After enduring an infamously cold and snowy winter, New Yorkers are eager to do just about anything al fresco, and nothing tantalizes more than the promise of sun-dappled outdoor dining. Thankfully, there is no shortage of NYC restaurants with backyard garden, rooftop, sidewalk or terrace seating, but for the best (with tasty food to boot), look no further than these 10 top restaurants, each of which comes with a generous side order of fresh air and plenty of sunshine.
One of the great outdoor sports, cycling, serves as a motif at this butchery, beer shop and restaurant. It’s certainly easy to imagine — as you sit in the quaint cobblestoned courtyard perusing the 450 varieties of beer on offer — that you’re on a rest stop after a day peddling through Prague instead of just southeast of Madison Square Park. While snacking on beef jerky or digging into heartier dishes such as smoked kielbasa with bacon and dill potatoes, take some time to relish the greenery edging the back garden. Bonus: It’s covered and heated in winter, so you can enjoy the space (but not the sun) year-round. 113 E. 29th St., 212-686-5480, cannibalnyc.com
Blue Ribbon Beer Garden
It’s a yard party on a 1,600-square-foot balcony, with board games, ping-pong and comforting barbecue at the Sixty LES hotel. Fine beer fuels the revelry at this seasonal Lower East Sider, with more than two dozen bottles and cans available (Victory Prima Pilsner, Sixpoint Sweet Action, etc.). Suds-friendly eats, such as barbecue ribs and smoky Cornish hen, play up the simple pleasures of an endless, American summer. The only thing missing is lawn darts — for which the crowds below on Allen Street are likely grateful. 190 Allen St., 2nd floor, 212-466-0404, blueribbonrestaurants.com
There are more than enough reasons to love this Chelsea spot with a long history of serving the neighborhood as a greasy spoon, starting in 1946. The restaurant’s reopening in early 2014 brought NYC favorite Amanda Freitag back to the restaurant kitchen for the first time since her days at The Harrison. As well, it ensured that the art deco façade would remain a shiny Tenth Avenue beacon. And then there’s the killer high-minded diner food, ranging from buffalo skate wings to a classic patty melt. Most importantly for vitamin D-starved NYCers, nicer weather ushers in outdoor dining at one of the city’s best intersections for scoping celebrities, artists, and the many fashionable gallery-goers who frequent this area. There are a few spots available now, but an additional 80 sidewalk seats are poised to debut as soon as the weather fully cooperates. 210 10th Ave., 212-596-7523, empire-diner.com
The clout of the restaurant’s big-name chef, Tom Colicchio, likely draws some to this far east corner of Murray Hill, but it’s the waterside views and stand-up food that brings in the repeat business. Indulge in farm-to-table cuisine while overlooking the East River on the patio and you’ll see the allure. Elevated entrees such as half rabbit with Thumbelina carrots, baby leeks and Fresno chilies dot the menu. The picnic-tabled terrace is more casual in service and look (you can order at either from the regular or bar menu), but both areas share the same glorious views. 450 E. 29th St., 212-729-9790, riverparknyc.com
The Standard, High Line
There’s something for every open-air mood at this Meatpacking hotel. There’s the Biergarten, with a menu of wurst and pretzels by Kurt Gutenbrunner (Wallse), and the sidewalk seating at the hotel’s anchor eatery, The Standard Grill, where you can enjoy summery fare such as squid ink linguini, calamari, chorizo, roasted tomato, garlic and lemon. On the rooftop, a creperie acts as an adjunct to splashy, water-themed club Le Bain. A pop-up restaurant will return to the plaza this year, as well, just outside the hotel’s entrance. Previous years have seen the likes of a tapas bar from Seamus Mullen; this year’s chef and theme will be announced in early May 2014. 848 Washington St., 212-645-4646, standardhotels.com
Romance is alive and well in Queens, and you can enjoy the fare and the stunning Manhattan and river views at this beloved restaurant. During the day, the sunlight sparkles off the East River; in the evening, the skyscrapers twinkle in the distance. On the plate before you: lobster dumplings with red Thai curry-coconut broth and pickled mango or Long Island duck breast with Swiss chard, farro risotto, candied walnut and sundried cranberries. 401 44th Dr., Long Island City, 718-482-0033, watersedgenyc.com
Bourbon Street arrives via Bedford Avenue in a casual courtyard setting smack in the middle of hipster Williamsburg. Wooden trellises, wrought-iron furniture and an abundance of greenery provide an apropos Big Easy backdrop for absinthe drips, fresh oysters and throwback mains such as lobster a la Newburg. 298 Bedford Ave., Brooklyn, 347-335-0446, maisonpremiere.com
A New England lobster spot just wouldn’t feel right without an opportunity to stick your toes in the … gravel. Well, the pebbles may remind you that you’re still in Brooklyn, but the food definitely feels a few hundred miles north, especially in the tree-shaded, picnic-tabled garden. Close your eyes and imagine that you’re dockside, waiting for those traps to come in; then order up the roll of your choice: lobster, crab, clam or oyster. Fish and chips and crab cake dinner are the most popular off-the-bun orders. 1073 Manhattan Ave., Brooklyn, 718-389-8990, lobsterjoint.com
It is hard to resist sitting anywhere but the wood-decked yard just under the shimmering lights of the Brooklyn Bridge at this Mexican restaurant in Dumbo. The farm-fresh dishes, such as sopes with skirt steak and whole roasted porgy with garlic, lime and rice are worthy competitors, certainly. And the inventive margaritas aren’t too shabby either — try the Margarita de Toronja Picante for a hot-cool blend of tequila, triple sec, fresh-squeezed lime and grapefruit juices, jalapeno syrup and spicy grapefruit salt. But even after a few tequilas, it’s still the bridge view that elicits the most contented sighs. 5 Front St., Brooklyn, 718-852-2700, granelectrica.com
White trellises line the plant-filled yard at this Harlem restaurant in a brownstone, making it feel more garden party than restaurant back patio. Opened in March 2014, this table d’hote (fancy French word for prix fixe) destination has a daily changing menu that’s fashioned after whatever is freshest at the market. You can always count on the fare to skew French and the two courses to cost $32. 231 Lenox Ave., 212-662-4374, cheriharlem.com
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