Walking around NYC right now, you’ll likely see just as many outdoor dining structures as manholes. They’ve become staples in the weird and wonderful world of supporting restaurants through a pandemic, and essential for planning a solid outdoor dinner date, choosing a patio to meet up with a few friends, or having meal outside when it may rain. But with more impressive options for outdoor dining than ever before, you might be wondering where to get a great meal that's just as excellent as the patio setup. That’s why we put together this guide. From the clear plastic domes at a French bistro on the UWS to wooden cabins at a tasting menu restaurant in Prospect Lefferts Gardens, here is a list of the 20 best patios around the city.
In New York, everything is always in flux. But there are two constants you can pretty much always count on. First, you’ll have to wait at least 45 minutes for a table at Via Carota in the West Village, and second, it’ll feel worth it once the food arrives. This Italian restaurant’s cacio e pepe is the best in the city, and their garlicky chopped steak is richer and more compelling than the majority of non-chopped steaks we’ve encountered. Plus, Via Carota’s expanded outdoor seating is a mix of umbrella-covered patio tables and two-tops underneath a large awning loaded with twinkly lights, and both options work well for a bucket list-worthy meal in Manhattan.
The greenhouse patio at Thai Diner is a miniature version of the Nolia spot’s impressive dining room. It’s all-bamboo-everything, from the wallpaper to the chairs, complete with heaters hanging above every table and shiny checkered floors that’ll make you feel the sudden urge to do the lindy hop. Every New Yorker should strive to eat the egg sandwich wrapped in flaky roti at brunch, or the creamy khao soi, fried chicken larb, and cabbage rolls stuffed with citrusy ground turkey and mushrooms at dinner.
For the chance to eat lobster tempura in taco-shaped nori outside in the West Village, check Nami Nori’s outdoor tent. It’s an all-white structure filled with custom-built, heated chairs to keep your bottom side warm while you eat generously-stuffed handrolls. Nami Nori is taking dinner and weekend brunch reservations online, as well as holding a few tables for walk-ins. During lunch, you can also order takeout and sit at one of their tables on a first-come, first-served basis without waiter service.
When this counter-service Pakistani spot moved from Bushwick to Williamsburg in 2020 they kept their phenomenal burger and seekh kebabs, and gained a lovely little backyard in the process. A win-win for everyone. So if you want a full dine-in experience at the new-ish counter service place on Grand Street anytime soon, grab a table on their heated patio pergola under a galaxy of string lights. Bring a few beers or pick up a cocktail beforehand to make the most of their BYOB policy.
From the pastel pink arches to the checkered flooring, eating lunch on Guevara’s patio feels like attending a party in Betsy Johnson’s backyard. It also helps that this Clinton Hill vegan restaurant hosts a live salsa band on Saturdays from 1pm to 4pm, when neighbors come out to dance in the street at a safe distance. For a more traditional sit-down experience involving plant-based Cuban dishes like an excellent torta with fried eggplant and several vegan pastries, stop by their covered outdoor area on a first-come, first-served basis between 7am and 6pm daily. Or pick up a new ficus tree on a Sunday morning from the plant shop inside.
From the excellent mole selection to its brightly-painted sidewalk patio, Ruta Oaxaca takes the maximalist approach at every turn. And that’s exactly why we love this Mexican restaurant in Astoria. The electric pink hut out front has four walls, a periwinkle carpet, huge windows, and a sliding door that stays open at all times. Eating the rich mole-covered enchiladas and tender short ribs inside the vibrant structure felt like being in a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory movie reboot based in 2021. If you need another reason to make this Oaxacan spot a priority on your list of new restaurants to check out, know that Ruta offers a 2-for-1 cocktail special during brunch service on weekends - all tables are first come, first served till 4pm.
Honey Badger in Prospect Lefferts Gardens has fully committed to creating new outdoor architecture: they built a chic, wooden lean-to house where you can stay dry and warm while you eat. The experimental tasting menu changes often, but it’s always focused on local seafood dishes like soft shell crab with fiddlehead ferns and whole squid with wild leek. You can make a reservation for up to six people on the restaurant’s website.
Lafayette is a massive French restaurant in Noho with plenty of dog-friendly, umbrella-covered sidewalk seating on Lafayette Street. But they’ve also got private cabins that you can reserve for a special occasion meal with a few friends. These heated greenhouses run side-by-side along the perimeter of the restaurant’s sidewalk, so you’ll actually be able to make uncomfortable eye contact with other diners during dinner or weekend brunch while remaining socially-distant.
This outdoor-only Williamsburg spot looks like it could win a garden design competition show. The restaurant is essentially one huge covered patio surrounded by hanging plants, towering trees, and potted plants. Up front, they’ve got a row of heated picnic tables that work for small groups, plus there’s a quieter corner in the back with a bunch of heated two-top tables.
This French bistro on the UWS installed clear plastic domes to cover each of their outdoor tables. Each private dome has its own heater, which means you can focus on moule frites and wine instead of windchill and potential frostbite. The domes can be reserved through the restaurant’s website.
Claro’s big backyard full of trees, string lights, and aqua-colored patio furniture is always one of our favorite places in the city to eat outside. And currently, you can experience it in a whole new way. This Gowanus spot’s fantastic Oaxacan food is being offered in a $72 four-course meal, in which you can choose dishes like masa fried oysters, tamales with guinea hen, and mole negro with seared duck. Reservations are required, with tables available nightly from 5:30 to 9:15pm, as well as for weekend brunch from 11:30am to 3pm.
The backyard at Lolo’s in Harlem is the perfect place to drink rum punch while eating large quantities of crab, shrimp, or other types of seafood outside. It’s got heated cabanas and open-air picnic tables that’ll make you feel like you’re dining on an oceanless beach. Head here the next time you’re in the mood to get peel-and-eat shrimp all over a paper bib.
Not only has this Williamsburg Peruvian spot set up a block of heated cabins on its sidewalk, but they’ve also included woven light fixtures, insulated curtains, and complimentary blankets in each one. You can make a dinner reservation through their website or by calling 718-387-3434 for groups of up to six any night of the week. Plus, they’ve got new winter menu items like hot black bass ceviche and banana and queso helado ice cream cake.
If you want to bask in the glow of a heat lamp while eating some of the best Indian food in the city, then a meal at Adda in Long Island City should be one of your top priorities. While you’re dining on their covered and heated patio, do us a favor and bottle some of the saffron-scented steam that rises when you uncovered the dough on top of their incredible goat biryani.
This Japanese spot in Chinatown has everything from tabletop jingisukan grills to french fries with uni and anchovies. But what really sets Dr. Clark apart are the eight outdoor kotatsu tables where you can sit with a group of three to six people under a roof and a disco ball. These tables are reservation-only, so make sure to check out their website ahead of time.
If you’re looking to reserve a private greenhouse for an outdoor meal in Queens, American Brass is the best option around. They have a total of thirty-four heated cabins where you can eat things like a dry-aged burger, crispy pork belly, and trout croquettes for dinner while enjoying views of the Manhattan skyline. Plus, they offer cocktail pitchers, duck fat hash browns, and smoke salon benedict during weekend brunch.
The plant-filled back patio at this Middle Eastern spot in Fort Greene is surrounded by brick walls and murals of people drinking wine. It’s a wonderful place to have dinner with someone who you like, or who you want to like you. If there are no reservations available in the back, though, know that everything from the sweet whipped ricotta to the creamy hummus with lamb shawarma is so good that you’ll be very happy on their covered patio out front as well.
The Grounds of Brooklyn
This Italian restaurant on the border of Flatbush and Midwood has one of the most creative outdoor igloos we’ve ever seen. So if you want to dine inside a heated pod that looks like it could easily be a vessel humans could inhabit on Mars, book a table here for yourself and up to eight of your friends.
While Elsie Rooftop is only about a block away from Times Square, the space feels more like a 1920s penthouse than a deserted tourist trap. This bar has golden chandeliers and a big wraparound terrace with sectional couches and string-lit shrubbery, but somehow it doesn’t feel too stuffy. You might see people in boxy dark blazers drinking champagne here, but more likely, others will just be hanging out and sharing sangria pitchers. Stop by Elsie at 5pm on a Friday to catch the sunset, or do some day drinking from 1-10pm on Saturday or Sunday.
As the snow melts in NYC, you might be missing the accumulated ice crystals on the sidewalk. Thankfully at Hutte on the Upper East Side, an outdoor restaurant made to feel like an Austrian ski lodge, you can pretend every day is a snow day. With carpets, hanging wreaths, and vintage ski photos on wood-paneled walls, Hutte’s patio feels like eating in a winter cottage. And one of the only places in the city where you can get a traditional Austrian breakfast spread and fondue with Swiss bratwurst for dinner or brunch.