Congratulations, you were born in one of the warm-ish months. Now you can plan a birthday celebration outdoors. And since birthdays are one of the only times you get to tell your friends exactly how you want to spend an evening, we want to help ensure that it’s great. Whether you’re hoping for a small group hang, or a dinner with two other people in a nice backyard, use this guide to find your ideal outdoor birthday situation for 2020.
A birthday dinner at Belle will feel a lot like hiring a chef to prepare a private dinner for you and your friends. They’ve got a few sidewalk tables out front and the owners do most of the cooking themselves. Expect to eat things like chicken and waffles with jalapeno truffle banana syrup, cheese steak crostinis, and a piece of black sea bass cooked in herbs from the restaurant’s rooftop garden.
Llama San smells like palo santo and has a new garden patio where you can actually hear whoever you’re sitting across from on your birthday. It’s a great option if you want something upscale but not too stuffy, and their Japanese-Peruvian dishes, like Iberico pork tonkatsu or the fried rice with octopus, mussels, and crab, are like nothing else you’ll find in the city.
If you’re in Brooklyn, you can also head to the Llama team’s other restaurant in Williamsburg and eat some slightly more straightforward Peruvian food on your birthday. Llama Inn’s rooftop has more macrame wall hangings, throw pillows, and textile rugs than an Urban Outfitters ad, which makes it ideal for an intimate dinner with the co-owner of your cats. But there’s more space for small groups on their sidewalk patio, which is essentially a giant triangular peninsula.
If you’re looking for somewhere in Lower Manhattan you can reserve ahead of time, consider this beer garden on the LES. You can email firstname.lastname@example.org to book an outdoor table for between six and ten people. As a bonus, Loreley has Happy Hour until 10pm on Monday, Tuesday, and Sunday, and until 7pm on Wednesday and Thursday.
Curbside tables covered in white tablecloths, still life art prints plastered on phone booths, fiddle-leaf fig trees, and string lights - this is the scene outside at Union Square Cafe right now. This classic New York City restaurant is serving burgers, pastas, and desserts on its huge curbside patio, and like a good sports blazer, you can use it for both a casual or formal birthday dinner. Reservations are still extremely hard to come by for dinner, but you may have better luck during lunch service on weekends.
This Prospect Heights spot has turned its backyard into “Olmsted Summer Camp,” where you can eat things like wagyu beef corn dogs, dill pickled fried chicken, and tonkatsu ribs under a galaxy of string lights and rainbow-colored flag garlands. So you might as well reserve a picnic table or a two-top on their sidewalk and take full advantage of this upscale picnic pop-up at one of the best outdoor American restaurants in Brooklyn.
Saraghina is great if you want a sit-down dinner outside that’s intimate enough to hear your friends shower you with birthday compliments and affection. This mostly-pizza place is relaxed about special requests (Keira really likes the pizza that comes with spicy salami but she’s a vegetarian so she needs it on the side), they’re fine with you hanging out for a while at your table, and everything is shareable.
If you’re looking for a birthday dinner spot that says, “I’m aging and I’m proud!” go for the seven-course tasting menu at Kochi. You’ll have a bunch of grilled skewers involving things like smoked mackerel, beef ribeye, and pork belly at this upscale Korean spot, and they’ll all make you want to eat things on a stick more often. Rain or shine, Kochi’s covered Hell’s Kitchen patio is exactly where you should head for a celebratory meal.
Having a birthday party at Night Of Joy is usually a good idea any year, but the big rooftop makes it an excellent choice during 2020. Get to this cocktail bar early, find a table, and discuss how birthdays don’t count this year.
To be honest, getting a table in Wayla’s backyard for your birthday dinner is going to take Beyonce-intensity hard work and dedication. But if you can manage it, you’re in for a Thai meal that’ll have you dreaming of lobster noodles, noodle-wrapped meatballs, and whole fried branzino with the middle pre-cut and fried into hunks with mint and shallots on top for days. While the patio here is perfect, Wayla also has a curbside seating available for walk-ins.
Casa Enrique makes some of the best Mexican food in NYC. And their new outdoor patio is huge, partially-covered, and a great option if you’re trying to keep things somewhat casual for your birthday this year. You can start your meal with a mezcal cocktail, then move on to some enchiladas or fish tacos, but whatever you do, order their tres leches cake - this is a celebration after all.
If it weren’t for the excellent burger and the patio space, Royale would just be another East Village sports bar where people watch sweaty people running around on TV. But those two factors make Royale a good place to spend an afternoon or evening outside, especially for a low-maintenance birthday. The backyard doesn’t get too rowdy, the burger is consistently great, and the pickle-backs come with a piece of bacon. Email email@example.com for details about setting up a private reservation.
While incredibly hard to book, we guarantee that you won’t regret sitting at one of Lilia’s outdoor tables and eating sheep milk filled agnolotti on your birthday. This Williamsburg Italian spot has a bunch of new sidewalk seating, giving you plenty of room to eat your cacio e pepe frittelle in peace without feeling like the diners right next to you are watching your every bite.
Aside from McCarren Park and the literal East River, Freehold’s outdoor space is one of the largest in Williamsburg. Their courtyard is open every day from 9am to 11pm, and until 1am on Friday and Saturday nights. There’s a little balcony area above the giant backyard bar, which is available for rent if you’d like to make things feel more like your personal party kingdom while still being able to look out at the activity below. They encourage reservations, which you can make here.
This Flatiron spot has outdoor seating in its garden and up on its rooftop with plenty of tables where you can meet up with friends and drink some wine along the Hudson River. The food is all pretty simple (think lobster rolls, tacos, and oysters), but you’re really here to drink wine or frosé and take in the views before it gets too cold out.
Sycamore has a great garden backyard with string lights, a bunch of picnic tables, and some pine trees (possibly the only ones in NYC when it’s not Christmas). The front of this bar is a fully-operating flower shop during the day, which is both adorable and useless. Come day or night, bring a pizza if you want, and it’ll feel like your own personal oasis in Ditmars Park. Also - they run a Happy Hour on weekdays between 3pm and 7pm, and weekends from 1pm to 4pm.
If you’re planning a socially distant special occasion soon, like an intimate birthday dinner or a solo celebration in honor of your trumpet-playing roommate’s return to his family’s farm in Kansas, try L’Antagoniste. It’s a somewhat pricey French spot with a big garden patio where you can eat wagyu beef steak tartare and duck à l’orange by candlelight.
Here’s a great way to spend your birthday: eat the best BBQ in the city. If ridiculously good brisket and beef ribs aren’t enough, then head to Steve’s for chocolate-covered key lime pie on a stick for dessert.
If your happy place is your future retirement estate in Tuscany - or really anywhere it would be acceptable to live on a diet of pasta alone - have your big dinner at I Sodi. Gone are the days of sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with strangers along the bar at this West Village spot. Now, you can comfortably eat the very best Italian food in the city on a quiet block in the West Village without bumping a stranger when reaching for your wine.
If you’re planning an outdoor birthday gathering uptown, default to Harlem Tavern. The food is better than your average bar food (with a solid burger), but the reason to come here is the giant front patio. There’s tons of space, and covered tables in case it rains.
Maybe you just want to eat a bunch of Spanish snacks and drink wine all night on your birthday. Sure, you could do it at home, but then you’d miss out on incredible small plates, like duck-stuff peppers and a potato chip tower lovingly draped in iberico ham at Ernesto’s. This LES Basque spot has several small tables spaced out along its sidewalk and you should keep it in mind for a casual, cool birthday dinner in the area.
Sally Roots is one of our favorite places in Bushwick that’s a good compromise if you want a high-key birthday party but have to face the reality that it won’t happen this year. Their backyard has loud music, flowering plants, and tropical rum cocktails galore. But the main appeal is that you’ll get to have a great meal with the people who know about your unfortunate middle name. The food itself is Caribbean (we like the tostones with garlic sauce and salmon main the best) and everything on the menu costs less than $20. They’ll let you make a reservation if you’re five or more - email firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
Looking for a daytime beer-filled birthday?This South Slope beer garden has enough space to conceivably play a game of hide and-seek. Although, unfortunately, you should remain at your table during the duration of your birthday outing. In addition to a huge menu of beer, there’s some solid bar food and a quaint string-light setup. Greenwood Park accepts reservations for parties up to 10 people, and you can book your table on Resy.
Roberta’s has nearly twice as much picnic table seating on their giant patio as they do in the actual restaurant. The outdoor space has its own bar and the atmosphere feels like a park where everyone eats the same, excellent Neapolitan-style pizza.
Lavender Lake is offering first come, first served tables with a maximum of eight people. That doesn’t count dogs, which you should feel free to bring with you. Everyone knows that Labradors make parties better. When it gets to the point in the party when you want to fill your table with snacks, order several soft pretzels, hot dogs, and spicy calamari.
Diamond Reef understands that any good summer birthday party requires great music, alcoholic slushies with umbrellas in them, an indoor-outdoor space (because people get antsy and sweaty), and string lights that come on once it gets dark. They currently have first come, first served tables with a maximum party size of six people.
If you’re looking for an outdoor birthday party with a 2020-approved activity already baked in, this giant outdoor bar in Bushwick is showing music-themed films every Tuesday and Wednesday night for $10 per person. If you’d rather come on a non-movie night, know that Nowadays also has a food truck with Japanese snacks like wagyu burgers, pork katsu sandwiches, and cucumber salads. The only catch is that you have to make a reservation ahead of time (which you can do here).
The Jeffrey was the spot for a big outdoor birthday when it opened in 2014 and we feel confident that it will remain useful as long as people are into drinking beer (specifically the craft variety) outside in the sun. This is a good choice for a relaxed birthday hang, especially for the neighborhood (Midtown-adjacent).
Azul is one of the less-sceney, more tolerable rooftops in Lower Manhattan. So invite a bunch of friends to hang out on some couches while you drink Cuban-ish cocktails and snacks, and look out at the Hudson. You can email Rooftopbars@hotelhugony.com for reservations ahead of time (the minimum for reservations is six people, and the maximum is ten).
Sugar Freak feels like a New Orleans-themed party, with lots of big groups drinking strong draft cocktails and sharing crawfish boils in a loud space with beads hanging from the light fixtures. The party doesn’t quite spill into the streets like in New Orleans, but they do have a bunch of picnic tables in a big seating area on the sidewalk out front.