Summer is glamorous in theory. In practice, it can actually be kind of disgusting. The streets smell like it’s somehow always trash day, there are unidentified liquids dripping everywhere you turn, and the simple act of raising your arm up to hold onto the subway feels like you’re playing B.O. roulette. So if you’ve realized you’d prefer to witness the joy of summer in the city without the sweatiness, try any of the spots on this guide. Some of them are plant-filled, and some have floor-to-ceiling windows and great views. But all of them are completely indoors, and completely air-conditioned.
the indoor spots
Once a server came over to our table at Llama Inn and trimmed a plant tendril that was touching our water glass. Which is just to say that this Peruvian restaurant in Williamsburg takes horticulture (or, at least, the illusion of horticulture) very seriously. Almost every table at Llama Inn is near a window, and potted plants hang down from the perimeter of the room like some sort of shrub guard. If you’re looking for a not-formal but still-nice dinner where you won’t run through your deodorant immediately, this is the place. And, when you’re done, you can decide whether or not you want to go hang out in a less-air-conditioned Williamsburg bar - there are tons nearby.
By about mid-July, you might realize that spending the afternoon on a crowded rooftop is wildly overrated. If you come to Bar Hugo Rooftop in Soho, you can watch all the people who haven’t yet figured this out while you have a drink inside of their air-conditioned bar. This indoor/outdoor bar is at the top of a Soho hotel, and it’s basically just a glass box in the sky where you can drink. Come during their weekday Happy Hour for $10 cocktails, $8 glasses of wine, and $6 beers instead (it runs from 5pm-8pm on weekdays).
If you’re hanging out on the UWS but you don’t live there, your options for cooling down in public include dressing up as a delivery person and hanging out in a fancy apartment building lobby, or going to the Natural History Museum and sitting underneath the whale. But you could also go to Playa Betty’s on Amsterdam Avenue. This is a fun Mexican restaurant that’s very committed to its surf theme, which means surfboards, fake palm trees, and the kind of music that vacation resorts blast over their speaker systems. All in a controlled climate.
For kids in high school, prom proposals might take place in gym parking lots or on assembly stages. And for adults in New York, engagements might take place at Celestine in DUMBO. It’s a Mediterranean restaurant with floor-to-ceiling windows and it’s right on the water. You could definitely bring your family here for a nice meal indoors while you all look out at Lower Manhattan and try not to discuss climate change and the rising sea level.
Pig & Khao has a covered dining area that feels like a backyard without actually being outdoors, and you can sit here all year round. This is the ideal place if you want to have a fun group dinner in the summer that doesn’t involve smushing around a tiny circular table on a sidewalk while trying to artfully disguise your armpit sweat stains. The Filipino/Thai food here is all meant to be shared, like the khao soi with coconut rice and the BBQ ribs that you should pick up with your hands (maybe don’t wear white).
Royal Palms has all of the best features of a big outdoor bar with games, only there’s a thermostat and no one takes their shoes off. So plan a group activity day here and reserve some shuffleboard courts in advance (they’re usually hard to book day-of). If it were 2008, you’d probably bring a digital camera, take action shots of your friends with tropical drinks and shuffleboard push sticks, and then make a Facebook album with some sort of inside joke about shuffling as the title.
Aside from potentially waiting outside on their stoop until your table is ready, the Di An Di experience is a completely indoor one. But the space looks a little more like a plant boutique than most other restaurants, and there’s a nice skylight in the back dining room. This Vietnamese spot makes some of our favorite food in Greenpoint, including an excellent rice paper salad and beef pho hanoi. Do you really want to eat pho on a concrete sidewalk in 90-degree weather? Neither do we.
Santina is right next to the Whitney, but it gets pretty rowdy, so it’s not really the kind of restaurant you should bring your grandparents to after perusing the latest biennial exhibition. But it is the kind of restaurant where you should wear the shirt you just bought and order cocktails and Italian seafood. It’s pretty much a glamorous extension of the High Line, with trees in the restaurant and flower-shaped chandeliers hanging from the wooden ceilings. Also, the menu is completely gluten-free.
Another Meatpacking restaurant that you don’t have to completely avoid. The indoor dining room at Restoration Hardware looks out onto the rooftop area, and gives you essentially the same view of the East River - just without the sunburn or construction noises. If there’s a wait, you can hang out on some of the expensive furniture with a drink in hand (which honestly doesn’t seem like the best idea, but we don’t make the rules). The people-watching here is as important as the double-smash-patty burger here - people really like to be their fanciest selves and it’s excellent.
Between the broken AC in your office and the unventilated F train platform, you’ve reached your heat quota for the day. But, your friends want a rooftop and you don’t have the energy to fight them on it. Take everyone in your group to Make Believe on the LES, a rooftop bar with two distinct indoor and outdoor areas. Being inside won’t make you feel jealous of the party outside though, because there are big windows, and a disco ball hanging over a dance floor. On weekends, Make Believe tends to reach capacity, so we recommend making a reservation or getting here early the next time you want to drink a matcha or sake cocktail in a pink booth.
If you’ve spent any significant time in Soho, you’ve probably passed by an ivy archway on Crosby Street with people (tourists) taking photos of themselves in said archway. We can’t endorse the archway (or any of the food), but we can endorse getting a glass of wine in the indoor area of this strange boutique hotel. The best thing about it is that it’s never busy, so you can just relax and take in the sunlight through the glass rooftop. This is kind of a secret low-key drinks move, so use it wisely.