Once the cold part of spring ends and the sun stops being purely decorative, everyone in this city wants to be outside again. Consequently, most outdoor spots get about as crowded as those seabird colonies you see in nature documentaries. But if you want to sit outside and enjoy some relative peace and quiet, you still have options - you just might not know about them yet.
This is our guide to the secret patios of NYC, and it’s full of relatively unknown places where you can eat and drink outside. Memorize this list, and you’ll be better at summer than most people.
To get to this upscale cocktail bar near Union Square, you head down a small flight of stairs and ring a bell at an unmarked door. You then wind up in a dark room full of couches and armchairs. And that room is very nice - but if you’d prefer to sit in a place without a ceiling, there’s also an attractive back patio. The host might not tell you about it when you’re getting seated, but just ask if there’s room back there. They’ll probably be surprised that you know of its existence, and you’ll be able to enjoy your drinks surrounded by some shrubbery and hanging vines.
Miansai is a purveyor of leather goods and minimalist jewelry, and at their little store on Crosby Street, you can also get some tea or on-tap kombucha. The best place to consume those things is in the little back garden that nobody seems to know about. It’s always quiet out there, and there are a few tables where you can either have a private conversation or just sit by yourself and stare up at the sky while you drink artisanal tea and contemplate purchasing a brass cuff or a wallet.
There’s a Bar Veloce in the East Village and another on West Houston Street, but the one in Chelsea has something the other two don’t: a great back patio. There are picnic tables and big umbrellas, and it’s perfect for drinking wine with people who don’t want to sit anywhere too crowded or loud elsewhere in the neighborhood. (There are Italian snacks and sandwiches, too, in case you get hungry.) It’s right off a busy stretch of Seventh Avenue, but you might be able to convince yourself that you’re in Italy - or at least more than a few blocks away from the nearest Container Store.
The Roof is a big rooftop bar in Gowanus with a bunch of picnic tables, a nice view, and a good draft beer selection. Also, it’s on top of a Whole Foods. And, while it’s technically part of this Whole Foods, it’s a surprisingly nice place to hang out. There’s a big menu of burgers, salads, and various cheeses, and they also serve wine. The only catch is, you won’t sound very cool when you tell people that you’re hanging out at Whole Foods. But that’s why lying was invented.
Walk all the way into the northern part of the West Village where the streets get a little quieter and you can hear the houses whispering about how expensive they are. Here you’ll find a little wine bar called Entwine. It doesn’t seem very big at first, but there are actually two floors as well a back patio surrounded by white brick walls. And, seeing as how this place is in a less-touristy part of the West Village, it shouldn’t be too crowded when you stop by. So, bring a date or come drink some wine on the patio the next time it’s nice out and you want to hang out in a little backyard that’s probably worth several million dollars.
If you need a surfboard or some pricey apparel that suggests you’re open to the idea of surfing, go to Saturdays. Their location on Crosby Street (right next to Miansai) is also a coffee shop, and it has a back patio filled with plants and benches. When you need to sit somewhere quiet in Soho, it’s an excellent option - particularly if you also need a $100 t-shirt.
Mercy used to be called Revival, and it’s still essentially the same place. It’s a little bar in the bottom of a townhouse in Gramercy, and the main selling point is that it has a back patio that essentially feels like your friend’s backyard. It might get a little crowded on weekends, but you can also trust in the fact that most people don’t realize that this place exists.
A few years ago, you might have heard us talking about the “LPQ Party Roof.” There isn’t actually a place with that name, but it’s what we call the rooftop of the Le Pain Quotidien in the Flatiron District. Is this a full endorsement of LPQ as a dining destination? Definitely not. But if you go to the location on Broadway between 21st and 22nd, you can hang out on the rooftop patio and drink rosé. It’s hidden from the street and surprisingly pleasant. Plus, there’s free wifi.
Maybe you’ve walked by Iona and thought, “Hey, there’s another normal bar.” If so, you were only sort of right. From the outside, this place looks like a generic pub - but once you’re inside, you’ll feel like you’re in a small English town where people go to bed early and wear lots of plaid. This place is dark, with brick walls and little knick-knacks lying around, and if you head out back, you’ll find an outdoor space that’s roughly the size of the bar itself. There’s ping-pong out there as well as a bunch of tables, and you can sit beneath the shade of a big tree and appreciate the fact this place isn’t as busy as most other Williamsburg bars.
If you’re looking for a place to drink in Gowanus, Lavender Lake is our favorite outdoor option, and Pig Beach is great for big groups - but if you want something a little less crowded in the neighborhood, try Givers and Takers. It’s just a long, plain-looking space with a bar and some small tables, and there’s a little porch in back with three big round tables. It’s like the tiny backyard that you don’t have, and it’s perfect for when you want to drink a glass of wine and talk about the weather, what you’ve been reading, or just birds in general.
Ode To Babel is a bar that looks like a coffee shop or a boutique that would sell products made from beeswax and hemp. The little space has a few couches and chairs, and there’s a little yard in the back that will be infinitely less busy than the outdoor space at the nearby Franklin Park. It’s perfect for a quiet date night in Prospect Heights. Just be sure to call ahead and make sure this place is open, as they do private events sometimes.
If you’ve ever walked over the Williamsburg Bridge, you’ve probably noticed some people hanging out on rooftops and thought, “I’d like to do that as well.” But if you don’t have a friend who owns a penthouse in Williamsburg, go get a drink at Bia. It’s a Vietnamese restaurant in a little building to the side of the bridge, and, while you’re not actually allowed to eat up there, you can grab a drink at the bar and bring it up.
On multiple occasions, people who have been to Llama Inn have asked us if there’s a rooftop at Llama Inn. The answer is: yes. There’s a little patio with a bar and a handful of tables, although it’s easy to come here and never realize that it exists. They don’t serve the full menu up there, but they do have some Peruvian skewers and ceviches, and, more importantly, they have good cocktails. Stop by for a relatively quiet rooftop drinking experience the next time you want to be outdoors in Williamsburg.
When you watch a movie set in the future, you tend to see some really nice city planning. There might be a monorail or a bunch of hovercrafts that aren’t running into each other, and there might also be some nice, green public spaces mixed in with all the buildings. And that’s what Mister Dips feels like. This is a burger place in a retro airstream trailer, and it’s in a public park that’s up a set of stairs beneath the William Vale Hotel in Williamsburg. You can camp out on some grass and stare at the Manhattan skyline while you eat a burger and some soft serve with salted peanut butter sauce.
Greek yogurt isn’t supposed to be something that you actively want, but the stuff at Greecologies is worth going out of your way for. The soft serve is also great, and they have fancy toppings like cherry compote and olive oil. But the reason why we’re talking about this yogurt shop in Little Italy is because they have a nice backyard. There’s plenty of shade and a large communal table where people work on their laptops, and it’s perfect for any kind of casual meeting or an afternoon when you don’t want to see anyone you know.
If you walked outside and took a poll to see which random pedestrians have heard of Ammazzacaffe, you wouldn’t find many. Which is strange, because this is a very good Italian restaurant in Williamsburg with an open kitchen, a high-ceilinged dining room, and a spacious backyard. You can eat a plate of pasta and drink some wine at a picnic table back, and, seeing as this is still mostly just a neighborhood place, you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding a seat.
Sushi by Bou has a couple different locations, and they operate them the same way: for $50, you get a 12-piece omakase, and you have 30 minutes to eat it. For the quality of fish (and wagyu), it’s a good deal, and now you can eat outdoors at the Sushi By Bou popup at the Jue Lan Club in the Flatiron District. It’s in a courtyard surrounded by an old brick building that used to be a church, and you have to get a seat at the bar (not at one of the tables) in order to have the omakase. You also have to text this number in order to get a reservation: (917) 870-1587.
Maman is a cafe and a bakery, and there are a few different locations around the city. The one in Soho has white brick walls and hanging plants, and it feels like the kind of place where you’d sit down and plan a summer wedding in the Catskills with a seersucker-and-khaki dress code. There’s also a back patio with strings of light bulbs and West Elm furniture, and not many people know about it. It’s great for a quiet coffee with someone, and you should order at least one cookie when you come here. They’re very good. Even Oprah thinks so.