We have a Hit List for restaurants, and we have a Hit List for bars. And we created this Hit List specifically for the summer - it’s the new outdoor spaces that make you forget about all those times you considered answering that Craigslist ad for a dolphin trainer just so you could move to San Diego. So pick a spot, and go enjoy the weather in a restaurant or bar where you’ve never been.
New to The Outdoor Hit List (as of 7/2/18): Oxomoco, Tacocina, Bocce Union Square
Oxomoco is a Mexican restaurant in Greenpoint from the people behind Speedy Romeo, one of our favorite places to eat pizza in Brooklyn. They somehow picked their building up and placed it far away from the busy street, to make room for a great front patio where you should drink margaritas and eat fancy tacos this summer. And the interior is even better-looking, with high ceilings and plenty of hanging greenery. There’s a big menu of cocktails, and food ranging from tuna tostadas to asparagus tacos to a $95 steak. But so far, we think the best thing on the menu is the wood-fired half chicken, which comes with pickled onions, crispy rice, and tortillas for you to make your own tacos.
Tacocina is a taco spot from the people behind Shake Shack, which would be exciting on its own. But it’s also located in Domino Park, a new outdoor space on the water in Williamsburg, and they have a bunch of picnic tables with great views of the river and Manhattan. So don’t be surprised if you wait in line for over an hour just to order. Once your time comes, get the fried mushroom and shrimp tacos and some small plates - like cheese chicharrones and chips and guacamole. The tacos are fine, but you’re really here to drink margaritas with friends on the water - especially if you have one friend who’s willing to get here early and wait in line for you.
If you spend time around Union Square, you’ve probably noticed the building with columns at the north end that looks like either a Roman bathhouse or an extension of Scarface’s Miami residence. As of this summer, that’s where you’ll find USQ Bocce. It’s a big indoor/outdoor restaurant just outside of Union Square Park with a lot of tables and a few bocce courts on the patio out front. They serve pizza, pasta, and crudo, all of which goes well with the negronis and spritzes that you will inevitably drink when you’re here.
The Polynesian is a hotel bar near Port Authority that is worth a trip to Midtown. Yes, you read that right. This tiki-themed rooftop cocktail bar from the people behind Carbone and The Grill kind of looks like a spot where Jack Sparrow would hang out if he ditched the pirate stuff and got a job in finance. There’s a big wraparound patio outside with views of the Empire State Building, where you can drink cocktails out of glasses shaped like skulls, treasure chests, and sailboats, and eat bar snacks like mini bacon bbq burgers that are way better than the $31 kobe beef sliders you’ll eat on other rooftops nearby. All of which is to say, The Polynesian is impressive - especially if you get a spot outside. Take a third date or some out-of-town clients here.
Broken Shaker feels less like a typical rooftop bar and more like a party in a nice, beach-themed apartment that you somehow got invited to. It’s on top of the Freehand Hotel in Flatiron, and there’s a big indoor area with wicker chairs and a couple of bars, along with a wraparound terrace where you can sit and enjoy the views. You can also just grab a drink and roam around, and absolutely no one will pressure you to get bottle service here. Because they don’t have it. But they do have overachieving bar food, like a burger with yucca fries and a tray of uni. Just expect a line to get in.
If Beebe’s were in Manhattan, you’d have as much of a chance getting a seat at one of the couches or umbrella-covered tables on the big back patio as you would on the L-train at 8am. But this new spot at the base of the Boro Hotel is on a quiet block in LIC, and even though it’s somewhat close to the F, N, W, and G trains, the waits never get too bad. Order some very good thin-crust pizzas and a $10 negroni on tap, and appreciate the fact that you now know about this place.
If you’ve been to Grand Banks - a bar/restaurant on a sailboat docked in Tribeca - then Pilot will seem very familiar. It’s owned by the same people, and it’s nearly identical - but it isn’t as well-known (yet). You’ll find it docked at Brooklyn Bridge Park in Dumbo, and you can make a reservation for your next date night or group outing . The whole space has fantastic views of Manhattan, and it’s a great place for wine, oysters, and lobster rolls outdoors. Just be aware that ferries pass by every 10 minutes or so, and they cause the boat to rock a little. We personally find this charming - but if you get seasick, you should politely decline any invitations here.
Cecconi’s is a big-name restaurant with locations around the world, but you’re coming to this new Dumbo waterfront location for the views. The tables on the awning-covered patio overlook the Brooklyn Bridge and the Manhattan skyline, and it’s a great spot to drink a negroni and pretend that you own a company that’s currently engaged in a hostile takeover. We probably wouldn’t recommend a full dinner here and the inside feels a bit like a Vegas club-restaurant, but their 4-7pm daily Happy Hour with lots of discounted plates and drinks is an excellent time to take advantage.
Every summer, there’s a pop-up restaurant in the big courtyard outside of the High Line Hotel in Chelsea. This year, it’s a seafood-focused place called The Golden Hour. It’s from the same people behind Maison Premiere, and, like that place, The Golden Hour has great cocktails and a lot of obscure oyster varieties with names like “Pink Moon” and “Duxbury Standards.” There are also a bunch of things like crudo, roasted chicken, and clam pasta - but that isn’t why you come here. You come to eat oysters and drink a frozen negroni in an outdoor space with more plants than your average greenhouse. When you grab a little table beneath a striped umbrella here, it’s easy to imagine that you’re at the beach - which is impressive, given that this place is just a few feet off 10th Avenue.
Come September, your friends and coworkers will be sharing stories of what they did over the summer, and at least a few of yours should involve a place called Elsewhere. This is a big warehouse venue in Bushwick that hosts ticketed shows, and it has a large rooftop that feels like the bow of a cruise ship that you’d actually want to be on. In one corner, there’s a big DJ booth that looks like it’s waiting for Daft Punk to show up, and the rest of the space is effectively a dance floor. So if the weather is anywhere between 60 and 90 degrees and you feel like moving your body to music, this is where you should be. There’s typically a cover (of up to $20), but you won’t regret paying it.
You’re responsible for picking a spot to meet friends for outdoor drinks on a Saturday afternoon, and the only thing they’ve contributed to your text chain is “let’s do something different.” Go to Island Oyster. You can snap pictures of The Statue Of Liberty on the short ferry ride from FiDi to Governor’s Island, then enjoy a view of downtown while eating oysters and lobster rolls at the big outdoor bar on the water. There’s a lot of seating, as well as a casual courtyard, and both are good places to drink cocktails or sparkling rosé with a big group.
Google Maps will say that you’ve arrived at Rooftop Reds, but you’ll look around the Brooklyn Navy Yard and find nothing but warehouses and construction sites. Then you’ll walk towards the back of the grounds, up the stairs of Building #275, and into a wine bar that’s also one of the most unique rooftops in the city. The huge space is packed with people playing cornhole, laying on hammocks, and drinking at picnic tables with great views of Manhattan. They grow some grapes on the roof, and all of the wines here come from their vineyard upstate. The only catch is that you can’t get in without a reservation - but Rooftop Reds is worth planning ahead for.
You need a nice spot to take your parents, but you also need to be outside because you suspect that you’re developing a Vitamin D deficiency. Bring them to Celestine, and sit at a table just above the waterfront in Dumbo overlooking the Brooklyn Bridge. The views are phenomenal, and the upscale Mediterranean food, like roasted eggplant with ramps and elderberry, is shareable and less expensive than it could be given the setting.
The roof of 1 Hotel in Dumbo has some of the best views of any bar in the city. The big, wraparound space overlooks the Brooklyn Bridge and downtown Manhattan, and there’s a reservation-only pool area where you can look out at the Statue of Liberty. Besides hotel guests, this is a popular spot for tourists after they devote half their iPhone storage to pictures of Grimaldi’s and the Brooklyn Bridge. It’s also only open Friday through Sunday, so there tend to be lines at the entrance of the hotel starting around mid-afternoon. But if you find yourself in Dumbo early on a weekend, then grab seats at one of the small tables, order some wine and bar snacks, and enjoy the incredible views.
Nargis is our favorite new casual spot in Park Slope. It’s not at all divey, but there tend to be kids in high chairs, and they also play Top 40 music from 2003. More importantly, the Uzbek food, which ranges from hummus to pumpkin-filled puff-pastries to spicy noodle soups with lamb, is all very good, and they have a big backyard with high walls and lots of trees. It’s also just a few blocks from the Barclays Center, so take advantage before you see Drake (or Phil Collins) this summer.
We don’t fully understand what goes on inside the Brooklyn Navy Yard besides unmarked buildings, security guards, and UPS trucks. OK, that last one is pretty self-explanatory. But something we are certain of is that very good whiskey is made at Kings County Distillery. They have a separate tasting room just inside the gates of the Navy Yard, and when it’s nice out, they fill their courtyard out front with picnic tables. It’s a fun spot to try flights of different whiskeys or cocktails (they make the mixers and grow the garnishes for each on-site).
The Lower East Side has no shortage of bars. What it doesn’t have a lot of, however, is outdoor drinking options. So the next time someone recommends Hotel Chantelle, you should remember Make Believe - a tropical-themed cocktail bar on the roof of the Sixty Hotel in LES with two outdoor terraces. It tends to reach capacity pretty early on weekends, so we recommend making a reservation when you want to drink a matcha or sake cocktail in a pink booth.