A Time Capsule Of Unique Outdoor Dining Structures In NYC
Yurts, picturesque patios, kotatsu tables, and more setups that define the pandemic dining era in NYC.
Outdoor dining underwent a renaissance during the pandemic thanks to indoor dining restrictions and NYC’s open streets programs. And now, much to the chagrin of cyclists and people looking for parking, all of these patio build-outs and heavily invested structures seem here to stay. To celebrate and commemorate this new world of outdoor dining, here are some of the most compelling ones we’ve seen around the city this past year - organized by type.
The Outdoor Structures
You could peruse Zillow and lust after a house you’ll never buy. Or, you could use that time and energy to eat roast duck and pad see ew in one of Thep Thai’s streetside dining cabins. Each one is equipped with a pointed roof, curvy window cutouts, and sliding barn doors. Who needs a house anyway?
Leland Eating & Drinking House
On a quiet block in Prospect Heights, Leland’s hand-painted outdoor structures stand out like a gospel song on a Lil’ Kim album. So if you’ve ever wondered what’s it’s like to eat inside of a kaleidoscope or a cloud, be sure to reserve one of their “cozy cabins” on your next visit.
Taking It to the Streets
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Nom Wah Tea Parlor
It was always unbelievable when a car drove down Doyers Street in the before-times. But now that Nom Wah has set up cute yellow umbrellas and small tables in the middle of of the road, we hope no car ever drives through Doyers Street again. Order as many rounds of sticky har gow, shrimp rice rolls, and other dishes to fully realize that you can now eat dim sum in the middle of a road.
When they reopened for dining service in the Spring, Cervo’s recreated their iconic yellow tile bar smack in the middle of the now blocked-off Canal Street. Apparently, this area is affectionately known as “The Tub,” and eating there feels like being cast as an extra in a movie about Dimes Square (gorgeous light bouncing off the yellow tiles, small sunglasses, martinis, and all).
Beyond the Piazza di Belmont from East 188th Street to Crescent Avenue, NYC street fairs are back in the Bronx. Sample some turkey legs as big as boxing gloves, ride a mini Ferris wheel, and enjoying walking around in the street.
Walking through this East Village Thai restaurant and entering their Eden-like back patio marks the threshold of BS and AS (Before Soothr and After Soothr). Many New Yorkers don’t know about it, partly because the restaurant only opened in 2020, and there’s an impressive sidewalk dining area that might distract from the secret backyard. Consider this a blessing and don’t tell any of your friends.
photo credit: Kathryn Sheldon
This open-air, Austrian wine bar tucked below a sandwich shop on the UES has a patio with pink and purple flowers scattered across the ceiling, rainbow-colored dining chairs, and a bunch of potted plants hanging on its walls just in case you forget which season we’re in.
The Secret Patios Of NYC
What sets Dr. Clark’s sidewalk setup apart from some of its neighbors are the low, wooden kotatsu tables, which have a place for you to tuck your feet under the table. That, and the disco ball twirling nearby.
In 2021, Yopparai moved from their second-story Rivington Street location on the LES to a bigger space on Clinton Street. The result: more room to set up kotatsu tables where you can sip sake, eat some delicious Japanese food, and share a blanket if it’s cold out. It’s one of our favorite date-night moves on the LES, since you can simultaneously eat chirashi loaded with crab and ikura and play footsy with someone you’re attracted to.
From the pastel pink arches to the checkered flooring, eating lunch on Guevara’s patio feels like attending a party in Betsey Johnson’s backyard. It also helps that this Clinton Hill vegan restaurant hosts a live salsa band on weekends, when the neighbors come out and dance in the street.
Much like the inside of this Thai spot in Nolita, the outdoor structure on its sidewalk has shingles painted in bright primary colors. Add in the slanted roof and wooden banquettes, and you’re left with the closest experience you’ll probably get to the feeling of eating dinner inside of a large, rainbow-colored, fish.
Yurts / Sponsored Villages
Yurts popped up a couple of places over the past year, but none more prominent than the ones in the village out in front of Lilia in Williamsburg. While they now serve as a setting to eat mafaldine and blowfish tails, yurts originated in Central Asia as dwellings for nomadic civilizations. They’ve always been good at keeping people warm and alive, but now you can sit in one for your next date night.
Sadelle’s might be the only place you can eat excellent bagels and a tower of fish in a red-curtained building on the street. The velvety salmon is almost enough to make you forget that you’re sitting in a sponsored box with corporate logos plastered on the outside walls.