint-size counterparts! From delicious Mexican restaurants to tasty New American restaurants, these picks are our favorites around town. Be sure to check out our roundup of awesome rooftop restaurants, too!
You’ll have no problem prying the kids from Ikea’s Småland if they know they’re ditching Swedish meatballs for Brooklyn Crab’s waterfront fun house. Its two-level indoor-outdoor dining experience offers huge picnic tables overlooking the Red Hook Channel and Hudson River, and is loaded with kid-friendly activities. Try free 18-hole minigolf, corn hole and shuffleboard, or have a go at the arcade games while you wait for your fish-and-chips ($18) and Atlantic-king-crab roll ($24). Did we mention the $10 bourbon pomegranate slushies, Mom and Dad? #Win.
With a wide variety of mouthwatering sandwiches and burgers and a colorful, shaded outdoor deck with small trees and potted plants, the Astoria outpost of this minichain is sure to be a hit with both you and the kids. You’ll have your pick of gourmet burgers like the County Fair (bison, aged cheddar, dill pickles; $11.75) or the Supreme (beef, Colby, country bacon; $11.80) while the pint-size set will prefer the “Cubby Fare” kids’ menu: Small plates include the Panda (chicken tenders, $7.95), the Grizzly (cheeseburger, $7.95) and a selection of sides.
Your family’s dining experience at Whole Foods isn’t limited to samples—head up to the Roof, a bar and restaurant that sits above the grocery store’s Brooklyn location. You’ll get great views of the Gowanus Canal and Carroll Gardens, plus American fare like burgers ($9–$12); you can also bring food upstairs from Whole Foods. Picnic-table seating makes the Roof a serene—and low-maintenance—spot for an alfresco family lunch.
Fast-food grub and an outdoor garden are on offer at this chill spot. The former garage’s decor—park benches, dangling lightbulbs—couldn’t be simpler, nor could the reasonably priced Park Burger ($6), a juicy bite with the usual lettuce, tomato and onions. Pair it with hand-cut Belgian fries, a few fancy dipping sauces—the garlic aioli is a safe and tasty bet for kids willing to branch out from ketchup—and an old-school soda.
The OG Shake Shack in Madison Square Park is the summer go-to, hawking the chain’s killer milkshakes ($5.25–$7), juicy burgers ($5.19–$9.49) and loaded hot dogs ($4) in a picturesque setting. The option of wolfing down the elevated fast-food fare at a breezy outdoor table or on a nearby park bench makes the teensy MSP location a perennial favorite, despite winding lines. It opens for the season on June 3, so until then you’ll have to get your fix indoors at one of the city’s 11 other outposts.
The Gowanus Dinosaur Bar-B-Que is always packed, but the food is worth the wait. Show up before 7pm on weekdays to score one of six outdoor picnic tables and on weekends, put your name in and stroll around the block until the host shoots you a text. Coloring books and temporary tattoos keep the crew busy while you wait for your grub. Kids 12 and under eat cheap, picking from seven mains (like BBQ sliders and crispy chicken fingers) and two sides for $6.50. You’ll love options like the pork ribs ($12.50–$28.50) and marinated skirt steak ($20.95).
Families love the flavorful Mexican eats and friendly atmosphere at Habana Outpost, but the real highlight is the kid-friendly programming in Habana’s huge courtyard. Picnic-bench–style seating affords the perfect perch for outdoor movie screenings (last year’s picks included E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial andSingin’ in the Rain) while you down a roasted-pork burrito ($8.75) or tacos ($3–$3.50). There are also free summer craft workshops for kids and special baby breakfasts on Tuesdays where the restaurant offers toys, a water table and art projects for tots.
Hit this scenic backyard with adventurous eaters for a good ol’ crab roll slathered in lemon butter ($13) or a gooey lobster grilled cheese ($12). Camp out at a small table or perch on the wide wall that surrounds the space. Ravenous families might want to share the Noah’s Ark ($44), a seafood feast complete with lobster, crab and shrimp half-rolls, crab claws, chips and soda.
Come for the kid-pleasing diner classics, stay for the sweet outdoor seating. (Psst… it’s perfect for overhearing the juiciest Slope gossip). Ten outdoor tables offer ample opportunity for the fam to spread out, but post up around 9am for Sunday brunch to beat out eager early-birds. Apart from nachos ($10) and burgers ($13+), there are brunch favorites like biscuits and gravy ($16), strawberry-and-banana flapjacks ($14) and omelettes by design ($16) with up to 11 add-ons. Trot over to nearby Harmony Playground in Prospect Park afterward to top off a perfect day.
The delicious personal pizzas and antipasto plates at this charming Park Slope joint regularly attract Mayor de Blasio and his family, and the quaint gated area outside is sure to beckon your brood as well. Enjoy traditonal Italian eats like a grilled Margherita or bianca pizza (each $10) under the shade of Toto’s umbrellas while counting the number of adorable puppies that walk by (seriously, there are so many cute puppies).
Spend lunch with the kids parked in Dos Caminos’ outdoor seating area, and snack on the made-to-order platter of guacamole, warm corn tortilla chips and trio of salsas ($14–$24) while taking advantage of the prime people-watching spot. The kids’ menu satisfies small ones with bites like a cheesy quesadilla or a pizza Mexicano (each $7), while you’ll love the Baja lobster tostaditas ($13) and the enchiladas ($19.50). There are tall tables under the awning, plus rows of lower two-to-three-person tables better suited to families.
This sweet Williamsburg spot offers outdoor seating galore, all shaded from the harsh summer rays. There’s usually a 30-minute wait on weekends, but the takeout window serving up cortados, cappuccinos (each $3.75) and tart lemonade ($3.25) will hold over your peckish brood. The impressive breakfast options are worth the wait, too—grab a bowl of banana-walnut oats ($7) for your toddlers and a Moroccan scramble with sausage and eggs ($13) for yourself.
This BBQ pit offers an unbeatable spread of smoked meats with a menu that rotates daily—you’ll smell it from the street and quickly find yourself at one of the courtyard picnic benches or a table under the open-air garage. You might see menu items like St. Louis–style ribs or hand-pulled Berkshire pork shoulder. Bring the kids for lunch on a weekday to avoid the hipster rush, and if you find yourself in need of a beer, Fette’s substantial beverage list has your covered.
Housed in an old gas station and mechanic shop, this massive indoor-outdoor restaurant and beer garden is perfect for families during daylight hours—large tables afford room for big crews and all their stuff, and the menu boasts straightforward American fare like burgers ($8.50–$9.50), turkey chili ($7.50), mac and cheese ($5.50), and Greenwood nachos ($6.50). While the kids scarf down lunch, be sure to try one of the 60 beers on tap. Kids are welcome until 7pm.
With eight different food purveyors to choose from, there's something to please an entire family of varying tastes and appetites at Gotham West. The bustling Hell's Kitchen market spans 15,000 square feet, and the food-court-style seating means you can all eat together once your kids have chosen from Ivan Ramen Slurp Shop, Genuine Roadside, Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams, Choza Taqueria and four other premier artisinal eateries. In addition to the communical tables at each of the busy food stalls, garage doors open up to sidewalk seating for alfresco dining. Try a tasty, kid-friendly lunch of grilled cheese ($8) from Court Street Grocers Sandwich Shop followed by two schoops of Jeni's to-die-for chocolate ice cream ($6) for dessert. After you eat, rent a bike at Velo, Gotham Market's full-service bicycle shop (or just browse the killer selection of bikes and gear).
This bone-lickin’ BBQ joint has got it going on with mains like baby back ribs ($18) and pulled pork shoulder ($20), plus mini sizes for your wee ones. Kids’ menu meals consist of a main (chicken breast, grilled cheese, mac and cheese or baby back ribs), a side (green salad, fries or broccoli) and dessert (vanilla ice cream or a brownie). The best part? It’ll only run you 11 bucks! Gobble it all up on the outdoor patio for a true summer-cookout vibe.
Rooftop dining? Yes, yes and yes! The restaurant’s small second level has at least eight tables, and since you’re sandwiched between Broadwaythe Park and Fif5th Avenues, you’ll worry a little less about everyone using their indoor voices. Squeeze the kids intoon a spot with bench-style seating at the back, then order up some chicken fingers ($5.51) or mac and& cheese made withfrom aged cheddar and fontina ($7.35) for the young’unspeanuts while you grab a sweet daily special like Friday’s Spicy Oregon wild shrimp with peanut sambal, aioli and green papaya ($10.56).
With a menu offering treats for sophisticated palates (and tiny ones, too), Sarabeth’s is a must-visit for parents not psyched about dumbing down their meal. Dinner means kid-pleasers like chicken potpie ($21) and grilled Margherita pizza ($15), while brunch offers equally awesome options like the club sandwich ($18) and One Great Burger ($19). There are two rows of outdoor tables, but when space is tight, find a spot against the windows to easily tuck baby gear out of the way.
While this indoor-outdoor waterfront café is a favorite UWS happy-hour joint, families know it’s also a great place to grab a bite. It offers plenty of kid-friendly food, ranging from your usual hamburger with cheddar to a chicken-salad sandwich (each $10.50) and old-fashioned PB&J ($3). Get in and out before 5pm and you’ll have plenty of room for the whole brood, plus a great view. There are tons of four-person tables under the rotunda, in the open air by the water and around the restaurant’s massive fountain.