New York City is a mecca for those drawn to outdoor dining. Visitors can tuck into a smorgasbord of cuisines within a spectrum of settings, from parks and piers to rooftops and sidewalks, at some of the best restaurants in New York City. Take a look at some of the top spots for al fresco dining in the Big Apple.
Shake Shack Madison Square Park
One of New York City's loveliest parks is also home to some of its most delicious burgers and shakes. It's the spot where Shake Shack first took root in the city — with a humble beginning as a hot dog cart — before going on to become a sensation. Known for its all-natural burgers and creative milkshake flavors, such as raspberry cheesecake and salted caramel pretzel, Shake Shack is a NYC must. This location also serves breakfast, including variations on the classic New York egg and cheese on a roll.
Pier i Cafe
Skyscrapers rise up dramatically behind this sizable outdoor waterfront cafe facing the Hudson River. Pier i Cafe serves small plates with bites like Creole wings and hummus as well as salads, burgers, wraps, and main courses like grilled skirt steak and blackened salmon. Visitors can enjoy the spectacular summer sunsets while quenching their thirst with glasses of the cafe's freshly-made blueberry lemonade.
The menu for this sprawling, casual Bushwick, Brooklyn eatery — located in a former gas station — covers all the bases. Diners enjoy everything from burgers, tacos, and avocado toast to seared tuna with duck-fried rice, wild mushroom pot pie, and steak frites. Desserts include homemade ice cream sandwiches and cast-iron s'mores. The rustic décor in the large, brick-paved garden has a homey feel, with porch swings, trees, and hanging plants.
Boat Basin Café
This open-air restaurant overlooks the 79th Street Boat Basin on the Hudson River and the dozens of small craft docked there. The menu spotlights classic East Coast summer dishes, such as fried clams and calamari, hot dogs, burgers, and grilled corn on the cob. Stunning sunset views make it a popular spot with New Yorkers in the know.
Café Standard at The Standard, East Village
The Standard Hotel's Café Standard serves updated American cuisine and expands to its own leafy garden, with vine-covered brick walls and a bocce court, during warmer weather. The garden undergoes a transformation when the weather changes and is home to heated yurts during the winter. Visitors can book their own yurt if they order a fondue feast for eight to 10 people.
This East Village restaurant has a lively, upbeat vibe that permeates the entire outdoor seating area. The menu of fresh, authentic Mexican fare features favorites such as braised brisket tacos, shrimp tostadas, and chicken enchiladas. For those who haven't tried Mayan pumpkin seed dip — known as sikil pak — or Oaxacan-style grilled meats, this is the place to expand those culinary horizons.
La Sirena at the Maritime Hotel
La Sirena's warm weather annex in the Maritime Hotel's spacious, breezy courtyard offers a fascinating perch from which to view all the activity on the sidewalks of 9th Avenue below. This trattoria's Mediterranean cuisine includes dishes like cavatelli with pork sausage, steaks, and pan-roasted halibut, as well as decadent Italian desserts like tiramisu and panna cotta.
Pier A Harbor House
Battery Park's Pier A Harbor House offers a waterfront promenade with tables for al fresco dining along the historic pier that extends out over the Hudson River. The complex — with 28,000 square feet of food and beverage venues — occupies an 1886 building that was once the headquarters of the New York Harbor Police. The menu includes oysters on the half shell, fried calamari, and gorgeous waterfront and sunset views.
Lakeside Restaurant at The Loeb Boathouse
This popular restaurant occupies a portion of Central Park's Loeb Boathouse, built in 1954. Lakeside Restaurant's expansive menu includes classics like a smoked fish platter, beef tartare, half roasted chicken with thyme, and grilled filet of beef. The restaurant features stunning views of the park, especially at night when the lake reflects the park lights. Visitors can also rent rowboats from the boathouse to take out on the lake.
A friendly neighborhood feel permeates Gemma, located in the Bowery Hotel. This popular brunch spot offers al fresco dining and a menu of Italian fare that includes polenta with eggs and exotic mushrooms, poached eggs on brioche with prosciutto, pizzas, and pastas.
Sabbia and La Birreria at Eataly
The Italian food hall Eataly is usually packed, but visitors can escape to the rooftop, ensconce themselves in cabanas, and enjoy a tantalizing variety of Italian dishes. During the warmer months, this outdoor restaurant is known as Sabbia, but in October, it transitions to La Birreria.
Sabbia specializes in dishes inspired by coastal Italian cuisine, including pastas, antipasti, and bruschetta, while La Birreria is a pop-up restaurant showcasing the food of the Italian Alps, including raclette, and sciatt — Piave cheese that's beer-battered and fried. La Birreria rounds off the ski lodge theme with a polenta bar, a retractable roof, and heaters to keep visitors cozy during cooler months.
Ella Kitchen & Bar
This Upper West Side restaurant specializes in small, shareable plates of Spanish tapas, such as empanadas, grilled octopus, and shrimp ajillo. The menu's garden section features an excellent selection of salads, and Ella's sidewalk café draws quite a crowd during the warmer months.
Dining in the great outdoors of NYC always offers a feast for the senses.
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