The entire restaurant industry has largely been on pause since mid-March, but today marks a monumental day for reopenings. Across the city, New Yorkers will be entering Phase 2 of reopening, which means that restaurants are permitted to operate with outdoor dining-only. It’s a big win for public space. According to reporter Katie Honan, Mayor de Blasio's office estimates 3,192 restaurants have applied and qualified for outdoor dining.
Some restaurants will be utilizing pre-existing backyards or street side tables, while others, for the first time, will add outdoor sections to their operations, thanks to new local guidelines expanding opportunities for sidewalk dining (though it’s worth noting that some will find this transition easier than others, depending on factors like how narrow the street the restaurant is located on). But one thing is for sure: Despite the fact that we are now allowed to enjoy a full-service experience, dining out will, needless to say, not feel exactly the same at the restaurants we’ve loved all along. For example, beyond new guidelines for reopened restaurants, many are placing emphasis on reservations. Going back to "normal," at least for the foreseeable future, is a thing of the past.
While we are excited about all of the following restaurant reopenings, we haven’t experienced these new concepts first-hand in this unfamiliar dining landscape. There’s no doubt New Yorkers are eager to support some of their favorite spots, but there are many questions about how social distancing will be upheld, whether reopenings are happening too soon (with no vaccine in sight) and what risks are restaurant workers putting themselves in to feed us. We hope customers interested in participating will be sure to tip generously to support the people behind the industry who have endured so much uncertainty during this tumultuous time for hospitality. Stay safe out there, please.
Astoria’s Bel Aire Diner has been around since 1965, but, starting this May, the Greek diner began offering it’s food outside during their first-ever drive-in movie experiences, held in its parking lot. Diners can order items ahead of time and eat it inside their car during an outdoor viewing of one of several old movies in their line-up. Starting today, the restaurant will also have social-distanced outdoor seating for those interested in dining on premises outside of the drive-in.
The bright and airy Williamsburg favorite recently expanded onto its sidewalk with a socially-distanced “summer shack” concept, featuring beach chair seats to hangout on while listening to vinyl records (Gertie’s pre-existing backyard will also be open later this summer) on the weekends, until Labor Day. The menu includes spins on summer-y picnic staples such as an English muffin cheeseburger finished off with pickled peppers and slathered with an herby mayo or a chicken schnitzel sandwich served on a challah roll, as well as boozy Italian ices, in addition to other offerings. Ordering is accomplished via a contactless system: pay ahead for your items on Gertie’s website—proceeds from Gertie Summer Shack will benefit the restaurant’s continued efforts to also function as soup kitchen, in partnership with ReThinkNYC and City Harvest.
Six tables are available on the outdoor patio at this hit Israeli fast casual spot, known in equal measure for it’s roasted cauliflower as its stuffed pita sandwiches. Interested diners can reserve their seats in advance, starting on Thursday.
Starting on Wednesday, LaLou will open their backyard patio for outdoor seating. Chef Jay Wolman, who recently joined the LaLou kitchen, is shucking oysters for $3 a piece. There is also an outdoor front bench from which they can be enjoyed.
Once you snake your way through Wayla's narrow dining room, you'll find an outdoor patio in the backyard with reservation-only tables spaced six-feet apart. For 90 minutes, you can order off a menu with homestyle Thai dishes we've missed all this time—think fried long beans with tofu tossed in galangal chili paste or lobster noodles that shows Thai cuisine offers much more than pad Thai. The patio is open 4-9pm Sunday through Thursday and 4-10pm Friday and Saturday.
Just weeks before New York restaurants shuttered their dining rooms, we praised Ernesto’s relaxed and fun dining room as a perfect place to share small plates and drinks. All of that now moves outdoors (or for takeout) starting June 26th on weekends (5-9pm Friday-Saturday and 3-7pm Sunday). This time, guests will have to order off a handwritten menu at the counter and order their pintxos (the paleta Iberico con chips has been a popular dish) served in disposable containers.
Melba Wilson has helped New York restaurants reopen with her role as president of the NYC Hospitality Alliance. Now, her comfort food destination Melba’s in Harlem will debut outdoor dining with designs by Rockwell Group, which has outfitted numerous dining rooms across the city.
For the first time, Laut and its newest location, Laut Singapura, will set up 10-12 seats outside of both restaurants. The kitchen’s nuanced take on Singaporean cuisine—which fuses recipes from India, Malaysia and China, among others—is all about hawker fare (or street food).
Right before the pandemic struck, Le Crocodile garnered several incredibly positive restaurant reviews. Now, you can try their menu yourself at their outdoor garden terrace, beginning on June 24th.
Bao Ong contributed to this story.