Imagine this: You’re sitting outside at a charmingly-small-but-not-annoyingly-small wooden table. There is no M1 Bus interrupting the very important comment you have just made about burrata. Instead of blood, amaro spritzes run through your veins. Instead of traffic, there are only other tables of diner spaced at least six-feet apart. Are you in Europe? No. You’re in the middle of Canal Street in Manhattan.
Let us introduce you to The Open Streets: Restaurants program. Back in the beginning of the summer, Mayor de Blasio announced that designated sections of the city would be closed off to traffic on weekends and certain weekdays to give restaurants and other businesses free reign of the road. We went through all of the Open Streets areas in Manhattan and chose the best clusters of outdoor dining available. All you have to do is pick which street to plop yourself in the middle of.
Amsterdam Avenue between 97th and 110th Streets
Saturdays & Sundays 12pm-9pm
Moonrise Izakaya is the sort of place where time moves inexplicably quickly and corn makes little sense without an accompanying skillet of gooey cheese. The Japanese menu here has everything from karaage and udon to matcha waffles during brunch. They stay open for outdoor dining until 10pm and you can text 646-541-2506 to make a reservation ahead of time.
The Amsterdam Avenue location of this Dominican spot is open for outdoor dining for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Stop by for dishes like emparedados, mofongo de chicharron, and our personal favorite, rotisserie chicken. For $7.50, you get a half-bird with skin that tastes like it’s coated in brown sugar, and for another $4, you can and should add a side of boiled green bananas. If you’re looking for somewhere to bring your whole family for a traffic-free dinner, this is the place.
Doyers Street between Bowery and Pell Streets
Mondays-Fridays 12pm-11pm, Saturday 12pm-11pm, & Sundays 10am-11pm
If you’re looking for somewhere with lots of space for a weekend meal in Chinatown, Taiwan Pork Chop House’s outdoor setup is a great option. While the titular pork pork chops here are enjoyable (especially for $2.50 each), our favorite dishes at this spot are the fried rice cakes with shredded pork and the tender wontons drenched in chili oil.
As much as we have enjoyed outdoor dim sum this summer, we also suggest experiencing it without beeping cars and trucks rattling your saucers of shrimp rice rolls. Like Taiwan Pork Chop House, Nom Wah has the benefit of Doyers Street, where the whole street feels like an outdoor dining room with yellow umbrellas and foliage. They also have some nice shady seats for people who are waiting for pick-up, in case you want to take your har gow to-go.
Frederick Douglass Boulevard between 112th and 120th Streets
Fridays 5pm-11pm, Saturdays & Sundays Noon-11pm
We especially like Chocolat for brunch when you can eat anything from red velvet pancakes to ribs, as well as participate in a $20 bottomless-mimosa option. Come here if you need a fun spot for a daytime meal with your social pod.
Sitting on this iconic Harlem spot’s vine-covered, string-lit patio will only feel more comfortable with the absence of cars on weekends. The chicken and waffles are a mandatory order, but the short ribs are also excellent. No matter what you decide to eat, get a side of mac and cheese.
If you’re in the business of finding a block-party atmosphere, consider Harlem Tavern. They serve things like burgers, frozen drinks, and chicken tenders, all under a big outdoor tent with speakers.
Vinateria’s corner patio is open on weekdays starting at 1pm and weekends starting at noon. If you really want to be strategic, stop by this Italian spot for Happy Hour, which runs every day from 4pm to 6pm.
20th Street between Park Avenue and Broadway
Mondays-Fridays 5pm-11pm, Saturdays 12pm-11pm & Sundays 10am-11pm
Rezdora specializes in food from the Emilia Romagna region of Italy. Namely, delicious pastas like spaghettoni with clams, a raviolo stuffed with corn, and maccheroni covered in duck ragu. The outdoor tables get booked here pretty fast, so make a reservation well in advance here.
Maybe you’ve been to Gramercy Tavern before, or maybe you’ve just had a few weird dreams involving Danny Meyer. In any case, you probably haven’t sat in the middle of 20th Street while eating Gramercy Tavern’s burger with bacon and smoked onion sauce. If that sounds enticing to you, make a reservation here.
If you don’t want to deal with making reservations in advance, or you find yourself walking around Gramercy with a specific urge to dip a hunk of Jerusalem bagel into spicy lima bean puree, go to Nur. They’re serving a short menu of Israeli dishes, including pita stuffed with ground lamb and an eggplant carpaccio that looks like there was a brief feta snowstorm on the plate.
Pearl Street between Broad Street and Hanover Square
Monday-Fridays 5pm-11pm, Saturday 12pm-11pm, & Sundays 10am-11pm
Our order at this Indian spot on Pearl Street always includes crispy samosas and spicy roganjosh with lamb. Even if you ignore all of that, take our advice and pay the extra dollar for the garlic naan. It’s buttery and flaky on its own, but it’s best used soaking up the pool of sauces in most of the entrees.
Fruances Tavern is so old and historic, it has its own attached museum (which is reopening on September 16th). They have an outdoor set-up where you can drink some whiskey and eat pub food like crispy fish and chips, all while imagining which condiments John Adams may have preferred on his French Fries. Fraunces Tavern also hosts live music every weekend outside, and you can check the schedule here so you don’t miss it.
Bond Street between Lafayette and Bowery
Mondays-Fridays 12pm-11pm, Saturdays & Sundays 12pm-11pm
Il Buco makes the best Italian in Noho. Even in extremely stressful and uncertain times, consuming some pasta, a black-kale salad, and a negroni here will have similar effects to that of a fuzzy blanket or a prolonged hug. If you want to secure a table on a weekend (some of which are right in the middle of the blocked-off cobblestone street), make a reservation ahead of time here.
The primary reason this Thai restaurant is worth any wait time is their coconut crab curry. It’s golden in color and thin like soup, with big chunks of crab that you should fish out before your friend gets to them first. Eating this dish on a cool, car-less night on Bond Street will turn your life into a slow-motion montage set to “I’ll Never Love This Way Again” by Dionne Warwick. Fish Cheeks is open from Sunday to Thursday from noon to 9:30pm and noon to 10pm on Friday and Saturday.
West 32nd Street between 5th Avenue and Broadway
Fridays 5pm-11pm, Saturdays & Sundays Noon-11pm
While BCD Tofu House isn’t currently open 24 hours like they typically are, you can still eat their excellent tofu stew until 10pm every day. That, and the little fried fish that comes with the rest of your banchan.
At Woorijip, you’ll find Korean dishes like crispy squid pancakes, bulgogi kimbap, and about 100 other options. Stop by their outdoor area on a weekend when there are absolutely no cars around, and drink some beer or raspberry wine while you’re at it.
Typically, you have to take an elevator to eat Korean BBQ at Jongro. Now, you can sit on the street with pork belly and barbecue beef platters. Their outdoor area is complete with a turf floor, string lights, and the wonderful smell of ribeye and green tea noodles.
Pocha 32 is a party spot where we’ve historically enjoyed soju cocktails from a hollowed-out watermelon. Bring a few friends to this Korean spot’s outdoor area between 4pm and 11pm, and try the budae jjigae,a big metal cauldron of ramen stew loaded with spam, rice cakes, kimchi, and hot dogs.
Canal Street between Orchard and Essex Streets
Mondays-Fridays 5pm-11pm, Saturdays 12pm-11pm, & Sundays 10am-11pm
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.
It’s possible you know Clandestino as the bar where you hung out while waiting for a table at Cervo’s or Kiki’s back in 2017. In addition to beer and wine, they’ve been serving a short menu of bar snacks like a cheese plate and bratwurst. This is a good option if you’re looking for a weekend place in the neighborhood with a bunch of space to drink and snack on something. On weekends, they put their wooden tables out into the blocked-off street. Think Paris, but with congregations of 19-year-olds wearing bucket hats and Thrasher t-shirts.
East 7th Street between Avenue A and 1st Avenue
Mondays-Fridays 4pm-11pm, Saturdays & Sundays 12pm-11pm
Ruffian is one of our favorite wine bars in the city, but they also make excellent food using about ten feet of behind-the-bar space and a single hot plate. They’re currently offering a rotating vegetarian and vegan menu for both tastings and a la carte. You can stop by without a reservation or book a table through their website.
We have to assume that Greek food is best eaten next to a body of turquoise water, but an empty East 7th Street will do for now. Plan a dinner at Pylos with a friend and order enough fried zucchini, dips, grape leaves, halloumi, and saganaki to fill your outdoor table.
As soon as it gets crisp enough to wear a denim jacket at dinner, head straight to Ho Foods in the East Village and eat their Taiwanese beef noodle soup outside on a traffic-less street. The broth is cooked for 24 hours, with wheat noodles, and slices of beef, plus extra add-ons like tendon. Ask for your soup extra spicy, along with a can of Taiwanese beer.