The Outdoor Dining Season Opener

May 31, 2024
Dining & Wine
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We are so back. No matter how long I live here, I will never get over the awesome power of late May and early June in New York City. The temperatures are consistently warm, but not too hot. There’s rain, but not too much. And the worst of the pollen has passed.

And you know what that means: Out! Door! Dining! With the proliferation of sidewalk and two-and-a-half parking spots dining, we’re living in boom times for eating outside, but I’m still partial to a backyard, patio or nice rooftop. Here are a few that I’ve enjoyed recently.

I’ve been driving up 11th Street in Queens a lot lately, so I don’t know how I missed the new location of Greats of Craft, a craft beer bar in Long Island City. Over the not-long-enough weekend I dropped by with a friend to enjoy a few drinks on the surprisingly large rooftop, where you’ll find about a dozen large tables for groups, a corner bar with wraparound seating and plenty of shade.

The food is your typical bar fare — pizza, Buffalo wings, grilled cheese — but the surprise hit for me was the pretzel, a pleasingly soft, chewy creation that I could smell from half a block away.

Greats of Craft Long Island City, 10-15 43rd Avenue (11th Street)

Speaking of rooftops, I also paid a visit to Broken Shaker at the Freehand hotel, which arrived in a flurry of pink flamingos and palm fronds back in 2018. The layout — open-air patio and a lounge-y interior — and the perfect view of the Chrysler Building are nice enough. But the food is also good (always a gamble when it comes to rooftop bars in Manhattan, sorry), particularly the addictively crispy tortilla chips with saucy tuna ceviche and the hearty barbacoa tacos. Reservations are highly recommended.

Broken Shaker at Freehand New York, 23 Lexington Avenue (East 24th Street)

Then there’s Frog in Bed-Stuy, another of the recent string of party-centric wine bars (see also: Sauced, Cherry on Top). I’ll admit that as a crotchety resident of eight years, I was wary of Frog at first: It was a little too hip and rowdy for a neighborhood that tends to be blessedly low-key.

But they won me over with a consistent string of excellent food pop-ups, including Kreung Cambodia, Schmackwich, Birria La Flor and appearances from chefs like Mina Stone and the artist-turned-soup-entrepreneur Russell Markus, all to be enjoyed in a large, shady backyard. (Be warned: Smoking is allowed.) In early May, Frog expanded its sticky reach to the building next door, opening Tadpole, a live music venue, and doubled the size of its backyard. That said, if you’d prefer a “blessedly low-key” wine bar experience, I’m also fond of Dear Friend Books on Tompkins Avenue, which has a lovely backyard patio but not much in the way of food.

Frog, 358 Marcus Garvey Boulevard (Jefferson Avenue)

Dear Friend Books, 343A Tompkins Avenue (Monroe Street)

If you’re looking for a little taste of the outdoors that’s on the more intimate side (i.e. a meet-up spot for your summer fling), I highly recommend Lucille’s Coffee and Cocktails in north Harlem. The interior has those airy and bright French windows that come in handy when you want to take in the outdoors but not the beating of the sun, as well as a cute little patio worth snagging if you plan on snogging. There’s also excellent pizza that you can order in pie form, but, for crust obsessives like myself, I recommend the super crispy square pies served on quarter sheet pans. (The Arthur Ave with sausage and peppers goes particularly hard.) Then take a walk through nearby Jackie Robinson Park, because how else do you take advantage of this beautiful weather we’re having?

Lucille’s Coffee and Cocktails, 26 Macombs Place (West 150th Street)

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