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Photograph: Courtesy Wayla

15 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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Summer might be two-thirds over, but outdoor dining and drinking continue apace! This year has been sizzling, literally and figuratively, with sky-high heat and humidity and restaurants as hard to get into as ever before. 

Short of making a reservation (What is this, Los Angeles?) one way to secure a seat 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
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A post shared by Pinto Garden (@pinto_nyc)

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.

  • 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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A post shared by Palma NYC (@palmanyc)

Now in its 21st year, Palma is double semi-obscured. Situated on Cornelia Street, which is only a block long, it’s the kind of place you’d have had to give knowingly-toned directions to in the days before Google maps. It does look 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.

  • 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 big enough, bright back yard and into a seemingly totally different venue.

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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. This past year’s necessary pick-up and delivery options haven’t dampened a desire to dine amid its flora IRL.

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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.

  • Restaurants
  • American
  • Staten Island

One of Staten Island’s much-lauded restaurants, Bin 5 comes with free views for guests traveling to the borough by ferry, and further rewards them with its back yard, where a predominately red sauce menu is served in a space encased by picket fences and appointed with potted plants.

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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.

  • 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 in a large backyard peacefully distanced from the thoroughfare beyond the front door.

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  • 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.

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