Eat Outdoors in NYC

Julie Besonen


In NYC, warmer weather is a chance to take advantage of outdoor attractions and dine at alfresco restaurants. Among the most popular places to eat and drink outside are Astoria’s Bohemian Hall & Beer Garden, which serves suds and grilled bratwurst, plus other cheerful beer gardens like Loreley on the Lower East Side and Zum Schneider on Avenue C, where there’s always live soccer showing on a big screen. In Long Island City, M. Wells Steakhouse and Greek outpost Taverna Kyclades both have welcoming outdoor spaces. Breezy Manhattan favorites include Tavern on the Green, Tom Colicchio’s Riverpark and the sprawling Bryant Park Grill. The High Line, too, is popular, and nearby you’ll find Santina, Cookshop, the Standard Biergarten and Untitled at the Whitney—all with great open-air seating. For even more of the City’s sunny delights, read on.

Loreley Loreley. Photo: Steven Levine

A.O.C. is an old-school Gallic bistro with a cheeky disposition, its initials short for L’Aile ou la cuisse (The Wing or Thigh), a 1976 French comedy film pitting high-minded cuisine against machine-made junk food. The traditional fare at this West Village retreat is decidedly of the former persuasion—the kitchen faithfully executes omelets, croque monsieur, salade Niçoise and duck confit with orange-cognac sauce. Check the weather before you go—the most pleasant place to take a repast at A.O.C. is its enclosed, trellised courtyard. Tall trees overhead drop the occasional leaf on wood tables, small birds hop around seeking crumbs, and time stands still for a moment if you let it. Weekdays from 2 to 6pm oysters are $1 each, and house wines and beers are $5.

Forrest Point
Forrest Point feels as casual as a backyard party—its outdoor courtyard is furnished with lawn chairs, heavy wooden tables, hanging plants and birdcage light fixtures. This oasis, in the middle of industrial Bushwick, is an all-day and late-night hangout for coffee, eclectic fare (fish tacos, browned waffle fries, quinoa salad, grilled eggplant sandwich), cocktails and rich desserts like ice cream sandwiches with sea salt caramel gelato. There’s a sheltered patio in front, so there’s no need to stay home if it rains. At brunch, the prix-fixe menu includes options like chilaquiles and smoked salmon Benedict, and comes with coffee and a drink.

Forrest Point Courtesy, Forrest Point

Grand Banks
Past a mini-golf course and a beach volleyball court is the Sherman Zwicker, a graceful wooden schooner docked at the end of Pier 25 in Tribeca. Christened in 1942, the former fishing vessel opened in 2014 as Grand Banks—a seasonal restaurant with a crew of oyster shuckers and an esteemed chef, Kerry Heffernan, who’s also a fisherman. The kitchen is belowdecks, so a dumbwaiter ferries up items like buttermilk-battered soft-shell crabs, lobster rolls and pan roasts with oysters, clams and bacon. Your best bet is scoring a reservation. If you can’t do that and would prefer not to idle on the pier until seats open up, arrive as close to opening as possible (4pm most weekdays, 11am on weekends). The boat gently rocks in the Hudson and features views of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. The restaurant is open weather permitting, so check @grandbanksnyc for updates.

Grand Banks Grand Banks. Photo: Doug Lyle Thompson

Hester Street Fair
The Lower East Side is undergoing enormous change, with new art galleries moving into old storefronts and glassy high-rises replacing brick tenements. The Hester Street Fair is a modern take on the neighborhood’s pushcart history, a collection of independent entrepreneurs selling from canopy-covered booths on a playground equipped with picnic tables (and a Ping-Pong table). The fair takes place every Saturday from 11am to 6pm until the end of October. Shop for vintage clothing and handicrafts and nosh on offerings from a changing roster of street food vendors serving tacos, manti (Turkish dumplings), pizza and—a particular highlight—fried chicken from En Japanese Brasserie.

LIC Market
This low-key café and bar has a primo location—close to MoMA PS1 in Long Island City—plus two sweet little outdoor tables in front and a tented patio in back. The dining room has an outdoor feel too, with banquettes that look like park benches and entwined tree branches on the wall. Since this friendly spot is also near Silvercup Studios, filming location for TV series like Person of Interest and Madam Secretary, the crowd sometimes includes industry types. The seasonal American menu focuses on pastries and eggs for breakfast, salads and sandwiches at lunch and at dinner the likes of chicken liver pâté, risotto, market-fresh fish and dry-aged ribeye with black truffle butter. There’s also an extensive wine, beer and cider list.

The Loeb Boathouse Central Park
Welcome to Manhattan’s version of a country club—an indoor-outdoor restaurant and bar that overlooks a tranquil, rowboat-filled lake. Waterfront tables are prime real estate, but there are also serene views from the handsome bar. Tourists and corporate gatherings predominate at the Loeb Boathouse (when it’s not rented out for weddings), but it’s also tempting for locals passing through Central Park to make a spontaneous stop at the outside bar. The all-American menu includes crab cakes, burgers and herb-crusted salmon. Brunch is especially packed, so aim for off-hours. The adjoining Express Cafe operates daily, dispensing inexpensive bagels, sandwiches and salads.

The Loeb Boathouse in Central Park The Loeb Boathouse. Photo: Christopher Postlewaite

Maison Premiere
Williamsburg’s Maison Premiere won a James Beard award in 2016 for Outstanding Bar Program, and it could also win design awards for its paradisiacal fern-filled garden, one of the most enchanting in the City. Book in advance to secure a table there. The bluesy New Orleans–themed space began as an oyster and cocktail bar in 2011, eventually evolving into a full-fledged seafood restaurant with a bounty of fresh fish, smoked clam chowder and cod brandade. At happy hour, a spectacular selection of oysters starts at $1.25 each. 


Maison Premiere Maison Premiere. Photo: Nichole Franzen

Pier i Cafe
On the Upper West Side along the Hudson River is a scenic bike and running path that passes by Pier i Cafe, an outdoor American eatery at West 70th Street. If your approach is from the east, look for access at West 68th Street, where a trail leads down to the pier. Open daily until mid-October, the hangout offers counter service, umbrella-shaded tables and summertime staples like hot dogs, lobster rolls and mahimahi tacos, plus kid-pleasing chicken tenders and pasta with butter and grated cheese. Linger and witness sunset over a pitcher of beer or bottle of cold Sancerre.

Passersby might think Royale looks like a fine place for a beer and sports on TV, but regulars know it’s so much more, thanks to a two-tiered, year-round leafy garden out back. This is an East Village haven worth knowing about—not only for the quiet garden but for juicy, thick hamburgers that hold together well in a squishy bun. Pulp Fiction fans should order a “royale with cheese” just for the fun of saying it, plus baskets of fries and beer-battered onion rings for the fun of eating them. Wash it down with whiskey from a list that’s impressive for a neighborhood bar. 

Vinegar Hill House
This cozy, old-timey space—located on a darling block near the Brooklyn Navy Yard—has wonderful food and is endowed with a charming private garden. The menu changes with the seasons—in summer you might find freshly picked peas with clover, crème fraîche and hazelnuts and wood-roasted asparagus with buttermilk, crunchy granola and bright hits of dill. Main courses include soft gnocchi with ramps, bacon and parmesan and scallops with fava beans and mint. The mostly European wine list is serious and focuses on small producers.


From Our Partners