The Most Pleasant Outdoor Bars In NYC Right Now
23 bars where you can relax and enjoy fresh air with slightly fewer inhibitions.
New York City has a ridiculous number of bars. Dive bars, sports bars, cocktail bars, beer bars, bars with DJs, bars with bathroom mirrors that are particularly flattering, speakeasy bars inside of subway stations, and more. But you’re not reading this guide because you want to know about every bar in New York City. You’re here because you want to know about the most pleasant places to sit outside on a hot summer day, perhaps with an interesting glass of wine, an expertly-made cocktail, or a cold beer. Behold, garden patios, sidewalk cafes, and backyards where you can cross your legs, lean back, and enjoy fresh air with slightly fewer inhibitions.
photo credit: Briana Balducci
Cherry On Top
A good deal of natural wine-drinking happens on Bushwick rooftops, usually involving some combination of climbing a fire escape and a janky Bluetooth speaker. At Cherry On Top, things are a little more professional, though hanging out at this spot between the Dekalb and Jefferson L stops does feel a bit like being at a friend’s place. There’s a funky list of wines at reasonable prices (with plenty of glasses under $15 and bottles under $50), and a large rooftop with picnic tables on which to drink them.
The Rooftop at the Rockaway Hotel
Start planning a beach day, and be sure to include The Rooftop at the Rockaway Hotel in your plans. This bar has views of the Atlantic just a few blocks from the beach, with an indoor space on one side and an outdoor terrace on the other. You’d think a rooftop by the beach would turn into Spring Break pretty quickly, but the friendly service, bright white walls, and plants hanging from the ceiling make this place feel like a calm, beachside daytime spot, even when they turn the music up and the bar fills up towards sunset.
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We’re no stranger to drinking wine on flights—but only recently have we embraced drinking flights of wine. One explanation for this shift is “accepting our internal chaos” and a second is the outdoor Happy Hour at this French wine bar in the West Village with $13 wine flights (which involve three half-glasses of any wines on the menu). If you’re overwhelmed by the idea of choosing between all the options on the long international wine list, the servers are always happy to provide recommendations. Just know that there’s no Happy Hour offered on Friday or Saturday.
You know that feeling of finally making a friend with a killer backyard? Possibly one with plants and twinkle lights and a disco ball somewhere in view? Well, if you have no such friend (or if they’ve banned you from coming over three times a week), you can get that feeling in the backyard at Sauced in Williamsburg. Bring someone who loves wines that taste like kombucha, getting a little wild, and macramé chairs hanging from trees.
Rhodora Wine Bar
Rhodora in Fort Greene focuses on wine made using small-scale, natural processes, as part of the wine bar’s larger sustainable mission to produce zero waste. If you want to try natural wine from places like Germany, Austria, or a cave in Southeastern France, Rhodora has one of the best lists in Brooklyn. As for the food, the menu has a bunch of snacks like cheese, anchovies, olives, and pickles.
This West Harlem cocktail bar is owned by the same team that runs Harlem Public and At The Wallace, and it’s the kind of place where you’ll want to bring a date and sit until it’s far later than you realized. The back garden looks like a music video set, complete with greenery, string lights, tassel-laden throw pillows, and mismatched outdoor furniture. If that’s full, The Honeywell also has a sidewalk patio where you can watch everyone coming in and out like you’re the bar’s very own slightly-tipsy gargoyle. Make a reservation ahead of time here.
Ida's Nearabout is a neighborhood bar in Sunnyside with taxidermy, brick walls, dim lights, and lots of whiskey. They serve plenty of food like burgers, sandwiches, salads, and tater tots, and the cocktails—such as the passionfruit daiquiri and the lemon-basil-vodka drink—are surprisingly delicious here. We suggest you enjoy one on the back patio. Despite being about 50 feet from Queens Boulevard, the backyard feels quiet and residential. It's surrounded by walls covered in fake ivy, and there are around 10 tables where you can hang out and eat mozzarella sticks.
If you like the idea of sitting in the middle of an idyllic Boerum Hill street with a couple of high-quality cocktails and some very good seafood, try Grand Army. Their section of State Street is closed off to traffic all day on weekends, and they run Happy Hour daily (from 5-6pm on weekdays and 2-4pm on weekends) during which you can get a dozen oysters for $25 and $1 off wine by the glass and draft beer. Also important: Their cocktail menu is currently Spice Girls-themed.
A lot of summer drinking have elaborate tropical themes, but Jungle Bird is really just a comfortable cocktail bar in Chelsea where some of the taps happen to be shaped like golden peacocks. And—in a neighborhood where it can be hard to find a normal bar—that’s part of what makes this place recommendable. We like to sit on the streetside patio and order rum drinks the color of Skittles. Join us.
This casual Italian spot in Park Slope serves more than 100 mostly-Italian wines by the glass, including a big selection of orange ones. Their plant-filled back garden looks like something out of a patio furniture catalog, except you don’t have to pay $400 for a couple of deck chairs to enjoy it in real life. Bring a date and have an impromptu tasting of charcuterie, cheese, and olive oils.
Grand Republic Cocktail Club
Less than a block from Transmitter Park in Greenpoint, Grand Republic Cocktail Club is easy to miss, although you'll probably see some people drinking at the tables out front when you walk by. It may be tempting to plant yourself out there—but head inside, walk straight through the bar, and claim a seat out back instead. The small backyard has a handful of tables that are nicely spread out, and you'll probably be able to pet a dog or two while you hang out and enjoy a frozen painkiller.
Harlem Hops on Adam Clayton Powell Jr Boulevard serves a lot of hard-to-find beer, specifically from small-batch breweries and businesses owned by people of color. It’s a great place to bring anyone who likes to try new beer, and if you don’t really care about the different flavor notes in East and West Coast IPAs, you’ll at least appreciate the backyard with string lights and barrel tables.
Pier I Cafe
This seasonal outdoor Upper West Side bar has tons of umbrella-covered tables and open space right on the Hudson River at the south end of Riverside Park. It’s a good spot to meet someone for a summery cocktail or a bottle of wine in the $30 range, and they serve seafood like lobster rolls and fries covered in Old Bay seasoning. Plus, there’s no table service, which makes the whole place feel even more casual. You’ll be notified by a buzzer when your order is ready at the counter.
If you’re meeting up in Astoria, rely on Sek’end Sun for a casual-feeling drink far away from the street. They have fairly regular specials and events like BBQs, trivia, and drag brunch, which you can keep track of on their Instagram here. Come here during the warm weather and sit in the big backyard. There’s a big neon sign that says “Queens” just in case you briefly forget where you are.
photo credit: David Lee
Leyenda makes some of the best cocktails in Brooklyn, especially of the mezcal, tequila, and cachaça varieties. But this Cobble Hill bar also serves some very good Latin food, like aguachile, al pastor tacos, and enchiladas topped with thick mole. All of these things are best enjoyed on the small patio out back that’s quiet enough for you to hear the person across from you tell a story about how they’ve started cycling recently.
Ramona is permanently closed
It’s hard to pinpoint our favorite thing about Ramona in Greenpoint. Is it the barrel-aged negroni (which is one of the best in the city)? Maybe it’s the sidewalk seating set-up on Franklin Street that gets fun-busy on weekends? Or could it be the frozen cocktails (such as the painkiller that you can share with someone who accepts you at your best and worst). The real answer: We love this bar for all of these factors combined.
Zona De Cuba
The view from your living room includes a brick wall and a few rain gutters, so it’s possible you’ve been looking for a fun bar with a view. Zone de Cuba has a live salsa band, plenty of well-spaced tables, and more life-size props than a Disney ride. This huge Caribbean spot in the Bronx has a terrace where you can drink daiquiris and snack on things like yuca frita and ceviche underneath a palm tree.
Each and every time we drink in this Clinton Hill bar’s backyard, we hear someone say “Huh, I had no idea this was here!” The relatively calm back patio feels a lot more private and secluded than the sidewalk seating out front. Get something frozen or a glass of natural wine and hang out with a friend you haven’t seen in a while (or a good book).
Outside of Oddly Enough in Bed-Stuy, you'll find a big structure in the street. That structure is filled with tables and chairs, and it's where you should drink a biodynamic wine from Slovakia this summer. There are also plenty of indoor tables at this "queer space for all" on Tompkins Ave, and there lots of cocktails and small plates as well. Bring one or two friends, and hang out for an entire evening while you snack on whipped ricotta.
Orchard Street on the Lower East Side tends to be a parade of public drunkenness. Part of the allure of this wine bar’s sidewalk patio is that you get courtside seats to the surrounding scene, while sipping a glass of delicious, potentially unusual natural wine. Even if you know next to nothing about wine, the condensed list of options and friendly staff will help you find something exciting without paying a ton of money—most of the glasses cost around $14.
We don’t mean this as an insult to the land above 59th Street, but The Owl’s Tail is the sort of energetic cocktail bar you expect to find downtown. They serve top-notch cocktails, you might see people drinking espresso martinis with friends, and the walls are decorated with murals. Bring a date or meet some friends here for the start to a night out. If anyone gets hungry, try a few small plates like charcuterie boards and oysters.
Vanderbilt Avenue in Prospect Heights has an inordinate amount of great places to eat: Olmsted, Oxalis, Faun, Chuko, Maison Yaki, and more. But of all of the spots on this stretch just north of Prospect Park, LaLou is the best place for a low-key wine-and-snacks meal. The long wine list is mostly made up of natural wines, with a big selection of varietals from famous regions in France and Italy, as well some options from lesser-known regions. As a bonus, Vanderbilt is closed to traffic on weekends, so you can eat in the middle of the street.
Located on the ground floor of a condo building, Ardesia is one of the best places to drink wine in Hell’s Kitchen (especially at a tiny wooden table on their sidewalk patio). They have plenty of options by the glass, as well as bottles mostly in the $50-60 range. There are also a few cocktails you can choose from, including a few spritzes. If you live in the area and drink wine as if it’s a personality trait, check out Ardesia’s wine club.