The Best Restaurant Patios In NYC guide image

NYCGuide

The Best Restaurant Patios In NYC

Whether you're looking for a nice backyard or a waterfront hang, here's where to have an outdoor meal.

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 garden in Nolita where you can eat next to planters full of produce, here are the best patios around the city.

THE SPOTS

Cafe Spaghetti review image
7.8

Cafe Spaghetti

$$$$

126 Union St, Brooklyn
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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.

Thai Rock is part Thai restaurant and part live music space with a huge patio on the water near the Cross Bay Bridge, making it one of the best hangs in the Rockaways. Stop by for a show and some lychee martinis adorned with fruit and flower petals, and you’ll feel like you’re much further away from the rest of the city than you are (even while you see it in the distance across the bay). 

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The Bonnie’s backyard patio is equipped with picnic tables long enough for six to share piles of rather large shishito peppers or a few slices of the best zucchini bread in Astoria. Stop by for Happy Hour or bottomless brunch, or spend an evening here under the many trees adorned with string lights. This place is really busy on weekends, so make a reservation ahead of time 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 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, a spring pea tlayuda, and perhaps a few West Coast vibes.

Do you have some out-of-towners you need to impress? Take them to the The Fulton, a massive, two-floor Jean-Georges restaurant in Fidi with a giant sea monster mural and an outdoor space with views of the Brooklyn Bridge. We love the burger here, but since this place has some of the best seafood in the city, you should also have some octopus and seared diver scallops on your table.

This quaint restaurant in Dumbo (or, technically, Vinegar Hill) has one of the best outdoor dining setups in the whole city. Order their chicken liver mousse, cast iron chicken, or one of their rotating pastas. 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 strawberries, apples, or peaches depending on the season. (No matter what it comes with, just get it.) We love coming to this place on a nice day right as they open and grabbing a table in the backyard.

photo credit: Noah Devereaux

Wayla imageoverride image
8.0

Wayla

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.

Popina is an Italian-American restaurant in the part of Brooklyn just west of Cobble Hill known by real estate brokers as the Columbia Waterfront District, and the backyard here is about the size of a public park. That’s a slight exaggeration, but it’s extremely large with a bunch of picnic tables and a bocce court in one corner. If you’re planning a get-together outside, it’s perfect for that. Especially if you want to eat meatballs and arancini, and drink tons of great wine. 

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.

If we could only pick one place where we could bring a date for drinks and oysters in Brooklyn, we’d choose Maison Premiere every time. Come here for dishes like spicy clam toast and cod brandade as well as fancy craft cocktails made by bartenders wearing suspenders. If you want to feel like you're in the middle of a tropical rain forest instead of Williamsburg, request a table on the amazing back patio.

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.

The Musket Room used to focus on New Zealand cuisine, but now this Nolita restaurant serves dishes like king salmon with furikake, yuba with favas, and spring pea with king crab. They have some tables in their garden out back where they grow much of their greens and edible flowers, and the setting will make you feel like you’re at some wealthy person's upstate retreat.

Even if you spend a lot of time in Williamsburg, it’s entirely possible you’ve never heard of Maracuja—a bar on Grand Street (on the same block as The Four Horsemen) with a hidden back patio overrun by plants and wooden benches. They have a large selection of natural wines and serve food like crab cake sliders, carnitas tacos, and sea bass crudos. Don’t settle for the sidewalk patio—you want to be hanging out in the secluded backyard.

Casa Enrique in Long Island City has a ton of outdoor seating on the sidewalk with plenty of plants and heaters. We suggest building your order here around mezcal and dishes like chicken enchiladas in mole sauce, ceviche bathed in lime juice and serrano peppers, and crab tostadas. This place is one of our all-time favorite restaurants, and it's worth a trip from any neighborhood.

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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 cofit. 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.

Checkered floors, colorful banquettes, and globe lighting are consistent fixtures inside the dining area and outdoors on Bandtis’ open-air patio, which deserves some kind of design award. On a scale from dive to fancy cocktail bar, this place sits right in the middle, with beer-and-shot specials and elaborate cocktails on the menu. While you’ll definitely need a reservation to hang out here on weekends, it’s a great place to go with a big group and eat the type of food you’d expect at a kitschy diner, including four different kinds of loaded tater tots, deep-fried hot dogs, and a smashburger.

From the pastel pink arches to the checkered flooring, eating lunch on Guevara’s patio feels like attending a party in Betsey Johnson’s backyard. This sidewalk seating area is first come, first served, and you can stop by and enjoy some plant-based Cuban dishes like an excellent breakfast torta with trumpet mushroom bacon. Or you can always pick up a new ficus tree at the plant shop inside.

Blume imageoverride image

Blume

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The covered patio at Blume feels like a mini ski lodge with decor that changes with the seasons. So you should keep this Austrian wine bar in mind for a fun date or group hang. It’s tucked below a sandwich shop on the UES, and if this sounds familiar, you might recall this spot’s Alpine-ski lodge alter-ego Hutte, which used to operate out of the same space. Stop by for oysters, steak tartare, or a lobster roll.

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.

This outdoor-only Williamsburg spot looks like it could win a garden design competition 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, plus there’s a quieter corner in the back with a bunch of two-top tables.

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 at brunch, or the creamy khao soi, fried chicken larb, and cabbage rolls stuffed with citrusy ground turkey and mushrooms at dinner.

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 $75 four-course meal, which involves dishes like octopus tostadas and mole negro with seared duck. There's also a $45 three-course brunch. Make a reservation online, and be sure to book a few weeks ahead if you want to reserve a table outside.

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, so head here the next time you want to sit outside and get peel-and-eat shrimp all over a paper bib.

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 to have dinner with someone you like. 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.

This Japanese spot in Chinatown has everything from tabletop jingisukan grills to french fries with uni and anchovies. But what really sets Dr. Clark apart are the eight outdoor kotatsu tables where you can sit with a group of three to six people under a roof and a disco ball. These tables are reservation-only, so make sure to check out their website ahead of time.

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