It's pretty cool to eat and drink on a sidewalk or in a backyard garden, but isn't a rooftop just that much better? As Carrie Bradshaw once famously said on the terrace of Wade's parents' apartment: "It's like it's different air up there!"
Yes, it is.
Here are the best rooftops on which to imbibe and dine.
Monarch Rooftop Lounge
New this summer, Monarch's Scandinavian-chic lounge radiates glamour. Its picturesque views of the Empire State Building are almost enough to distract you from your $16 specialty cocktail. Weekends host "Fly Sundays" which feature boozy snow cones starting at 3pm. 71 W 35th Street, addisongroupnyc.com/venues/monarch (Credit: Monarch)
JIMMY at the James
This luxe rooftop bar is 18 stories tall, on top of Soho's The James Hotel. The indoor/ outdoor space features seasonal cocktails with fresh-squeezed juices, syrups and bitters made in-house, along with garnishes and herbs. But come summer, the perk here is the rooftop pool. Yes, a pool in SoHo that you can get into. The James Hotel, 15 Thompson St., jimmysoho.com (Credit: JIMMY at the James)
This rooftop is about as close as you can get to a tropical hideaway in Manhattan. Slatted boardwalk-style floors, lush palm fronds and greenery and cozy beach lounges make The Delancey feel like a vacation spot. 168 Delancey St., thedelancey.com (Credit: The Delancey)
Located on the roof of the McKittrick Hotel, which is also home to the experiential theater show "Sleep No More," Gallow Green is a mystical place. There are herbs and plantings all around, whisps of fabric blowing in the wind, twinkly lights in trees that define each corner of the space and people seemingly in an elevated state of bliss. The first time I visited Gallow Green, it was a little chilly, and blankets were given to everyone. It was a communal experience.
Oh, and the views. There's the High Line, the river and Manhattan for as far as the eye can see. But this is not really an urban experience, it's more a natural oasis.
In the cooler months, the rooftop is transformed into a similarly enchanting place called The Lodge.
As far as food and drink, that's another highlight. In the spring and summer, herbs and veggies are grown right there on the roof. Go with a group for an evening of revelry over shared punch bowls. Try the namesake Gallow Green, with Pernod absinthe, Delord armagnac, sparkling mineral water and lemon oleo (oil). There are also cocktails, beer and wine. They have small bites: try the fried cheese curds with "hot hot jam" and crispy smashed potatoes with curry mayonnaise .
542 W. 27th St., mckittrickhotel.com, 212-564-1662(Credit: Loren Wohl)
Sunsets at The Jane
The historic Jane Hotel opens its rooftop to the public for the very first time this summer with "Sunsets at The Jane." The classic design of the bar and small circular party room, along with the patio's breathtaking views of the Hudson River make this a romantic and pleasant spot to toil away a summer's eve. And don't miss the cocktails. If the Hemingway Daiquiri, with Starr African rum, Luxardo Cherry liqueur, grapefruit and lime juice doesn't sound refreshing and potent, I don't know what does.
Just make sure you plan ahead. There's only room for 70 people, and so the rooftop is reservation only. Anyone can get one by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
113 Jane St., thejanenyc.com, 212-924-6700(Credit: The Jane Hotel)
Pod 39 Rooftop
Hanging out on the Pod 39 Rooftop Hotel can feel very transformative. You're up high amidst all the buildings of Midtown, but surrounded by Grecian-style columns. This is a great place to go and lose yourself over a couple of cocktails.
Speaking of cocktails, there are lots of refreshing and delicious ones at Pod 39. Look for inventive takes on classics like margaritas. And if you're hungry, just downstairs is April Bloomfield and Ken Friedman's Salvation Taco. Don't miss the tacos and tamales.
145 E. 39th St., thepodhotel.com, 212-865-5700(Credit: Xizi Luo via Flickr (CC BY-SA))
Looking for a bistro vibe on a roof? Look no further than Juliette, a hidden gem with lots of space for diners both inside and out. The roof is Parisian-inspired, with painted chairs and red umbrellas, and the menu is too. Try the escargot or the steak tartar and wash it all down with some cold rose. You just might feel like you're in France. (And hey, lots of ex-pats from France live in the neighborhood, so you might hear the language, too.)
135 N. 5th St., Williamsburg, juliettewilliamsburg.com, 718-388-9222(Credit: Paolo Ferrarini via Flickr (CC BY-SA))
Night of Joy
Night of Joy is located right on the BQE in Williamsburg, but somehow, miraculously, that doesn't detract from the vibe on the large, flower- and plant-covered roof. In fact, the faint rumbling only adds to the charm. So the views are of a wall in Williamsburg and the BQE, but that's the neighborhood, and it's a great time. The space is reminiscent of a Victorian speakeasy, with velvet furniture and a thick, wood bar from which you can order classy cocktails like basil and lime gin gimlets and beet dill vodkas as well as rifts on classics like cilantro Bloody Marys.
667 Lorimer St., Williamsburg, nightofjoybar.com, 718-388-8693(Credit: Sheila Griffin)
Ides at the Wythe Hotel
The Ides is a hotel bar, but it's a hotel bar in Williamsburg, so the clientele is a little bit more hipster artist than hedge fund manager. (Where do the tech start-up dudes hang?) It's located on the roof of the Wythe Hotel, and offers sweeping views of the east side of Manhattan and the East River. If you want to hang out in Williamsburg, but above the fray, this is the place for you. It's well-designed, comfortable and promises lots of alternative (yet upscale) eye candy.
There's no food served at the Ides, but if you want to eat, Reynard on the ground floor of the hotel offers a delicious seasonal menu that changes daily. Cocktails, wine and beer can be enjoyed back at the Ides.
80 Wythe St., Williamsburg, wythehotel.com/the-ides, 718-460-8006(Credit: The Wythe Hotel)
Level R at the Empire Hotel Rooftop
If you've ever wanted to class it up for a night, head to the Empire Hotel (you know the neon sign, right? Near Lincoln Center?) to the rooftop bar there. They don't allow guests to wear denim, so get your best slacks pressed. Gaze across to Central Park and sip a cocktail or glass of wine and bask in feeling on top of the world.
The rooftop was just renovated, so to get an early look, head up there soon. Small bites include "Swine Candy": bacon roasted with molasses and spices, and tempura maitake mushrooms, with ponzu dipping sauce. There's also a retractable roof for rainy nights, and a DJ booth, so expect some parties.
44 W. 63rd St., empirehotelnyc.com, 212-265-7400(Credit: FLICKR/ Angela N.)
Alma is well-known to anyone who lives in the South Brooklyn neighborhoods that surround it. Nestled on a corner of Columbia Street in the Columbia Street Waterfront District, Alma offers, arguably, the best rooftop dining experience in the city. There is a direct view of lower Manhattan, with nothing between you and the island other than the East River and the Red Hook shipping terminal, and the Mexican food is solid and reasonably priced. The sangria is a highlight, as are the fish tacos.
Alma sees a lot of spillover of people who try to wait for Pok Pok, located just up the block, but fail to hang on for the two-hour wait that is common there. We like to think those people may end up happier than if they ate the utterly awesome fish sauce wings at Pok Pok, because Alma is just that perfect. It's a neighborhood restaurant that's been serving the neighborhood since 2002 and the rooftop is open year-round
187 Columbia St., Columbia Street Waterfront District, almarestaurant.com, 718-643-5400(Credit: Alma Restaurant via Facebook)
The Top of The Standard
Atop The Standard Hotel, the modish Meatpacking District fixture known for its rather risque floor-to-ceiling windows and its A-list nightlife scene, sits a venue with views as stunning as you'd expect from a building that straddles the High Line.
Hit the Top of The Standard at sunset for the ultimate eye candy with your specialty drinks and tasty small plates, or stop by for brunch in your best cocktail attire. They don't quit brunching until 5 p.m., so you know you're in for a good time.
848 Washington St., standardhotels.com, 212-645-4646(Credit: The Standard)