photo credit: Noah Devereaux
Where To Get A Low-Key Dinner With A Friend Outside
For those times when your only dinner plan is to be outside with the person of your choosing.
When it comes to eating dinner outside in the summer, you and some friends could probably sit on a stoop with a bag of chips and have a great time. But we’re here to remind you that loitering is illegal in the state of New York, and you probably shouldn’t eat Cheetos for dinner (tonight). So instead, head to one of these places where you can sit outside for a few hours during the season where you’re reminded that your friends will continue to like you, no matter how sweaty you are.
If you do summer like we do summer, you’re constantly in search of charming little spots where you can eat really good pasta without having to blackmail a senator to get a reservation. One of these places is Malatesta - a cash-only restaurant a block from the Hudson where you should sit on the sidewalk with some gnocchi and veal meatballs.
Cafe Du Soleil
Picture this: you and your friend are sitting on wicker chairs, and sharing mussels in a dijonnaise sauce on a cool summer night. Yup, there’s a decent chance you’ll reference this night at one or both of your weddings. Cafe Du Soleil on the Upper-Upper West Side is the kind of neighborhood French bistro where you might be seated next to a couple that’s been eating escargot here regularly since 2004. There’s a decent amount of sidewalk seating, and a pretty long list of French classics in the $20 range.
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Ask a Texan about eating queso in New York, and they’ll probably laugh, realize you’re not kidding, and then start speaking in a very stern voice. But take them to the little patio in front of Gueros in Prospect Heights, and they’ll back down. This spot is right by Prospect Park, and you can find some excellent nachos and tacos here. You can also find some $13 margaritas that come in pint glasses.
photo credit: Noah Devereaux
LaRina Pastificio & Vino
The backyard patio at LaRina in Fort Greene is so attractive that it’s almost disrespectful to other patios in the city. There are teal and navy tile floors, brick walls covered with ivy, and that thing called a pergola that your dad’s always wanted to install in the garden at home. The pastas range from $19 to $24, and that’s what we’d recommend you stick with during your summer evening outdoors. Plus, they can make any of them gluten-free.
Like the lifeguard workforce and tube top sales, Habana Outpost is in its prime during the summer. It’s one of our all-time favorite places to get a casual dinner outside, especially on nights when they play movies on a big screen. You can check out their full schedule here, and proceed to get excited about the potential of watching Never Been Kissed and He Got Game while you eat Cuban sandwiches and hot dogs.
Look by Plant Love House
The floral tablecloths and wall of plants make Look By Plant Love House’s backyard the sort of outdoor space that people dream about having when they first move to Brooklyn. (Before being disappointed as soon as they find out most backyards are tiny and used for garbage bins and bike storage). All of the Thai food at this Prospect Heights spot is ideal for sharing - like the Khao Soi (curry noodle soup) and the fried watercress salad with shrimp and pork.
Yatenga is a casual spot just a few blocks from the 135th Street 2 and 3 train station in Harlem. The menu is somewhat French, but also includes an excellent plate of macaroni and cheese, and there’s a daily Happy Hour when you can get $5 frozen margaritas and piña coladas. Outside, there a bunch of big communal tables where you and your friend who takes pictures of everything can sit while she counts down the minutes until the sky is perfectly sunset-y.
Sunny & Annie's Gourmet Deli
Need something even more low-key? Sunny and Annie’s is a bodega on Avenue B that makes an inordinate number of giant sandwiches, ranging from a pho-themed one with roast beef and hoisin sauce, to something called the Obama. Bring your food to Tompkins Square Park and have a picnic. Afterwards, you’ll be able to confidently assure all of your first dates that you are, in fact, fun, low-maintenance, and connected to Obama via a sandwich.
Up front at the bar, Sally Roots is a party. On the back patio, Sally Roots is also a party. Only with more fresh air and umbrellas. In both settings, you’ll get strong rum drinks, delicious Caribbean food, and loud music. If you’re looking for somewhere to host a low-key summer birthday party, Sally Roots is a great place to gather some friends and celebrate.
Similar to an amusement park or a playground in a rich neighborhood, there are many different places where you can experience the fun at Gran Torino. There’s a huge indoor space with big windows, there’s a cafe section where you can order Italian meats and cheeses, pizzas, and salads, and, finally, a backyard space with a bunch of picnic tables and its own bar serving frozen drinks. Come on a Saturday (or during Happy Hour which runs from noon to 7pm on weekdays) and it’ll feel like three different Williamsburg parties happening at once.
Unlike so many other sidewalk seating situations in Manhattan, the one at this Upper East Side Italian restaurant allows you and your friend some healthy distance from the pedestrians going to New York Sports Club or walking their goldendoodles on 3rd Avenue. The thin-crust pizzas, salads, and pastas come in really big portions here - and the complimentary garlic focaccia might be better than anything on the menu. Tell your friend to ask for more and stick some in her purse.
If you’re looking for a place in Long Island City where you can sit outside and split a thin-crust pizza and a kale salad with someone who you’ve split many pizzas and kale salads with over the years, the patio at Beebe’s is a good option. We like the fact that nothing on the menu costs more than $20, and that none of the other friends-getting-dinner pairs seem to know about it (this place stays very quiet).
Bricolage is in Park Slope, but once you and your friend from work are sitting on mismatched chairs on the quiet back patio, you’ll probably forget about where exactly you are and what emails you’re supposed to be responding to. Between the backyard and the really good cocktails, this Vietnamese restaurant is the sort of place you’ll want to come back to multiple times during summer. And that’s a realistic goal, since a lot of the food is in the $10-15 range.
If you spend time in Jackson Heights and generally aren’t afraid of or allergic to the sun, you need to know about Juanita’s. This spot makes excellent, giant Peruvian meat-filled sandwiches, and you can eat said sandwiches next to a fountain on their back patio, like the sort of person who normally eats their meals next to sculptures. Also - the walls here are painted lime green, and they’d would work well if you and your friend who went to art school wanted to, say, make a short CGI-enhanced film involving your chicharron sandwich. We’d watch.
If there was an award for The Best Thing Happening In Windsor Terrace, it’d probably be a very tight race between the new Nitehawk movie theater and Krupa Grocery. Except when you consider how good the American food is here, and how laid-back the secluded backyard feels. Okay, Krupa wins.
Pye Boat Noodle
We’d recommend this place for a weeknight dinner with a friend regardless of whether it’s pants-wearing or shorts-wearing weather - but this back patio is one of best places to eat in Astoria when it’s warm outside. There’s some nice shade, and a little garden in the middle of everything that might make you wish you had flower beds in your apartment. Get some boat noodles (which come with either beef or pork, in a broth with pork rinds, and meatballs on top) and some chive pancakes to split for the full Garden-Of-Eden-In-Astoria effect.
The newer location of Mekelburg’s in Williamsburg is pretty similar to the original spot in Clinton Hill, but it has one extra thing going for it: you can take your food and bring it across the street to Domino Park. The sandwiches - like one with wagyu roast beef on an everything baguette, and a banh mi with Peking duck and duck rillettes - are all worth ordering, but you shouldn’t ignore the other things on the menu, like the salt-baked potato with black cod and a lot of caviar. You know, just some low-key caviar for your low-key evening in front of the Williamsburg bridge.
There’s an old saying that goes “save your boring dinners for your boring friends.” Or something like that. Esperanto is not the place for boring friends. This Latin restaurant on Avenue C has great sidewalk seating, and it’s where you should try to convince your people that it’s a good idea to split a $55 margarita pitcher. Cross your fingers for live music and flamenco dancing.