Garden Party


A long time ago (1539), in a land far, far away, Bavarian authorities forbade the brewing of fermented mash between April and September for fear of spoiling and widespread indigestion. Sick of the system’s bellyaching and opposed to a summer without swill, rebel Bavarians struck back by mixing a more potent beer and storing it in barrels below chestnut trees. Under the shade of these broad leaves, guzzlers could chug these jugs where they lay, a practice that gave birth to the biergarten. With immigration to America, Germans brought over their folklore, work ethic, and, yes, biergartens too. (Cheers to cultural diversity!) New York’s gardens were once 800 strong, but Prohibition wiped out all but one, the BOHEMIAN HALL AND GARDEN (29-19 24th Avenue, Astoria, Queens, 718-721-4226). Completed in 1919 as a home for the local Czech community, it’s the only garden in NYC that’s more than a glorified backyard. Still, many have sprung along this vine of tradition. Below are a few of our favorites; you don’t need a green thumb to tend to any of these, just a thirsty belly. KIM

After gallery-hopping in Chelsea, the ideal place to grab some shade and a few beers is in the courtyard garden of CHELSEA COMMONS, a classic English pub. The selection here is pretty standard (including Heineken, Budweiser, Beck’s, and Stella at $4 a bottle; pints of Guinness, Saranac, cider, and Rolling Rock for another buck), but the atmosphere is not: Ivy climbs the low, red brick walls enclosing this cozy hideaway while sunlight streaks through the branches of the towering dogwood tree that stems from the garden’s center. As the sun goes down, 18th-century-style lamps cast a dim glow over the dozen or so quaint, round tables, and the smell of fresh flowers fills the air. Ah yes, the best of England minus those annoying Brits. Chelsea Commons, 242 Tenth Avenue, 212.929.9424 SWITZER

Drinkers in Williamsburg are lucky these days, thanks to the LUCKY CAT. The year-old bar/performance space serves Warsteiner and its evil stout twin, Dunkel, on tap for $4, and a ridiculous array of beers, from the obvious (Corona and Guinness at $5) to the obscure (super-cheap Bohemia at $3 and Paulaner, a wheat beer in the bottle). All other bottles are $4. It also serves vegan snacks. Not only does the Cat have an outdoor garden area (yay, smoking!), it has a shallow moat running through it. The only thing funnier than watching some drunk take a header into it is reading the owner’s blog entry about the incident the next day. The Lucky Cat, 245 Grand Street, Brooklyn, 718.782.0437 MAMATAS

Although Sunnyside is now on the map for new New Yorkers looking to expand their horizons into Queens, you may never chance upon MICKEY JOHN’S, a pub two blocks off the beaten path of Queens Boulevard. After visiting MOMA QNS (closing at the end of September), check out this sunny paneled barroom with a pool table, and snag a seat in the garden, enclosed by an ivy-covered picket fence that’s no-frills—without being no-atmosphere. You’ll be surrounded by guys with thick brogues and cigarettes and families with babies. Irish staples Guinness stout and Harp lager are on tap, as well as Smithwick’s ale, introduced to the U.S. last March and made by the same people who brought us the meal in a pint ($5). Mickey John’s, 46-08 Skillman Avenue, Sunnyside, Queens, 718.729.9605 KIM

Situated near Red Hook’s waterfront, LIBERTY HEIGHTS, a large rooftop beer garden, boasts an outdoor grill, live music, views of Manhattan, and an essential river breeze. At wooden tables and benches, a mix of dockworkers, local artists, and first-time parents (often with baby in tow) enjoy draft beers, including Redhook Brewing Company brands and the favorite, Okocim ($4.50 a pint), a crisp Polish pilsner; bottled beers are $3 to $4. Liberty Heights Tap Room, 34 Van Dyke Street, Brooklyn, 718.246.1793 ASHMAN

The Kinks’ song “Sunny Afternoon” says it best with the lines “Now I’m sitting here, sipping at my ice cold beer, lazing on a sunny afternoon.” Not only does JOHNNY FOX’S have ice cold beer, it has a good selection too, including its own amber ale, a spicy cider-like brew, and an unbeatable happy-hour (weekdays, 4 to 7) special of Bud or Bud Light on tap at $2.50. Take that beverage outside and sit in the year-round garden. Nestled in the bar’s backyard, you can join about 50 of your friends at the dozen or so tables and pretend the shaded garden is your Survivor island hangout. Johnny Fox’s, 316 Third Avenue, 212.673.5149 ABER

The Irish know a thing or two about being cooped up because of lousy weather. They also know a thing or two about beer. So it makes sense that the lads (who hail from the old sod) at IONA have created the perfect backyard hangout, where vitamin D–starved hipsters can drink in the summer sun while sucking down frosty pints of brew (about 20 on tap, including Bellhaven, Stella, and of course, Guinness—each $5). With its long wooden tables and benches, flourishing trees, sprawling ivy, and abundance of lush green plants, Iona’s rustic drinking garden feels miles away from the concrete jungle. And for mildly athletic types, this urban oasis even has a Ping-Pong table. You don’t have to be lucky or Irish to get the most out of this place—just thirsty. Iona, 180 Grand Street, Brooklyn, 718.384.5008 SWITZER

Somewhere amid the cliffs and sand of Germany’s Baltic coast, there must be a surfside beer garden that serves seafood, and German probably has one long word to describe the hybrid. New Yorkers who crave a stein of Weihenstephan to go with their bowl of chowder have PIER 116, a meeresfrüchtebiergarten in Cobble Hill. Inside, diners down bluepoint oysters ($9) and Hofbrau ($4.75) under boat-like yellow lights. In the garden, beer lovers find a mini-Munich of communal tables, where they savor a brew from an ever changing menu and hoist their mugs to an early Oktoberfest: warm summer nights served with shrimp rolls and fries. Pier 116, 116 Smith Street, Brooklyn, 718.260.8900 ADKISON

KILLMEYER’S OLD BAVARIA INN emerges from the landscape like a hotel in a Nabokov fairy tale. Through the dark-wooded interior, and into the night! The beer garden, lit with white bulbs and hugged by blossoming dogwood trees, offers a selection of nine beers on tap—six German, three non—as well as 34 bottles from the land of lederhosen. Spaten, Warsteiner, Einbecher, Franziskaner: The list reads like a directory of psychoanalysts. And the waitresses, puffy of sleeve, are atmosphere personified. Live music in the garden Friday thorough Sunday, in season. Killmeyer’s Old Bavaria Inn, 4254 Arthur Kill Road, Staten Island, 718.984.1202 SOTTILE

The worldly collection of draft and bottled beer at D.B.A. is famous. Less talked about is the quaint outdoor deck, hidden in the back: A greenhouse-like atrium, adorned with trees, plants, wooden benches, and patio furniture, is your instant communion with Mother Nature. It’s even more natural-feeling when you’re slurping down some cold, great, hard-to-find tap beer: Paulaner Hefe-Weizen, Beamish Irish Stout ($5), and rare “hand-drawn cask ales” such as Old Speckled Hen. D.B.A., 41 First Avenue, 212.475.5097 BOSLER

The mission at L.I.C. is simple—just look at the windowpane outside, which reads “Cordials” and “Draughts.” There’s no gimmick here, just some good ol’ drinking to be done: 10 beers by the bottle, another 12 on tap, and hardly any pub fare, save for grilled-cheese sandwiches for the weak in spirit. Bypass the interior and head to the backyard garden, a concrete retreat where you can while away the hours unfettered by the bustle of Manhattan. Sit back with a stein of Belgian Corsendonk ($6) in hand and just relax—you’re in Queens now, and here, what you see is what you get. 45–58 Vernon Boulevard, Long Island City, Queens, 718.786.5400 BASTIDAS

All Decked Out: Cocktails Al Fresco

Tucked away from view a flight above street level, the courtyard at the HUDSON HOTEL feels like an exotic garden party dreamed up by a precocious child—an Eloise with a Philippe Starck fetish and a yen for $15 martinis. The outlandish scale of the mix-and-match furniture, lanterns, and cheeky ordinary-garden-object sculptures (including an enormous tin watering can brimming with flowers in full bloom) only enhances the sensation that you’ve slipped away from midtown. Hudson Hotel, 356 West 58th Street, 212.554.6000, WEINSTEIN

The Greeks come out at night—and in droves if you’re in Astoria. On any given evening, just follow the veil of smoke to one of the many bars off Steinway Street or hold out for Olympic-size debauchery at CAVO CAFÉ, a 4,000-square-foot lounge where patrons get their Greek freak on. A massive outdoor garden, not unlike a Mediterranean oasis, awaits out back. There you can philosophize on which martini to order—apple, watermelon, peach, mango, chocolate, raspberry, or mandarin ($10)—or just sit back and people-watch as girls in tight skirts and guys in crisp button-downs walk on by. This scene, mingled with the sultry summer air and the Europop playing throughout, will transport you to Mykonos in no time. Cavo Café, 42–18 31st Avenue, Astoria, Queens, 718.721.1001 BASTIDAS

When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, nurse forlorn pining or budding romance at CLOISTER CAFÉ‘s garden. A backlit stained-glass facade of medieval mortals illuminates from within while ivy creeps up the brick wall into a canopy of vines, and lights hang over potted tulips and water-spouting gargoyles. Open late for one last nibble, Cloister Café has a wine list that boasts many reds and whites (house wine, $5 a glass), as well as ports and dessert wines ($7 to $8). The Ruffino Chianti ($8 a glass, $32 a bottle) is especially recommended, with caution: When the world starts to shine, you know you’ve had too much wine. Cloister Café, 238 East 9th Street, 212.777.9128 KIM

It might look a little Disney-ish, but the retractable-roofed garden at the SUNBURNT COW in Alphabet City offers one of the city’s unique outdoor settings. The walls are carved to look like Australian sandstone, giving the patio a dank, dark, “I’m a drunken caveman” feel. You won’t be mistaken for an aboriginal, however, while sipping on an $8 Coolangatta Gold (muddled watermelon, banana rum, and a splash of sour pineapple Stoli), one of a dozen “mootinis” and “moo juices” on the Cow’s menu. The Sunburnt Cow, 137 Avenue C, 212.529.0005 STEINBERG