Summer 2020 was the summer of the sidewalk. It’s likely you met friends on sidewalks, had cocktails on sidewalks, pet dogs upon approval from said dog’s owner on sidewalks. But it’s possible 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.
What separates La Loba Cantina from other places to grab a mezcal cocktail near Prospect Park is the excellent Oaxacan food. They make their own tortillas, and serve dishes like ceviche tostadas, panuchos, and massive tlayudas with chorizo or mushrooms. And just to top it off, La Loba Cantina has a small backyard behind their open kitchen with gravel stones and blue chairs where you can think about all the places you’d like to travel to in the year 2024. The patio opens at 5pm Tuesday through Sunday - and if you want to come with a group of at least six, you can reserve the space by emailing email@example.com.
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.
Back in June, this all-day cafe with a focus on low-abv cocktails and seasonal dishes took over an empty lot next to their Crown Heights spot and turned it into a beautiful (not-so-hidden-but-still-new) outdoor dining space. They have plenty of spread-out tables with umbrellas for you to drink a cocktail and eat a breakfast sandwich or whatever rotating soft serve they’re currently making - like sweet summer corn ice cream with fritos on top. Hunky Dory often hosts pop-ups, so make sure to check their Instagram page to see what’s going on before you go.
This British pub on the UES has both sidewalk seating 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 and tennis on their outdoor TVs, so keep this in mind if you want to watch sports outside of your apartment.
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.
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 this cafe for brunch (especially their croque monsieur), but they’re also open for dinner outside every day until 10pm if you want to sit somewhere picturesque while you sip wine and dunk bread into escargot with garlic parsley butter.
Risbo’s backyard would make World Market shake in its boots. And if you live near Prospect Lefferts Gardens, it’s a good place to know about. From 5pm everyday, this causal counter-service restaurant and bar serves a menu of Mediterranean and Caribbean mashup dishes that pair well with cocktails involving things like poblano-infused tequila, sorrels, and rum. You could easily pass by this spot on Flatbush Avenue, and judging by the fact that their idyllic patio covered in floor cushions, string lights, and colorful poufs is never packed, most people probably do. Let’s change that.
If you didn’t know to look through the empty 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 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.
The Rogers Garden
The patio behind this rum bar in Prospect Lefferts Gardens is likely too massive to qualify as secret (it’s also in the name of the bar), but it’s possible you don’t know about this place since it only opened during the summer of 2020. There’s a huge fenced-in area with lawn chairs, turf, and murals galore, and tons of special programming beyond the cocktails and snacks on the menu. Check out their Instagram page so you don’t miss one of their special pop-up nights or live music events.
Lalou’s wooden-bench clad backyard behind their Prospect Heights spot is the kind of quiet place where you’ll want to hang out for an entire evening. This is a natural wine bar, but whether you have thoughts on how minimal intervention winemaking fosters a true expression of terroir, or you have the urge to slap anyone who says the word terroir out loud, you’ll enjoy LaLou. They’re open for outdoor dining from Tuesday to Sunday for dinner, and lunch on the weekends from noon to 4:30pm. Tables are first come, first served. And, they have oysters.
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, as well as a Happy Hour deal from 4pm to 5pm where you get two cheeses, whatever fruit is in season, and a bottle of wine for $65. The courtyard behind Oxalis is open from 4pm to 9pm, 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 from Monday to Saturday until 5pm, and until 6pm on weekends.
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.
La Lanterna di Vittorio
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 the West 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 those tourists aren’t currently visiting the city). Stop by for some pasta and some wine in a quiet, unexpected little place in a busy neighborhood - the lasagna here is really good.
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’re looking for a place to drink in Gowanus, Lavender Lake is our favorite outdoor option, and Pig Beach is great for small groups - 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.
Ode To Babel has a little yard in the back that’s perfect for a quiet date night in Prospect Heights. Stop by for a cocktail from Thursday to Sunday, 4pm to 11pm, and wear an outfit that compliments the deeply joyful yellow benches in the backyard.
If you just looked at a picture of Black Rabbit’s backyard without context, you’d probably assume it was located in another city where greenery makes up more of the landscape. This is technically an English pub, but it’s really just a good place to hang out with a few friends for a drink and some bar snacks in Greenpoint. They’re not running their weekly trivia right now, but you can get a discounted house lager for $5 until 8pm every day.
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 10pm.
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 an impressive outdoor date night spot in Williamsburg.
Greek yogurt isn’t supposed to be something that you actively want, but the stuff at Greecologies is worth going out of your way for. The soft serve is also great, and they have fancy toppings like cherry compote and olive oil. But the reason why we’re talking about this yogurt shop in Little Italy is because they have a nice backyard. There’s plenty of shade and room for a casual meeting or an afternoon when you don’t want to see anyone you know.
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 papaya salad 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.
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.