Oh, pandemic birthdays. Those are two words we would be very happy to never use again - like “Zoom meeting” or “impeachment trial.” But the good news is that there are still restaurants where you can celebrate with a few friends, ex-parental guardians, or a fun combination of the two. All the places on this guide have heated outdoor seating, so whether you plan on grabbing drinks or eating something excellent, these 30 spots will work no matter how low the temperature drops.
Assuming you’re celebrating another year on planet Earth, your friends will likely buy all your drinks at dinner. However, just because you’ll be running up the bar tab doesn’t mean you have to settle for dry buffalo wings or dollar slices. Check out Ainslie instead - it’s a three-floor beer garden serving pizzas, housemade pasta, and excellent bar food in Williamsburg. If you’d prefer a more formal meal, opt for the multi-course, family-style dinner for $38 per person, and then get some drinks from the bar on their covered rooftop.
A birthday trip to some alpine destination where you can say “chalet” unironically probably isn’t in the cards right now, but The Greens is a pretty strong substitute. Reserve a private cabin on the rooftop of Pier 17 for lunch or dinner, and share some fondue while checking out the floor-to-ceiling views of the Brooklyn Bridge. This Seaport spot is closing at the end of winter, so if you’ve got a March birthday, head to their website now to book your visit.
The snow might be melting in NYC, but some of us miss the feeling of being six feet away from a pile of accumulated ice crystals. Thankfully at Hutte, an outdoor restaurant made to feel like an Austrian ski lodge, you can pretend your birthday 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.
Even on a Tuesday night, eating at Kokomo feels like a party. This Caribbean spot in Williamsburg has a popular Happy Hour, lots of colorful cocktails, and flatbreads topped with things like jerk chicken and oxtail. During their bottomless brunch service on Fridays from 11am-4pm, there’s a live DJ on their heated sidewalk patio. But if you’d rather celebrate at dinner, bring a few friends and order their whole escovitch red snapper.
If you don’t want to take your birthday too seriously, but still want to eat something great, book a table at this Thai spot in Bushwick. Tong has a partially-covered sidewalk patio wrapped in hundreds of string lights, but it’s the huge selection of kub klaem here that deserves your undivided attention. From banana blossom pancakes to grilled octopus skewers covered in a chili lime sauce you’ll wish was being sold by the bottle, all 13 of their Thai small plates are excellent. Plus, they’ve got passionfruit Thai tea, imported beer, and a bunch of cocktails on the menu made with Thai spirits like Mekhong rum.
Curbside tables covered in white tablecloths, overhead heaters, French cane chairs, and string lights - this is the scene outside at King right now. This Soho restaurant is perfect for a kind-of-fancy meal outside, and like a good sports blazer, you can use it for both a casual night out and a formal birthday dinner. You drink a cocktail that tastes like a gummy bear but somehow isn’t too sweet. You order the onglet, and it turns out to be one of the best steaks you’ve had in a while. And everything else you choose from their rotating menu (like this made-to-order tarte tatin) is delicious too.
Llama San smells like palo santo and has a new semi-enclosed and heated patio where you’ll actually be able to hear whoever you’re sitting across from on your birthday. It’s a great option if you want something upscale but not too stuffy, and their Japanese-Peruvian dishes, like Iberico pork tonkatsu or the fried rice with octopus, mussels, and crab, are like nothing else you’ll find in the city.
If you’re in Brooklyn, you can also head to the Llama team’s other restaurant in Williamsburg and eat some slightly more straightforward Peruvian food on your birthday. Llama Inn’s sidewalk seating area has more woven light fixtures, throw pillows, and textile rugs than an Urban Outfitters ad, which makes it ideal for an intimate dinner with the co-owner of your cats. But there’s more space at the socially-distanced tables inside for small groups.
Outdoor hot pot on a roof sounds like a dream we once had when we fell asleep on the C train. But it’s real, at least when you go to Xiang Hot Pot. This Flushing spot’s heated patio is located on top of the New World Mall, and their AYCE hot pot costs around $50 per person. It’s a bit more expensive than other options in this city, but perhaps that’s what you get when you’re living a dream. Also, sodas and juices are included in the price and there’s a bar inside with unlimited starters like noodle dishes and dim sum. Try the broth called “spicy bear” - the Sichuan-pepper-filled broth comes with an edible bear sculpture made out of butter.
If you’re looking for somewhere in Lower Manhattan you can reserve ahead of time, consider this beer garden on the LES. You can email firstname.lastname@example.org to book an outdoor table for anywhere from six and 10 people. As a bonus, Loreley has Happy Hour until 10pm on Monday, Tuesday, and Sunday, and until 7pm on Wednesday and Thursday.
This Prospect Heights spot has turned its backyard into “Olmsted Cozy Cottage,” where you can eat things like duck duchesse, red miso chawanmushi with roasted with Maison Yaki mushrooms, and beef bourgingnon recipe under a galaxy of string lights. So you might as well reserve a picnic table or a two-top in their backyard (or on the sidewalk out front) and take full advantage of this upscale winter pop-up at one of the best outdoor restaurants in Brooklyn.
Saraghina is great if you want a sit-down dinner outside that’s intimate enough to hear your friends shower you with birthday compliments and affection. This mostly-pizza place is relaxed about special requests (Keira really likes the pizza that comes with spicy salami but she’s a vegetarian so she needs it on the side), they’re fine with you hanging out for a while at your table, and everything is shareable.
If you’re looking for a birthday dinner spot that says, “I’m aging and I’m proud!” go for the seven-course tasting menu at Kochi. You’ll have a bunch of grilled skewers involving things like smoked mackerel, beef ribeye, and pork belly at this upscale Korean spot, and they’ll all make you want to eat things on a stick more often. Rain or shine, Kochi’s covered Hell’s Kitchen patio is exactly where you should head for a celebratory meal.
To be honest, getting a table in Wayla’s backyard for your birthday dinner is going to take Beyonce-intensity hard work and dedication. But if you can manage it, you’re in for a Thai meal that’ll have you dreaming of lobster noodles, noodle-wrapped meatballs, and whole fried branzino with the middle pre-cut and fried into hunks with mint and shallots on top for days. While the patio here is perfect, Wayla also has curbside seating available for walk-ins.
Casa Enrique makes some of the best Mexican food in NYC. And their new outdoor patio is huge, partially covered, and a great option if you’re trying to keep things somewhat casual for your birthday this year. You can start your meal with a mezcal cocktail, then move on to some enchiladas or fish tacos, but whatever you do, order their tres leches cake - this is a celebration after all.
If it weren’t for the excellent burger and the patio space, Royale would just be another East Village sports bar where people watch sweaty people running around on TV. But those two factors make Royale a good place to spend an afternoon or evening outside, especially for a low-maintenance birthday. The backyard doesn’t get too rowdy, the burger is consistently great, and the pickle-backs come with a piece of bacon. Email email@example.com for details about setting up a private reservation.
While incredibly hard to book, we guarantee that you won’t regret sitting at one of Lilia’s outdoor tables and eating sheep milk-filled agnolotti on your birthday. This Williamsburg Italian spot has a bunch of private yurts on the giant triangular sidewalk it calls “Lilia Beach”, giving you plenty of privacy to eat your cacio e pepe frittelle in peace without feeling like the diners right next to you are watching your every bite.
This Flatiron spot has outdoor seating in its garden and on its rooftop with plenty of tables where you can meet up with friends and drink some wine along the Hudson River. The food is all pretty simple (think lobster rolls, tacos, and oysters), but you’re really here to drink wine, take in the views, and pretend like it’s already summer.
Sycamore has a great garden backyard with string lights, a bunch of picnic tables, and some pine trees (possibly the only ones in NYC when it’s not Christmas). The front of this bar is a fully-operating flower shop during the day, which is both adorable and useless. Come day or night, bring a pizza if you want, and it’ll feel like your own personal oasis in Ditmars Park. Also - they run a Happy Hour on weekdays from 3-7pm, and weekends from 1-4pm.
If you’re planning a socially distant special occasion soon, like an intimate birthday dinner or a solo celebration in honor of your trumpet-playing roommate’s return to his family’s farm in Kansas, try L’Antagoniste. It’s a somewhat pricey French spot with a big garden patio where you can eat wagyu beef steak tartare and duck à l’orange by candlelight.
Here’s a great way to spend your birthday: eat the best BBQ in the city. If ridiculously good brisket and beef ribs aren’t enough, then head to Steve’s for chocolate-covered key lime pie on a stick for dessert.
If your happy place is your future retirement estate in Tuscany - or really anywhere it would be acceptable to live on a diet of pasta alone - have your big dinner at I Sodi. Gone are the days of sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with strangers along the bar at this West Village spot. Now, you can comfortably eat the very best Italian food in the city on a quiet block in the West Village without bumping a stranger when reaching for your wine.
If you’re planning an outdoor birthday gathering uptown, default to Harlem Tavern. The food is better than your average bar food (with a solid burger), but the reason to come here is the giant front patio. There’s tons of space, and covered tables in case it rains.
Maybe you just want to eat a bunch of Spanish snacks and drink wine all night on your birthday. Sure, you could do it at home, but then you’d miss out on incredible small plates, like duck-stuff peppers and a potato chip tower lovingly draped in Iberico ham at Ernesto’s. This LES Basque spot has several small tables spaced out along its sidewalk and you should keep it in mind for a casual, cool birthday dinner in the area.
Roberta’s has nearly twice as much picnic table seating on their giant patio as they do in the actual restaurant. The outdoor space has its own bar and the atmosphere feels like a park where everyone eats the same, excellent Neapolitan-style pizza.
Lavender Lake is offering first-come, first-served tables with a maximum of eight people. That doesn’t count dogs, which you should feel free to bring with you. Everyone knows that Labradors make parties better. When it gets to the point in the party when you want to fill your table with snacks, order several soft pretzels, hot dogs, and spicy calamari.
The Jeffrey was the spot for a big outdoor birthday when it opened in 2014 and we feel confident that it will remain useful as long as people are into drinking beer (specifically the craft variety) outside in the sun. This is a good choice for a relaxed birthday hang, especially for the neighborhood (Midtown-adjacent).
Azul is one of the less-sceney, more tolerable rooftops in Lower Manhattan. So invite a few friends to hang out on some couches while you drink cocktails, eat Cuban-ish snacks, and look out at the Hudson. You can email firstname.lastname@example.org for reservations ahead of time (the minimum for reservations is six people, and the maximum is 10).
Sugar Freak feels like a New Orleans-themed party, with lots of big groups drinking strong draft cocktails and sharing crawfish boils in a loud space with beads hanging from the light fixtures. The party doesn’t quite spill into the streets like in New Orleans, but they do have a bunch of picnic tables in a big seating area on the sidewalk out front.
Sushi Lab might be the only place in NYC where you can enjoy a 15-course omakase high up in the air just a few blocks away from three overly-excited men in Buzz Lightyear costumes. This outdoor restaurant on top of The Sanctuary Hotel in Midtown even has hanging greenery and basket lights, which makes it an ideal spot for a romantic night out. If you and your date aren’t ready for several courses of raw fish, you can also order a few maki rolls or some sashimi from their a la carte menu. Before you make any big plans, you’ll need to reserve one of the socially-distanced outdoor tables, or a few seats at the chef’s counter, on the restaurant’s website.