The tantalizing suggestion from Mayor de Blasio that certain streets could be blocked off and turned into outdoor dining spaces was greeted with excitement by many. Now, scores of restaurants have set out tables and chairs as the city enters phase two of reopening, allowing for outdoor dining.
Blocking off streets is a particularly exciting idea to facilitate a summer of eating outside: Stone Street in the FiDi is an example of how successful and potentially safe this approach could be. And it will be coming soon in some form. As part of the mayor’s citywide “Open Streets” plan, over 60 miles of pavement have been shut down to car traffic across the boroughs. Starting in July, restaurants can offer seating to diners on those streets on nights and weekends, according to the mayor’s office.
Most of the streets haven’t been announced yet, but that hasn’t stopped us from dreaming of what might make the ideal outdoor dining avenues. Here, we’ve rounded up recommendations from Eater staffers and contributors as to which blocks might work best this summer — plus some restaurant suggestions in each.
West Village: West 4th Street between Charles and Perry Streets
This tree-shaded block in the heart of the West Village, flanked by brownstones and rife with restaurants, is a perfect candidate for the program. It cuts across the neighborhood in a way that discourages traffic, and is already a popular area for neighborhood denizens and visitors to hang.
Mary’s Fish Camp, at the corner of Charles and West 4th, is open from Thursday to Saturday for takeout and offers a catalog of often-locavoric seafood with international treatments.
Long-running Spanish restaurant Sevilla is famous for its crowd-pleasing paella in several permutations, and red and white sangrias. The spot is reopening for outdoor dining starting on June 30.
Extra Virgin has already generated crowds on the block with its cocktails and carryout, and locals will doubtlessly be grateful to the street tables for regularizing and seating the patrons. Menu mainly Italian.
Vegetarian Middle Eastern carryout restaurant Taïm is a great place to get falafel, sabich, and vegetarian kebab sandwiches on puffy pitas made in house. — Robert Sietsema, senior critic
Williamsburg: Grand Street, between Kent Avenue and Marcy Avenue
This stretch of Grand Street is stacked with good restaurants and sees very little vehicular traffic, a perfect candidate for complete closure this summer to allow these small businesses to expand their outdoor dining programs. Most cars elect to take Metropolitan Avenue just two blocks north instead, since it is not bisected by the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, and the Q59 bus that runs for four blocks along Grand Street can easily be re-routed onto Metropolitan Avenue.
All-day cafe Gertie is a neighborhood go-to spot for modern diner food like its egg and cheese sandwich with pickled peppers, the cheeseburger served on a muffin, spicy waffle fries, and a large selection summery cocktails.
From the team behind Bushwick pizza magicians Ops, Leo — which only opened in December last year — is an expanded take on the Bushwick venue. Instead of wood-fired pizzas, the pies here are made in an electric oven, and there are several non-pizza entries too including lasagna and meatballs.
Ultra-hip natural wine destination the Four Horseman has been a neighborhood favorite since it opened five years ago. Owned in part by LCD Soundsystem frontman James Murphy, the restaurant currently has a limited menu of a cheeseburger and fries combo, some desserts, cocktails, and wines, of course.
From the team behind Cafe China, Birds of a Feather offers a modern take on classics from China’s Sichuan province. Expect dishes like crispy eggplant with a sweet and sour sauce on top, and poached pork belly wrapped around okra. — Gary He, contributor
Jackson Heights: 37th Road between 74th and 75th streets
While the block of 37th Road between 73rd and 74th streets is already a pedestrian mall, it is over-utilized by perching shoppers, and it would be a shame to take that away. Instead, the next block east is rarely used by vehicles since it terminates in two blocks. Many restaurants along its length have other entrances right on Roosevelt Avenue.
Boasting two branches on this block, Phayul is currently open for takeout and provides Tibetan food, both vegetarian and non-vegetarian, from dumplings to tart salads and soups.
Angel is a vegetarian Indian restaurant from an Adda veteran that offers an amazing version of dum biryani configured as a pie, in the Lucknow fashion. The restaurant set up tables and chairs outside and is now offering table service for outdoor diners.
With its beguiling display of samosas, dal puri, kebabs, fried chicken, and other Bangladeshi small and inexpensive treats, and a steam table specializing in curries and biryanis deeper inside, Merit Kebab is perfectly equipped to provide shoppers’ snacks. — Robert Sietsema, senior critic
Hell’s Kitchen: Ninth Avenue between 38th and 57th Streets
If New York City can find a way to shut down giant stretches of Eighth and Ninth Avenues for a few Saturdays every summer for the purpose of hosting bland street fairs, there’s no reason that couldn’t work for al fresco dining on a daily basis, especially in an era when there’s much less traffic. This avenue alone hosts one of Manhattan’s most booming and diverse restaurant communities. Anything that would turn this car-heavy region into a semi-permanent grand pedestrian dining zone, in the style of Rome or Nice, would do all the more to draw tourists away from the slick commercialism of nearby Times Square and into this thriving neighborhood.
From the chef behind hit neighborhood destination Pure Thai Cookhouse, Taladwat offers a $22 deal on any two menu items on the Thai restaurant’s a la carte selection. Pick through selections like the tamarind shrimp curry, five spiced pork, and roasted chile calamari, among others.
Empanadas, of course, take center stage at Empanada Mama, but other Colombian items — particularly the breakfast of soft scrambled eggs, rice and beans — also shine at this chain.
For firm xiao mian-style noodles in light, spicy, tingly broths, head to Chong Qing Noodle House. — Ryan Sutton, chief critic
Theater District: 46th Street between Eighth and Ninth Avenues
Broadway shows aren’t scheduled to reopen until phase four, and even still January might be a more realistic relaunch date, Broadway World reports. That means establishments throughout the Theater District, Times Square, and Hell’s Kitchen can expect to suffer greatly for the coming months. Wouldn’t it be nice if, say, the so-called 46th Street restaurant row became a European-style pedestrian zone, for al fresco dining under the leafy trees?
It would be a true shame if the temporary shuttering of the theater community prompted a spate of permanent restaurant closures nearby; closing 46th Street and more would give tourists a newfound reason to wander around and get to know this ostensibly tourist-y part of Manhattan for what it truly is to so many: a neighborhood where people live.
Known for its less ubiquitous iekei broth — a blend of pork with chicken and soy-based ramen — E.A.K. Ramen also has plenty of vegan and vegetarian options, not to mention plenty of sake. Or for a proper order of dumplings, consider Dim Sum Palace. — Ryan Sutton, chief critic
Chinatown: Doyers Street
This low-traffic, curvy stretch of pavement connecting Pell Street and Bowery is already treated like a pedestrian walkway on busy nights, so it’s no surprise that the city shut down the street as part of its temporary Open Streets plan this summer. Diners sitting outside on this side street are sheltered from noisy traffic and can stretch out a bit more, as opposed to eating around a table set up in a parking spot while cars barrel past.
Crowd-favorite dim sum legacy spot Nom Wah Tea Parlor has been setting out tables and chairs in front of the restaurant for customers to grab takeout dumplings and sit and eat outside. The restaurant noted on Instagram that there’s no plans for table service right now, but the outdoor seating will be available on a first come, first served basis.
Neighboring nightlife hotspot Chinese Tuxedo is skipping the city’s outdoor seating-only phase in favor of launching both indoor and outdoor dining options once NYC moves into phase three of reopening, co-owner Eddy Buckingham says. Once it’s able, Chinese Tuxedo will be open for socially-distant dining indoors and Peachy’s, the restaurant’s downstairs cocktail bar, will be converted into an al fresco bar set up on the street in front of the restaurant. The earliest that the city may move into phase three of reopening is Monday, July 6.
A few doors down, Taiwan Pork Chop House has put out a couple of tables and chairs and is plowing ahead with a daily takeout menu of hearty pork chops, chicken, and duck served over rice, noodle soups, and stir fried rice cakes. For sweet snacks, Audrey’s Bakery, located a couple steps past Doyers on Chatham Square, is open daily until 5 p.m. — Erika Adams, reporter
Sunset Park: Eighth Avenue between 46th and 49th streets
The city will probably never succeed in sequestering much of Eighth Avenue south of 49th street because it’s the heart of Sunset Park’s Chinatown and its resulting vehicular hubbub, but north of that block the great avenue turns bucolic. So let’s imagine tables spilled out onto the street, which has a dearth of businesses compared to other parts of the avenue.
Reopening on July 1, Hong Bao provides a simple roster of noodles, dumplings, and stuffed bao in a Cantonese vein at very reasonable prices. The wonton soup is particularly good, but aficionados of regional Chinese food look to the Special Country Dishes section of the menu, where duck neck, chicken feet, and ma la chicken gizzard are found.
Gia Lam is one of Sunset Park’s oldest and best Vietnamese restaurants, and consistent with that cuisine there are many dishes that are probably better eaten outside. A selection of banh mi are available, to be wolfed with a cup of Vietnamese coffee, and the summer rolls stuffed with shrimp are a good bet, too, for warm weather dining. But the biggest crowd pleasers are the over rice bargains called com dia.
When Mai Thai opened in 2008, it was unique in Sunset Park’s burgeoning Chinatown, and it’s still one of the few Siamese restaurants in the neighborhood. Dotted with dried shrimp and peanuts, the fiery papaya salad is dope, and similarly summery are other salads of barbecued pork and duck. Yes, my friend, head for the Thai salads.
The major Fujianese presence in Sunset Park is attested to by LCZ Restaurant, which mounts an ambitious menu fronted with seafood casseroles (try razor clam or mussels), hand pulled noodles, spicy stews, fish balls bouncing like ping pong balls, and random chicken and pork offal in profusion. Altogether, one of the most exciting menus on Eighth Avenue. — Robert Sietsema, senior critic
Williamsburg: Berry Street, between North 12th Street and Broadway
Just one street over from Williamsburg’s main thoroughfare, Bedford Avenue, this stretch of Berry Street has already been closed to vehicular traffic as part of the city’s open streets program to allow for social distancing. Relatively quiet compared to Bedford Avenue, this stretch is packed full of establishments both big and small including the historic Teddy’s Bar and Grill and charming Mexican restaurant La Superior, and seems well-suited to outdoor dining.
Other highlights include the Georgian restaurant at the corner of North 9th Street, Cheeseboat, which specializes in all things khachapuri, the oval-shaped cheesy bread that’s offered at the restaurant in more than 12 different varieties. Dishes like Georgian soup dumplings and the garlicky chicken Shkmeruli are also on deck.
Ryan Butler, who was previously the chef at Michelin-starred Piora, opened his neighborhood coffee shop and bakery, Butler, four years ago. It serves up breakfast sandwiches, a large selection of pastries including a herb and chile scone and a sticky date muffin, and coffee.
Iconic neighborhood establishment Diner, from restaurateur Andrew Tarlow, is doing takeout and delivery seven days a week with a large selection of cocktails, a cheeseburger, along with some soup and salads. — Tanay Warerkar, reporter
Harlem: Frederick Douglass Boulevard, between West 110th and West 121st Streets
Much of Frederick Douglass Boulevard is dotted with some of the city’s best restaurants, but this stretch in particular offers a wide selection of cuisines and restaurant-types including popular cocktail bars, a cult-favorite cookie spot, and a beloved soul food destination. The wide sidewalks and streets are an added boost.
Harlem-born restaurateur and chef Melba Wilson, who previously worked at iconic neighborhood soul food spot Sylvia’s, opened her own restaurant Melba’s in 2005. Her hit fried chicken and eggnog waffles are still on the menu as are other items like the three-cheese mac and cheese, and spring rolls with collard greens and black eyed peas.
It might not be the original location, but the outpost of Levain Bakery has been slinging out its hits like dark chocolate chocolate chip, and chocolate chip walnut for nearly a decade now.
Craft beer destination Mess Hall — from the team behind neighboring coffee shop Double Dutch Espresso — also offers a large selection of whiskies, bourbon flights, and cocktails.
Chilean cafe Dulceria specializes in alfajores, a type of sandwich cookie that’s filled with dulce de leche. Expect to find at least five different varieties here on any given day, and the menu also includes a wider selection of desserts, coffee, and sandwiches. — Tanay Warerkar, reporter
Flatbush: Parkside Avenue, between Ocean and Flatbush Avenues
Much of Parkside Avenue, which runs along the southeastern edge of Prospect Park, is already blocked off for pedestrian use, but extend the zone for a single further block and you’ve got the perfect wide street for an outdoor grouping of restaurants.
El Castillo de Jagua is a Dominican restaurant cherished for its rotisserie chickens, but there is also roast pork pernil, chicken and pork stews, shrimp in garlic sauce, and a rich mondongo, a cow tripe soup said to be a hangover remedy.
Want a quick snack, pastry, or other baked goods? Jamaican Pride is a bakery that provides a range of patties, including hot or mild beef, deposited in a coco bread. Coconut drops, red velvet cake, and jackass corn cookies are among the wealth of other favorites available, freshly made.
The beguiling menu of rotisserie meats and bowls featuring rice pilaf and a wealth of beans and vegetables is perfectly suited to summer street dining. At Risbo, every meal feels like a picnic.
The legendary original branch of Peppa’s is a few steps up Flatbush Avenue from the block, and what could be better than a serving of jerk chicken doused with fiery jerk sauce and served with the oblong doughnut called festival? Vinegary escovitched fish is another good outdoor choice. — Robert Sietsema, senior critic