We’ve all gotten used to eating outdoors, so now that the weather’s warmer, let’s keep it going.
Top NYC Outdoor Dining
New York City restaurants have been finetuning outdoor spaces ever since the pandemic started. These outdoor “cafés” have evolved into extensions of the restaurant’s own indoor spaces with new or familiar design elements from early wooden sheds and plastic enclosed shelter-like structures. Or they’ve just evolved into something entirely different.
Two-Michelin starred chef Gabriel Kreuther needs no introduction. The charming Alsatian chef has garnered accolades at every place he’s cooked, from L’Atelier at the Ritz-Carlton New York, Central Park to The Modern at the Museum of Modern Art and now at his eponymous restaurant across from the New York Public Library. Choosing outdoor seating over the lovely, luxe indoor setting is a tough choice, but this might make up your mind: the beautiful patio that abuts the restaurant adds even more chances to try Chef’s acclaimed cuisine. There you can order à la carte and enjoy a prix fixe dinner or the signature GK tasting menu. If you’re looking for a simpler meal, order Chef’s smoked bacon tarte flambée – it’s definitely one of the best things I’ve eaten in Manhattan. Ask the sommelier for a red wine to accompany it or possibly a Riesling for a different spin. The Tasting Menu is the choice for foodies and especially for food photographers. Have your video ready for the lovely sturgeon and sauerkraut tart served under a cloche, presented with panache and a plume of Applewood smoke.
Just two blocks from Union Square, a bustling Greek restaurant, Kyma, has added an outdoor floral space to its whitewashed indoors. Both indoor and outdoor dining are in high demand, but you should request a table al fresco for a setting that’s especially appropriate for the restaurant’s Mediterranean fare. Start with an inventive cocktail or a crisp Greek white wine to accompany a medley of the restaurant’s all-star appetizers: horiatiki, grilled octopus, zucchini chips and Crudo. Then order a simply grilled branzino and a trio of lamb chops with a side of lemon potatoes, and you’re off to the Greek isles.
A scene-y favorite in Manhattan (and Miami, Las Vegas and the Hamptons), Scarpetta has created a distinctive outdoor ambiance on Madison Avenue. Switching over from its winter “chalet” concept, Scarpetta welcomes the warmer months with a structure that’s more like dining in a greenhouse, one that’s shaded from the sun and adorned with native plants. Surrounded by ever-blooming greenery, you’ll enjoy Scarpetta’s outstanding Italian menu, including the restaurant’s signature spaghetti or Crudo, both fitting starters to the main features, a Wagyu steak worthy of sharing and beautifully prepared branzino or halibut. The sommelier will happily set up an ice bucket to keep your favorite vintage chilled for the evening.
The Greens at the Rooftop on Pier 17
Summer fun returns to the rooftop at what is likely the most imaginative outdoor dining space in the city, The Greens Lawns & Patios on the Rooftop at Pier 17. You’ll have your own mini-lawn with full-size lounge chairs, a table and an umbrella where you can savor creative cocktails, lobster rolls and more while soaking up the panorama of the Lower Manhattan skyline, the Brooklyn shore and the East River. If you peer carefully to the South, you can also catch a glimpse of Lady Liberty herself. Imagine this setting, if you will, on the Fourth of July, or for that matter, on any sunny day. It’s a beach party like no other. Everything is contactless with ordering direct from your phone. Reservations require a bit of digital dexterity and planning: new dates are released every Monday at 10:00 a.m. for the following week’s brunch, lunch and dinner reservations. Evening entertainment includes DJ tunes and full-screen movies as well.
As long as you’re near a river, you might want to set sail (figuratively) on a boat. On the other side of Manhattan, docked on the Hudson River, the former wooden schooner Sherman Zwicker, now the home of Grand Banks oyster bar, is a romantic choice for an outdoor evening. Facing the West Side, you can time your visit for sunset over New Jersey (yes, it’s pretty beautiful) as you set the mood with oysters, lobster rolls and other aphrodisiacal choices. Cocktails are delicious and refreshing – try the Revolución made with vodka, mint and Angostura bitters. As with any waterside location in Manhattan, you’ll need to book ahead as reservations disappear as quickly as the wind changes.
A Meatpacking District favorite, Pastis was an early adopter of the outdoor café scene. No matter the weather, the expansive covered outdoor space feels like a logical extension of the restaurant itself, a French sidewalk café adjacent to an uber-Parisian bistro. The menu is pure Paris – order the steak tartare and frites to start, perhaps add a platter of oysters, and then finish with boeuf Bourguignon and a glass or two of Burgundy. The pedestrian-only street adds a bit more France to the setting – it’s like having the wide Champs-Elysées right in the middle of New York City with a great people-watching show by your table.