Secret Gardens: 8 New Outdoor Spaces in NYC

By James Mulcahy  |  July 29, 2013

While sidewalk patios are swell, the Big Apple's truly magical spaces are usually out back. In these new restaurant gardens, you'll be protected from the passing traffic as you drink your Prosecco (or eat your mind-blowing burger) under dangling strands of lightbulbs. Read on to find out about eight outdoor spaces you should check out before summer ends.

  • Montmartre

    When we heard that Gabe Stulman was taking over the Chelsea space that formerly housed Gascogne, our minds immediately went to the backyard. The garden was easily the former French eatery's most winning feature, and we knew Stulman would have something good in store (and he had to, seeing how the miniscule eatery just needs more seating, regardless of the concept). Well, the garden is up and running, and in addition to the alfresco tables there is an eight-seat bar tucked into the corner. If you're looking for cocktails, our choice du jour is the Paris Campari and soda, which is a DIY take on the classic cocktail, with the ingredients laid out on a silver tray.

    158 Eighth Ave.; 646-596-8838

  • The Cleveland

    Though it may seem tiny from the street, don't let this NoLita-based New American fool you - there's plenty of breathing room, you just have to hit the backyard to find it. The moderately priced menu is filled with Mediterranean flourishes, which fits with the exposed-brick trellises and strings of twinkle lights that adorn this sizable patio. Cocktail snobs will have to go elsewhere since only wine and beer are served, but this eatery offers something that most of the others on our garden list don't: breakfast. Options include dishes like a kale scramble with NY cheddar, mushrooms and onions. If you can't stomach the AM meal during the week - aka you usually eat breakfast at your desk - you can get your eggs and sun on this patio during weekend brunch.

    25 Cleveland Place; 212-274-0900

  • Musket Room

    Sadly, you can't sit in this totally charming restaurant garden - not yet, anyway. The only thing prettier than the elegantly plated fare at this recently opened NoLita eatery is the backyard, which features a stone walkway that surrounds an herb garden. Those sprigs of plant life may end up on your plate or in your glass, as the restaurant serves herbal teas like lemon-thyme and lemon verbana that make use of garden-grown ingredients (enjoy these during the spot's just-launched brunch). When we dropped by for a visit, a server told us that they hope to one day make use of the space. Until then, a table by the window is the best in the house.

    265 Elizabeth St.; 212-219-0764

  • Fritzl's

    The burger at this casual new joint in Bushwick is one of the best new patties we've encountered in 2013, so if you're planning to head over and try it, you might as well sit outside. Like the small restaurant itself, the backyard garden is spare in its decorations, but in this up-and-coming neighborhood, a little ramshackle charm is a must for any successful venue. There are colorful, mismatched table cloths that are ripped right from a suburban barbecue and strings of lightbulbs to keep things twinkling in the PM. It might not be the prettiest patio in town, but a few glasses of $7 Gruner is all you need to feel the magic.

    173 Irving Ave., Brooklyn; 929-210-9531

  • Gilligan's

    Operating out of The Yard space at The SoHo Grand Hotel, this pop-up venue is run by Aussie restaurateurs Nick Hatsatouris and Lincoln Pilcher, who were behind Moby Dicks, a runaway hit in Montauk last year. Grub prices start at $11 at this beach-themed venue, which means you'll have plenty of money left over for boozin', which when camped out at these picnic tables is really the point (watermelon margarita, anyone?). The alfresco spot is open for walk-ins starting at 4 PM during the week and for weekend brunch from 11 AM to 3 PM.

    310 W. Broadway

  • Backyard at The Pines

    A stand-alone menu is served at this alfresco Gowanus space - while the offerings are of the same eclectic, New American variety that chef Angelo Romano serves inside, he breaks out the grill for his open-air experience. The menu rotates, and on any given day you're likely to find dishes ranging from grilled clams to half lobsters with lardo and vanilla butter. You can pair the edibles with unique cider. The restaurant features a selection from Spain's Basque and Asturian regions, and the alfresco area runs with a casual, European vibe. Just note that the patio is only open Thursday through Sunday. Oh, and it's cash-only inside and out, so be sure to bring some dough.

    284 Third Ave., Brooklyn; 718-596-6560

  • Jeepney

    With its Fillipino pin-up girls and outside-of-the-box menu, Jeepney is already one of our favorite NYC restaurants, and now its recently debuted alfresco space makes it even more appealing. There's a large communal table in the middle of a patio that's surrounded with ample greenery - you'll feel far away from the hustle and bustle of First Avenue. Dinner service starts at 6 PM, and if your party is six or more, you can make a reservation.

    201 First Ave.; 212-533-4121

  • Splitty

    The owner of Pete's Candy Store is behind this Clinton Hill charmer (a "splitty" was the nickname for a '60s-era Volkswagen bus' windshield), which just opened in the space that formerly housed bar Rope. The no-frills backyard is where it's at - you can enjoy a small selection of steamed buns like the pastrami bao, which come loaded with Brisket pastrami, kimchi and Russian dressing. Though the bites are A-ok, the real action here is on the cocktail list: the menu is a split between classics (say howdy to Harvey Wallbanger) and housemade concoctions like a Ginger Rickey. There are plenty of craft beers available, because you know you want to drink the day away in that backyard.

    415 Myrtle Ave., Brooklyn; 718-643-2967