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How to dine outside in NYC this summer

Looking for the best places to eat outside in NYC right now? Things are changing fast. Here's what you need to know.

outdoor
Photograph: Shutterstock

As long as it's warm out, New Yorkers will be be dining outside this summer—whether that means sitting down at a full-service restaurant or just grabbing a quick bite to-go and relaxing in a park. With new policies allowing more restaurants than ever to apply and expand outdoor dining, we're seeing unprecedented, creative uses of public space.

The city's constantly changing mandates, however, can make it hard to keep up with the rules. So we're staying on top of the latest in this new hospitality landscape and have put together this official guide for everything you need to know about eating outside in our favorite city. 

RECOMMENDED: Here are NYC's official guidelines to outdoor dining.

Outdoor dining in NYC guide

The 9 best streets for outdoor dining in NYC this summer
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The 9 best streets for outdoor dining in NYC this summer

In 2020, the great outdoors in New York has become one big dining room. The city recently designated 22 streets—with more to be added—throughout the five boroughs that will close off to traffic on weekends so restaurants can expand outdoor dining. The move is part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Open Streets plan, which aims to cordon off 100 miles of streets dedicated to pedestrians and bikers. Ever since New York entered Phase 2 of reopening and official delayed indoor dining for Phase 3 last week, more and more restaurants are setting up tables and chairs on sidewalks and streets. The new initiative allows more restaurants to set up shop on Friday nights from 5-11pm and weekends from noon-11pm through August. While the number of participating restaurants is constantly changing, here are the current streets where you can find some of the city’s best outdoor dining. Bronx: Arthur Ave. (E. 188th St. to Crescent Ave.)    Photograph: Belmont Business Improvement District   Little Italy in the Bronx has transformed the main thoroughfare of Arthur Avenue into a piazza-style space. You’ll find some of the city’s most comforting red-sauce restaurants from mom-and-pop kitchens. Chinatown in Manhattan: Doyers St. (Bowery to Pell St.) View this post on Instagram A post shared by Chinatown NYC (@explorechinatown) on Jul 4, 2020 at 6:18am PDT Chinatown businesses have taken an especially big hit in the current crisis (many closed even before the state mandated the sh

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

There’s never been a better time to dine outdoors in New York. The city has designated more than 20 of its Open Streets for dining on weekends (these are the 9 best streets, in our humble opinion), and more restaurants are going al fresco as indoor dining is on hold.  While many New Yorkers surely miss eating and drinking at their favorite restaurants and bars, let’s face it: we’re romanticizing outdoor dining at times. When you’re seated on the city’s sidewalks and streets, there’s a lot more going on than the gazpacho or gin and tonic you just ordered. Cars are honking and zipping by within inches of your wobbly table. The subway rumbles every time it passes underground. And yes, there are rumors that our city’s rats are hungrier than ever.  But these restaurants and bars have patios, backyards and gardens—many you would never know about—to make your outdoor dining experience a bit more serene. Claro   Photograph: Courtesy of Claro   Chef-owner T.J. Steele’s Oxacan-inspired menu is perfect for al fresco dining. The Gowanus restaurant’s patio has a pergola with dangling grape vines, and there’s even a wood-fired grill in back. During the week, you can get drinks and snacks between 2-5pm and there are two seatings daily for dinner at 5:30 and 8pm (reservations only).  Sauced   Photograph: Sam Hillman   A disco ball, a hammock and plenty of throw pillows. Yes, you’re in a wine bar. Sauced is as laid back as its backyard and is a perfect place to linger over a bottle of pé

Your best options for eating and drinking in the Rockaways this summer
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Your best options for eating and drinking in the Rockaways this summer

With beaches now reopened in New York City, you’ll probably be headed out to score some rays this weekend. But with so much changeover in recent months to the hospitality industry, it can be hard to keep track of which food spots are opened or closed. After a long day in the sun, scrambling to do the labor of figuring out where you can eat nearby can be draining. That’s why we’ve put together your guide to all things dining out in the Rockaways this summer. And, yes, even though there is reason to believe the virus spreads less effectively in the outdoors, these food businesses are requiring customers to wear their damn masks when placing orders. In the Rockaways, you might be able to get away with no shoes or shirt service, but, this year, certainly not without a mask. As New Yorkers seek out beaches—now that lifeguards are back on duty—for their next social-distanced hang, some might even want to make it a staycation. Stay tuned for more about The Rockaway Hotel opening there soon.  Rippers  View this post on Instagram A post shared by RIPPERS (@rippers86) on Jun 30, 2020 at 7:54am PDT Burger joint Rippers has opened for to-go bites at their boardwalk spot. Learn more, here.    Clara Cakes View this post on Instagram A post shared by Clara Cakes (@claracakes) on Jul 7, 2020 at 1:51pm PDT Chef, cookbook author and recipe developer Clara Polito focuses on vegan-inspired treats served at pop-ups around the Rockaways. Most

Eight tips for dining outside right now at NYC restaurants
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Eight tips for dining outside right now at NYC restaurants

So, you want to dine outside. After months cooped up in your apartment, you’re looking to roam. And your favorite restaurant just announced they’re dusting off the outdoor furniture and spreading out onto the city’s sidewalks and open streets with tables aplenty. As restaurants heed the safeguards of reopening amid the pandemic, there are a few courtesy mannerisms and unspoken social contracts to be considered on your side as well—and we’re about to spell them out for you. Before you hit up that restaurant’s blooming garden, patio or makeshift parking space, here are a few outdoor dining etiquette tips to keep NYC's dining culture alive, our beloved restaurant workers safe and you on the right side of history. 1. Patience is a virtue, don’t nag the stressed out staff. Nagging a restaurant host or hostess for a table isn’t going to get you anywhere near one. Remember that there are far less seating accommodations at many restaurants with indoor dining currently off limits. It's not their fault, so don’t be a jerk. 2. As you wait for a table, wear your dang mask. Don't wear it as a chin strap or with your nose peeking out either. Go all the way. Whether a sweet grandmother passes by you on the sidewalk or anyone at all walks in your path, you’re increasing the risk of getting someone sick without a mask, all while you leisurely wait to brunch. 3. Don’t ever stand in a crowd outside. Just don't! Don't be among the droves of customers openly drinking to-go drinks in the streets w

Here are NYC’s official guidelines for outdoor dining
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Here are NYC’s official guidelines for outdoor dining

Earlier this week, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that New York City restaurants and bars can reopen for outdoor dining in Phase 2 of reopening (indoor dining is still slated for Phase 3, which would be in July at the earliest). As the city approaches the first phase on June 8th, however, the state’s Department of Health also released guidelines for businesses looking to cater to New Yorkers antsy to dine and drink al fresco (it’s also worth noting that the policies are not clear when it comes to street vendors, such city’s popular food trucks). Here’s what we can expect to see: Six feet is the magic number With social distancing in mind, tables are to be spaced at least six-feet apart. But, tables can seat up to 10 guests in one party (who’s part of your pod?). Guests should still be able to enter an establishment to use the restrooms as long as the business is mindful of keeping patrons at a safe distance from one another. Businesses are also required to create working spaces that don’t put employees at risk. Also worth noting: the city council is pushing officials to expand outdoor dining on sidewalks and streets. Don’t forget a face covering Unless you’re seated at a table, you must wear a mask or you could be denied service. Employees are required to wear masks at all times, and they’re allowed to suggest that guests wear one unless they’re eating or drinking. Single-use is encouraged Restaurants are encouraged to use single-use items for menus and condiment containers.

These NYC restaurants are reopening for outdoor dining this week
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These NYC restaurants are reopening for outdoor dining this week

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 questi

Outdoor dining is officially returning to New York on Monday
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Outdoor dining is officially returning to New York on Monday

Restaurants across New York City had been eagerly awaiting for the go ahead on outdoor dining ever since Governor Andrew Cuomo announced yesterday that New York City could roll out Phase 2 of opening on Monday, June 22. Hair salons, many offices and more retail shops got the green light, but restaurants hoping to jumpstart their hobbling businesses with al fresco dining weren’t sure where they stood with the announcement.  At a press conference this morning, Mayor Bill de Blasio confirmed through executive order that restaurants can reopen with outdoor dining on Monday—with social-distancing practices.  “We want to get money back into the pockets of restaurants,” de Blasio said. “It’s time to move forward.” New Yorkers can expect more sidewalk seating and the city will also experiment with curb lane seating through Labor Day, where restaurants can set up tables on closed off streets. Of the 40 or so miles of streets now off-limits to traffic under the Open Streets initiative, the additional space may be converted to restaurant seating in July. Before the current crisis, restaurants needed a permit to offer outdoor dining, but the Department of Transportation commissioner Polly Trottenberg added that the city’s “Open Restaurants” plan will make it easier for businesses to apply for permits online with a self-certification application (existing alcohol licenses will also extend to the outdoor areas). Even before today’s official announcement, New Yorkers antsy for social intera

The Bronx’s Little Italy plans to open piazza-style outdoor dining on weekends
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The Bronx’s Little Italy plans to open piazza-style outdoor dining on weekends

There won’t be ornate Baroque fountains or towering obelisks, but if Little Italy in the Bronx has its way, mom-and-pop businesses along Arthur Avenue will recreate their own piazza for outdoor dining on weekends. The Belmont Business Improvement District is currently in talks with the Department of Transportation to approve closing a nearly three-block stretch of Arthur Avenue between East 188th Street and Crescent Avenue from Thursdays through Sundays (6-10pm except for 1-9:30pm on Sundays). There are 26 eateries—from red-sauce restaurants to delis—that would be able to set up more seating as they look to recoup lost business in the past few months. Across the five boroughs, this could be more common as the city strives to close a total of 100 miles of streets as part of its Open Streets plan, including certain blocks dedicated to restaurants and bars. Businesses are still expected to keep tables six-feet apart and mind public health protocols—it’s not meant to be a street festival like the Feast of Gennaro, after all. In recent weeks, eager New Yorkers have crowded sidewalks and streets as they attempt to resume life pre-lockdown. In some cases, officials have warned the public and businesses to mind safety measures or risk the government delaying the city’s reopening plan.   Photograph: Belmont Business Improvement District   Since Phase 2 of opening started yesterday, Maria Di Rende, the owner of Enzo’s of Arthur Avenue, has put outdoor tables on the sidewalks for the

New NYC bill would allow select streets be used for outdoor dining
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New NYC bill would allow select streets be used for outdoor dining

As Time Out New York reported a few weeks ago, New Yorkers will likely have a lot more outdoor dining options as more and more restaurants and bars prepare to welcome back guess. Recently, the city council passed a number of measures to aid restaurants experiencing the brunt of financial chaos during the current shutdown. One of those adjustments included waiving sidewalk consent fees because currently, the city functions like a landlord by charging restaurants for setting up tables on public sidewalks. Now, Council Speaker Corey Johnson and Council Member Antonio Reynoso have introduced new legislation to make that dream closer to a reality. The bill would require Mayor de Blasio's administration and the Department of Transportation to identify streets and plazas where restaurants and bars could expand their footprint—a boon for businesses, as many expect limits to be placed on the number of guests they can allow indoors once they can fully reopen.   "Normally, the process to have a sidewalk cafe is pretty complicated, and for smaller restaurants, it's often too expensive. This bill will bring equity to the issue by making the process more streamlined and straightforward," Johnson tweeted earlier today. There's a multi-pronged approach: identify the appropriate areas for increased outdoor dining, receive hygiene guidelines for servicing customers in the open air and have restaurants and bars that serve food submit an application. According to Johnson, the program would expir

The best NYC restaurants offering takeout near city parks right now
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The best NYC restaurants offering takeout near city parks right now

With Memorial Day coming up, you’ll likely be looking for ways to celebrate the long weekend outdoors six feet or more from anyone outside your pod. The current crisis can’t cancel a socially-distanced picnic, but it can be hard to keep up-to-date with which restaurants are still doing what (and at a time when it's increasingly clear that the future of NYC dining is edging toward more outdoor seating). For those of us looking to grab a bite to-go and enjoy our meals at a nearby park, we’ve got you covered with a guide to the best restaurants still serving takeout near some greenery. If you're headed to...Flushing Meadows Might we recommend: soup dumplings from Nan Xiang Xiao Long Bao   If you’re headed to...Prospect Park Might we recommend: baked beans, potato salad with ramps, pulled pork at more at MeMe’s Diner (sign up in advance for pick-up)   If you’re headed to...Central Park Might we recommend: a jollof-based bowl with efo riro (kale, okra and red palm oil stew) from the West African fast casual spot Teranga inside The Africa Center.    If you’re headed to...Maria Hernandez Park  View this post on Instagram A post shared by Emily Schultz (@empschultz) on Sep 29, 2019 at 6:40am PDT Might we recommend: tacos at Santa Ana Deli in Bushwick   If you’re headed to...McCarren Park  Might we recommend: a “sausage & mushrooms” vegan pizza slice from Screamers Pizzeria   If you’re headed to...Herbert Von King Park View this post on Instagram A