The Best Outdoor Dining In NYC
Whether you're looking for a nice backyard or a waterfront hang, here's where to have a meal outside.
Nowadays, just about every restaurant has outdoor dining. But if you aren't careful, you might wind up eating mediocre food three feet from moving traffic. The next time you want to have an impressive meal outside, use this guide. From a big backyard near the Brooklyn waterfront to a hidden patio on the Lower East Side where you can eat a whole fried branzino, here are the best outdoor dining options around the city.
It's pretty early in the season, so some of these patios are still covered and/or heated. If you absolutely need to feel a breeze on your face, be sure to check if the setup is open-air. Either way, you'll eat good food and get some vitamin D.
Want to feel like you're at a beach party in the middle of the Upper West Side? Head over to Tiki Chick. You can sit on a lawn chair on Amsterdam Ave and drink a piña colada while your neighbors walk by with groceries and dry cleaning. Food options include shrimp cocktail, a few fried chicken sandwiches, and a foot-long hot dog topped with chili—all of which cost exactly $5. There are two outdoor setups on either side of the sidewalk, and both tend to be full on weekends.
photo credit: Emily Schindler
We're fans of the Israeli food at Laser Wolf, particularly the kebabs, grilled trout, and bottomless platter of vegetarian mezze. But the view will always be the main reason to eat here. This Philly import is located on top of the Hoxton Hotel in Williamsburg, and all of the seating is on an open-air terrace where you can take in the Manhattan skyline. Even when the rooftop is enclosed during colder weather, it's still impossible to get a reservation. So plan a few weeks in advance.
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Grand Banks has opened for the season, which means it's officially summer in New York City. Before it gets packed with interns and tourists, grab a drink and some oysters on this historic wooden boat docked at Pier 25 in Tribeca. Most of the seafood entrees, like a lobster roll and a scallop salad, are on the pricier side (i.e., over $30), but a meal here is a fun, unique experience, and the view of the Hudson is obviously very nice.
The Bonnie’s backyard patio is equipped with some big picnic tables where you can sit with your friends and eat fried pickles, a smashburger, or some striped bass with brussels sprouts. Stop by for Happy Hour or bottomless brunch, or spend an evening here under the many trees adorned with string lights. This Astoria gastropub is really busy on weekends, so make a reservation if you plan on bringing a group.
We’ve heard the airy patio at Oxomoco described as “so LA,” but don’t let that deter you. Like the Greenpoint restaurant, the patio is sleek and airy, and there are plant boxes of cacti separating it from the street. Make a reservation for a low or high-top table where you can enjoy a frozen paloma, some swordfish tacos, and perhaps a few West Coast vibes.
Vinegar Hill House
This quaint restaurant in Dumbo (technically Vinegar Hill) has a fenced-in backyard with string lights, trees, and shrubbery. It's one of the best outdoor dining setups in the city, and you should stop by and eat some pasta or roast chicken out there. If you come for brunch, the must-order item is the sourdough pancake that's cooked in a wood-fired oven. It’s custard-like in the middle and might come with blueberries, apples, or peaches depending on the season.
photo credit: Noah Devereaux
In terms of outdoor dining, Wayla outshines nearly every other restaurant in the neighborhood. This Lower East Side spot has a beautiful back garden filled with plants, wicker furniture, and twinkling string lights. The next time you want to make it seem as if you know about cool things, bring a group here and share a bunch of Thai food. Order the crispy fried chunks of branzino, the slightly sweet noodles spilling out of a lobster’s head, and the crunchy noodle-wrapped meatballs.
photo credit: Chama Mama
You might not know it, but you want some khachapuri penovani right now. So head to Chama Mama in Chelsea, which has some of the best Georgian food in Manhattan. This place is ideal for group dinners because of their great shareable dishes like beef-and-lamb kebabs wrapped in flatbread and creamy megruli karsho. When the weather's nice, we suggest sitting in their large, covered backyard that's filled with huge potted plants.
photo credit: Teddy Wolff
Cafe Spaghetti has wonderful, back-to-basics Italian food, but our favorite thing about this Cobble Hill restaurant is the backyard. It has small round tables under yellow and red umbrellas and a mess of charming vines. This outdoor space is the perfect spot to park your imaginary Vespa and eat spaghetti pomodoro that tastes like your everyday spaghetti if it went through an episode of Rustic Rehab on HGTV.
photo credit: Noah Devereaux
Sugar Freak is a Cajun/Creole restaurant a block off the stretch in Astoria known as Little Egypt, but the big, often packed space feels like a New Orleans-themed party no matter what day of the week you come. Beads hang from the light fixtures, and the space is usually full of groups sharing seafood boils and jambalaya. They also have a covered front patio where you can people-watch and enjoy a bowl of crawfish étouffée.
photo credit: Carlo Mantuano
Silver Apricot in the West Village serves Chinese-American small plates like mini croissant-like scallion puffs with scallion butter, deviled tea eggs, and a grilled cheese with duck confit. The semi-secret back patio is a great choice for when you want to prove to a date that you still have the whole restaurant-choosing thing down.
On a scale from dive to fancy cocktail bar, Bandits sits right in the middle, with beer-and-shot specials and elaborate cocktails on the menu. The little West Village space is decorated like a fun wood-paneled diner from the 1970s, and there are a few outdoor structures that look like retro luncheonettes. Bring a big group to eat some loaded tater tots, deep-fried hot dogs, and a smashburger.
With its pastel pink arches and checkered flooring, Guevara’s patio feels like a party in Betsey Johnson’s backyard. The sidewalk seating area at this Clinton Hill cafe is first come, first served, and you can stop by and enjoy some plant-based dishes like an excellent breakfast torta with trumpet mushroom bacon. They also sell plenty of baked goods, and you can always pick up a new ficus tree at the plant shop inside.
From the excellent mole selection to its brightly painted sidewalk patio, Ruta Oaxaca takes the maximalist approach at every turn. And that’s exactly why we love this Mexican restaurant in Astoria. The electric pink hut out front has four walls, a periwinkle carpet, huge windows, and a sliding door that stays open at all times. Come enjoy some mole-covered enchiladas and tender short ribs, or grab a table at brunch and take advantage of the 2-for-1 cocktail special.
photo credit: Strangeways
This outdoor-only Williamsburg spot could win a garden show. The restaurant is essentially one huge covered patio surrounded by hanging plants, towering trees, and potted plants. Up front, they’ve got a row of picnic tables that work for small groups, and there’s a quieter corner in the back with a bunch of two-top tables. We're fans of the burger that tastes like something you'd eat at a backyard barbecue, but you can also get anything from mussel ceviche to braised lamb collar.
The patio structure at Thai Diner is a miniature version of the Nolita spot’s impressive dining room. It’s all-bamboo-everything, from the wallpaper to the chairs, complete with heaters hanging above every table and shiny checkered floors that’ll make you feel the sudden urge to do the lindy hop. Every New Yorker should strive to eat the egg sandwich wrapped in flaky roti (served at brunch), and also the creamy khao soi, fried chicken larb, and cabbage rolls stuffed with citrusy ground turkey and mushrooms.
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. This Gowanus spot’s fantastic Oaxacan food is currently being offered as a $80 four-course meal, which involves dishes like scallop aguachile and a memela with mushrooms and goat cheese. There's also a $48 three-course brunch. Make a reservation online, and be sure to book a few weeks ahead if you want to reserve a table outside.
photo credit: Emily Schindler
LoLo's Seafood Shack
The backyard at Lolo’s in Harlem is the perfect place to drink rum punch while eating large quantities of crab, shrimp, or other types of seafood. It feels sort of like dining on an oceanless beach, with a couple of picnic tables in a cabana-like structure, so head here the next time you want to sit outside and get peel-and-eat shrimp all over a paper bib.
photo credit: Miss Ada
The plant-filled back patio at this Middle Eastern spot in Fort Greene is surrounded by brick walls and murals of people drinking wine, and it’s a wonderful place for a dinner date. If there are no reservations available in the back, though, know that everything from the sweet whipped ricotta to the creamy hummus with lamb shawarma tastes just as good on their shaded patio out front.