Your Pandemic Guide to Outdoor Drinking and Dining in NYC

The time is night to get out there and support your local restaurants

June 24, 2020 11:49 am
Gilligans is maybe NYC's most brunch-friendly spot.

For the past three months we’ve been confined to our home kitchens and bars, attempting to rustle up from-scratch loaves of bread and palatable old fashioneds. So, while the coronavirus pandemic is still far from over, it comes as a relief that New York City began Phase 2 of reopening this week. The new phase includes the much-awaited return of outdoor dining, allowing us the chance opportunity for social interaction and a dish washing-free evening. 

It’s no secret that New Yorkers have been itching to get outside since temperatures rose above 60. City parks have been packed to the gills with picnickers, and busy sidewalks have acted as standing-room-only bars for groups of thirsty patrons. 

We also know that the city has laid out five ways for restaurants to boost outdoor capacity, which, Mayor De Blasio assures, are fairly straightforward for restaurant owners and require minimal paperwork. Expect to see curb-lane seating, meaning that at least until Labor Day, restaurants will be able to set up tables in the parking area. Increased sidewalk seating will also be a thing until October, and some restaurants will even be able to set up their outdoor seating in streets that have been closed to traffic and in certain pedestrian plazas.

When Governor Andrew Cuomo delivered the news about Phase 2 last Wednesday, he also provided some encouraging statistics, saying that statewide, fewer than 1 percent of New Yorkers tested positive for the novel coronavirus on June 16, the lowest percentage since the start of the pandemic. 

New York’s progress, while exciting, came as at least 20 other states that opened early are starting to see spikes in new coronavirus cases. Texas reported a record number of hospitalizations, and Florida’s number of new cases rose to the highest level since the pandemic began. 

While de Blasio seems hesitantly optimistic, he’s also emphasized that these partial reopenings may “save this industry,” and the city estimates that its plan will benefit at least 5,000 restaurants across the city and help save some 45,000 jobs. “We’re going to make sure that we save restaurants,” the mayor said in a press conference on Thursday. 

For restaurants that already have permits for outdoor seating and pre-designated areas such as patios and backyards, reopening on Monday will be fairly straightforward. For others attempting more makeshift situations, de Blasio cited a streamlined online application process.

As for the rules, eager patrons must wear face coverings unless seated, so that means while you’re waiting in line, walking through the restaurant or going to the bathroom. Tables are also supposed to be spaced at least six feet apart. 

So, the outdoor dining scene of today might seem a little bit like the Wild West, and we should all make sure to proceed with caution. If you aren’t feeling well, please stay at home. With that being said, a cold IPA or spicy margarita will always hit different when consumed al fresco. Here’s your guide to where you can get your (gloved) hands on one. 

Note: Make sure to call the bar or restaurant prior to visiting, as we cannot assure that the options below will be open immediately for outdoor dining. 

In Manhattan…

This lush tiki bar nestled next to the Soho Grand is one of New York’s favorites, serving as a tropical tiki oasis that’s located entirely outdoors, and just a few steps away from Canal Street. Ample plants provide ambiance while large umbrellas lend shade, and their Insta-famous frozen watermelon margaritas, which they’ve been serving to-go since May, are not to be missed.

East Village residents know that Rosie’s is the spot for delicious tacos enjoyed outdoors on their spacious patio, and luckily, they just reopened as of June 17 with a simple menu that also includes margaritas, enchiladas, ceviche, churros and guacamole.

Out of Seamore’s five locations, their digs in Brookfield Place are the largest by far, with 70 seats on the outdoor patio. We have no doubt that the number of seats will most likely shrink upon reopening to meet regulations, but that just means more personal space to enjoy fresh seafood.

The Biergarten at The Standard
Do you miss the High Line? Us too. That’s why we’re stoked to eventually return to the Biergarten, which is tucked directly under it. When this normally packed bar reopens, they may also serve as an unexpectedly perfect location to socially distance with a stein in hand, thanks to their special Stammtisch tables that allow thirsty patrons to pour their own beer from three different taps built right into the table.

In Brooklyn …

Gran Electrica
This spacious Dumbo spot is known for straightforward Mexican cuisine and ample mezcal and tequila cocktails, as well as its aesthetically pleasing backyard patio. Greenery and string lights fill the space, accompanied by tons of small tables and shady umbrellas. According to their site, they’re currently reopened for takeout and delivery. 

The Springs
The sprawling outdoor patio at Greenpoint’s The Springs provides stylish mid-century vibes and plenty of space to feel comfortable. We’re not sure how they might choose to rearrange it for maximum personal space, but the dog-friendly area is usually filled with couches and picnic tables. Their menu currently “depends on the weather,” but expect kitschy, tiki-esque cocktails and slushies.

Parklife’s enormous 4,000-square-foot backyard is the ideal spot to socially distance while enjoying a beer or two, and according to their website a grand reopening is indeed underway. Head over to this Gowanus spot for lengua tacos, loaded queso and some fresh air.

Brooklyn Crab
One of the more unique outdoor dining options the city has to offer, this enormous tri-level Red Hook bar is famous for its seafood and mini golf offerings. We doubt that mini golf is going to be an option any time soon, but they’re already reopened for takeaway orders — a good sign that outdoor dining comes next.  

In Queens…

The Bonnie
Walk through this stylish Astoria gastropub and you’ll reach an expansive back patio, complete with ample picnic style tables and greenery. Currently open for pick-up and window service, The Bonnie’s menu is full of comforting dishes like mac and cheese and a classic dry-aged burger. Don’t sleep on the cocktails either, which are delicious and very fairly priced.

One Station Plaza
This laid-back Bayside beer garden is usually in operation 12 months a year, with spacious seating and a large, circular bar. Currently they’re open for delivery, pick up and takeout, with a large menu of contemporary American classics and large-format cocktails. 


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