Seasons change, but Brooklyn patio dining is here to stay—at least for a little while longer. While the last several months have been a challenging time for all of us, one silver lining has been the sight of new alfresco dining spaces that offer a safe and relaxing respite for New Yorkers who had been cooped up in their kitchens for too long.
Extended street seating permits will remain in effect until at least October 31, so there’s still plenty of time to take advantage of outdoor dining even as the weather cools. Here are some of our favorite spots, old, new and reinvented:
A longtime favorite of Bed-Stuy and Clinton Hill locals, Rustik Tavern has been serving up its signature soul food and refreshing cocktails that pack a punch since it reopened mid-summer. Patio dining is offered from Thursday to Sunday, and brunch is available both weekend days. We recommend the signature Clifton Crab Cakes ($15) and the Fried Chicken Mac & Cheese ($20). The restaurant is committed to ensuring a safe experience for diners, so this means limited seating: Reservations are highly recommended—and don’t forget your masks. Even if you can’t snag a seat at an outdoor table, Rustik Tavern’s takeout menu is available from Wednesday to Sunday. Call for reservations at (347) 406-9700, and follow the latest updates on Rustik Tavern’s instagram account.
471 Dekalb Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11205, 347-406-9700, @rustik_tavern
As its name suggests, Outerspace was created by and for the pandemic. The plant-filled oasis opened in the Bushwick event space 99 Scott this summer, and offers a rotating menu of upscale, inventive dishes built around the freshest farmer’s market offerings. Alongside plates that tilt vegetarian and frequently showcase traditional Mexican styles and flavors, Outerspace offers an ever-changing selection of cocktails, natural wines, and aguas frescas. And it’s quite a space: although the tables are safely distanced, Bushwick’s newest dining destination can seat up to 126 people, as Eater noted. And as one happy diner said on an Instagram post, it looks and feels like a vacation. We all deserve one.
Outerspace is open from 5 to 11pm Wednesday through Sunday, with a happy hour from 2-5pm, movie nights on Wednesdays and other special events. Make a reservation or order takeout at this link.
99 Scott Ave., Unit G, Brooklyn, NY 11237, (718) 386-3482, @outerspace_99s
The ample sidewalk space on the corner of Stuyvesant Avenue and Macon Street means that Mama Fox has been able to offer one of Brooklyn’s most comfortable and truly distanced outdoor dining experiences for those who are still a little squeamish about going out in public. Owner Sam DiStefano told us that she and her loyal patrons are grateful that Mama Fox has been able to keep serving during the pandemic; and the restaurant recently resumed regular business hours—it is now open 7 days a week, and Paella Mondays are back. Of course, DiStefano and many other NYC restaurant owners have faced steep obstacles, often a result of inconsistent and unclear messaging from city officials about the ever-changing regulations during different stages of the shutdown. Never mind the unpredictable late summer weather that can suddenly shut down a night out in the middle of your appetizer, or find businesses understaffed when a predicted storm doesn’t materialize. And as other industry insiders have pointed out, those new street-seating barriers didn’t build—or pay for—themselves.
Mama Fox has kept weekend brunch going throughout the summer, and even introduced a new rotation of cocktails, like the Stuy Car, while serving menu favorites like the sumptuous Yucca Croquettes ($8) and the Mama’s Burger ($16). Follow Mama Fox on their frequently updated Instagram @mamafoxbk for the latest menu specials and news.
Last summer, Montesacro opened in the Union Avenue space of Williamsburg’s long-lost, beloved DuMont. Perhaps because some of us had been too attached to the former fixture, Montesacro was a little slow to gain a following, but all it takes is one visit to put it on your permanent radar. The signature offering of the traditional Roman menu is a pinsa, a modern spin on an ancient flatbread, and there is so much more: the Cacio e Pepe ($18) is some of the best you’ll ever have, and don’t skip an antipasto course, whether it’s grilled artichokes ($16) or a Buratta caprese ($14).
While the (currently closed) front dining room and menu share little in common with the former occupant, the stunning back patio has been largely untouched. A retractable ceiling means you’re more protected from errant raindrops than you might be on a sidewalk. It also means the space can feel semi-enclosed, depending on the weather. Management insists that all patrons keep their masks on when walking through the patio dining area, and we hope you’ll also wear them while your knowledgeable server is at the table, describing the evening’s specials or answering questions about dishes and ingredients that might be unfamiliar.
If you’re more comfortable in the wide open air, Montesacro has taken advantage of street-dining allowances; the tables here are perfect for a happy hour visit or a more casual dinner. We recommend calling ahead for a table, especially if skies are grey.
432 Union Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11211, (347) 916-1062, @montesacrobk
Silver Light Tavern
Silver Light Tavern has become a neighborhood fixture in the two years since it opened, with Williamsburg and Greenpoint locals drawn to the centerpiece horseshoe-shaped bar in the airy, casual-chic dining room. Between that and the adjacent private party room, the pandemic shut down a lot of square footage here. But Silver Light has powered through with existing sidewalk seating, now extended into Frost Street, and is back on its seasonal menu of sophisticated pub fare after a summer of pop-ups featuring visiting local chefs. Owner Michael Krawiec told us that despite the challenges—a brick tossed through the glass storefront; a forced rebuild of street barriers when the city announced regulations too late—he knows how lucky he is that Silver Light Tavern can continue to greet familiar faces and new regulars beckoned by the picturesque street-patio seating. The always-friendly staff is working extra hard to make sure guests feel safe and comfortable in these unsettling times. “I think people will remember places that were open and did the right thing,” Krawiec said.
Silverlight is open 7 days a week, weather permitting. Brunch is served on Saturdays and Sundays, and a weekday happy hour offers cut-priced cocktails, wine and beer from 4 to 6pm on weekdays.
689 Lorimer St, Brooklyn, NY 11211, (718) 963-0384, @silverlighttavern
Park Slope bakery and cafe Winner opened in March just as NYC shut down, and a friend in the neighborhood immediately began raving about its food. Daniel Eddy, who has a Michelin-starred restaurant, the former Rebelle, under his belt, always intended it to be mostly takeout, so it was primed for the pandemic with a street-facing window that makes to go easy. He also hired bread baker Kevin Bruce and pastry chef Ali Spahr to turn out perfect sourdough baguettes and croissants that sell out so often, Winner encourages pre-ordering a day early (firstname.lastname@example.org) to ensure you snag one. All the bread is available according to a strict schedule, as are its lunches and dinners, and while there is limited seating outside, you will be steps from Prospect Park, where you can picnic on their pastries, sandwiches, roasted and smoked Amish chickens or guest-chef pop-up dinners.
Pick up for the (winner winner) chicken dinners is between 4 and 7pm and can be ordered up to a week in advance, while the pop-up Friends and Family Meal times are 5-7pm and also available by pre-order at least a day in advance via email. This week, Chef Connie Chung of Milu, a fast-casual Chinese restaurant set to open this fall near Madison Square Park, is serving Mandarin duck and succulent add-ons, and every night’s meal is already sold out. So if you are planning on a picnic in the park, like this outdoor dim sum brunch, plan well in advance.
367 7th Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11215, email@example.com, @winnernyc
More bar than restaurant, this newish music venue in Crown Heights will hold indoor shows one day, but for now, they offer an almost nightly lineup of live music on the street. So far, locals are deeply appreciative of this sorely needed dose of culture. “Music outside and great drinks made me feel more human,” noted one of its many happy guests. Order a Kurt Cobain (mezcal, ginger, lime, agave and cayenne, $13) or a frozen margarita ($12) and pray for an endless summer as you watch a musician like soulful Akie Bermiss perform nearby. They are open from 3 to 11pm daily, with rotating food trucks providing the bar snacks like tacos, bowls, nachos and elote from Mr. Taco (@mrtaconyc) Wednesday through Saturday, and Bahn mi, summer rolls, lobster head fried rice and “stuffed chicken wings” (an amazing proposition that somehow includes pork, scallops and wood ear mushrooms) by Beaucoup (@beaucoup_nyc) Sunday through Tuesday.