Before the advent of city-sanctioned outdoor dining, finding a restaurant for a big group dinner outside was kind of a nightmare. But now, pretty much any space adjacent to a restaurant is considered fair game for dining - including busy sidewalks, an area that’s basically a bike lane, the middle of the street, or a massive parking lot that has been converted into a patio.
No matter if you’re looking for Korean BBQ and cocktails the color of Skittles in Gowanus, squid fried to order in Astoria, or Ethiopian platters you can share on a Harlem sidewalk, bring a big group to any of these vetted restaurants with outdoor dining.
When we want to BYOB with a big group and eat delicious Cantonese food, we go to Wu’s. This Chinatown spot moved a considerable amount of their big round tables to a sectioned-off part of the sidewalk. Start with a big vat of wonton soup for the table, then get some jellyfish, crispy chicken, and a whole Dungeness crab or two. Once you finish dinner, 169 Bar’s outdoor area is waiting for you a few doors down.
Rum and backyards make for a good combination. That’s partly why the back patio at Sally Roots is one of our favorite places in Bushwick. It’s loud and always full of people holding colorful rum drinks and eating shareable Caribbean dishes. We especially love the braised oxtails, and the intense garlic sauce that comes with the tostones. You’ll need to order seconds of that garlic sauce, mostly so you can pour it on every other dish on the table.
The combo platters at Benyam in Harlem work for at least two people, which means you can share some great Ethiopian stews and spend around $18 per person. Get the meat or vegan combo platters, which come with unlimited injera bread, as well as multiple orders of the kitfo - Beynam’s spicy, buttery steak tartare. Their sidewalk patio has some tall plants to separate you from the street a bit, and it’s a good place to drink a St. George or one of the other Ethiopian beers they sell.
If you ever need to plan a casual group meal with a bunch of people who appreciate smoked meat, go to Hometown BBQ in Red Hook. Hometown isn’t currently accepting any walk-up food orders at their restaurant, so you have to plan ahead of time. If you just want to walk by and pick up a beer or a cocktail, they have a cash-only takeout window. But for actual BBQ, it’s possible the wait time may be up to 150 minutes (you can check the current queue time on their online ordering page). They have a bunch of nice picnic tables for you to eat at once you get your brisket, several types of ribs, and lamb belly bánh mì. Bonus points if you take the ferry to get there.
Berimbau is the best Brazilian restaurant in the entire city (an opinion we often write about), and they also have a garden patio hidden behind their West Village restaurant space. Whenever we’re here, we order the bacon-studded farofa, smoky feijoada, a basket of stress ball-sized pão de queijo, and some not-too-sugary caipirinhas for everyone at the table. Groups of more than five people need to email email@example.com for a reservation, but they can accommodate up to 20 people in case your group dinner is more of a group banquet.
Although they might not be offering karaoke right now, this Korean BBQ restaurant in Gowanus still makes for an excellent celebratory group spot since the whole menu works well for splitting. So the next time one of your friends finally quits their job or finds a babysitter for the night, bring a crew of people here for silky soondubu jjigae, colorful cocktails, and Insa’s incredibly crispy fried chicken.
This East 70s Peruvian restaurant specializes in seafood and cocktails, like a classic white fish ceviche bathing in a zippy leche de tigre and a number of takes on the pisco sour. Plus, there are plenty of options for anyone who wants to share, including their lomo saltado and large-format cocktails. The dining room - with its wrap-around bar, indoor ivy walls, and a neon sign that reads “Tiger Milk Effect” - can feel like you’re at the club. If you’re seeking a slightly calmer energy but still want great ceviche, sit on the luscious, plant-decorated sidewalk patio (which feels secluded from the busy street).
If you don’t have fun surrounded by flamenco music, pitchers of margaritas, and huge bowls of moqueca or platters of fish tacos, consider the group you’re with the real problem. But assuming your friends are into those things, you’ll all love this Latin restaurant on Avenue C in Alphabet City.
Cafe Du Soleil is an Upper West Side French bistro with a long list of French wines in the $20 range and food that’s all buttery and delicious. If the idea of sitting on one of their sidewalk patio wicker chairs, eating mussels in a dijonnaise sauce on a cool summer night makes you all want to smoke a cigarette, we relate and that’s exactly why we love coming here.
This Greek spot in Astoria operates as part fish market and part restaurant, and there’s a big display in the back where you get to choose your own seafood and specify how you want it cooked. There’s always a big selection of things like snapper, porgy, shrimp, and octopus, and when your server delivers everything fresh from the grill, you’ll remember why simply cooked fish is the ultimate summer food. As an added bonus, this place is BYOB. The only real downside is that they get busy and don’t take reservations for their covered streetside patio, but it’s worth a wait.
Will you be the only one having a group dinner at this Italian-American spot in the East Village? Certainly not. That’s because this place has been making consistently delicious spaghetti al limone, wood-fired margherita pizzas, and chicken parm since they opened years ago. But there’s more seating at Lil Frankies now than there ever has been (since they’ve taken over the entire stretch of the sidewalk as well as a patio structure on 1st Avenue). Book in advance, especially if you’re looking to go on a Saturday night.
Garden Cafe in Inwood serves big portions of pastas and burgers in a casual space less than a block from the A train at 207th Street. The American-leaning food is all totally fine, but the real reason you come here is for the beautiful garden patio in the back of the restaurant. The outside space has room for several massive parties, and a partially-clear awning that still lets some sunshine in. Bring your family for brunch or a group of friends you haven’t hung out in a while.
In case you need to impress a group with somewhere new and cool, consider reserving one of the outdoor kotatsu tables at Dr. Clark in Chinatown. This Japanese restaurant focuses on Hokkaido specialties like thinly-sliced, marinated lamb jingisukan (which is grilled tableside and served with a mixture of crunchy marinated onions and bean sprouts). We’d recommend bringing a small group and supplementing the lamb with fresh seafood, like some chewy squid stuffed with uni-laced rice and a bowl of kaisen featuring assorted salmon and tuna sashimi, roe, cucumber, radish, uni, and steamed egg. Beyond the excellent Hokkaido meat and seafood, part of Dr. Clark’s charm is that you get to eat beneath a sparkling disco ball on Bayard Street, surrounded by someone who possibly starred in an HBO show in 2012.
This outdoor bar and restaurant at the West Harlem Piers has 4,000 square feet of outdoor space spread across multiple decks. Not to mention views of the west side of Manhattan, Jersey, and the Hudson River up to the GW Bridge. All of which seems a lot more scenic with cold drinks and bar snacks present. Baylander Steel Beach is a great spot for a group that’s interested in drinks and bar food, as opposed to a dinner where everyone gets their own dedicated entree. We especially like the peppery, perfectly charred cheeseburger, and the crinkle-cut fries with Cajun seasoning and spicy mayo.
Popina is located in the part of Brooklyn just west of Cobble Hill known by real estate brokers as the Columbia Waterfront District, and we love to bring a group here for a big dinner outside on their patio that has enough square footage to qualify as a NYC public park. Order some of their Italian dishes with Soouthern-American influence like anchovy toast layered in butter, a couple pastas (like spicy jalapeño spaghetti with bottarga or paccheri with pork sausage), and plenty of wine.
Szechuan Mountain House is a big Chinese restaurant in Flushing that specializes in Szechuan peppercorn-heavy dishes. No matter what you order, your meal starts here with complimentary homemade pickled cabbage and ends with cold mung bean soup. In between, we’d suggest getting the stomach-vibrating and delicious mapo tofu, as well as the pork belly that arrives at your table hanging neatly over a rack that looks like something you’d use to dry jeans. The Flushing location has a big outdoor tent set up for groups - and they also have outdoor seating at their sister location in the East Village, too.
Looking for something rowdy uptown? Corner Social in Harlem is offering outdoor dining on their sidewalk space every day from 4-10pm (on weekends they open at noon), and it’s pretty much always a party - especially on Saturday and Sunday when they have DJs. The menu here consists of dishes like crab cakes, hot chicken, and a green chile cheeseburger you may or may not get on your white shirt.