photo credit: Teddy Wolff
You probably spent your summer consuming spritzes and oysters on some very nice patios. Ever wonder what happens to those beautiful outdoor spaces once the cold, unforgiving grip of winter comes along? Some turn into storage, some simply become a staff smoking area, and some stay packed with happy, warm diners thanks to the addition of many, many heat lamps. If you’re wondering where you can dine outside without wearing your entire collection of Heattech, this is your list.
Wayla’s idyllic backyard has one of the most unique setups on the LES, with rubber plants, oversized wicker chairs, and outdoor rugs. It’s completely fenced in, with enough heat lamps to make it feel more like a living room with a vast skylight than a chilly outdoor excursion. And if all that isn’t enough to keep you cozy, the Thai restaurant’s spicy wok-fried shrimp, fried branzino, and whole lobster should do it. Wayla is one of Manhattan's best options for groups, because you’ll want to try everything on the menu.
If you’ve ever been to Olmsted, you already know they have an uber popular back garden full of Prospect Heights people who love fancy produce and locally sourced ingredients. But if you haven’t been since spring 2023, you should know they’ve renovated the whole space, installing both covered and uncovered decks, sofa seating, overlapping antique rugs, and more obscure microgreens than ever before. Under all those string lights and heat lamps, you’ll feel like you’re at the quaintest of Upstate wedding venues. Stop by the back for a drink, some seasonal snacks, or a full meal.
Nabbing a table at Via Carota is going to cost you one-to-three hours of your life, and that’s not including your actual dinner. We’d love to tell you that opting for one of their eight outdoor tables—in the dead of winter, no less—will save you from that fate, but alas, it will not. But the wait for this West Village Italian restaurant is always worth it, and if outside is your only option, you won’t actually have to risk hypothermia to try their life-changing ciao de pepe. Each table, enclosed in a sidewalk shed, has its own heating lamp, with the added benefit of giving your table a romantic pink glow.
In the summertime, Cafe Spaghetti’s charming courtyard in Carroll Gardens stays packed with people drinking spritzes under yellow umbrellas. The open-air backyard is also where the majority of the restaurant's seats are. During the colder seasons, they keep the umbrellas and baby blue Vespa around, but the space is enclosed in a glass structure with a retractable roof and plenty of heaters. They also have a heated structure out front that could easily be its own quaint little restaurant. Come by for some bolognese and ricotta toast—and go ahead and order that off-season spritz.
Rule of Thirds takes their outdoor seating very seriously. For one, there’s a lot of it. The Williamsburg restaurant’s “Winter Village” consists of a large outdoor courtyard lined with private, curtained bungalows made for groups of 6-20. Sitting outside also requires partaking in one of two seasonal prix-fixe dinner options, featuring things you won’t find on the regular, Japanese-inspired menu, like quail misoyaki and kitanai meshi. Between the plentiful overhead heaters and thick curtains, this is one of your best, and warmest, options for special-occasion outdoor seating this winter.
Golden Diner is a lot like a traditional diner, except that you’ll find a katsu cutlet in your club sandwich and Thai basil in your cobb salad. Located in Chinatown near the intersection of Market and Madison, it’s also a fun spot for people watching. Grab one of the yellow tables in the heated outdoor shed and make sure someone at the table orders the scallion milk bun breakfast sandwich.
The folks at Prospect Heights’ Faun know that their best real estate is the back patio, an enclosed yard with big planter boxes full of flowers, kitschy garden statues, and a bunch of tables teetering slightly on an uneven brick ground. Which is why the Italian restaurant is so well equipped to weather-proof it, pulling out big red umbrellas and highly effective heating lamps so you can still enjoy all of its charm, and your wood ear mushroom gnocchi, without freezing your ass off.
At this all-day cafe in Williamsburg, the best seats in the house have always been on their big concrete patio, surrounded by big trees, and walls covered in vines. For the winter, they’ve added extra coverage in the back and in the front dining shed, with plenty of hanging heat lamps to keep you toasty. Stop by for an $8 glass of wine at their daily Happy Hour from 4-7pm.