By now you’ve likely heard (or seen) that New York City restaurants can open for outdoor dining. You might have questions as to what exactly that means, and our FAQ guide can help you sort that out. If you’re feeling ready to eat outdoors, you’ll probably find our guide to over 100 NYC Restaurants Where You Can Eat Outside Today pretty useful. We’re also breaking that down by neighborhood, which is why you’ve landed here, in Harlem. Here’s a running list of spots where you can eat off a plate that didn’t come from your own kitchen, and make socially distanced small talk with someone who doesn’t live in your household.
And if you’d rather eat some of Harlem’s amazing food at home, we have a list of places that are open for takeout and delivery (as well as a guide to Black-owned restaurants in Harlem and all over the city that you should support).
the outdoor spots
The back patio at this Ethiopian restaurant is right behind a brownstone in Sugar Hill, and eating a vegetable combo or some doro wot here is an excellent way to mimic the lifestyle of someone who owns their own brownstone. You can see how the tables are spaced out in the picture below, and make a reservation here by calling 212-234-2070 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
When you go to Melba’s, the chicken and waffles are mandatory - but the short ribs are also excellent, and you should get a side of mac and cheese with whatever you order. This iconic neighborhood spot has sidewalk seating available as well as an impressive build-out in their parking lane equipt with string lights and all.
Harlem Tavern specializes in burgers, frozen drinks, chicken tenders, and other fried food typically eaten during parties and happy times. Even with social-distancing between tables, there are plenty of options for both covered and fully-outdoor dining here. Also, Harlem Tavern set up speakers under their tent so you can still have a (responsible) good time if it’s raining.
This French bistro on 134th and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard reopened their front picnic area for dinner from Wednesday through Sunday, as well as brunch from noon to 4pm on weekends. Get the macaroni and cheese made with bechamel, parmesan, and parsley.
Consider Gaudir if you’re actively in the market for grilled octopus and paella, and actively not in the market for preparing grilled octopus and paella at home. This Harlem tapas bar has outdoor seating available in its small backyard every day (except Sundays) from 5pm to 9pm and they’re accepting reservations online.
This Ethiopian restaurant on Frederick Douglass Boulevard set up a few two-person tables on their patio. There are some beautiful potted plants lining the outdoor space, but as soon as your sambusa and shiro wot arrives, those will become a lot less interesting.
The two specialties at The Cecil are steak and fun (if you need more information about the fun part, please watch the fantastic music videos on the restaurant’s Instagram to celebrate Pride and its new outdoor tables). This Harlem institution is currently open for outdoor dining Tuesday to Sunday from 1pm to 10pm, and serving things like frozen drinks, prime rib, and empanadas. You can even order your food ahead of time to minimize contact with the staff when you make a reservation through their website here.
Suppose you’re wandering around looking for onion rings and pulled pork after dark - know that East Harlem Bottling Co. is serving dinner on their patio until 11pm every day. They also have weekday lunch and weekend brunch for non-nocturnal diners. You can see their hours and menu on their website here, and learn more about how to support their efforts to provide 1500 meals every week to NYC Housing Authority locations in East Harlem.
There are two locations of this Mexican restaurant (one right above Central Park and one on the corner of Malcom X and 126th Street), and both have limited sidewalk seating on a first come, first serve basis. Come to either spot for some nicely fried fish tacos, unlimited chips and salsa, and a fresh margarita after work one day.
The sidewalk cafe at this American restaurant is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 3pm to 9pm. The spaced out tables are first come, first served, and there are some big red umbrellas to keep you out of the sun. If you’d rather eat your crispy basa sandwich or cauliflower poppers at home, you can also place your takeout order by calling 212-222-9570.
No matter what happens, take comfort in knowing that this American/Soul Food restaurant on Frederick Douglass Boulevard is still committed to providing a DJ during their outdoor brunch service. They’ve also been working with Feed The Frontlines to cook and deliver meals to essential workers. Both are reasons to celebrate. You can make a reservation online for their all-day outdoor dining from Thursday to Sunday.
Corner Social is another spot with the occasional (masked) DJ. This Lenox Avenue spot is offering outdoor dining on their sidewalk space every day from noon to 10pm. The menu here skews mostly American, with dishes like crab cakes, hot chicken, and a green chile cheeseburger you may or may not get on your white shirt.
Between the perfectly al dente garganelli and the confit duck that you’ll want to pick up like a turkey leg at Medieval Times, Clay is a fantastic place to impress someone. They recently launched outdoor dining with some new summer specials like heirloom tomato and watermelon salad, as well as all-day brunch on Sundays. Clay is also running takeout and delivery through their website in case you’d rather eat elsewhere.
The Grange is using their sidewalk and parking lane for outdoor dining every weekday from 4pm to 11pm and 11am to 11pm on weekends. They’ve even set up some string lights and planters to make you feel like eating spicy cauliflower steak and scallop on the street is a quaint activity. Make sure to check their Instagram if you’re coming to The Grange on a Sunday night, they might have live jazz.
Eating in Lolo’s backyard feels like being at the beach, minus the ocean. There are picnic tables, nautical decorations, and lots of peel-and-eat shrimp to get all over your paper bib. This fun spot serves a combination of Caribbean and New England-style seafood, which means you can order things like jerk chicken, johnny cakes, and steampot combinations. We’d suggest supplementing any meal here with rum punch during their daily Happy Hour (which runs between 4 and 6pm every day). In case you need any other incentive to support this restaurant, they’re also giving back to the Harlem community by delivering hundreds of hot meals to essential workers and residents in need.
Vinateria’s patio is open every day on 119th Street, and they have a bunch of big umbrellas set up in case it’s raining or it’s so hot that you wish it was raining. In addition to their classic Italian dishes and cocktails, this restaurant is also serving DIY kits with fresh pasta and sauce that comes with four portions for $20.
La Diagonal has the advantage of a big corner space, a heaping stock of tequila, and a permit to use part of the street for their outdoor dining. Stop by this Mexican spot for some cocktails and ceviche on a day when the city feels especially like an unwanted sauna. And if you’re looking for chilaquiles and mimosas, La Diagonal also has brunch service available every Saturday and Sunday from noon to 4pm.
If you’re looking for juice, smoothies, and vegan food like soy chicken sandwiches and curry chickpeas, you can pick up food at Uptown Veg and then eat it at one of their tables in front.
Imagine yourself sitting on the corner of 120th and Lenox Avenue picking at a cheeseboard and drinking a limoncello, sorbet, and tequila cocktail out of an actual lemon. In case that sounds pleasant to you, know that this Italian restaurant has outdoor dining available for brunch and dinner.
Harlem Shake’s burgers are made with thin, fast-food style patties that make fast-food patties taste like plastic. This diner-inspired spot on West 124th Street also serves a red velvet milkshake we’d like to go Upstate with one weekend.
Even if you’ve spent nearly 100 days in an apartment with your dinner companion, Belle Harlem will still make it feel like date night. Partly because it’s the sort of place that takes its produce really seriously (the chef has a garden on the rooftop of the restaurant). The menu here consists of upscale dishes like polenta and maitake mushrooms with braised leeks and some very good mac and cheese spring rolls with bacon marmalade and gouda bechamel. Belle is only accepting reservations for two people per party, and you can book a table for their outdoor dining here.
Harlem Public on Broadway and 149th Street serves seven different kinds of burgers (including one with peanut butter and brown sugar bacon on it). More impressively, they’ve set up a beautiful back patio and sidewalk seating area with flowers nice enough to make you feel like you’re attending a small wedding between the happy couple, burger and fry.
This Striver’s Row spot is only holding a limited number of spaces for walk-ins. So if you want to drink frozen cocktails and eat jerk wings at a two-top on their sidewalk space, you should plan ahead and make a reservation through their website here. Also worth mentioning, The Row has plenty of vegan and vegetarian options on their menu.
Ponty Bistro’s patio is open until 11pm every day. Come when you can’t decide whether you want truffle mac and cheese or poulet yassa - Ponty serves both (as well as a mix of other Mediterranean, West African, and American dishes). And, if you’re really being strategic, try to show up between 4pm and 7pm during their Happy Hour.