187 Columbia St., at Degraw St., Red Hook, Brooklyn;718-643-5400
A restaurant in Red Hook made for romance: Start with a mojito, stuffed with mint and served in a latte-size glass, and end with the just-as-fresh Key-lime pie. Service is spacey, but we like to think that the slow pace ups the tropical factor.
398 W. Broadway, nr. Spring St.; 212-226-1102
Barolo is touristy, but it has the kind of tourists you want at a ristorante—Italian ones, seeking a slice of la dolce vita. Check out the wine list, one of the longest in the city. At night—the patio aglow with lights strung through the trees—Barolo feels sexy, if not downright Fellini-esque.
3 Blue Hill at Stone Barns
630 Bedford Rd., Pocantico Hills, N.Y.; 914-366-9600
It’s not quite The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollan’s quest to physically track down every last ingredient of four meals, but Blue Hill at Stone Barns is about as close as most city folk are going to get. Arrive an hour early for the self-guided audio tour of the greenhouse and farm and give a carnivorous nod of thanks to the happy hogs and free-range chickens.
4 Bohemian Hall and Beer Garden
29-19 24th Ave., Astoria; 718-274-4925
The last of the nearly 800 biergartens that once dotted the pre-Prohibition city. Go for the Staropramen on tap and (when available) the Czech Gambrinus; stay for the live polka.
5 La Bottega
On the terrace of the Maritime Hotel, 88 Ninth Ave., at 17th St.; 212-243-8400
An engaging wait staff and pleasing patio fare: golden sardines, crunchy artichokes in white-truffle oil, and chicken under a brick.
6 Brooklyn Botanic Garden
1000 Washington Ave., at Crown St., Park Slope; 718-623-7200
Spring for the $40 annual membership fee, if only for the Wednesday-evening picnicking privileges: Cheese-and-charcuterie specialist Blue Apron Foods is just two blocks away (814 Union St., at Seventh Ave.; 718-230-3180).
7 Bryant Park
Between 40th and 42nd Streets and Fifth and Sixth Avenues
Skip the Bryant Park Grill and take a break from ’Wichcraft to try two nearby off-sites: crispy lamb polaw from the Kwik-Meal cart, run by former Russian Tea Room kitchen staff (Sixth Avenue at 45th Street), and chicken-and-rice from the Trini-Pak cart, run, as its name suggests, by a Pakistani family from Trinidad (Sixth Avenue at 43rd Street).
8 Central Park Boathouse
Park Drive North at 72nd Street; 212-517-2233
Although tourists—and tourist prices—will always be a fact of the Boathouse, it’s worth reconsidering. Not only are the rowboats still lovely, but there’s recently been an ambitious menu makeover. Making reservations for a party of four is the best bet for snagging a lakeside table.
9 Empire-Fulton Ferry State Park
At the foot of New Dock Street, Dumbo, Brooklyn; 718-858-4708
Picnic with a pie from Grimaldi’s (19 Old Fulton St., nr. Water St.; 718-858-4300) and “Mom’s peanut brittle” from Jacques Torres Chocolate (66 Water St., nr. Main St.; 718-875-9772). Walk it off with a stroll across the Brooklyn Bridge.
10 5 Ninth
5 Ninth Ave., at Gansevoort St.; 212-929-9460
At the back of a stately brownstone on the most frenzied corner of the city’s most frenzied neighborhood is Eden: a rose garden hemmed in by ivy-covered walls. Chef Zak Pelaccio’s peas-and-bacon dish is justifiably famous, and his newest, tempura lobster with ginger, will be, too.
212 W. 14th St., at Seventh Ave.; 212-647-8553
It’s on a scummy stretch of 14th Street, but out back, under the stars and beside the multitiered fountain, Gavroche feels like France. The fare is refreshingly straightforward, especially the goat-cheese tart, frites, and Belgian-chocolate gâteau.
12 Habana Outpost
757 Fulton St., at S. Portland Ave., Fort Greene, Brooklyn; 718-858-9500
The popular Nolita diner Habana has a Brooklyn spinoff (next to the Lafayette Avenue C-train stop) that’s even better than the original. The scene is part restaurant, part block party—and drinks are served out of a down-home 1949 GMC pickup truck.
13 Harry’s LIC at Water Taxi Beach
2-03 Borden Ave., Long Island City;212-742-1969
With sand trucked in from Jersey, the beach here is as real as a spray-on tan. But who cares? It’s worth a visit just for the sheer novelty of it all: beach volleyball, stellar views of midtown, and dirt-cheap PBR longnecks.
14 Leo’s Latticini
46-02 104th St., Corona; 718-898-6069
Called Mama’s by the borough’s cops and firefighters, the tiny provolone-scented food shop has been serving possibly the best Italian sub in the city since the thirties. And now you can eat one in the new back garden—next to a statue of Saint Francis.
15 Loreley Biergarten
7 Rivington St., nr. Chrystie St.; 212-253-7077
It’s not as authentic as the Bohemian (see No. 4), but Bowery traffic is far away, the savory sausages have just the right snap, and if you go early, you’ll hear “Grüß dich!” more than “Hey dude!” Get a Kölsch: It’s served in a slim glass, like champagne.
405 E. 58th St., nr. First Ave.; 212-754-6272
Bring a bottle of Provençal rosé and go for one of the garden tables on the no-corkage-fee nights (Sundays and Mondays). Chef Wayne Nish has a new six-course tasting menu.
17 New Leaf Café
1 Margaret Corbin Dr., Fort Tryon Park; 212-568-5323
An uptown Tavern on the Green, the café has a large slate courtyard that’s an ideal place for sunset snacks. Try pairing the highly addictive portobello-mushroom fries with the organic Pinkus pilsner.
18 Nice Matin
201 W. 79th St., at Amsterdam Ave.; 212-873-6423
Request a sidewalk table in the section facing less-fume-heavy Amsterdam Avenue, and order the burger: Comté cheese and aïoli is the best thing to happen to ground beef since Daniel Boulud started stuffing his patties with foie gras.
209 E. 49th St., nr. Third Ave.; 212 751-4545
Falstaffian tenor Placido Domingo’s midtown Mexican gem offers two outdoor options: There’s a tranquil second-story terrace (a miracle on noisy 49th Street) and, in the office building next door, Pampano Taqueria for takeout—eat it at the pocket park on 51st near Third Avenue.
20 Shake Shack
Madison Square Park, enter at 23rd Street and Madison Avenue; 212-889-6600
Overhyped and overrun, but still deserving of a spot on this list.
Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn
To the chagrin of a couple of curmudgeonly residents—and to the delight of the rest of us—Smith Street has blossomed into an outdoor diner’s paradise. Check out the picnic tables at the Gowanus Yacht Club (323 Smith St., at President St.; 718-246-1321), the lovely backyard at Grocery (288 Smith St., nr. Union St.; 718-596-3335), and the quirky patio at Robin des Bois (195 Smith St., nr. Warren St.; 718-596-1609).
22 Stone Street
The financial district
The cobblestoned restaurant row has three superior spots with sidewalk tables: Adrienne’s for deep-dish pizza (54 Stone St., nr. Hanover St.; 212-248-3838), French comfort food at the Financier Patisserie (62 Stone St., at Mill Ln.; 212-344-5600), and the just-opened Brouwers (45 Stone St.; 212-785-5400), a fish restaurant.
3152 Brighton 6th St., at Brightwater Ct., Brighton Beach, Brooklyn; 718-891-5151
There are about a half-dozen similar cafés on the Brighton boardwalk—and this one is the best. Order the chicken Kiev for yourself, a smoked-fish platter for the table, and wash it all down with homemade kvass, an alcoholic Soviet-era refreshment that tastes a lot like root beer.
24 Terrace 5
Inside MoMA, 11 W. 53rd St., nr. Fifth Ave.; 212-708-9400
With a vast overhang that could keep diners dry in a hurricane, Terrace 5 is open rain or shine. If you need a quickie, try the gelato cart in the sculpture garden instead.
25 The Yard
Next to the Soho Grand, 310 W. Broadway, nr. Grand St.; 212-965-3588
A little slice of suburbia in what used to be a service corridor running between West Broadway and Thompson Street: With an outdoor grill, humongous margaritas, and dogs rolling around in the grass, it’s a nonstop backyard barbecue party for the whole neighborhood. Next: Fabulous Things to Do Every Single Day This Summer