Over the past year, it’s likely you met friends on sidewalks, had cocktails on sidewalks, and pet dogs upon approval from said dog’s owner on sidewalks. But now you’re looking for a bar or restaurant where you can sit away from the street so you can enjoy some relative peace and quiet. You still have options - you just might not know about them yet.
This is our guide to the secret patios of NYC, and it’s full of relatively unknown places where you can eat and drink outside far away from the street. Memorize this list, and you’ll be better at outdoor dining than most.
High-quality sushi and secret backyard gardens don’t often overlap in this city. So you can imagine our excitement when we heard about this pandemic-era restaurant on the Upper West Side. Sushi Nonaka operates a sushi bar in the bottom floor of Korean restaurant Boka (the owners of the two businesses are married), so you won’t know you’re at the right restaurant from the outside. Out back, there’s a covered garden with plenty of seating. In terms of ordering, we’d recommend the $89 sushi omakase that comes with 10 pieces, a hand roll of your choice, and miso soup. Between the striped jack dabbed with sweet smoky yuzu sauce and the ombre-pink chutoro that disintegrates on your tongue, this is the kind of restaurant that will ruin regular sushi spots for you. But there are a couple of other set options and appetizers if you want something for around $50.
photo credit: Emily Schindler
The Ten Bells
One day we showed up to this French wine bar on the LES at 6:49pm. Happy Hour was almost over and nearly all of the outdoor tables out front were taken by people drinking wine carafes and slurping oysters. The host asked if the patio would be OK, and we followed them through about four different tiny rooms in disbelief that such a place even existed outside of Narnia, let alone the busiest part of the Lower East Side. Turns out, this is the best secret in the neighborhood. So yes, the string-lit, quiet patio is more than OK, and an ideal place for drinks and a snack as opposed to a full dinner.
Even if you spend a lot of time in Williamsburg, it’s entirely possible you’ve never heard of Maracuja - a bar on Grand Street (on the same block as The Four Horsemen) with a hidden back patio overrun by plants and wooden benches. The ownership team at this spot recently changed, and now they serve a ton of natural wine (as well as classic cocktails and beer). Come during daily Happy Hour between 4-7pm when draft beer costs $5, frozen cocktails cost $8, and wine carafes cost $18. Just don’t let the sidewalk patio fool you, you want to be drinking in the secluded backyard here.
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Holiday Cocktail Lounge
We only recently found out that this near-perfect dive bar on St. Marks has a luscious, string-lit backyard filled with inexplicably tall trees. So the next time you and some friends want to drink in the sunshine in the East Village (without having to deal with the East Village), retreat back here. It’s also a useful place for a casual date in the area, since a lot of other neighborhood spots fall into the “cocktail bar” or “going-out bar” buckets.
If you just looked at a picture of Alula’s backyard without context, you’d probably assume it was located in another city where greenery makes up more of the landscape. This Lebanese cafe is a great place to get some work done during lunch, or hang out with a few friends for mezze plates and falafel in Greenpoint. They’re open from Wednesday to Sunday starting at 8am.
photo credit: Noah Devereaux
La Loba Cantina
Two things separate La Loba Cantina from other places to grab a mezcal cocktail near Prospect Park. Their excellent Oaxacan food and a tiny patio behind their open kitchen. Order anything involving handmade tortillas, like some bright ceviche tostadas, or a massive tlayuda with chorizo or mushrooms. The patio opens at 5pm Tuesday through Sunday - and if you want to come with a group of six to ten people, you can reserve the space by emailing email@example.com.
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photo credit: Carlo Mantuano
Silver Apricot in the West Village serves Chinese-American small plates like mini croissant-like scallion puffs with scallion butter, perfectly poached shrimp atop toast with celery and walnuts, and a wagyu slider on a homemade scallion roll that deserves consideration for the best burger in NYC. Besides a menu of exceptional dishes, their back patio is a secret oasis suitable for a dinner when you want to prove to a date or friend that you still have the whole restaurant choosing thing down.
We’re guessing you’ve heard about Lucali - the pizza place with wildly long wait times in Carroll Gardens making perhaps the very best pizza in the entire city. But did you know that Lucali has a back garden available in the summertime? To secure a spot back there, call ahead of time. If they don’t pick up for a while, trust the process and keep calling. We once called upwards of 200 times before the deal was sealed. Good luck, and make sure to get a calzone.
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This Upper East Side Austrian restaurant has one of the newer hidden patios on the list. So even if you pride yourself in seeking out hard-to-find outdoor courtyards, it’s possible you haven’t been yet. To get to the backyard, you have to go past their Schwaller & Webber sausage stand on the street, down a flight of stairs, through a dining room, and up another set of stairs. What you’ll find on the other side is a confusingly rainforest-esque wonder. We’d recommend it the next time you’re looking for someplace unique uptown.
Raines Law Room at The William hotel is a dimly lit cocktail lounge filled with couches and armchairs, and if you go all the way to the back, you’ll find an outdoor space with hanging vines and patio furniture. So if you’d like to sit somewhere quiet and drink a few excellent cocktails outside relatively close to Grand Central, try this place. Request a seat on the low-key patio, and you can temporarily pretend that you don’t live in a city of 8.4 million people.
The Roof is a big rooftop bar in Gowanus with a bunch of picnic tables, a nice view, and a good draft beer selection. Also, it’s on top of a Whole Foods. And, while it’s technically part of this Whole Foods, it’s a surprisingly nice place to hang out. There’s a big menu of burgers, salads, and various cheeses, and they also serve wine. The only catch is, you won’t sound very cool when you tell people that you’re hanging out at Whole Foods. But that’s why lying was invented. The Roof is open from 11am to 7:30pm every day, and they have a Happy Hour that runs from 4pm to 7pm.
Aretsky’s Patroon is a white-tablecloth restaurant on 46th Street with pricey but good American food, like lamb chops and cobb salad. It’s the kind of place where you ideally only eat when someone else is picking up the check - but the three-story space also has a rooftop bar where you can just hang out and drink with a group.
From the outside, this 20+ year-old Cobble Hill restaurant looks like a typical French bistro with wicker chairs, tiny tables, and people drinking wine on their Smith Street sidewalk. But head inside and you’ll realize there’s a Happy Hour garden of eden waiting for you (sans snakes or other biblical chaos). They serve discounted drinks on weekends from 3:30pm to 8:30pm where glasses of wine cost $6.50.
The garden backyard at this French spot in Bushwick looks like a Shakespearean set, but with real bushes instead of fake roses, and mason jars full of mimosas instead of goblets full of mead. We like Mominette for brunch (especially their croque monsieur), but they’re also open for dinner outside every day if you want to sit somewhere picturesque while you sip wine and dunk bread into escargot with garlic parsley butter. Plus they offer 1$ oysters Monday through Friday from 4-5pm.
Maybe you’ve never heard of Entwine. That would make sense, seeing as how it’s in a quiet part of the West Village that isn’t really near any trains. But this is a great place to know about, especially if you ever find yourself in the Meatpacking District and need a nearby spot that isn’t full of people complaining about the alcohol content in their vodka sodas. It’s a wine bar with two small floors, it’s perfect for a date night, and there’s a charming patio in the back sitting on what’s probably at least one million dollars of West Village real estate.
Troost is one of those Greenpoint bars that’s mostly comprised of people who already live in the neighborhood, and therefore people who already know about the incredible backyard here. But you can be one of those people too. The next time you’re looking for a glass of natural wine or a martini away from the madness of North Brooklyn in the summer, come here.
Risbo’s backyard is spacious enough to host a tasteful wedding. And if you live near Flatbush, it’s a good place to know about. Starting at 5pm every day, this casual counter-service restaurant and bar serves a menu of Mediterranean-Caribbean mashup dishes that pair well with rum cocktails and bissap juice. You could easily pass by this spot on Flatbush Avenue and not even compute the idyllic patio covered in floor cushions, string lights, and colorful pouf. Let’s change that.
If you didn’t know to look through the indoor dining room, you probably would never notice this Thai spot’s gazebo-esque back garden. They have sidewalk seating available, but you should do your best to sit in the secluded backyard here. Soothr specializes in some hard-to-find dishes from Bangkok’s Chinatown hub, including a shrimp and egg curry called koong karee. It’s rich and heavy on shrimp paste, and eating it in the backyard here will probably force your brain to associate gazebos with shrimp for years to come.
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Jones Wood Foundry
This British pub on the UES has both a sidewalk beer garden and a hidden courtyard that’s a charming place to eat things like bangers and mash or fish and chips. They’ve been playing English premier league games on outdoor TVs, so keep this in mind if you want to watch sports outside of your apartment.
Anytime we hear the word “courtyard” in NYC, we assume life there feels like a romantic, 35mm film. This is especially true in the case of Oxalis’ courtyard. To get to their outdoor area, walk past the front entrance of this Prospect Heights tasting menu spot and turn onto a little alley off of Lincoln Place. They’re serving an a la carte menu of dishes that make use of seasonal produce, like little gem salad with snap peas, and monkfish and morels in an emulsified butter sauce. The courtyard behind Oxalis is open from 5pm to 10pm, Thursday to Sunday.
If you need a surfboard or some pricey apparel that suggests you’re open to the idea of surfing, go to Saturdays. Their location on Crosby Street is also a coffee shop, and it has a back patio filled with plants and benches. When you need to sit somewhere quiet in Soho, it’s an excellent option. They’re open every day until 7pm.
Brooklyn Ice House
You wouldn’t know it from the outside, but the patio at this Red Hook neighborhood spot is pretty spacious - so this is a great option if you want to hide from any Citi Bikers parading down Van Brunt Street on a weekend afternoon. Come here for bar food like onion rings and Frito pie, as well as BBQ specials like dry-rub spare ribs with mac and cheese.
Maybe you’ve walked by Iona and thought, “Hey, there’s another normal bar.” If so, you were only sort of right. From the outside, this place looks like a generic pub - but once you’re inside, you’ll feel like you’re in a small English town where people go to bed early and wear lots of plaid. This place is dark, with brick walls and little knick-knacks lying around, and if you head out back, you’ll find an outdoor space that’s roughly the size of the bar itself. Sit beneath the shade of a big tree and appreciate the fact this place isn’t as busy as most other Williamsburg bars.
If you’ve spent any amount of time walking near Washington Square Park, you’ve probably passed by this Italian restaurant’s green awning without even thinking about it. Unlike 95% of the restaurants in Greenwich Village, it has a big, greenhouse-like outdoor patio in the back. Whenever we’ve gone here, most of the people around us have been tourists taking a break from holding Saint Laurent and Nike bags but that’s OK. Stop by for some pasta and some wine in a quiet, unexpected little place in a busy neighborhood - the lasagna here is pretty good.
Givers and Takers
When you’re looking to drink in Gowanus, Lavender Lake is our favorite outdoor option for a big group. But if you want something a little less crowded in the neighborhood, try Givers and Takers anytime from Thursday to Sunday after 4pm. It’s just a long, plain-looking space with a bar and some small tables, and there’s a little porch in back with three big round tables. It’s like the tiny backyard that you don’t have, and it’s perfect for when you want to drink a glass of wine and talk about the weather, what you’ve been reading, or just birds in general.
If you’ve ever walked over the Williamsburg Bridge, you’ve probably noticed some people hanging out on rooftops and thought, “I’d like to do that as well.” But if you don’t have a friend who owns a penthouse in Williamsburg, go get a drink and some chicken pho at Bia. It’s a Vietnamese restaurant in a little building to the side of the bridge, and they’re open every day until midnight.
On multiple occasions, people who have been to Llama Inn have asked us if there’s a rooftop at Llama Inn. The answer is: yes. There’s a little patio with a bar and a handful of tables, although it’s easy to come here and never realize that it exists. This Peruvian restaurant’s rooftop is one of the few places on this list where you can make a reservation ahead of time - just make sure to select “rooftop” when you book a table online. Stop by for some skewers, ceviche, and a really great cocktail the next time you want to go to an impressive outdoor date night spot in Williamsburg.
The Red Hook location of Somtum Der has a significant advantage over its East Village counterpart: a backyard. Their patio is currently open for outdoor dining, and you can book a reservation online ahead of time to guarantee yourself some somtum with salted egg, pork larb, and sticky rice.
If you went outside and took a poll to see which random pedestrians have heard of Ammazzacaffe, you wouldn’t find many. Which is strange, because this is a very good Italian restaurant in Williamsburg with a spacious backyard. You can eat a plate of pasta and drink some wine at a picnic table, and, seeing as this is still mostly just a neighborhood place, you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding a seat. Ammazzacaffe is open at 4pm Tuesday through Sunday, and they run a daily 2-for-1 Happy Hour from 4pm to 6pm.
People sometimes ask us about relatively inexpensive places to drink outside with a group near Times Square, and our first instinct is to say something like, “Leave Times Square.” Then we remember Beer Authority, a huge bar across the street from Port Authority with a rooftop that doesn’t get as busy as it should (considering the other options in the neighborhood). If you work in the area, use this place as your default choice for outdoor Happy Hour drinks. There’s a great selection of beer, as well as wine and cocktails, and there are lots of big picnic tables on the roof.
Maman is a cafe and a bakery, and there are a few different locations around the city. The one in Soho feels like the kind of place where you’d sit down and plan a summer wedding in the Catskills with a seersucker-and-khaki dress code, and there’s also a back patio with strings of light bulbs and patio furniture you wish you owned. Not too many people know about their backyard, so it’s great for a quiet coffee with someone, and you should order at least one cookie when you come here. They’re very good. Even Oprah thinks so.