Best Outdoor Dining in NYC for Summer

Julie Besonen

Summer food tastes even better outside, especially if there’s a breeze. We can’t guarantee the weather will be perfect, of course, but we can say the 10 airy restaurants we’ve chosen have appealing sidewalks or backyard tables, and each offers a balmy respite. And by the way, the 10 outdoor spots we touted in winter are still winners. For more on where to go and what to eat, read on below.

Courtesy, Café Fiorello

Café Fiorello

1900 Broadway, Upper West Side, Manhattan

Lincoln Center always has a dizzying array of entertainment, and this summer that includes a dance floor with a 10-foot-wide disco ball. To refuel after dancing under the stars, step across the street to Café Fiorello, in business since 1974 and showing no signs of age. There is ample alfresco seating and a menu of thin-crust pizza, earthy penne puttanesca and an antipasto bar with classic vegetable sides such as broccoli rabe aglio e olio, zucchini parmesan and Sicilian eggplant caponata.

Café Spaghetti

126 Union St., Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn

Café Spaghetti’s 40-seat backyard is heaven, with striped umbrellas shading tables, vine-covered walls, potted plants and a sporty blue Vespa parked in the center of it all. It’s Carroll Gardens-meets-Italy from Brooklyn-born chef Sal Lamboglia, whose Italian-born father, Tony, worked in various kitchens on Little Italy’s Mulberry Street and makes the transcendent tiramisu here. Sal’s highlights include cacio e pepe rice balls, spiedini alla Romana (a deluxe, deep-fried, mozzarella sandwich basted in lemon-anchovy sauce) and ricotta ravioli sweetened with aged balsamic.

Emilia’s Restaurant

2331 Arthur Ave., Belmont, The Bronx

Summer is the time to dine on Arthur Avenue, when the area is rechristened “Piazza di Belmont” and a doo-wop group strolls the thoroughfare. Weekend evenings (through September 25) are closed to vehicles so restaurants can expand their outdoor footprint. Emilia’s is one of the best, with both front-porch seating and a rock-walled back patio featuring a sweet little waterfall. Joanne Lerro and family extend warm hospitality and elevate Southern Italian standards such as a generously sized, crunchy chicken parm. Gnocchi is made in-house, submerged in vodka sauce and crowned with a big dollop of burrata, and there’s also a nicely battered fried calamari.

Courtesy, Fish Cheeks

Fish Cheeks

55 Bond St., Noho, Manhattan

Lined with intriguing architecture and voguish shops, including a Goop outlet, Bond Street is also where you’ll find the lively Thai restaurant Fish Cheeks. Outdoor booths and café tables dominate a good part of the Belgian block pavement. Come at happy hour for discounted oysters, beer, wine and cocktails with a tropical bent. Open for lunch and dinner, dishes are complex, spicy and shareable. Favorites include lightly fried chicken wings spiked with chili, and a creamy coconut crab curry that’s generous on the crab.

Courtesy, Leyla

Leyla

108 W. 74th St., Upper West Side, Manhattan

Leyla has a small backyard patio and sheltered sidewalk seating on a secluded residential street, making it a lovely choice for outdoor dining on the Upper West Side. The food, which has Turkish and Mediterranean influences, is vibrant and delicious, with a multitude of items for vegetarians. Start with zucchini fritters accompanied by a refreshing mint-yogurt dip, and move on to the big Greek salad with pomegranate-lemon dressing. Lamb is also a strong suit here, garnishing fresh-baked flatbread (lahmacun) and stuffed in a cheeseburger spread with muhammara, a nutty red-pepper paste.

Courtesy, Mark’s Off Madison

Mark’s Off Madison

41 Madison Ave., Nomad/Flatiron District, Manhattan

Mark Strausman, a chef beloved from his time at Campagna and Freds at Barneys, is behind this Jewish deli that is also an Italian restaurant. For brunch at one of the restaurant's many well-spaced tables out front, the bagel and bialy basket is a dream, served with a trio of vegetable, scallion and plain cream cheeses. Smoked fish platters are sublime. Also open for lunch and dinner, the menu ranges from pizzas and pastas to signature dishes that hark back to Freds, such as the O.G. Madison salad with Italian tuna, chopped greens and vegetables.

Courtesy, Miss Lily’s 7A

Miss Lily’s 7A

109 Ave. A, East Village, Manhattan

The everyone-is-welcome vibe is strong at Miss Lily’s 7A, found on a well-trafficked corner across from Tompkins Square Park. Reggae beats radiate from the café, giving the sidewalk tables and street shed (sheltered in case it rains) a festive air. Attire among the staff and clientele is beachy, and so are the cocktails, from rum punch to mango sangria. Share the fresh cod fish fritters, jerk-spiced fries, ackee hummus with plantain chips and the Jamaican curry shrimp with roti bread, and you’ll want to come back for more.

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Silver Apricot

20 Cornelia St., West Village, Manhattan

Silver Apricot is a sliver of a restaurant on a cute, tiny West Village street. There are a few alfresco tables out front, and in back is a quiet, enclosed, wood-paneled patio with oversize fans to keep the air circulating. Chef Simone Tong’s Chinese-American menu is inspired, epitomized by warm, buttery scallion puffs coiled like mini cinnamon rolls. Peking grilled cheese (a must) is composed of a crisp, flaky pancake enfolding shredded duck confit and caramelized cheddar cheese curds. The menu is all small plates, but each dish is loaded with flavor.

Courtesy, Tacoway Beach

Tacoway Beach

302 Beach 87th St., Rockaway Beach, Queens

You know it’s summer when you can eat again at Tacoway Beach, a popular pitstop in Rockaway Beach. Located a bit inland from the sand and boardwalk at the Rockaway Surf Club, this eatery has a chill surfer vibe with surfboard lockers surrounding picnic tables. Order from an app—don’t miss the fish tacos, chile-laced cucumber and mango salad, and the elote (roasted corn coated in queso and crema)—and pick up your food at the counter when it’s ready. Weekends can be crazy, so try to go off-hours. The bar is cash only.

Courtesy, Tito Murphy’s

Tito Murphy’s

346 W. 46th St., Hell’s Kitchen/Theatre District, Manhattan

Number one tip at Tito Murphy’s: get the loaded nachos, a platter of tortilla chips heaped with poblano peppers, guacamole, pico de gallo and a cascade of queso (non-vegetarians should add on the steak, tender and salty.) Along the Theatre District’s Restaurant Row, this Mexican saloon has comfortable, covered sidewalk seating, and if you’re looking for a post-show repast, know that Tito’s stays open later than most of the neighboring places. The restaurant also features good tacos and burritos, as well as one of the more extensive tequila lists in the city.


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