Best Restaurant Patios in New York City
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Alfresco in the Big Apple
On New York City’s sunny days, residents flock outside to enjoy spectacular sunsets and steamy summer nights. From a lobster cruise on the Hudson River to a garden patio hidden behind a former carriage house, here are the ultimate spots to eat and drink outdoors in the Big Apple.
Photo courtesy of Alexander Pincus
Pier A: Battery Park City
Once the VIP entrance for European ambassadors traveling to Ellis Island, Pier A is now a place to gaze at Lady Liberty while enjoying a seafaring menu — chowders, ceviche and broiled lobster — and an array of local and imported beers. Guests get friendly at communal picnic tables on the promenade that rings the 28,000-square-foot Harbor House. If the weather turns stormy, retreat to the indoor Long Hall and Oyster Bar or the upstairs Commissioner’s Bar, a city landmark, which opened in 1886 as the headquarters for the New York Harbor Police and Department of Docks.
Bar SixtyFive at Rainbow Room: Rockefeller Center
There are few views more stunning than the one from the 65th floor atop Rockefeller Plaza. Not only is Bar SixtyFive at Rainbow Room the highest point to sip and snack in New York City, but the offerings can be consumed on the terrace in the open air. Signature items include the refreshing Mint T-ulep — tequila, mint, simple syrup and lavender bitters — and a modern take on Oysters Rockefeller. On Sundays, the Rainbow Room hosts a superb brunch for morning drinks, with 360-degree views.
Shake Shack: Madison Square Park
Shake Shack has become the city’s fast-casual culinary mascot, with locations across the boroughs and in ballparks, airports and even far-flung cities like Dubai, Beirut and Tokyo. Suffice it to say, it is still a great place to grab a burger. Launched as a summertime hot-dog cart that stood across the street from Eleven Madison Park restaurant, this cult hit spawned its first official location, or “shack,” in scenic Madison Square Park back in 2004. The line seems like it has never ceased since then. If you’ve not yet sampled their latest creation, the Chick’n Shack — chicken breaded and fried until ultracrispy, topped with briny pickles and tucked into a squishy bun that’s slathered with buttermilk mayo — wash it down with seasonal beer or raspberry limeade while watching the park’s squirrels gobble up stray french fries.
Photo courtesy of Esto Photography
Grand Banks: Hudson River Park at Pier 25
The last operable salt-cod fishing ship, the Sherman Zwicker (built in 1942), now serves as an oyster bar docked at Hudson River Park’s Pier 25. As befits a maritime restaurant, the menu highlights sustainable, wild-caught seafood overseen by executive chef and avid fisherman Kerry Heffernan. The boat’s deck is also one of the city’s most-popular summer bars, pouring rosé, beer and cocktails to stripes-clad New Yorkers. On weekends, the brunch is a scene, with items like mascarpone French toast and New Orleans-style cheese grits with andouille sausage. Return for sunset cocktails, and repeat on Sunday.
Photo courtesy of Alan Silverman
When the weather warms up, Eataly transforms its rooftop beer restaurant into a scene from the Italian seaside. The emporium’s summer pop-up restaurant, Sabbia, which means “sand,” sports striped cabanas and a retractable roof. The menu represents the coastal cuisine of Italy, including the Riviera Romagnola’s piadinas (pressed flatbread sandwiches), Southern Italy’s bombette (cheese-stuffed pork bombs) and Liguria’s fritto misto (mixed, fried seafood), as well as swordfish Sicilian style, and drinks like the Pesca Fresca (peach puree, rosemary, lemon and sparkling water). Seasonal Italian wines and hot-weather on-tap cocktails all help bring La Dolce Vita to the Flatiron.
Santina: Meatpacking District
Situated at the base of two of New York City’s greatest cultural treasures —the High Line and the new Whitney Museum — Santina is a slice of Mediterranean charm in the heart of the Meatpacking District. At this third Italian restaurant from the team behind Parm and Carbone, the menu specializes in bright salads, pastas and grilled dishes. When the weather warms, the restaurant flows onto the sidewalk, nearly doubling its capacity and giving diners a front-row seat for the fashion and flair of the neighborhood. The savory crepe-like chickpea pancakes are a near-mandatory starter, best topped with spicy Calabrian tuna tartare or chopped avocado with almond pesto. In late summer, Santina devotes an entire section of the menu to the tomato, arguably Italy’s most-indispensable ingredient.
The Brooklyn Barge: Greenpoint, Brooklyn
When riding the subway, it can be hard to remember New York City was once a maritime heavyweight, with one of the country’s busiest ports. A good reminder is The Brooklyn Barge, a seasonal floating restaurant equipped with industrial-size wire spools converted into tables and direct views of the Williamsburg Bridge. The casual all-day menu offers Grilled Fish Tacos, Mini Veggie Burger Sliders, and Tugboat Fries with pulled pork, cheese and jalapenos. Also available: beer (available by the bucket for groups), wine and specialty cocktails such as a nautical Rum Punch. For service, order at the bar and pick up your fare at the window of the kitchen, which is housed in a repurposed shipping container.
Photo courtesy of Liz Barclay
Lafayette Grand Café & Bakery: NoHo
It’s only fitting that the French-inspired Lafayette would offer Parisian-style sidewalk seating. This market-driven all-day eatery from celebrated chef Andrew Carmellini is at its best in nice weather, when locals pair cafes au lait with French pastries or settle in for larger-format dishes like rotisserie chicken salad, spaghetti nicoise — with rare and confit tuna — and a brisket burger blanketed in raclette. It’s an ideal downtown spot for a leisurely late-afternoon lunch that offers good people-watching in the shade.
Photo courtesy of Paul Wagtouicz
Industry Kitchen: South Street Seaport
Steps from the historic South Street Seaport, this modern 5,000-square-foot structure takes advantage of its riverfront location, offering beautiful views and ample open-air seating. The New American menu features dishes from the two custom-made wood-burning ovens, including housemade pizzas, grilled miso-marinated salmon, steaks and oven-poached shrimp.
For those who can’t make it out to the Hamptons, Montauk comes to Manhattan with this bright, airy seafood restaurant highlighting Long Island’s finest fish. Seasonal favorites include poke with avocado, ponzu and peanuts and the seared seasonal fish tacos with black bean puree, avocado and crema. Take a seat outside at the busy intersection of Broome and Mulberry, where you can also grab a soft-serve ice cream from the takeout window.
Mr. Purple: Lower East Side
Like a tiny slice of Sesame Street in the heart of New York, this rooftop perch on the 15th floor of the Hotel Indigo is named in honor of neighborhood environmentalist and garden tender David Wilkie, aka Mr. Purple. A fixture on the Lower East Side, Wilkie painstakingly planted his “Garden of Eden,” a 15,000-square-foot urban oasis on a gritty stretch of Forsyth Street, which was once featured in National Geographic. Raise a glass to him with the eponymous Mr. Purple, a ruby-hued blend of tequila, cranberries and secret punch mix, and nibble on flatbread with seasonal market vegetables — best enjoyed poolside.
Photo courtesy of Gerber Group
Alta Linea at the High Line Hotel: Chelsea
In warm weather, Alta Linea takes over the The High Line Hotel’s walled front garden, serving an aperitivo menu designed by beverage luminary Joe Campanale. The frozen Negroni cocktail is the ultimate heat buster and pairs well with Chef Francis Peabody’s revamped Italian menu. During the day visit the front yard’s Intelligentsia coffee truck housed in a refurbished 1963 Citroen.
Frankies 457: Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn
One of the biggest backyards in Brooklyn can be found at Frankies 457 Spuntino. Diners get away to this garden oasis with plentiful seating to enjoy aperitivi, antipasti and Italian wines during the summer evenings. For bigger appetites, turn to the restaurant’s classics: escarole salad with red onion, walnuts and pecorino; housemade cavatelli with Faicco’s hot sausage and browned sage butter; Sicilian-style meatballs with pine nuts and raisins; and the eggplant marinara — better than Nonna’s. Large parties will enjoy an affordable, three-course, family-style menu of the same designs, lingering for hours under strings of twinkling lights.
Freud: Greenwich Village
From popular East Village restaurateur and chef Eduard Frauneder (Edi & the Wolf, The Third Man), Freud sits on the border of SoHo and Greenwich Village. Inspired by turn-of-the-century Viennese brasseries, the kitchen serves contemporary takes on Austrian classics, including wiener schnitzel with classic cucumber salad and cranberry compote. Less authentic, the Freud Burger is draped in cheddar, slathered with onion jam and served on a potato bun. Freud offers scenic sidewalk seating at brunch and dinner, with plenty to look at on a serene stretch of LaGuardia Place.
Gran Eléctrica: Brooklyn
Gran Eléctrica’s guacamole and margaritas are appealing at any time of year, but in the warmer months there’s even more incentive to take a trip to Dumbo. This market-driven Mexican restaurant’s garden oasis is outfitted with twinkling lights, ivy-covered walls and stunning views of the Brooklyn Bridge. Summertime is ideal for summer corn, ideally as part of the kitchen’s Esquites: New Jersey sweet corn charred over an open flame until blistered, then shaved into a bowl and mixed with chipotle mayonnaise, lime juice, Cotija cheese and pickled cilantro leaves.
North River Lobster Company: North River Landing at Pier 81
One of the most-unusual ways to experience outdoor dining is the North River Lobster Company, on board a ship that takes diners on a quick river cruise. Once aboard this floating seafood shack, guests can savor summer’s iconic East Coast crustacean: lobster. Menu standouts include lobster salad and a lobster roll with Old Bay mayonnaise, celery and lemon juice. The New Yorker combines lobster meat, onion, celery and whole-grain mustard aioli. There’s also a raw bar, Parmesan fries and heaps of beer, including by the bottle or bucket. If you miss the boat, relax by the shore at picnic tables on the newly configured barge bar until the next one sets sail.
Hudson Clearwater: West Village
The next best thing to your own private West Village backyard garden is a meal at Hudson Clearwater. Behind this charming 1826 carriage house is an idyllic alfresco spot for Long Island duck, grass-fed steaks, fish and a wide assortment of hearty vegetarian salads and seasonal sides. Indoors, the space is decorated with original wood floors, sliding barn doors and beams that were repurposed to create the large wooden chef's counter surrounding the open kitchen.
Freehold: Williamsburg, Brooklyn
The arrival of Freehold has brought more good food, drink and fun to Williamsburg. The latest boutique accommodations to hit the Brooklyn nabe provide an expansive outdoor courtyard on two levels where you can munch on classic burgers, lobster rolls with brown butter, and hearty bowls of mussels. The “tree pit” offers plush pillows for those needing a nap, and pingpong tables provide playful competition, while the communal tables are perfect for enjoying frozen tiki drinks in summer. Don’t miss their gastronomic events like the Beefsteak Dinner, Crawfish Boil and Summer Grill Series.
Lavender Lake: Gowanus, Brooklyn
Word has quickly spread around Brooklyn about this modern, seasonal American eatery known for its beautiful garden space. A space this beautiful could rely on looks and liquor alone, but Lavender Lake does well with food. Hump day here means Mussel Beach Wednesdays: half a pound of mollusks served with a select bottle of wine for just $26. Additional lures include Fried Brussels Sprouts with lemon aioli, the signature LL Bacon Burger and a crispy Fried Chicken Sandwich. To beat the heat try light, spritzy cocktails like the Montauk Project — a concoction of Greenhook gin, cold-pressed serrano water, celery shrub bitters, tonic and an herbaceous basil tincture.
Saxon + Parole: East Village
For an upscale happy hour with uncompromising cuisine (and the bonus of curbside seating), turn to Saxon and Parole. During the week, the outdoor terrace plays home to “Aperitif Hour” featuring Chef Brad Farmerie’s diverse selection of oysters served on the half shell, smoked, seared or fried and served with ranch-style yogurt sauce. Pair them with bottled Negronis, lemony white sangria or the Beer Cassis, an unusual marriage of Byrrh aperitif, pilsner and a dash of cassis liqueur. If you’re settling in for dinner, opt for the maple-bacon-topped house burger or one of the seasonal salads.
La Sirena: Chelsea
Tucked one flight above Ninth Avenue, in the Maritime Hotel, La Sirena is an expansive, refined Italian trattoria from Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich. In keeping with the nautical theme, La Sirena — which means “mermaid” in Italian — features a large outdoor courtyard with secluded cabanas. It’s ideal for leisurely breakfasts, and morning options here include delectable mains like the Amaretti Mascarpone Pancakes and the Duck Egg with Polenta under almond pesto. Follow it up by lingering over an espresso and the irresistible Cornetto from genius Pastry Director Michael Laiskonis. At night, crudo and pasta dominate the menu, as diners feel thousands of miles away from the heart of New York.
Roof at Park South: Flatiron
If you can get past the frustration of waiting in line behind a velvet rope, you will be rewarded with comfortable couches, fireplaces, a menu by James Beard Foundation Award-winning chef Tim Cushman and incredible views of the city. Roof at Park South serves signature pizzettes, wings and playful funnel cakes to pair with signature cocktails. The rooftop bar also offers growler service, which is ideal for large groups. All this is can be enjoyed under strung lights and that colorful skyline.
The Good Fork: Red Hook, Brooklyn
Devastated by Hurricane Sandy, The Good Fork, a Red Hook neighborhood mainstay known for its eclectic, globe-trotting menu, was in danger of never reopening. The interior was a virtual swimming pool, with the cellar filled with water and all of the equipment destroyed. Thanks to some fundraising and unwavering commitment from the husband-and-wife owners, they reopened in just a few months, with much fanfare, and are now celebrating 10 years in business. The revamped patio is a true escape, adorned with globe lights, wooden furniture, plants, flowers and herbs. A little nook off the outdoor space houses Das Parakeet, a “beer jungle” refashioned by owner Ben Schneider as a tiki lounge.