Maybe you’re not comfortable being waited on at an outdoor restaurant right now. We get it. We talked to a few restaurant owners who aren’t comfortable waiting on you either. But there’s a specific outdoor dining set-up popping up all over the city that you should know about: the takeout window.
Many NYC restaurants set up windows or counters with outdoor tables where you can seat yourself and hang out with your food as you please. While some spots are trying this out for the first time ever, others have been operating with a counter like this for years. Either way, we want you to know your options. And if you’d still rather to do delivery, we have over 500 ideas for that too.
Thai Diner is where we first thought of the idea for this guide. We sat there eating some delicious fried chicken laab and papaya salad and thought to ourselves, “Huh, why aren’t more restaurants doing takeout windows so that servers can have minimal contact with us? This is really pleasant.” And, thus, the guide you’re reading was born. This Nolita spot has classics from the Uncle Boons, Uncle Boons Sister, and Thai Diner menus - as well as some refreshing sparkling limeade you can drink on a little wooden stool outside of their Nolita corner spot.
A few months ago, James in Prospect Heights pivoted to offer groceries and provisions, as well as takeout cocktails and snacks. They now have a takeout window where you can pick up things like popcorn with ramp salt, little gem salads, and one of our absolute favorite burgers in the city. Take a look at their menu or order ahead through their website here.
L’Artista opened in the beginning of the year by 143rd Street in Hamilton Heights. They’re now serving cocktails, seafood pasta dishes, charcuterie, and brunch from their curbside to-go window. Also, in case you need more incentive than grilled octopus and frozen cocktails, L’Artista started hosting an outdoor jazz show every Sunday called the Sugar Hill Jazz Concert. Follow their Instagram here for updates on shows, specials, and hours.
After teaming up with Contra for a joint takeout and delivery project, Wildair is now serving to-go small plates from a window at their spot on the Lower East Side. The menu has a bunch of things you’ll want to try, including their famous hazelnut chocolate tart and some new daytime dishes like a confit bacon roll with egg crepe and pickled pineapple. Wildair is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10am to 9:30pm, and they’re fully equipped with two-tops where you can sit, drink wine, and ponder buying a giant hat at the old-school wedding dress boutique next door.
Hunky Dory in Crown Heights has a big, blocked-off patio with plenty of spaced-out tables and umbrellas. They’re serving their all-day menu from a takeout window, including things like pickled summer squash, barbecue shrimp skewers, and soft serve. Also something to note: Hunky Dory includes tax and gratuity in their menu prices. Check out their menu or place your pick-up order ahead of time here.
In addition to doubling as a cool vintage clothing store, this relaxed counter-service spot serves a wide range of Thai food, like Southern fried chicken, creamy coconut curries, and khao mun gai (steamed chicken). They have a few wooden tables set up outside their shop in East Harlem where you can sit after you get your food. Order the tamarind coconut milk noodles with crab - it’s sweet and nutty, and comes with enough crab to be confused with the vermicelli noodles they’re mixed with.
This counter-service gyro spot on Astoria Boulevard makes one of the crispiest pork gyros we’ve encountered, and they have a few cafe tables and nice yellow chairs set up outside where you can sit and admire it in all of its fat-dripping beauty. Seriously, we’re telling you to get the pork instead of chicken - even if every bone in your body identifies as a chicken person.
We would normally advise you to camp out at this Crown Heights cafe all day and be a very happy person. But, right now, you should probably limit yourself to half an hour at one of their seat-yourself tables. The Latin food from their takeout window is better than what you’ll find at most all-day cafes, like tender pork hash with pickled vegetables and hominy, and chorizo and egg tacos that will restore your faith in New York’s breakfast taco abilities.
This Ridgewood all-day spot has vegetarian and vegan breakfast dishes like BECs and BLTs with bacon that they cure in-house. Their seat-yourself outdoor area is open Monday through Saturday from 9am to 3pm. If you’re in a rush, you can always call 347-889-6302 to place your takeout order so it’ll be ready when you arrive.
At Brooklyn Beso in Bed-Stuy, you order their Carribean and Latin inspired dishes from someone behind the counter and then take your food to one of their garden patio tables. They’re serving brunch on weekends, including tres leches French toast and mimosas for two that come in mango, orange, and sorrel. Check their Instagram for the latest updates.
Noods N’ Chill in Williamsburg is one of our favorite Thai restaurants in NYC, and it’s the perfect meeting spot for a socially-distant hang with someone who lives in North Brooklyn and someone who lives in Lower Manhattan. They have their full menu available for takeout and delivery, and a few sidewalk tables where you can eat some fantastic duck curry and a bowl of crab and pork noodles. Also - there’s a bodega across the street where you can grab a six-pack while you eat (Noods N’ Chill doesn’t serve alcohol).
La Esquina’s Nolita counter is open with tacos, margaritas, and other Mexican snacks. There are a bunch of tables set up under scaffolding, which you can think of as an automatic cover when it randomly rains for twenty minutes.
Saigon Social’s Vietnamese food is so delicious that we would eat it anywhere where there’s gravity. That includes their corner Orchard Street location, which has a handful of tables with tiny red stools you can sit on while you eat things like bun cha, peppery garlic noodles with shrimp, and soft crab summer specials that you should pounce on. Saigon Social is only accepting Venmo and cash, and they’re closed on Tuesdays. Also - if you want to avoid large groups of people drinking across the street at Hair Of The Dog and Pizza Beach, stop by for lunch.
You could probably start an Astoria-specific fight with someone based solely on the next sentence: Duzan is the best Middle Eastern spot in the neighborhood. Come here and order the chicken shawarma, some creamy hummus, and very spicy harissa, and you can join in on the fight. In addition to their seat-yourself sidewalk setup, Duzan in Astoria has one of the most inventive approaches to takeout and customer service we’ve seen: there’s a big poster in front of the restaurant inviting everyone to Facetime with the owner. We didn’t do this because Facetiming strangers gives us social anxiety, but if anyone out there attempts it, please write us an email.
The Fly in Bed-Stuy is where we like to consume roast chicken, fries, and natural wine - and we feel confident you’ll like to consume those things here too. They recently started takeout window service five nights a week (Tuesday through Saturday from 5pm to 9pm). You can order ahead of time online or stop by and exclaim, “I’ll take one whole chicken, please” through your mask. Hang out at one of their tables for half an hour, take your chicken sandwich and wine to the north side of Prospect Park, or go home so you can be alone with your bird.
Cervo’s and The Fly are sister restaurants, and if we learned one thing from the Cheetah Girls song “Cheetah Sisters,” it’s that sisters stand together and set up matching takeout windows. This LES seafood spot has a few tables with umbrellas in a blocked-off area on Canal Street. Their menu changes often (including a weekly-rotating fish sandwich that once came with mackerel that was so riveting that we quite literally blogged about it), but don’t worry, the burger and head-on prawns are forever. Check out their website or Instagram page for details on this week’s menu.
At Empellon Al Pastor on St. Marks, you order your tacos and drinks at their takeout window, seat yourself at one of their two-tops, and they’ll bring out your food when it’s ready. In addition to things like tiny, delicious al pastor tacos, Empellon is also serving bar snacks like corn dogs and an all-day breakfast burrito. They’re open at 4pm on weekdays and 1pm on weekends.
Eating a burger at Shake Shack’s Madison Square Park location is a quintessential summer NYC activity. There are trees, lots of dog and human butts for your dog to sniff, and plenty of seat-yourself tables.
This place has been around since the 1970s, and the burger is the reason you’re here. It comes with a toasted bun, a few pickles, some onions, and a patty that’s roughly one fistful of meat. You can also add bacon or cheese - and you should if you enjoy either of those things. The tables at J.G’s UES location are first come, first served, or you could always walk a few avenues over to Central Park and eat there.