Grotto (100 Forsyth Street; 212-625-3444). On the fringes of Chinatown, down a steep and narrow staircase, past a small, dark dining room, Grotto’s serene, ivy-dappled courtyard offers a Mediterranean remedy to urban angst. Sip Prosecco or satisfy more deep-seated seasonal cravings with balsamic-marinated strip steak cooked on the grill.
Pure Food and Wine (54 Irving Place; 212-477-1010). The raw food has gotten all the attention here—but the still-growing food out back is pretty special, too. Owner Jeffrey Chodorow’s wife, Linda, has planted a border herb garden with pineapple sage, rosemary, and tomatoes. Overhanging branches shed berries onto plates, and cushioned ipe wood banquettes wrap around the scene.
Sripraphai (64-13 39th Avenue, Woodside; 718-899-9599). The garden at this stellar Thai kitchen is shrouded like a backroom craps game. Just make your way through the crowds, lower your voice to password level, and ask if there’s anything out back. You’ll find plenty of sky, some shady trees, and roomy tables to cover with mindblowingly good fried watercress salad.