After a long, socially distanced winter, you told yourself this would be the summer you’d hit all the hot spots, day drink on a rooftop, and maybe have a picnic by the lake. But a dozen Saturdays later, all you’ve done is attended a coworker’s wedding, binge-watched_Fboy Island_, and participated in one regrettable bottomless brunch back in May.
Luckily, there are still warm weeks ahead. To help you maximize the time that’s left, we curated some spots you should put at the top of your list to cram in as much summery fun as humanly possible. And if you’re an overachiever check out our Summer Guide for even more stuff to do and eat.
HANG OUT NEAR A PARK BEFORE IT’S COVERED IN DEAD LEAVES
All of Teranga’s customizable market bowls make for ideal takeout options if you want a personal bowl at a picnic in Central Park. But if you’re with a group, order a bunch of their West African bowl components in bulk, like spicy roasted plantains or sweet potato and black-eyed pea stew. The whole menu, including drinks like hibiscus juice and mezcal margaritas, is available directly through their website from 12-8pm Thursday through Sunday.
You should come to Contento in East Harlem for dinner uptown after a walk around Central Park. Beyond the delicious mahi mahi ceviche swimming in a wildly citrusy leche de tigre and a jenga tower of crispy pork katsu with vinegary slaw, the service here is excellent. On one of our visits, almost every member of the staff checked in on us throughout the night, offering backstory on the wine producer of our $35 bottle of rosé from North Fork, and making sure we were well hydrated. It’s also worth mentioning that the restaurant was built with accessibility in mind, with a lowered bar counter and a bathroom with a wide door, lower sink and toilet, angled mirror, and handle by the toilet.t.
The muffuletta sandwich at Lowerline is special - instead of using provolone or Swiss cheese on the sandwich, they put in layers of Parmesan with prosciutto, coppa, and housemade olive salad. So if you’re looking to eat something that’ll make you feel better about living in a city where you enjoy being out in your neighborhood rather than inside your apartment, congratulations - you’ve found it. It’s time to pick up your crusty sesame seed roll filled with prosciutto, salami, parmesan, and olive tapenade, find a good spot in Prospect park next to an affectionate corgi-owner, and enjoy your day.
Before the pandemic, Wheated was a neighborhood gem serving excellent Neapolitan pies, fresh meatball calzones, and whiskey cocktails in Kensington. Now, they’ve pivoted to a takeout-only model. Wheated still serves the same great pies named after Brooklyn neighborhoods like Ditmas Park and Vinegar Hill, plus fresh sourdough baguettes, cookies, and premade whiskey cocktails. Stop by their takeout window before your next picnic in Prospect Park.
EAT SOMETHING THAT SAYS “YOU’LL HAVE TO PRY SUMMER OUT OF MY COLD DEAD HANDS”
Whether you live in the South Brooklyn area or you take the Red Hook/Atlantic Basin ferry line, spending an afternoon eating frozen key lime pie at Steve’s will likely make you realize that you don’t need to spend a boatload of money to feel like you’re on vacation. While in Red Hook, you are legally obligated to eat a frozen, chocolate-covered key lime pie on a stick from Steve’s. (These coveted items are called Swingles, by the way, and they’re made using fresh lime juice) Steve’s Key Lime Pie was, shockingly, started by an ex-South Floridian named Steve - and he and his family have been operating the store for over 20 years. There are a bunch of picnic tables next to Steve’s industrial-looking storefront, but we like to take our pie-sicles over to Louis Valentino Jr. Park about 50feet away. It has a glorious view of the water and the Statue Of Liberty.
This new Greenpoint spot makes some of the best new tacos in the city. Each one costs $4 and the meat options range from velvety shredded suadero to longaniza with bright orange porky juices that spill out of your taco and onto your shirt (probably) as you tilt your head to devour it in no more than three bites. Our favorite is the tripa, which has such little chewy toughness it might be unidentifiable as a cow’s stomach lining save for the iron-forward taste.
Seeing a pop-up we love finally get a brick-and-mortar location is like when a close friend realizes that they actually love tomatoes. It’s a big deal, makes us incredibly happy, and was a long time coming. This sums up our feelings about Evil Katsu, a former pop-up that now has a full-time location in the East Village. Their new seasonal special is perfect this time of year - udon noodles slick with olive oil, chunks of heirloom tomatoes, and sliced shiso. The udon is extra slippery with lots of freshly ground black pepper cracked in, and the heirlooms are pure farmer’s market bliss - simply dressed, meaty, and bursting with tangy sweetness.
Jora is a fun Peruvian restaurant and pisco bar in Long Island City that’s filled with velvet couches, gaudy chandeliers, and pottery displayed on shelves like artifacts in a historical museum. If you need another reason to come here, know that they have three different ceviche options you can eat for lunch or dinner every day. Our favorite is the ceviche mixto, filled with a combination of sea bass, octopus, shrimp, mussels, and tender rings of squid. It’s all served in a muddy pond of aji amarillo that has an earthy, nutty flavor unlike all the other tangy ceviches order on this list.
TAKE A BREAK FROM UNVENTILATED SUBWAY STATIONS AND HANG OUT BY THE WATER
Tacoway Beach operates out of a shipping container in a fenced-off yard filled with picnic tables, and they’re only open during the summertime months. When you’re here, you should order fried fish tacos with the singular decisiveness of a person who only ever consumes fish tacos. Each order arrives with two tacos battered and fried, then topped with cabbage slaw, chunky guacamole, and a spicy cilantro-lime salsa. These are some of the best fish tacos in NYC, and we dream about them more than we dream about becoming retirees who look for buried treasure on the beach. Expect crowds on summer weekends.
Mere steps away from the beach, Varenichnaya is the place to go for Russian dumplings of all shapes and sizes. The potato vareniki are smaller than your average Polish-style pierogi and come topped with dry caramelized onions that taste like candy. If you’re after pelmeni, the Siberian meat-filled variety is exceptional, though my personal favorite meat dumplings here are the manti, which are the size of a baseball and come topped with a generous handful of fresh chopped dill. If you find yourself craving Varenichnaya more often than you’re able to make it down to Brighton, they also sell their dumplings frozen in packs of 50.