NYC garden restaurants: dining in a secret oasis
It's the season of eating outside. From rooftops to sidewalks to gardens, there's a place to dine and swill wine right around the corner.
But there are also some hidden gems out there, spots you might not know have hidden or tucked away outdoor spaces. Those are the best places in which to dine outside, because everyone loves a secret.
Here are some of our favorites...
Looking into the window at The Pines, you'd never guess that tucked back behind the restaurant near the Gowanus canal would be a garden straight out of a movie, you know the kind of movie that features leisure-enthusiasts drinking wine for hours on a rough-edged but alive with plantings patio? Well, that's what it's like behind the Pines.
And the food is great here too. The backyard menu is shorter, but includes trendy food items like housemade kielbasa with ramp kimchi, lobster roll with Bloody Mary mayo and blistered shishito peppers with furikake and yuzu.
284 3rd Ave., Gowanus, 718-596-6560, thepinesbrooklyn.com(Credit: The Pines)
At the pioneering Brooklyn farm-to-table restaurant iCi, located in a Fort Greene townhouse, the garden is the star. It's a romantic spot - bring a date here if you want to really turn on the charm.
The garden is enclosed by a blue grey wooden fence, evoking summer nights in the South of France. Because it's in a traditional Brooklyn townhouse backyard, there's plenty of light and the tree branches blow in the breeze.
iCi is a French country restaurant, and the food is top notch. Dine on charcuterie, local mushroom fricassee and olive oil brandede.
246 Dekalb Ave., Fort Greene, 718-789-2778, icirestaurant.com(Credit: Facebook/ iCi)
Saraghina is located deep in Bed-Stuy and has made a name for itself there and beyond. Locals and visitors alike flock to it. There's delicious pizza and pasta, yes, but the garden alone is reason to make the trek if you don't live nearby.
The mismatched chairs and wooden tables give the space a rustic vibe, and with enough cups wine and plates of coppa and fresh mozzarella, you just might feel transported to an Italian villa.
435 Halsey St., Bed-Stuy, 718-574-0010, saraghinabrooklyn.com(Credit: FLICKR/ Robyn Lee)
UPDATE: Now closed.Peter Hoffman's locavore restaurant's East Village location boasts a backyard that's serene, comfortable and fun (check out those colorful chairs!)
Back Forty hosts its infamous crab boils in the yard. The tables are covered in newspaper and buckets of spiced crabs dumped out in front of you. For $45, you get crabs, sides, pitchers of beer and fruit cobbler. A great deal and a great time.
190 Ave. B., 212-388-1992, backfortynyc.com(Credit: Back Forty)
UPDATE: Now closed. The Cleveland's garden is so secret, when we inquired with management about a photo, we were told they want to keep it secret! We respect that, but it's so gorgeous back there, we couldn't not let you, dear reader, in on the secret...
The Cleveland is also a foodie hotspot these days, ever since former Roberta's chef Max Sussman took over. Scrumptious sounding menu items include: beer-brined cod with fried yucca, apple relish and charred grapefruit, crispy duck pastry with feuille de brick, spicy cilantro-pecan pesto and cucumbers and soft shell crab with romesco, queso fresco and scallions.
25 Cleveland Pl., 212-274-0900, theclevelandnyc.com(Credit: Instagram/ leslie_embree_)
Pok Pok NY
Pok Pok recently moved up Columbia Street from it's original location to a larger space. The new garden is less of a garden and more of a patio, but it's still a magical spot, especially once the food starts arriving. (Did someone say Ike's Vietnamese fish sauce wings? If you don't know what i'm talking about, RUN to Pok Pok NY.)
The vibe at Pok Pok is easy, care-free and no frills and the plastic-lined and brightly colored tablecloths help translate that. So do the painted milk crates lined with garbage bags and filled with dirt so plants can grow. It's ramshackle-chic, just like chef and owner Andy Ricker wants it.
117 Columbia St., 718-923-9322, pokpokny.com(Credit: Pok Pok NY)
The West Village is teeming with top-notch pasta spots, but none transport you to Italy quite like Palma. If the music and ambiance (exposed wooden beam ceilings, white stucco walls) don't do the trick as soon as you step inside, head out back into the ivy-covered garden and grab a table among the abundant fresh flowers and herbs while you peruse the menu over a crisp glass of prosecco or a summer cocktail. The garden's roof is open during the warmer months.Chef Palma's menu is centered around traditional family techniques and recipes using organic ingredients. Start with the crispy, cheesy arancini and then dive into a homemade pasta, with choices ranging from fettuccine with mushrooms to pappardelle with slow-roasted lamb ragu.
28 Cornelia St., 212-691-2223, palmanyc.com(Credit: Instagram/sparklesense_)
Okay, so the garden at Montmartre isn't exactly "secret," but it's a hidden gem regardless of whether or not it's advertised on the French-inspired bistro's website.
With its beautiful tiled floor and herb garden meticulously maintained by farmers from The Brooklyn Grange, this is the garden that transplants you from the busy city to the French countryside.
The garden is open all day, with food at all hours. Enjoy pickles jars and chicken liver mousse in the afternoon, an omelette or spiced bread with cultured butter at breakfast or steak frites at dinner.
158 Eighth Ave., 646-596-8838, montmartrenyc.com(Credit: Montmartre)
If you live in Astoria, you're probably well aware of Sweet Afton, a local favorite that's great for drinks, dinner or a hang with friends. The small but comfortable backyard garden is the wholegrain mustard (icing) on the grilled cheese (cake). There are even nice plantings to make it feel country-like.
Sweet Afton is affordable and fun, with live music some nights and the famous mac and cheese with scallions, Irish cheddar, muenster and gruyere every night.
30-09 34th St., Astoria, 718-777-2570, sweetaftonbar.com(Credit: Facebook/ Sweet Afton)
La Lanterna di Vittorio
Tucked away behind its quaint MacDougal Street facade is La Lanterna di Vittorio's hidden gem... a cozy, intimate garden seating area with ivy-covered, exposed-brick walls, a glass ceiling that welcomes natural light and antique-style, wrought iron tables and chairs that would be just as at home on the Tuscan countryside as they are in Manhattan.
This is an ideal date or small group spot-- the tables, though pretty, are tiny-- and is a great way to bask in the romance of outdoor dining on a summer night sans humidity and mosquitoes. Try one of the authentic, thin-crust pizzas or rich lasagnas, paired with an extensive wine list, and finish things off with a homemade tiramisu or mille foglie topped with fresh seasonal fruit.129 MacDougal St., 212-529-5945, lalanternacaffe.com (Credit: Facebook)