The weather is beautiful, your friends are coming out of their caves, your family wants to reunite, and it feels like there’s a lot of long-overdue celebrating to make up for at the moment. As in, the type of toasting and splashing out that requires doing something a bit *extra* and going beyond your favorite neighborhood joint.
Don’t get us wrong, we love our locals, but chances are that you’ve introduced everyone in your social circle to your favorite spots by now—and if you’ve been staying close to home this past year or so, you’re probably ready to try something new yourself. Fortunately, there are more than a few places in the city that offer the types of special dining opportunities such occasions call for. Here are five outdoor options that aren’t merely restaurants but full-on experiences that scream, “New York is back, baby!”
1. Collective Retreats, Governor’s Island
Want to take a vacation without having to show your vaccination card? Collective Retreats, the luxury glamping spot on Governors Island, allows customers to dine at the restaurant without forking over for the luxe tents. For dinner, your experience starts with a boat ride— the restaurant sends a water taxi ($20 per person) to pick you up from Pier 25 in Hudson River Park.
By the time you’ve settled into the enormous, safari-style dinner tent, a cocktail in hand and the breeze off the water, you’ll be feeling the staycation vibes of the island life. If you thought it couldn’t get better, indulge in a six-course, chef-tasting menu ($222 per person, prepaid) focused on fresh seafood with an unparalleled view of the Statue of Liberty. Two-and-a-half hours later, the return boat will bring you back to reality.
2. Central Park Boathouse, Upper East Side
If you’re looking for the quintessential New York experience, look no further than the 67-year old The Loeb Boathouse Lakeside Restaurant, better known as Central Park Boathouse. This is possibly one of the most romantic restaurants in the city, where a piano player underscores the elegant menu, and you can spend a moonlit night taking in the gondolas passing by.
On any given day, you can find both tourists and locals cutting into their petite filets or seared sea scallops. Recent renovations have expanded the prime covered patio seating, so although it’s a splurge (expect to pay at least $100 a head for dinner and drinks), you’ll be able to check it off your When Harry Met Sally bucket list.
3. Olmsted, Prospect Heights
Beyond this just being a restaurant with outdoor seating, Ommsted has a magical garden that is somehow perfect for dates, groups, or any celebration. The food is extremely fun, with a changing seasonal menu that could include dumplings served in a to-go container or spring onion rings served on a small tree.
For dessert, start your summer early and order the s’mores, which arrive with hot coals to your table along with sticks, marshmallows, chocolate, and ginger cookies. It’s basically the best camping trip, minus the, well, camping.
4. Pilot, Brooklyn Heights
Nothing says summer like sitting on a sailboat in the middle of the harbor, sipping on a coconut rum drink, all of which you can experience if you book a res at Pilot, an outdoor seasonal oyster bar aboard a boat near Pier 6. This schooner looks ripped from the set of The Talented Mr. Ripley, with the nautical-inspired decor, to boot. According to the website, the sailboat was once one of the fastest in the world, but now it sits, docked, conjuring up dreams of far-flung summer travels by sea.
5. Public Records, Gowanus
There is no restaurant in Brooklyn that’s as serious about its music as Public Records. To take a listen, reserve a seat at their next Neu Wave Food + Wine party, which take place every Thursday night. At the events, the chefs match the food (a three-course vegetarian pre-fix for $50) to a curated new-world wine list and a playlist that the DJ spins while you eat in the garden. Feel the beat while you digest your food and the very cool scene.
6. Brooklyn Crab, Red Hook
Where better to have seafood than at the shore? Actually, even better is Brooklyn Crab. This multi-floor, airy restaurant has the shellfish you want to crack, as well as the boardwalk games you didn’t realize you needed. Dollar oysters and frozen cocktail go down smooth at its happy hours when you’re whiling away the afternoon playing corn hole, miniature golf, and arcade games. Reserve a table for your next summer Friday, and you won’t even have to deal with summer traffic.