Eating in the great outdoors. Is there a greater pleasure in life? Quite frankly, no. And now that the weather has warmed, it’s finally time for alfresco dining. New York surprisingly has many options, from sidewalk seating to rooftop decks. Yet often the hidden back gardens prove the most rewarding, like finding the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow (but don’t worry — we still might cover the others in a 10 Best later this spring and summer). So without further ado, we present our 10 Best Restaurants With Secret Gardens.
10. Neptune: You would never have any clue that there’s a calm shaded patio outside of this old-school East Village Eastern European diner, pictured above. The neighborhood is packed with plenty of pierogi-peddling restaurants, but this one has the best outdoor seating (sorry, Veselka). 194 First Avenue, 212-777-4163
9. B Bar and Grill: OK, so this patio isn’t 100 percent hidden, but if you entered at the 4th Street entrance, you might not realize just how expansive and lovely it is. The food at this American restaurant borders on boring, but the walled-in dining area dotted with potted plants really is enjoyable. Grab a glass of sangria or a burger and pretend this is your own backyard. Just one you happen to share with scores of others. 40 East 4th Street, 212-475-2220
8. Frankies 457: The cavatelli with sausage and brown butter sauce is tasty enough to put Frankies on any top-10 list, but what really sweetens the deal is the leafy outdoor garden, because nothing really pairs better with Italian food than the great outdoors. 457 Court Street, Brooklyn, 718-403-0033
7. Royale: One of the top Alphabet City burgers can be found at this tiny restaurant, and so can one of the best outdoor gardens. Grab a beer and a book, and you’ve got yourself a late afternoon of fun. Did someone say summer Fridays? 157 Avenue C, 212-254-6600.
6. The Rabbithole: Fall into this laid-back Williamsburg restaurant and you’ll encounter some fine American bistro fare (plus a veggie burger that ranks in our 10 Best) and a lovely outdoor garden for enjoying it in. 352 Bedford Avenue, Brooklyn, 718-782-0910
5. Barbone: Italian restaurants are a dime a dozen in this city, but how many of them can boast a back garden worthy of a piazza? OK, so it’s not quite a piazza, but the tranquil space provides the perfect atmosphere for noshing on tasty asparagus fries and one of the many delicious pastas. 186 Avenue B, 212-254-6047
4. Robin des Bois: This quaint French bistro serves small plates and classic bistro fare, but it’s the back garden that’s the real charmer here. Mismatching wrought-iron chairs, old commercial signs, and stone tables provide the setting under the shade of leafy trees — artfully cool without trying too hard. 195 Smith Street, 718-596-1609
3. The Mussel Pot: This brand-new seafood-centric spot in Greenwich Village doesn’t look like much from the outside, but pass through the highly decorated interior to discover a lovely grotto of a back patio, complete with a soothing waterfall. 174 Bleecker Street, 212-260-2700
2. Back Forty: The garden at Back Forty, Peter Hoffman’s locavorish American restaurant, is everything you’d want in your own back garden, but can’t have, because who has a private garden in New York City? The hanging lights and brightly colored chairs give the space a casual cool. And an added bonus? The restaurant also debuts its yearly crab-boil dinners around the same time it opens up the back garden. 190 Avenue B, 212-388-1990
1. Pure Food and Wine: Yes, it might take some coaxing to convince your dining companions to visit a raw-food restaurant, but you can assure them that the food is quite good (and surprisingly not “healthy and hippie” tasting) and there’s an even lovelier garden out back. Nestled amid tall city buildings, this back garden defines urban oasis. 54 Irving Place, 212-477-1010
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 29, 2011