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Photograph: Courtesy Moxy East Village

16 hidden backyards, gardens and patios for outdoor dining in NYC

Or at least as hidden as they can be in NYC.

Amber Sutherland-Namako
Written by
Amber Sutherland-Namako
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Its finally freezing in NYC, but outdoor dining and drinking is as hot as ever. In years past the temperature might have driven most inside, but the appeal of the open air makes outside space as competative as a table at the Waverly Inn Circa 2008.

Short of making a reservation (What is this, Los Angeles?) one way to secure a spot is to patronize places unknown to your friends and neighbors, unheard of by tourists and unfamiliar to even the most prolific Yelpers. But being that this is neither the surface of the sun nor the bottom of the sea, few places are truly secret.

Some restaurants and bars, however, do have areas that are a little more hidden away than the rest. These are your semi-secret gardens, surprising back yards, unexpected patios and cozy spots where you can feel a little tucked away in one of the biggest cities in the world.

Hidden outdoor dining spots in NYC

  • Restaurants
  • Thai
  • West Village
With beachy white brick walls, sculptural floral chandeliers, real-deal blooms, ruffly green leaves and an angled glass ceiling that cozies up the space, Pinto’s covered garden is as pretty as a birthday cake. Its drinks are also especially festive, including the Thai iced tea’s DIY presentation, precious popsicle sangria and the bottled cosmo packed in ice and delicate buds that practically pushes dining here into the immersive experience zone. And look at that decorative fireplace facade! Doesn't it just seem warm?
  • Restaurants
  • French
  • Soho
  • price 2 of 4

A classic of the genre, Ladurée feels like the archetype secret garden among secret gardens. It’s plenty darling inside, but entering into the backyard kicks up all kinds of whimsy. It’s also the only place in town where we’d actually consider shelling out $160 for a macaron tower, but so far we’ve always stuck to their smaller ticket sweet treats. 

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  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • West Village
  • price 2 of 4
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Now in its 21st year, Palma is double semi-obscured. It’s the kind of place you’d have had to give knowingly-toned directions to in the days before Google maps. It's also darling even to passersby, who might catch a whiff of pappardelle alla bolognese from the sidewalk, and it’s even lovelier with a glass of wine in the verdant backyard that splits the difference between a garden and a patio. This is also, apparently, the restaurant on Cornelia Street where Lady Gaga used to work. 

  • Bars
  • Beer bars
  • Red Hook
  • price 1 of 4

Brooklyn Ice House is dazzling. It isn’t just the gruff exterior, the dark-at-high-noon interior, the more-cluttered-than-most rows of bottles behind the bar, the worn and sometimes torn oxblood banquettes, or the rather good cheeseburgers. Brooklyn Ice House is dazzling because, on your first visit you’ll think you know exactly where you are, and then you’ll step out onto the gravel in its large, bright back yard and into a seemingly totally different venue. And being that this is a confirmed dive bar (one of NYC's best, in fact!) there is only one heater out back, so dress warm.

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  • Restaurants
  • Thai
  • Lower East Side

Wayla opened to acclaim in 2019, diners and critics alike fawning over its homestyle Thai menu and chicly styled back patio that felt like a particularly fashionable friend’s coveted private outdoor space. Wayla's less-secret enclosed curbside booths are also heated for winter. 

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  • Restaurants
  • French
  • East Village

Being that they are the premier destination for clandestine meetings, it’s hard to tell what’s going on behind closed doors at most hotels. Inside the Moxy East Village, down a staircase, barely in view of an open kitchen that turns out general interest menu items, and just off its cavernous bar and dining room, Cathédrale’s terrace is enveloped in greenery beneath a retractable roof.

  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Chelsea
  • price 3 of 4

From the sidewalk, you’d have no reason to know that the recently reopened Gallow Green is overhead. And, once you’re on the colorful, densely lush rooftop, you might, for a moment, forget about the busy streets below. It's a little chillier at this altitude, so dress warm. 

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  • Restaurants
  • French
  • Boerum Hill
  • price 1 of 4

Without any windows on its east or west walls, this Atlantic Avenue bistro is dimly lit any time of day, but still skews more toward a romantic wine cellar than, say, a scary bat cave. Make your way to the back, however and the light at the end of the tunnel is revealed to be a big, beautiful backyard garden anchored by the Platonic ideal of a leafy tree. Bacchus is so pretty, in fact, that they do a swift wedding business back there, so have a backup plan if your heart is set on dining outdoors in the area.

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  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • Cobble Hill

This is exactly the kind of place people refer to as “off the beaten path” even though it’s about as close as you can get to a bus stop. The Columbia Waterfront District restaurant’s Italian-adjacent menu includes spaghetti with clams, paccheri with lamb sausage, and hot chicken Milanese, all available with wine, beer and cocktails (including hot ones!) in a large backyard peacefully distanced from the thoroughfare beyond the front door.

  • Bars
  • Beer bars
  • Astoria
  • price 2 of 4

Boldly claiming a name as “The Astoria Local,” Sweet Afton has seats out front on 34th Street, space for a few dozen inside, drinks, elevated bar food and a blue-hued back patio that’s photogenic enough for your Vaxtagram without looking like this is the moment you’ve been waiting for. Its curbside "boardwalk" is also heated and semi-enclosed.

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  • Restaurants
  • Williamsburg

This longstanding Grand Street staple's sweet back garden was closed for years until new owners recently tended to it once more. Bundle up to imbibe among the flora, or come on the coldest days and you won't even need ice for your happy hour oysters. 

  • Restaurants
  • Contemporary Asian
  • Flatiron
  • price 3 of 4

At $70, Hortus' tasting menu is on the more affordable side of a dining category that typically exceeds $100 and much more. Choose from apps like yellowfin tuna crudo and mains like spicy braised short ribs on its charming heated and enclosed back terrace. 

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