Your options for outdoor space in Manhattan are pretty limited - there are only so many times a summer when you feel like walking up to your friend’s 8th-floor roof, putting a beach towel on hot tar, and getting too sweaty to even appreciate it. But at least we have Central Park, and many good places to get food around it. Whether you want to grab food before a picnic in Sheep’s Meadow, or you’ve been in the grass for hours and you’re ready to drink wine out of something other than a red Solo cup, this guide has you covered.
If your definition of a sandwich is “large amount of meat on bread,” head up to Pastrami Queen, located just a block from the 77th Street 6 stop. This kosher deli makes pastrami sandwiches that rival Katz’s. The corned beef and roast turkey are great too, as is the matzo ball soup, but that’s a weird thing to eat in the park.
You grabbed your blanket from your couch and filled your cooler. Now you just need to pick up some food and you’ll finally be one of those people who comes to Central Park prepared. Stop by Zabar’s - a gourmet deli and grocer on the Upper West Side - and get some seriously good pastrami sandwiches, or go for a baguette with a few different cheeses and cured meats.
Our only complaints with this Upper East Side spot are the spotty service and the high prices of their non-sandwich menu items. Bypass both of these issues by grabbing some really good paninis to-go, and taking them to the park a block away. The sandwiches here, like the one with prosciutto and shrimp, are excellent and come wrapped tightly in tin foil, so they’ll stay warm and toasty until you find your perfect plot of grass.
Your plan was to find an open park bench and get through an entire Sunday Times, but you’re already running behind and that piece on two startup founders trying to find a $2000 two-bedroom in Soho isn’t going to read itself. One of your best quick options is Breads - a bakery and cafe less than a block off the park on the Upper West Side. Grab coffee and a breakfast sandwich, and definitely try the chocolate babka.
While it would probably be worth waiting in line at Russ & Daughters’ shop on Houston and transporting everything uptown for a bagel and lox feast, you could save a couple hours by popping into their lesser-known location in the basement of the Jewish Museum just off the park on the UES. Just know you can’t do takeout or walk in for a meal on Saturdays (when it’s prepaid- and reservation-only due to Shabbat), and they’re closed on Wednesdays.
All you’ve had to eat since getting to the park is a street cart hot dog and a bag of Ruffles. If you want some high-quality food close by in a place that still feels casual, get one of the outdoor tables at The East Pole. This Upper East Side spot serves a bunch of healthy options all day, along with a very good bacon cheeseburger with duck fat steak fries.
After a long day of sun, rowboats, and avoiding horsesh*t, you may want to turn things up a notch with spicy margaritas and buckets of beer. Playa Betty’s is a fun spot on the Upper West Side where you can roll in wearing grass-stained shorts, and eat tacos and guacamole with a big group.