Best restaurants for outdoor dining
This oasis, located on an industrial Brooklyn block, has its own urban farm, with produce growing in backyard plant bins and greenhouses on top of a metal shipping container. At night, the outdoor patio is lit by sweeping, diagonally strung Christmas lights, and the homegrown veggies often appear on dishes served at the communal tables. The super hip ode to market cuisine and artisanal pizza is a favorite for bargain-seeking locavores, offering craft beers and loud music.
The atmospheric backyard feels like it’s in the middle of the jungle, outfitted with strings of vibrant lights, colorful oilcloth-covered tables and milk-crate garden boxes designed by the urban gardeners behind DeKalb Market. Dedicated gastronauts willing to wait for a table at this Portland import are rewarded with Andy Ricker’s James Beard Award–winning grub. Find offerings like muu kham waan (Niman Ranch pork neck glazed with a sweetened soy sauce) and kai yang (charcoal-grilled La Belle Rouge hens stuffed with Chinese celery and cilantro), or dig into the signature wings and sip tropical twists on classic cocktails (like a tamarind whiskey sour).
On a greenhouse-inspired patio, a hodgepodge of herbs, flowers, and vegetation hangs overhead from mismatched vintage potters and planters. These touches—combined with the worn appearance of salvaged-barn-wood tables—conspire to create a homey atmosphere in which Chefs Eduard Frauneder (“Edi”) and Wolfgang Ban (“the Wolf”) revisit the flavors of their native Austria at this neighborhood tavern deep in Alphabet City. Find simple dishes like potato leek soup with double-smoked bacon and wiener schnitzel with cucumber salad.
Dangling white lights illuminate vintage beer garden tables in the Cannibal’s 40-seat cobblestone enclosure, and with its deli fridges stocked with ales and lagers and its aged steaks and whole hams dangling from steel hooks, the Cannibal could double as the set of a dude-food show on the Cooking Channel. Run by guys and packed with them, the place is so unabashed in its bromance for craft beer and artisanal meat, it’s almost a parody of a manly restaurant. If you like meat and beer, though, it’s pretty close to paradise.
This well-appointed garden offers a calming escape in the far reaches of Greenpoint. Shaded under a garden pergola, you’ll find sprouting herbs, fruits, and vegetables that garnish dishes and occasionally make their way into fleeting seasonal specials. Chef Todd Andrews’s streamlined menu focuses on seasonally driven Italian fare, including steamed mussels in white wine and roasted garlic, and spaghettini with San Marzano tomatoes, garlic and fresh basil.
Like the Manhattan original, this outpost is divided into several distinct dining areas, among them a large graveled garden with more than 80 seats. It’s most inviting on sunny afternoons, when three large clump birch trees filter the southern light. While sun-seeking hordes grab tacos and tortas from the stainless-steel takeout window anytime, the garden is reserved for guests who order from the more refined diner menu, which includes chef Adrian Ramirez’s Mexican take on slow-cooked chicken. Drinkers can choose from a selection of 100 sipping tequilas and mescals, as well as fruity tequila-based cocktails.
Like a botanist’s utopia, this cozy stone patio sprouts a flourishing sea of green come summer, when a canopy of 30-year-old grapevines frame the view into the blooming garden. Chef-owner Jason Marcus (Le Bernardin, Eleven Madison Park) may be Jewish, but as his Williamsburg restaurant—named for all things not kosher—attests, he’s far from opposed to pork, shellfish and other no-no’s. While some of his rule-breaking dishes reflect his Semitic ancestry, others take a more global perspective, such as crispy pork belly with mango, snow peas, cauliflower and bacon.
This bustling West Village eatery offers 14 serene sidewalk seats along the tree-lined West 4th Street. Unlike many sidewalk tables, the two-tops are set far back from the curb to avoid close encounters with traffic fumes and irritable pedestrians. And the food? Chef Gabriel Thompson (Le Bernardin, Del Posto) dishes out modern Italian fare. The menu features traditional dishes rarely found outside of Italy, plus a selection of pastas made in-house daily, which are hands down the best thing on the menu. Don’t miss the bolognese, where thin tagliatelle ribbons luxuriate beneath a textbook bolognese ragù.
Santina, a glass-enclosed jewel box of a restaurant tucked neatly beneath the High Line has breezy sidewalk patios with bright orange and blue umbrellas. Though billed as “coastal Italian”—the place is named for Carbone’s Sicilian grandmother—the vibrant set-piece room reads more South Beach than southern Italy. Santina is an altogether lighter affair, its sparse menu dominated by fish and vegetables.
Nods to the locavore ethos are abundant in the 30-seat outdoor garden—look out for the barely visible veggies growing on the rooftop, the yellow shed housing gardening tools and the edible flowers tucked into hanging boxes. Call it back-to-the-land chic: The rustic atmosphere lends the restaurant a romantic-getaway vibe (the one-hour subway ride from midtown to the eatery’s Ditmas Park location also plays a part). The menu, developed by chef Tom Kearney (Jean-Georges), is packed with references to bucolic America, and dishes such as the kale salad with celery root and sliced radish deliver on their garden-fresh promise.
Want to spend the day drinking outside?
NYC has plenty of beer gardens, patios and terraces for those boozy afternoons in the city.