You can call it “dining under the stars” if you want. But the fact of the matter is that for the time being, going to a restaurant with outdoor seating is just called going to dinner. And while you have more outside dining options now than ever before, you still might find yourself growing bored or falling into a routine. Fortunately, the 19 places on this guide are here to help. From a Vietnamese spot where the chef grills your food in front of you, to a brand new bar on an aircraft carrier in the Hudson, head to any of these spots when you want an outdoor dining experience that feels unique.
There’s a game played at summer camps and college rec fields where people get inside inflated bubbles, and proceed to play sports or simply run head on into each other for fun. You’ll feel similarly protected in one of the domes outside Cafe Du Soleil, but instead of sweat and solitude, you’ll be surrounded by moule frites, wine, live jazz, and friends or a date. They block out rain, wind, and cold weather, and can be reserved through the restaurant’s website.
Before saying you’ve already picked up enough new hobbies during quarantine to add pétanque into the mix, we’d ask if designing treasure maps is really still doing it for you. We’d also ask if you know what pétanque is. As we recently learned, it’s a ball-tossing game similar to bocce that originated in France in the early 1900s. And now it’s something you can play with a group of friends while drinking bottled cocktails at Carreau Club in Industry City. Reserve a court for up to six people through their website, or show up in-person now through October 31, and try a muffuletta or any of the other snacks from the people at M. Wells.
Aircraft carriers are very large. While that’s both obvious and seemingly irrelevant, it’s worth mentioning here because it explains how this outdoor bar at the West Harlem Piers has 4,000 square feet of outdoor space spread across multiple decks. With views of the west side of Manhattan, Jersey, and the Hudson River up to the GW Bridge, it’s a great spot to day drink with a group. But make sure to try some bar food while you’re here, especially the peppery, perfectly charred cheeseburger, and the crinkle cut fries with Cajun seasoning and spicy mayo.
With a massive outdoor space where you can hang out with your dog and listen to live DJ sets, Nowadays is always unique by NYC standards. That’s even more so the case now, as they’re staying open until midnight during the week and 2am on weekends, and showing music-themed films every Tuesday and Wednesday night. However you decide to use this bar on the Bushwick-Ridgewood border, order some spicy margaritas and Japanese snacks, like wagyu burgers and pork katsu sandwiches.
Despite what someone who doesn’t know much about wine might tell you, a lot of great wine is made in New York. Whether or not you need to be convinced, you should check out Hound’s Tree’s new tasting room in Williamsburg. They’re serving a huge selection of New York wines, both from their vineyard on Long Island and others around the state. Sit in leather chairs surrounded by barrels outside on Bedford Avenue, and try wines ranging from North Fork chardonnay to Finger Lakes skin-contact pet-nats, all of which are available in 3-ounce and 6-ounce pours, as well as by the bottle. They’re also serving snacks like oysters and locally-sourced cheeses and charcuterie.
The Greens is the newest addition to Pier 17 at the Seaport District. The rooftop bar is made up of 28 individual mini-lawns that each include lounge chairs for up to eight people. Along with food and drinks from R17 like lobster rolls and frozen negronis, and lawn games that can be reserved ahead of time, they also have a 32-foott wide screen that streams major sporting events. You can reserve a mini-lawn through their website for any day between 11am-11pm.
Fraunces Tavern has been around since before America was, well, America, and if you’re into history, then you can see the room where George Washington gave a farewell to his officers at the end of revolution. In the likely event that you’re also into food and drinks, then you should know that this FiDi bar also has an outdoor set-up where you try any of their 200 whiskeys, 130 beers, and a bison burger or fish and chips. They also have live music outdoors every Friday through Sunday.
The massive rooftop at this Caribbean spot in The Bronx has a live salsa band, tons of palm trees and chandeliers, and a booth made from the back of an old-school Chevy. If all of that, plus mojo-marinated pork chops or plantains stuffed with Cuban spiced beef doesn’t have you convinced to make a reservation, perhaps their pitchers of cocktails and private igloos will do the trick.
Bohemian’s phone number is 212-388-1070. For the first time ever, this Noho Japanese spot has made that information public. Call them between 1-5pm to make a reservation for a table between 3-8:30pm (they don’t accept same-day reservations), and eat some wagyu beef tartare over blue cheese toast in front of the former home and art studio of Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat.
Shuko is the kind of place that allows you to choose between adding uni from California or Japan to your nego toro roll. And it still is, but without the usual $300 commitment. You can experience the same phenomenal fish at this Union Square sushi spot, but now you can opt for a $68 set menu, or order things like spicy trout rolls and toro sashimi a la carte. Reservations are available for tables Tuesday through Saturday from 3-8pm.
Claro’s big backyard full of trees, string lights, and aqua-colored patio furniture is always one of our favorite places in the city to eat outside. And currently, you can experience it in a whole new way. This Gowanus spot’s fantastic Oaxacan food is being offered in a $72 four-course meal, in which you can choose dishes like masa fried oysters, tamales with guinea hen, and mole negro with seared duck. Reservations are required, with tables available nightly from 5:30-9:15pm, as well as for weekend brunch from 11:30am-3pm.
Your friend from Santa Barbara may scoff, but drinking wine next to the vines where the grapes grow is a unique experience in NYC. And it’s one you can have at Rooftop Reds in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The reservation-only rooftop bar doubles as a commercial vineyard, with rows of grape vines growing a few feet from tables where you can look out over Brooklyn and Manhattan. Through their website, you can book a table for up to ten people from 5-9pm on Thursday or Friday, or from either 2-5pm or 6-9pm on weekends.
Friday through Sunday from 5-10pm, this Greenpoint spot is offering a $70 per person prix-fixe menu of Vietnamese BBQ dishes - like giant prawns and sliced sirloin with lemongrass - which are grilled for you tableside. Reservations for this three-course dinner are required, and can be made through their website.
This Prospect Heights American spot has turned its backyard into “Olmsted Summer Camp.” As you might expect from one of our favorite restaurants in the city, their take on camp food is a far cry from the sloppy joes and mostly-defrosted chicken nuggets you may have had as a kid. They’re serving things like wagyu beef corndogs, dill pickled fried chicken, and corn on the cob with yuzu kosho butter - Wednesday through Sunday starting at 5pm, as well as weekend lunch from 12-3pm.
No matter how many types of hops you can rattle off the top of your head, or how old you were when you memorized “Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots,” you’re going to come across beer and music at Bierwax that you’ve never tasted or heard before. This Prospect Heights beer bar has more than 5,000 vinyl records, and a huge selection of beers that you can order by the can or from the tap. Stop by any day between 4-11pm (12-11pm on weekends), and learn about some new beers and music at one of the first come first served tables in their backyard.
Bel Aire Diner
This American diner in Astoria has been around since 1965, and while we can’t say for sure whether or not they served a BEC with pancakes for buns back then, one relic from that era remains: drive-in movies. It’s $32 per car, but you can bring as many people as you want, and you can order from the very long menu of comfort food and diner classics throughout the show. You can keep track of what’s showing and ticket sale times on their Instagram.
Simply serving drinks on a boat isn’t unique. But what is unique is requiring people to take two other boat rides just to get on board, and then serving drinks with 360 degrees views of Manhattan, Jersey, and The Statue of Liberty. And on top of all that The Honorable William Wall has a BYO food policy, in case your preferred boat snack is something other than $4 oysters or a chicken club.
Some things about eating at Rahi will feel familiar, like finishing a plate of prawn curry or goat biryani, and realizing you haven’t said a word for 30 minutes. But some things will feel new, like the live tandoori grill station cooking lamb chops and chicken legs, and the curbside stand serving fresh kulfi to-go. You can make a reservation through their website, or walk-in, and if there’s a wait, get a margarita with chamomile-infused tequila from the outdoor bar. That’s new, too.
Battello has better views of Manhattan than any place in Manhattan itself. This Italian spot is at the end of a pier in Jersey City, with outdoor seating overlooking the whole west side of the island. While you’re taking in the views and eating carpaccio or squid ink torchio, you can enjoy some live music, which they have Thursday through Saturday from 6-9pm.