For about half the year, date night means finding a dark restaurant where you can hide from the cold and talk to someone about the best types of socks to keep your feet warm. But in the summer, you should be sitting outside - preferably in a place with strings of lights, minimal mosquitos, and at least one tree that you can carve your initials into. Here’s where to do that.
The back patio at Celestine sits right above the waterfront in Dumbo, and the view will make your date suddenly feel open to the idea of going on another date with you. While you take in a couple of bridges, the East River, and Manhattan, you can eat a big plate of Mediterranean mezze. The food is a little bit pricey - but this place isn’t too stuffy, so it’s not like you’ll have to find whatever you wore to prom and put that on before you come here.
One way to show someone that you care is to plan a date on a boat. It sends the message that you might be willing to jump in the water to save this person, and also boats are sort of romantic. So go to Pilot. It’s a restaurant/bar on a boat anchored off Pier 6 in Brooklyn Bridge Park, and it’s a great spot for some wine and oysters. If you’re familiar with Grand Banks, it’s pretty much the same thing (in a different river), and it has a very nice view of Manhattan.
The backyard at Claro has string lights and vines that hang overhead, and there’s a big outdoor oven where they make their tortillas. They also don’t crowd the space with too many tables, so you won’t have to listen to a bunch of other people on dates having conversations that are worse than yours. You should eat outdoors here at some point over the summer, and, when you do, try as many of their Oaxacan-inspired dishes as possible. Especially the molé.
The rooftop at City Vineyard is enormous, and, when it’s warm out, you’ll find a lot of big groups there passing bottles of wine back and forth. But if you’re out with a date, you should get a table on the ground-floor patio. It still has a view of the Hudson River, but it’s a little more mellow. You can eat a full dinner here, but we suggest you stick to smaller things and drink a bottle of something from the 30-page wine list.
At any given time, at least 50% of the people at Uva are on dates. That’s because it’s Italian, and Lady and the Tramp remains very influential. It’s also because the inside is decorated like a little house in rural Italy. But when it’s warm out, you should be sitting on the back patio that’s open-air in the summertime. If you can’t get a seat back there, try the sidewalk café out front.
Your date will be impressed that you know of Ammazzacaffe. It’s a fairly serious Italian operation in Williamsburg that doesn’t get as busy as it should, and it’s perfect for when you need a last-minute place to eat with someone you might want to introduce to your parents. You could walk right by without noticing it, but the backyard is one of the best outdoor spaces in the area, and they have great pastas, skewers, and larger things like duck and roasted pork.
If you’ve lived in this city for a significant amount of time, you probably have a go-to date spot in the West Village. Chances are, it isn’t Entwine - because a lot of people don’t know about this place. It’s a little wine bar in the quiet part of the West Village near the Hudson River, and it happens to have a great back patio. The dinner menu isn’t too extensive, but you can snack on various meats and cheeses while you drink your wine.
Mr. Dips isn’t fancy. It’s just a vintage Airstream trailer in Williamsburg where you can pick up a burger, some waffle fries, and soft serve. But you can get that soft serve with a salted peanut butter candy shell, and the trailer is hidden in a grassy park that’s up a flight of stairs beneath the William Vale Hotel. Bring a blanket, and you and your date can share some cheese-covered fries on the grass while you stare at the Manhattan skyline and say cliché things about New York.
It’s your third date with someone, and you want to communicate to this person that you’re interested in more than just making out on their stoop. Take them to LaRina. This Clinton Hill spot has one of the best backyards for eating pasta, and it isn’t too hard to get a table here. Order the lasagna, save room for panna cotta, and remember to tell your date something like, “I like your face and personality.”
Unless you’ve been seeing someone for several years, a date at a pub generally isn’t the best idea. But when the pub has tiled floors, exposed brick walls, potted plants, and a big backyard with picnic tables and umbrellas, it just might work. That’s what The Bonnie is like, and it also has a big dinner menu with everything from burrata and steak to tacos and cheese fries. And since this is consistently one of the busiest places in Astoria, you can probably meet someone else here if your date doesn’t go well.
The view at Westlight will make you want to take several photos and then live inside one of those photos. So if you need to impress someone, or if you’re just tired of hanging out in places where you can see pedestrians and overflowing trash cans, plan your date here. It’s the rooftop at the William Vale Hotel in Williamsburg, and you can (and should) make a reservation. There are some small plates on the menu, but it isn’t the best place for a full dinner, so plan on having a few cocktails and maybe some burrata.
Sel Rrose is a bar where you can actually sit down. That might not sound very remarkable, but when you’re on a date, this is important. You can also eat a full dinner here, or can just have a couple of drinks (or stop by for oyster Happy Hour). The space looks like a semi-industrial art gallery, there are a bunch of tables on the sidewalk when it’s warm out, and it’s the perfect spot for when you’re going out with someone who’s slightly cooler than you are (but you don’t want to look like you’re trying too hard).
Lilia has a good amount of cafe seating right on the sidewalk. Which means that you can bring a date here, then point to the crowds waiting by the front door in order to prove how hard it is to get a reservation here. And the food will only make you seem more impressive. Get some cacio e pepe fritters, some pasta, some grilled clams, and (we’ll rarely tell you this) don’t fill up on dinner. You should get desserts here. Also, make sure you really like the person you’re bringing because A) this place isn’t cheap and B) you’ll want to fully enjoy these memories.
THEP is a solid Thai spot on the Upper East Side with a big indoor space full of Edison bulbs and hanging plants, and there’s a good amount of sidewalk seating when it’s warm outside. The menu is also huge, so you and your date can have some curry, noodles, a whole fish, or ten sides of rice and some Thai iced tea.
Bar Primi is on a busy corner in Noho, and it has a bunch of sidewalk seating. This means that you can sit outside and can some people watching done with this person you’ve chosen to date, but it also means that someone you know might walk by and recognize you. So if you’re currently dating multiple people, this isn’t the best choice. But if you aren’t dating multiple people, stop by for some very good pasta.
If you’re only getting drinks and trying to play it cool, try Covenhoven in Crown Heights. It’s a neighborhood beer with a huge selection of beer, it’s about as casual as a college dorm room, and it has a nice backyard with some patio furniture. When it’s warm out, that’s a great spot to sit and discuss whatever obscure beers you’ve chosen to drink. It also feels a little bit like a lawn in the suburbs, so it’s a good place to close your eyes and imagine what it would be like to raise some kids in Westchester with this person.
This place is French, but you don’t have to wear a jacket here. It’s lively, good-looking, and there’s outside seating. Reservations at Sauvage also aren’t too hard to come across, so if you make plans last-minute and want to seem like a real adult human being, this is a solid choice. The outdoor seats here are on the sidewalk, so it’s a good place to eat some steak while you stare at pedestrians who aren’t eating steak.
Evelina is an overachieving neighborhood Italian restaurant where the menu changes often. Expect things like mafaldine with uni butter and squid-ink spaghetti with chunks of king crab, and be sure to make the pastas the main focus of your meal. And, if it’s nice out, ask to get seated at one of the tables on the sidewalk where you can sit with a date and appreciate how quiet, photogenic, and expensive-looking Fort Greene is.
If you want to temporarily feel like your life is a movie montage, go to Olmsted. Before dinner, you can have a drink and snack in the backyard (where they grow vegetables and store a few birds), and, after dinner, you can head back out there for some DIY s’mores. It’s also worth noting that all of your food will both look and taste like something you’ve never had before. Unless you ate pea falafel and a carrot crepe for breakfast.
Raines Law Room, under any circumstance, is an impressive cocktail place. The drinks are fantastic, there are about 100 of them, and you sit on leather-tufted couches that are equally intimidating and comfortable. But Raines Law Room is especially impressive when you bring a date onto the little back patio. No one seems to know they have one, but since you have this knowledge, you are now a person of extreme intrigue. Don’t mess this up.
The West Village is charming, which means that you don’t have to try as hard there. We aren’t saying you shouldn’t put in a good effort on your date, but maybe you had a long week and you’re fighting back some yawns. Go to Malatesta. Sit outside, eat some pasta, and watch people walk down Christopher Street while your date takes in the ambiance and starts to mentally photoshop you into his or her holiday cards. The setting here is quaint and the food is simple and affordable. Just be aware that it’s cash-only.
The backyard at Wayla is filled with plants, strings of lights, and furniture that might be nicer than whatever you currently have in your living room. More importantly, the Thai food here is great, especially the pork sausage, fried branzino, and whatever daily curry they’re serving. Even with a reservation (which you should definitely make), you might have to wait for a table outside, but if you need to show someone that you’re capable of making good choices, it’s worth it.
We love Blueprint for two kinds of date night moves. Try it before or after dinner at Al Di La for an awesome one-two punch, or make it your main event with several small plates and the giant house charcuterie plate. The cocktails are excellent, and the back patio might be small - but it’s highly pleasant.
Tsion Cafe is an Ethiopian place in the bottom of a big brownstone in Harlem, and it’s about as casual as a friend’s living room. It’s great for a weeknight meal, and the back patio is perfect for a quiet date night when you want to get to know someone while eating some food with your hands. We like the vegetarian sampler here (with kale, lentils, chickpeas, and several other things), although there’s also stuff like burgers, shakshuka, and salmon.
If you’re not already aware of June Wine Bar, we’re sorry. But at least you’re reading this now, and you can make up for lost time. This extremely charming Cobble Hill bar has great cocktails, a long and interesting natural wine list, impressive small plates, and most importantly - a back garden with comfortable seating and lots of twinkly lights.
Dante is an Italian restaurant/cocktail bar on a block in Greenwich Village that isn’t excessively tourist-y, and it has a row of tables out front where you can hang out, drink a negroni, and shout random Italian phrases at people as they walk by. The cocktails here are excellent, and there are some small plates like flatbreads and octopus if you get hungry.
If a place has 40 wines by the glass, that’s a lot. Have & Meyer has over 90. The servers at this Williamsburg wine bar are also very friendly, so if when you inevitably have questions about some orange wine you’ve never heard of, no one will laugh in your face and shout, “Hey everyone, guess what this dummy just asked.” Bring a date who wants to try something new and/or is just really into wine, and get a table on the sidewalk out front.
Buvette isn’t just quaint, it’s intensely quaint. It’s the French restaurant where you eat with someone when you don’t want to leave any doubt as to whether you’re eating at a French restaurant. The space is filled with vintage-looking knick-knacks, there’s a big map of France on the wall, and the menu consists of small plates like tartines and steak tartare. The inside can get a little cramped and hectic, but there’s a tiny patio in the back that’s much nicer. Just be aware that this place is walk-in-only, and you’ll probably have to wait for a table out there.
Popina is an Italian/American restaurant in the part of Brooklyn just west of Cobble Hill known as the Columbia Waterfront District, and the backyard here is about the size of a public park. That’s a slight exaggeration, but it is very large with a bunch of picnic tables and a bocce court in one corner. If you’re planning a double date, it’s perfect for that. Or if you just want to eat some schnitzel and ham hock pasta and then maybe take a jog around a backyard with one other person, it works for that as well.
Hotel Delmano is a magical place. We mean that figuratively, although maybe also literally, because we’ve spent hours here that felt like five minutes. You could just come here for cocktails before or after dinner, but you could also make it your main event - they serve a serious raw bar and many snacks. Plus, you can eat that shrimp cocktail while sitting out on the sidewalk talking about all the Williamsburg people who pass you by.
Let’s say you have a first date, and you’re looking for a fun spot where you can sit outside and get some casual drinks with this person while you try to calculate the odds of your actually getting along. Night of Joy is perfect for that. It’s a classic first-date spot in Williamsburg, and it has a little roof full of tables. It gets busy, so get here on the early side to make sure you get a seat, and be aware that it turns into a party around 11pm on weekends.
Whether you’re really into mezcal, or you enjoy a nice margarita, or you just want to sip on some straight-up tequila, you’ll find something that appeals to you on Leyenda’s cocktail menu devoted entirely to Latin-inspired drinks. Get here on the early side to take advantage of the back patio.
The modern Vietnamese food is good, and the cocktails are tasty, but the real reason Bricolage gets a spot on this list is its patio. Look at that thing. It’s just waiting for your third date.
Most Spanish restaurants in Chelsea are cramped and filled with uncomfortable bar stools. Not the case at Salinas, which is quite large and has one of the best, most comfortable outdoor situations in the city: a dining room with a retractable roof and couches you wish you had in your apartment.
Charlie Bird is quietly one of New York’s coolest restaurants. It has a hip hop soundtrack, perfect service, great food, and an always-awesome feel overall. In the summer, they take over a pretty big chunk of the sidewalk and bring the party outside.
Givers and Takers
A neighborhood bar with a quiet back patio is a pretty ideal spot for an early-in-the-game date, and that’s exactly what Givers and Takers is. This place is just a nice, charming pub in Gowanus, and out back you can sit at a round table near a picket fence while you discuss dog breeds and TV shows with someone you only just met.