When summer finally hits the city, New Yorkers go directly over the top. Even if it’s only 62 degrees, short shorts and tank tops come out, Mister Softee trucks anchor every corner, and tables packed with rosé drinkers line the sidewalk outside the restaurants lucky enough to have a permit. Cooped up for so long, we relish the opportunity to pretend we’re on Capri, all golden sunsets and gentle breezes.
The reality, as we know, is different. Bus fumes, buskers, sirens, the heat and drone (and drip) of AC units remind us we’re stuck in NYC this summer—that is, if you’re willing to wait in line for the privilege of a table. By the time your first iced tea has been delivered, you might be desperate to see if you can move inside.
But when the stars—and streets—align, dining outside can be a magical mini vacation. It’s a great opportunity to people-watch with impunity (see: short shorts, above), call out to friends passing by, and enjoy a balmy respite between the too-cold office and the too-hot subway.
Here are our favorite places to enjoy NYC alfresco.
Ladurée in SoHo has a gorgeous secret courtyard, perfect for a quiet breakfast or afternoon tea and tart. 398 West Broadway (between Broome and Spring Streets), SoHo
Greecologies’s sprawling garden is an Instagrammable place to meet for a casual, healthy breakfast or to cowork your way through the afternoon—Nolita style. 379 Broome Street (between Mulberry and Mott Streets), Nolita
Via Carota is the perfect spot to have an early lunch or dinner, as the sun hits the awning for a good stretch in the afternoon. Sipping Negronis and sharing a plate of tortelli with smoked ricotta on a (relatively) calm West Village block is a true pleasure, especially when it spares you the din of inside. 51 Grove Street (between Bleecker Street and Seventh Avenue South), West Village
Nearby, Sant Ambroeus captures the essence of West Village charm while keeping true to its Milanese traditions. Give your taste buds the Italian treatment with a curbside cappuccino or an indulgent plate of risotto for dinner. 259 West 4th Street (between Perry and Charles Streets), West Village
Flora Bar is a hidden refuge for modern architecture lovers on the Upper East Side: The basement-level terrace offers dramatic views of the Marcel Breuer–designed branch of the Met. When Flora is closed on Monday, try dining outside at its SoHo sister restaurant, Café Altro Paradiso. 945 Madison Avenue (between East 74th and 75th Streets), Upper East Side
Achilles Heel rewards diners (and drinkers) who journey to Greenpoint, Brooklyn: The atmospheric bar serves delicious small plates outside, like Spanish sardine toast and fresh oysters. Although new builds are going up fast on the waterfront across the street, this quiet corner still feels like the end of the world—in a good way. 180 West Street, Greenpoint
Venture to the eighth-floor terrace of the Whitney Museum of American Art for some seasonal bites paired with a glass of wine at Studio Cafe. You’ll need a ticket to dine here, but it’s worth getting the chance to walk tipsily through the collections afterward. 99 Gansevoort Street (between Tenth Avenue and Washington Street), Greenwich Village
Cecconi’s Dumbo is a little Vegas-y on the inside, but the outdoor seats are priceless, thanks to waterfront views of the Brooklyn Bridge. The Italian fare is consistently good, making this a great sunset spot to enjoy a shared plate of the creamy burrata or carpaccio with Venetian dressing. Note: Nearby, VHH Foods also has chill seating, if a more informal menu. It’s an ideal place to grab a thoughtful picnic for Brooklyn Bridge Park. 55 Water Street, Brooklyn Heights
Frankies 457 Spuntino is the chill courtyard we’ve been looking for, with excellent rustic Italian food and a laid-back, grown-up BK crowd, to boot. What could be better than cavatelli with sausage and a glass of Lambrusco in a tree-lined garden? 457 Court Street, Carroll Gardens
The outdoor tables at King are never as packed as those inside. (But maybe that’s changed since the young founders recently received Food & Wine’s highest accolade in its Best New Chefs issue.) A must: sharing a plate of handmade paper-thin pasta for lunch or a crisp Corsican rosé and grilled hanger steak come dinnertime. The rustic Italian food is honest, deceptively simple, and always incredibly delicious. 18 King Street (between Varick Street and Sixth Avenue), SoHo