As soon as the weather warms up, everyone wants to be outside. We’re pretty sure it has something to do with either a chemical reaction between the sun and our brains, or the fact that humans evolved from cold-blooded lizards. Either way, it can be difficult to find a relatively quiet place to spend time outside when eight million other people are trying to do the exact same thing. That’s why we made this guide. It has a bunch of places that most people probably don’t know about, and it’ll help you make it through summer without moving to a small cabin in the woods.
If you walk north up Bowery and cross Delancey, you’ll see a giant building that looks like a place where Lex Luthor would choose to live if he were acquiring real estate on the Lower East Side. There isn’t much signage, so you might assume it’s an office or apartment building, but it’s actually the CitizenM Hotel - and it has a rooftop where you can drink a cocktail on a big outdoor patio. Not a lot of people seem to know about this place - so it’s not the ideal spot if you’re looking for a party, but it’s perfect for when you’re on the LES and wish you weren’t. You can avoid crowds here and also enjoy a great view outside. That’s tough to beat.
People sometimes ask us about relatively inexpensive places to drink outside with a group near Times Square, and our first instinct is to say something like, “Leave Times Square.” Then we remember Beer Authority, a huge bar across the street from Port Authority with a rooftop that doesn’t get as busy as it should (considering the other options in the neighborhood). If you work in the area, use this place as your default choice for outdoor Happy Hour drinks. There’s a great selection of beer, as well as wine and cocktails, and there are lots of big picnic tables on the roof.
The Whole Foods in Gowanus has a lot of kale and chia seeds to sell, so it’s understandable that they didn’t get around to thinking of a cool name for their roof. It’s just called The Roof - and it’s impressive enough that it exists in the first place. Once you get all your shopping done, just head up here, drink a beer, eat a sandwich, and hope that all the frozen items in your shopping bags don’t melt. There are a bunch of picnic tables, as well as a view of a parking lot (which is still a view), and you don’t even have to buy a bunch of bee pollen at Whole Foods in order to come here.
Aretsky’s Patroon is a white-tablecloth restaurant on 46th Street with pricey but good American food, like lamb chops and cobb salad. It’s the kind of place where you ideally only eat when someone else is picking up the check - but the three-story space also has a rooftop bar where you can just hang out and drink. It’s a great spot in Midtown to avoid the big crowds you usually find at rooftops, and there’s plenty of room for groups. If you want to really fit in here, dress business casual. And if you don’t know what that means, just look at your closet and think, “What would I wear to a bar mitzvah?”
Is this really called the LPQ Party roof? No it is not. But that’s what we’ve chosen to name the relatively secret rooftop at the Le Pain Quotidien in Flatiron. The name is a little misleading, as there probably won’t be a party going on when you come here, but you can always just order some beer and wine and make your own party. Sure, this is the roof of a chain with locations from Hong Kong to the Netherlands, but we’re willing to bet that most of those locations don’t have rooftops like this one.
You’ve probably heard of a few Williamsburg rooftops like Westlight and The Ides. But if you want to drink somewhere without a crowd and a line, try Bia. It’s a Vietnamese restaurant with its very own rooftop. The roof isn’t very high (just two stories off the ground), but it’s still a place where you can drink outside without having to breathe in the exhaust of passing vehicles, and there’s a partial view of Manhattan and the East River. You’re not allowed to eat up here, but it’s a nice spot to drink with a friend or two when you’re looking for something quiet.
Brooklyn Bridge Park is objectively a very nice place. It has wide paths, lots of grass, and a bunch of piers where you can stare out at the water and think about all of your nemeses. But if you’re looking for something a little more intimate, walk down the street to Popina. This Southern-influenced Italian restaurant has a large backyard where you can sit at a picnic table, drink a bottled negroni, and eat some great pasta like pappardelle with ham hocks and collard greens. Make plans to eat dinner here at least once this summer.
If you live in Carroll Gardens, you probably know about this place. But if you don’t happen to live nearby, here’s some advice: go to Zombie Hut. You can hang out in a backyard filled with tiki knick-knacks and drink something with an excessive amount of rum, like a zombie or a scorpion bowl. This is a fun neighborhood tiki bar with flaming drinks and board games, and it feels like the kind of spot where a 1970s private detective would hang out after an especially confusing case.
Riverpark is a restaurant in the bottom of a big office building on the far eastern end of 29th Street. It’s an upscale place where you can eat with some family members or doctors who work at a nearby hospital - and, if you just want to have a drink, it has a casual outdoor area with a view of the East River (and the FDR). It’s called the Beer Garden, and despite the name, you can also have wine and cocktails here. So if you want to escape from other people for an afternoon, stop by, grab a big picnic table, and play tic-tac-toe here.
Mala Project is one of our favorite spots in the East Village for a casual meal with a couple of friends. Unfortunately, if you try to walk in without a reservation, you’ll probably have to wait - but there’s a hidden back patio where you can hang out and drink. It’s pretty much a really nice alley with flowers and chairs, and you could eat here every day without even realizing this outdoor space exists. In theory, you could even just come to Mala Project for some drinks on this patio. But do the right thing and get some dry pot here.
Raines Law Room is down a set of stairs below a small building on 17th Street, and you have a ring a bell to get inside. It’s a dimly-lit cocktail lounge filled with couches and armchairs, it has around 40 drinks on the menu, and if you go all the way to the back, you’ll find an outdoor space with hanging vines and patio furniture. So if you need to sit somewhere quiet and drink a few excellent cocktails outside with someone, try this place. Request a seat on the low-key patio, and you can temporarily pretend that you don’t live in a city where outdoor bars tend to get as crowded as the L train at 9am on a Monday.
At Miansai, you can buy a gold cuff or a necklace with a silver anchor on it. And that’s because this is neither a restaurant nor a bar. It’s a boutique in Soho, and in addition to various pieces of jewelry, you can also get some tea or kombucha here and enjoy your beverage in their quiet backyard. Chances are you don’t know a single person who knows about this unlikely outdoor spot - so take advantage of this the next time you’re walking around Soho and need a break from all the people carrying Uniqlo bags.
If you’d rather hang out in the backyard of a store that sells pricey, surf-themed clothing to people who probably don’t surf, try Saturdays. It’s next door to Miansai, and it also has a nice outdoor area where you can hang out for a minute while you re-center your chi or break up with someone over text. Just grab a coffee from the counter up front, then head all the way to the back.
Maybe you’ve never heard of Entwine. That would make sense, seeing as how it’s in a quiet part of the West Village that isn’t really near any trains. But this is a great place to know about, especially if you ever find yourself in the Meatpacking District and need a nearby spot that isn’t full of people complaining about the alcohol content in their vodka sodas. It’s a wine bar with two small floors, it’s perfect for a date night, and there’s a charming patio in the back sitting on what’s probably at least one million dollars of West Village real estate.
Ammazzacaffe never seems to get too busy, which is surprising, since it’s an attractive place where you can get some very good Italian food. The dining room has tiled floors and high ceilings - but you really want to be eating outside, on the back patio that’s full of picnic tables and surrounded by a short brick wall. Come with a group and eat some pasta back there, or bring a date when you need to pretend that you know about all the best the neighborhood spots in the city.
Maman has a few bakery/cafe locations around the city, and the one in Soho is a great spot to grab a coffee or a sandwich and have a quick meeting with someone. It feels kind of like a small-scale farmhouse, and there’s a quiet little room in the back as well as a hidden patio that looks like somewhere you’d want to throw an outdoor dinner party. Have a quick lunch back there, and don’t leave without eating at least one cookie.