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 the 23rd Street subway station, 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 and slightly fewer inhibitions.
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 $12 wine flights (where you get 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 make recommendations. Just know that there’s no Happy Hour offered on Friday or Sunday.
You know that feeling of finally making a friend with a killer backyard? Possibly 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), we suggest heading to the backyard at Sauced in Williamsburg. There’s no official menu at this wine bar. Instead, you go up to the bar where the bartender will ask what kind of wine you generally like, and then pour a few tastes of the 20-odd wines available by the glass based on your interests. Bring someone who loves wines that taste like kombucha, getting a little wild, and macramé chairs hanging from trees.
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 conservas, snacking vegetables, and cheese (as well as a month-long chef residency from Fidel Caballero Thursdays through Sundays until June 13th).
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. In case that’s full, know that 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.
If you like the idea of sitting in the middle of an idyllic Boerum Hill street with a couple of high-quality cocktails with some very good seafood, then you should try Grand Army in Boerum Hill. Their section of State Street is closed off to traffic every day until 8pm, and they run Happy Hour daily(from 4-6pm on weekdays and 2-4pm on weekends) where you can get a dozen oysters for $25 and $1 of wine by the glass and draft beer. Also important: all of their summer cocktails are currently Nicholas Cage-themed. We’re not kidding.
You might expect a lot of things about a Williamsburg wine bar owned by the frontman of a very famous, very cool band. You might expect the garden patio design to look like something you would see in a Kinfolk magazine feature, for example. Or the wine list to be full of obscure bottles that taste like anything from an adult juice box to a barnyard democracy where chickens call the shots (in a good way). While those things are all true, the Four Horsemen’s staff here also happen to be full of excellent recommendations, be it wines or any of the rotating menu of creative small plates. Consider all of these to be reasons to try The Four Horsemen as soon as you can (probably by making a reservation ahead of time, since it gets busy).
A lot of summer drinking spots deem themselves to be tropical-themed, but in Jungle Bird’s case, it’s really just a comfortable cocktail bar in Chelsea where some of the taps are shaped like golden peacocks. And that’s what makes it recommendable - especially in a neighborhood very short on normal bars. We like to sit on their streetside patio and order rum drinks the color of Skittles. Join us.
This natural wine bar in the East Village recently expanded their outside area to fit even more people. You’ll probably have an easier time finding seating here than at their (also excellent) sister bar Ruffian, whether you get a table underneath an umbrella on the sidewalk or in their street-dining hut. Kindred’s selection of wine changes pretty often, and the last time we were here we drank a glass of sparkling wine from a small producers’ last bottles ever made. That made us feel special and fancy, despite sweating profusely while we drank it on a sidewalk. Also, get an order or their crispy chickpeas to snack on while you drink.
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.
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.
The era of sidewalk bars has basically rendered speakeasies defunct (at least temporarily). Sure, there are times when the whole “walk through an unmarked door to go to a secret second-floor bar” thing is fun. But the fancy gin and shochu-shiso drinks at Angel’s Share are so good - and their sidewalk patio is so charming - that you won’t miss the speakeasy aspect of this Japanese cocktail bar. If you’re making drinking plans, you can always book a reservation ahead of time for their outdoor area.
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. Plus, they serve classic seafood like lobster rolls and fries covered in Old Bay seasoning. 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 $8 drinks during 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 out here that says “Queens” just in case you briefly forget where you are.
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 pork tacos with pineapple and enchiladas topped with thick mole. All 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.
When anyone asks us about where they should drink in Tribeca, Weather Up is the first place we recommend. It’s popular but never overcrowded, and they now have a sidewalk patio on Duane Street with occasional live music. Get a cocktail and some castelvetrano olives (the superior snacking olive).
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 recently expanded sidewalk set-up on Franklin Street that gets fun-busy on weekends? Or the five different kinds of frozen cocktails (including a large-format twist of a moscow mule and watermelon rose 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.
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 socially distant 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. And if you want a little bit of privacy with a group of friends, they also have individual pods you can reserve for private groups.
Finding a bar near Grand Central that qualifies as “outside” and “nice” can be a torturous activity. Skip all of the ferocious Googling and try Raines Law Room’s semi-hidden outdoor garden in the back of their bar at the William hotel. It has hanging vines and patio furniture galore where you can drink a few excellent cocktails outside. When you arrive, request a seat on the low-key patio (or make a reservation for the terrace ahead of time) and you can temporarily pretend that you don’t live in a city of 8.4 million people.
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!” They’re not wrong. 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 with a friend you haven’t seen in a while (or a good book). Also, we recommend stopping by on Tuesday nights when they usually have live music outside.
Dutch Kills in Long Island City has a covered patio with separated tables you can book ahead of time to avoid waits (and therefore you can get home in time to watch multiple episodes of Selling Sunset and Curb Your Enthusiasm). They’re fairly serious about cocktails here, so that’s what you should be ordering. The house and rotating seasonal drinks both use housemade mixers, so we’d recommend ordering a duo. Normally the drinks cost $16 each, but during Happy Hour (Sunday-Thursday from 4-7pm) you can get all the house drinks for $12.
Orchard Street on the Lower East Side has remained a public parade of drunkenness throughout the entirety of the pandemic. So now that restaurant and bar restrictions have been lifted, the temperature regularly surpasses 75 degrees, the area feels even rowdier. 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 familiar varietals from famous regions in France and Italy, as well as lesser-known options of which we always botch the pronunciation. As a bonus, Vanderbilt is closed to traffic on weekends now, so you can eat directly 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. If the allure of frosé calls out to you, know that that’s an option too. Also if you live in the area and drink wine as if it’s a personality trait, check out Ardesia’s relatively new wine club.
This is a consistently crowded restaurant in a brownstone on the Upper East Side that works for everything from date nights to fun group dinners, but they also serve really good cocktails. Try a classic martini or something with strawberry and black pepper mezcal. If wine and beer are more your speed, you’ll also find quality wines by the glass and beers on tap. You wouldn’t spend the whole night here, but the front garden is a solid option for after-work drinks or low-commitment dates. Things get busy here, so we’d recommend making a reservation or coming on the early side.