From Michelin-starred restaurants to hole-in-the-wall favorites, New York’s dining scene is in the midst of a pandemic revival. It’s been a long, tough road following the state-mandated shutdown on dining in March due to the coronavirus, and the future of the industry remains uncertain. Restaurateurs have been forced to innovate, rethink, and get creative.
New York City’s Open Streets and Open Restaurants programs allow for more social distancing for New Yorkers, and for restaurants to offer seating on sidewalks, curbsides, and some parking spots. Some streets are taking on a sort of chic European feel, as planters block off distanced diners who dig into new meals and new experiences. Safety first: masks are required for restaurant staff and guests when not seated at your table, and all tables must be six feet apart.
From Murray Hill to the West Village to Brooklyn, here are some of our favorite places for outdoor dining. Don’t forget your mask, and definitely leave a generous tip.
Il Posto Accanto, East Village
This cozy Italian spot has been serving pasta and wine for more than 25 years. We think they just might have the best meatballs in town—fluffy, rich, and swimming in a bright tomato sauce. Try the Garganelli Botarga, a traditional Sicilian pasta with fish roe, with a bottle of Nero d’Avola.
Vino Tapa, Murray Hill
This neighborhood gem boasts a generous selection of Spanish wine and small plates. Their sidewalk cafe, on a beautiful tree-lined street, is a perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of NYC. Chef and partner Michael Vassallo recommends the patatas bravas. “They’re a staple for any Spanish tapas place,” he says. “Ours are perfectly crispy and served with housemade garlic aioli and spicy tomato sauce.” Another great bet is their slow-cooked ribs, tossed in a honey-aged sherry vinegar glaze and topped with a beet and apple slaw, especially alongside a glass or two of sangria.
Hometown Bar-B-Que, Red Hook
Billy Durney’s popular Red Hook barbecue spot is so beloved for a reason: just taste that over-the-top tender brisket, or their smoked lamb belly–with its salty, crispy bits and fatty sweetness–and you can see precisely why. Order online ahead of time, then enjoy your meaty feast at one of their picnic tables with a cold beer.
Are you in Williamsburg or at some sort of Italian oasis? If you dine here, you won’t be sure. With hanging ivy, twinkly lights, high walls and a roof that make Aurora feel far from the corner of Wythe and Grand, you’re definitely somewhere gorgeous. The food lives up to the ambiance, from grilled octopus with chickpeas, olives, and pickled peppers to burrata ravioli with a smattering of morels. Sip an Aperol spritz and a crisp Vermentino.
Drink margaritas and dig into shrimp ceviche tostadas at Oxomoco, a Michelin-starred wood-fired Mexican restaurant from chef and restaurateur Justin Bazdarich, of Speedy Romeo fame. The greenery-filled, sun-drenched space in Greenpoint is pretty much dreamy, and Oxomoco makes their own tortillas with organic, heirloom corn from Mexico.
Sushi Amane, Midtown East
Try the $120 per person “patio omakase” from Sushi Amane, the Michelin one-star restaurant by Shion Uino from Tokyo’s highly acclaimed Sushi Saito, who has been crafting stunning sushi since the ripe age of 18. You’ll get four small dishes, five pieces of nigiri, tamago egg, and a chef’s special dish. An a la carte menu is also available.
This acclaimed elevated Korean barbecue spot is serving dry-aged ribeye and Japanese wagyu outside, with custom plywood tables built from the same materials used to protect restaurant windows during the early June protests. Start the meal with a frosé slushie, end it with $5 summer soft-serve, and don’t miss the kimchi wagyu paella in between.
Chef Ronny Emborg’s elegant tasting menu spot Atera has pivoted to a more causal model for outside dining alongside its neighbor/sister restaurant and neighboring Farra, with a rotating selection of dishes like duck breast with broccolini and veal tenderloin with potato terrine. Try a scoop of brown butter ice cream for dessert.
This Oaxacan spot has a spacious backyard full of trees, string lights, and bright patio furniture. Visit for cervezas and snacks in the afternoon, or book a table for their four-course dinner and savor surf clam ceviche with serrano chili oil, golden tilefish mole, and/or arroz con leche with mezcal poached huckleberries.
Oxalis, Prospect Heights
“Place des fêtes” is Oxalis’s socially distanced outdoor dining space in the courtyard behind their restaurant. Walk-ins are welcome to try dishes like tomato tart with caramelized whey fudge or Berkshire pork neck (reservations are a good idea, too). “Oro di Diamante” Pet’Nat from Emilia-Romagna is the perfect refreshing wine for a summer evening.
Double Zero, East Village
Double Zero on 2nd Avenue is the spot for vegan food that doesn’t feel like any kind of sacrifice. Hang out on their inviting patio and try their wood-fired pies with vibrant toppings, like one with squash blossom, rice mozzarella, blistered cherry tomatoes, and aged balsamic. Order a bottle of Chateanuf-du-Pape for the occasion.
Extra Virgin, West Village
This Mediterranean restaurant has set up a lovely outdoor dining spot, complete with little trees, colorful flowers, and yellow umbrellas. Enjoy a glass of rosé Prosecco with your lobster ravioli, or mushroom-crusted chicken with sweet pea risotto and truffle broth. End the meal with a warm apple tart topped with a scoop of sour cream ice cream.
Hannah Howard is a writer and food expert who spent her formative years eating, drinking, serving, bartending, cooking on a hot line, flipping giant wheels of cheese, and managing restaurants. She is the author of the memoir Feast: True Love in and Out of the Kitchen. Hannah is a graduate of Columbia University and the Bennington Writing Seminars. She writes for SELF, New York Magazine, and Salon.com, and lives in New York City.