This list of Manhattan + Brooklyn restaurants was a reader request! The city’s new sidewalk cafe culture has brought about many new favorite restaurants and made old favorites feel fresh and new. Spots I might have overlooked in the past but now they’ve created these gorgeous little sidewalk oases, becoming new favorites.
I will never take going out to dinner for granted again. I am so grateful that some of my favorite (and new favorite) restaurants have had outdoor dining – it’s been such a treat. And I don’t do it more than once or twice a week and know everyone feels differently. But I personally feel safe enough dining outside (and to be honest, it’s the thing that keeps me sane). It’s also important to me to support the restaurant industry as much as I can. My parents owned a restaurant until more recently and I know how hard it is right now – both for restaurant owners and workers. I wear a mask when not eating or drinking and don’t go anywhere that feels overly crowded or with people moving around a lot (there are a lot of spots in my neighborhood that I definitely avoid for those reasons!).
A few tips if you do choose to go out to eat. Wear a mask when you’re not eating/drinking, don’t run your server (it’s HOT), and tip as generously as you are able to. I’ve read a lot of pieces about what to tip and think it’s a personal thing… a lot of people’s income has been drastically affected by COVID. So tipping more than usual isn’t an option for them. But if your income hasn’t been impacted by the pandemic, please consider tipping as much as you are able.
My Favorite Outdoor Restaurants
I’ve gone to Aurora (above!) 3x now. It was the first outdoor restaurant I went to, and so it holds a special place in my heart… it’s become my favorite. They have really great Italian food but they also make an excellent dirty martini. I love pretty much everything on the menu but the cacio e pepe is especially delightful.
Delicious orange wines (they have SO many) and amazing Italian food. Highly recommend – we had amazing pasta.
More of a bar than a restaurant but the food is good too! And their little outdoor garden/streaterie is just so cute. Mismatched pastel chairs and umbrellas… just so colorful and happy. I love OTB for their negronis and french fries (and fried chicken) but honestly everything is delicious!
Honestly this place is a little overhyped but the view of the river is SO nice. I just hate that you can’t make a reservation. We went at 4:30 and still had to wait an hour. (If you are tempted, def grab a to-go cocktail at Donna while you wait – it’s a few minutes away!) The buffalo shrimp salad is amazing and I loved the oysters and lobster roll.
This is the old Extra Fancy, which devastates me because I loved Extra Fancy. Great cocktails, and a BIG yard space. It’s nice to go somewhere easy and casual that isn’t in the street. Def recommend, especially for inclement weather. We had the squash blossoms (delicious), shishito peppers (just okay), and crudo (would not recommend.
Other Parts of Brooklyn
My friend Emily brought me here and I loved it! It’s a tiny little boat (think Grand Banks but smaller) off the side of Pier 6 Brooklyn Bridge Park with amazing cocktails and food. Highly recommend… and walking through the little park to get there will make you feel like you’ve left the city!
River Cafe very generously invited my sister and me in for a (v. romantic!) dinner and it was incredible. This is great for a fancier, more special night out. It’s an iconic restaurant (they’ve been open for 43 years now), located in Dumbo on the water just under the Brooklyn Bridge, with sweeping views of the city. We both had the beef and loved it, but the gnocchi and tuna appetizers were both incredible. Highly recommend. During COVID they have a three course prix-fixe and are open Wednesday-Sunday, from 5:30-8:30. Make a reservation in advance!
This was always a favorite spot for drinks (it’s right outside the Soho Grand hotel and you feel as though you’re in Montauk or somewhere summery!) and is still such a fun treat. Love the watermelon margarita… it’s delicious though quite strong!
Dante has been a favorite for a while and their new al fresco West Village location is so beautiful and chic. Excellent drinks and appetizers (we had a peach burrata salad that was to die for!)
American Bar is great for a fancier evening. I am thinking of going for my birthday. I call this Polo Bar’s breezier younger (downtown) sister. It was a favorite before quarantine and I’m glad it’s transitioned so well to the outdoors. The decor + vibe is ultra chic, the food is incredible, and they make a mean dirty martini. We had oysters, split a lobster roll, and this is random but the onion strings are a delight. They also have this amazing make your own ice cream sundae menu which I highly recommend!!!
First of all: if you are looking for a truly socially distanced restaurant where the tables are all really really spaced out, this is it! It’s a Jean-Georges restaurant, so you know the food will be great, located in the West Village right by West Side highway with pretty views of the river. The food here is excellent. I recommend getting a bunch of appetizers. We had the peach + goat cheese and heirloom tomato salads, the rice cracker crusted tuna and we shared the burger. SO good!
We had a fancy dinner here and it was fantastic! It was the farthest from Williamsburg I’d been in ages (across from Central Park) and everything on the menu was amazing… especially the clam pasta! Highly recommend… it feels like escaping to Italy for a night.
To my fellow Manhattan/Brooklynites… have you eaten anywhere that’s really impressed you? Would love to hear about it in the comments!