Eat Outdoors in NYC

Julie Besonen

(Updated 05/21/2019)

New York City is more outdoorsy than some people might think, with expansive parks, leafy paths, beaches, bike lanes and alfresco restaurants. Breathe in the briny air aboard the Sherman Zwicker schooner, docked in Tribeca, serving Grand Banks’ menu of fresh-shucked oysters and soft shell crabs. Tom Colicchio’s Riverpark, the Upper West Side’s Pier i Café, Chelsea’s Frying Pan and Johnny’s Reef in City Island also feature epic water views. In Central Park, Tavern on the Green and the Loeb Boathouse are bucolic settings for an open-air meal. In the East Village, Narcissa has a gorgeous terrace and a new chef-baker, Max Blachman-Gentile, who makes smoky Japanese sweet potato with Peruvian pesto, and toasted rye cavatelli with oyster mushrooms and black truffle. There’s always a good reason to visit the Whitney Museum of American Art, but particularly when you can get an outside table at its restaurant, Untitled. Read on for our 10 other favorites this season.

Courtesy, Anella

The secluded back garden is the place to be at Anella, reason alone to visit Greenpoint. To start, revel in the warm bread baked fresh in a terra-cotta flowerpot. The dinner menu has Italian accents, such as creamy burrata with prosciutto di Parma, simple pasta with marinara and fresh basil and herb risotto with sugar snap peas and mushrooms. At brunch, dishes are more American in style, with skirt steak and eggs and fried chicken in a biscuit with jalapeño honey butter.

Courtesy, Bocce USQ

Bocce USQ
You don’t have to be in a bocce league to appreciate the charms of this open-air pavilion at the northern end of Union Square Park. Bocce USQ has a chic, European-style vibe and is an appealing place to lounge over a coral-hued Aperol spritz and thin-crust pizza. The spicy pepperoni is excellent, although the real winner is topped with mushrooms, mozzarella, Bayley Hazen Blue cheese and fried garlic. Vegetables are sourced from the adjacent farmers’ market. On the weekends teams that pre-register can play bocce at the outside court.

Courtesy, Bryant Park Grill

Bryant Park Grill
This sprawling restaurant is at the back of the majestic New York Public Library in the heart of Midtown. It overlooks Bryant Park, whose landscaping is reminiscent of Luxembourg Gardens in Paris. Local office workers descend from surrounding skyscrapers, unwinding alongside visitors who take advantage of the park’s proximity to Times Square and Broadway shows. Request a table outside, weather permitting. The lunch, brunch and dinner menus are wide-ranging, offering chopped salads, crab cakes, egg dishes, pancakes, seafood, poultry and meat.

Outdoor tables facing the city skyline are first come, first served at Celestine, a classy Mediterranean restaurant on the Dumbo waterfront. Look for Turkish, North African and Middle Eastern inflections on the menus. Highlights include pistachio feta spread, short rib manti (little dumplings) with garlic yogurt and chermoula-rubbed branzino for two. For dessert, Turkish coffee chocolate mousse is a must. The drinks list is extensive, making it a destination for connoisseurs of single-malt scotch, anise-flavored liqueurs and amaro.

Gallow Green. Photo: Noah Fecks

Gallow Green
Gallow Green is a magical wonderland—a rooftop restaurant and bar with private nooks and an abundance of leafy plants, climbing vines and flowers. Since it’s atop an inspired theatrical venue, the McKittrick Hotel (which hosts Sleep No More, an immersive experience that has audiences roaming the haunted world of Shakespeare’s Macbeth), expect a hip, beautiful crowd and pretty drinks. The seasonal menu offers raw bar favorites such as oysters and shrimp cocktail, mayo-slathered lobster rolls, a brawny burger with bacon marmalade and meatball pizza. Buy tickets in advance for brunch, an all-you-can-eat-buffet affair.

Hudson Clearwater
Hudson Clearwater started out as a secret spot in the West Village, its green door acting as a semi-hidden entrance. Now it’s well known and welcome to all who pass by, with an enclosed patio in back. Breakfast, lunch, brunch and dinner are served, making it a local favorite for solo diners, pairs or groups to pop in any time of day. There’s a nice wine and cocktail list, salads with heirloom radishes and kumquats, lemon-ricotta crostone with fava beans and fresh mint, grilled pork chops and house-made linguine with littleneck clams.

Lafayette. Photo: Noah Fecks

Lafayette’s sidewalk tables are bordered by cascading plants and shaded by blue umbrellas. There are many top-notch bakeries in NYC, but the baguette here strikes us as the best, a browned and crusty baton with a stretchy, yeasty interior. For a fuller array of baked goods, get the mixed boulangerie basket served with Vermont butter. Chef Andrew Carmellini’s croque madame, roasted prime rib sandwich on a pretzel bun, tuna tartare Niçoise and goat cheese agnolotti with mushrooms and English peas are other marvels.


Courtesy, The Oyster House at Pier A

The Oyster House at Pier A
Views of the Statue of Liberty are magnificent from outdoor tables at Battery Park’s Pier A. Up to 2,000 people can jam the ground floor at Oyster House, which gets especially crowded after work and on weekends. Order at the counter; your food will be ferried to your table by the energetic staff. Beer-battered dayboat cod is fresh and crunchy. Blackened swordfish tacos are good too, especially when paired with wine on tap or a cold beer.

This East Village Mexican restaurant always feels festive, indoors and out. Metal planters along the sidewalk shield diners from passing traffic. The guacamole is consistently wonderful, but why not try a different dip? Sikil pak is a delicious, spicy Mayan blend of pumpkin seeds, tomato and habanero chiles paired with crunchy vegetables. Tacos al pastor (spit-roasted pork), chicken enchiladas and queso fundido with poblano rajas and fresh tortillas are other standouts.

Tacocina. Courtesy, Arther Images

This busy taco stand in Williamsburg’s Domino Park has waterfront views and is run by Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group. Look for the giant neon Tacocina sign, and get in line to place your order. Then sit in the sunshine and take in the view while enjoying your fill of guacamole and chips, mushroom and cheese tacos, tart margaritas, rosé on tap and nonalcoholic strawberry-hibiscus slushies. The brief menu changes seasonally.