Tom Brady plays for Tampa Bay, outside is the new inside, and people are watching C-Span, but one thing hasn’t changed in 2020: New Yorkers are still going on dates. Whether it’s your first, second, or 254th time going out with someone, the outdoor spots on this guide will ensure things go well (or as well as possible).
When you’re trying to show that it’s a date date and not a friend date, it’s important to send certain signals. Flowers will do, out-of-place laughter might help, but a reservation at Aurora never fails. This Williamsburg Italian spot’s covered patio is decorated with lots of hanging ivy and more lights than a fairly large Christmas tree, as well as high walls and a roof that make it feel far removed from the corner of Wythe and Grand.
Taking someone to Lucali is always an act of love. Usually that’s in part due to your willingness to spend hours waiting in line just to put your name on the list. Now that they’re accepting reservations for outdoor seating, it’s just about the pizza. Fortunately, it’s the best in NYC.
If you have a beautiful century-old sailboat of your own, then kudos, and you don’t really need this guide. If you don’t, however, then Pilot is a strong substitute. Have some oysters, lobster rolls, and cocktails overlooking the Manhattan skyline from Pier 6 in Dumbo, and then take a stroll through Brooklyn Bridge Park.
The artichoke chaat with spinach chips and bone-in goat curry underneath a puffed shell of naan have always been more than enough reason to have a date night at Rahi. But in case you were still on the fence, this West Village Indian spot has added a live tandoori grill station, a curbside stand serving fresh kulfi, and one of the best fried chicken sandwiches in NYC.
Certain things are non-negotiable. It might be the side of the bed you sleep on, or the side of the family you spend holidays with. Or most importantly, it could be the incontrovertible fact that you and your dog are a package deal. Mermaid Inn understands that. They let your dog (or your date) be a third-wheel anytime, including during their daily oyster Happy Hour from 4:30-6:30pm.
With trees wrapped in string lights, yellow umbrellas, colorful flowers, and more colorful cocktails, Extra Virgin has one of the nicest outdoor dining setups in the West Village. Get a frozen Aperol spritz with your lobster ravioli or mushroom-crusted chicken at dinner, or if you’re someone who goes on dates before a socially acceptable drinking hour, know that they open every day at 11am.
Zona De Cuba
Think about a quiet candlelit dinner in your living room, and then think about the polar opposite. That’ll give you a sense for what it’s like at Zona de Cuba. 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. Book a table, or a private igloo if you’re going on a double (or triple date), and order a variety of empanadas or mojo-marinated pork chops with plantains.
If you’re into the idea of drinking wine from producers, let alone varietals that you’ve never heard of, then you should use this natural wine bar in Inwood for all types of dates. Pick up wine and locally-sourced charcuterie for a picnic across the street in Fort Tryon Park, go for discounted drinks and snacks during their daily Happy Hour, or sit outside for a $38 four-course prix-fixe that includes dishes like pan-fried trout with heirloom corn grits.
Drinking delicious wine from a long wine list is a nice way to start the night, and so is drinking delicious wine from no wine list at all. This French spot on the LES opens a few different bottles every night, and pours them by the glass to go along with dishes like grilled octopus and hanger steak with crispy, cheesy potatoes.
Outdoor seating two minutes from Times Square might not sound like an ideal spot for a romantic night out. But while Sushi Lab is about a block from three overly excited Buzz Lightyears, it’s also about a block up in the air. It’s on the roof of the Sanctuary Hotel, and the tables as well as seats at the chef’s counter are surrounded by hanging greenery and basket lights. They have expensive Japanese whiskeys and 15-course omakase sets, while also offering a full a la carte menu and $10 carafes of house sake.
It starts with “let’s meet for drinks.” Then comes “should we get a little food?” And barring any comments about telepathy or pro wrestling, someone will suggest, “let’s order some dinner.” Ernesto’s, a Basque spot in Two Bridges, is an ideal spot for any or all of those phases. Start with a couple glasses of Spanish pinot noir, share some small plates like cheesy chicken croquettes, and assuming you’re still enjoying each other’s company, order the strip steak with Port and foie gras sauce.
The views from the ferry that you should ride to get to LIC are impressive, and the guacamole frozen margarita that you should order as soon as you sit down at Casa Enrique is gorgeous. But those are merely opening acts compared to this Mexican spot’s chile en nogada. The pomegranate-studded cream on top looks like a bedazzled satin sheet, and the poblano underneath is filled with enough fruit to convince your stomach you drank a smoothie. Like everything here, it also happens to be absolutely delicious.
Any night that ends with you drinking pho broth straight from the bowl at Di An Di should be considered a success. But if you want a bit more pomp and circumstance, make a reservation for a table on the weekend, when this Greenpoint spot offers a prix-fixe menu of Vietnamese BBQ dishes that are grilled tableside.
Not counting that time we ate a bagel next to Tony Danza on a bench in the park, the back garden at Uva is just about our favorite outdoor dining situation on the Upper East Side. Sit in what looks like a Tuscan courtyard, and eat what tastes like delicious housemade ricotta gnocchi doused in creamy black truffle sauce.
The plant-covered back patio at this Middle Eastern spot in Fort Greene is surrounded by brick walls and murals of people drinking wine. It’s a truly wonderful place to have dinner with someone who you like, or who you want to like you. But everything from the sweet whipped ricotta to the creamy hummus with lamb shawarma is so good that you’ll be very happy sitting on their new street-side patio out front as well.