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Grandlife guide

Dining Al Fresco in Downtown New York

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Hot New York days call for cool drinks, bare legs, and al fresco dining. Introducing the definitive guide to outdoor dining in downtown Manhattan (and we broke it down by neighborhood).

SoHo: Gilligan’s 

Gilligan’s (pictured) is SoHo’s salve for the warmer months in New York. Open May through late September, the spacious outdoor bar-restaurant brings a taste of the tropics to downtown Manhattan. Lush palms and nautical touches complement décor with a distinct island vibe and the food and drink to match. Ingredient-driven dishes are the order of the day, every day; we recommend the seafood dishes, which have been sourced from the best farms and fishermen on Long Island; the signature pizzas served straight from the kitchen’s stone oven are also a must; and, of course, the famed frozen watermelon margarita.

Hours: Wed & Thurs, 5pm – 10pm; Fri, 5pm – 11pm;  Sat, noon – 11pm; Sun, noon – 10pm

310 West Broadway, SoHo; T. (212) 965 3271

SoHo: Sant Ambroeus

In 1936, Sant Ambroeus opened in Milan to a welcoming local intelligentsia who enthusiastically embraced the cafe as its now-legendary meeting place. The New York version exists today in the heart of SoHo, and it’s certainly worth the visit for its prime sidewalk seating. Famous for its coffees and gelato, the espresso bar remains a strength alongside addictive Italian pastries. With a kitchen that opens as early as 8am, Sant Ambroeus is a welcoming breakfast spot as well as an intimate choice for lunch, dinner or even brunch. The Milanese fare is true to its roots while incorporating some of today’s most popular dishes (what would brunch be without avocado toast?). Its sidewalk boasts two-top tables with both seats facing the street for some ideal people-watching.

Hours: Mon through Fri; 8am – 11pm; Sat & Sun, 9am – 11pm

265 Lafayette Street, SoHo

TriBeCa: The Odeon

The Art Deco neon sign alone has been a beacon for Manhattan nighthawks since the early ’80s—Warhol, Basquiat, DeNiro, and Belushi were avid Odeon-goers, to name a few. And lest we forget that Keith McNally (of Balthazar and Pastis) was an original owner, one of the firsts to bring the French brasserie concept to New York. The three-martini lunch stays alive and well here; everyone enjoys the ambiance and serious service. We’re particularly fond of the Croque monsieur and French onion soup gratinée. 

Hours: Mon through Fri, 11am – 12am; Sat & Sun, 10am – 12am 

145 W Broadway, TriBeCa; T. (212) 233-0507

Veselka 

A favorite among locals, Chloë Sevigny included (“I get the blue plate special: half tuna sandwich and a cup of split pea”), Veselka is a true New York institution. Since 1954, this East Village spot has been serving up classic Ukrainian fare in a casual setting with tables spread out along East Ninth Street. We love the perogies, Ukrainian-style dumplings handmade daily in the kitchen and served boiled or fried with sauteed onions and sour cream. The borscht is also a must, as are the potato pancakes. 

Hours: Sun through Thurs, 8am – 11pm; Fri & Sat, 8am – 11.30pm 

144 2nd Ave, East Village; T. (212) 228-9682

King

Beyond its charming sidewalk terrace open for aperitivo hour, King has many things going for it, namely its seasonal Southern Italian fare and summer cocktail menu. This favorite SoHo eatery keeps patrons happy with the freshest seasonal produce—a mix of meat dishes, seafood delights, healthy salads, pasta, and desserts alongside an extensive drink menu. 

Hours: Daily, 5pm – 10pm 

18 King St, SoHo; T. (917) 825-1618

West Village: Via Carota

Another spot offering Italian cuisine on a calm, West Village block, Via Carota is a must—even without all the history. Inspired by 17th-century Florence, this gastroteca calls to mind an old-world Italian kitchen. Cozy and rustic with light brick-lined walls anchored by rustic, wooden floors, the ambience is comforting even while being perpetually packed. Eight outdoor tables decorate the sidewalk offering a delightful springtime alternative among the trees of Grove Street.

Hours: Mon through Fri, 11am – 10pm; Sat & Sun, 10am – 10pm

51 Grove Street, West Village

West Village: Dante

There are few New York institutions with a legacy as rich as Dante’s. The century-old bar and restaurant in the Greenwich Village made a name for itself in decades past as a hangout for cultural icons like Anaïs Nin, Ernest Hemingway, Robert Mapplethorpe, Patti Smith, Bob Dylan, among many other beatniks, artists, and writers. Now a registered New York City historic landmark, Dante has most recently received attention for its “world’s best bar” accolade making its outdoor tables arguably the hottest seat in town. 

Hours: Daily, 10am – 1am

79-81 MacDougal Street, Greenwich Village; T. (212) 982-5275

Nolita: Café Select

This casual, stylish Swiss eatery attracts a fashionable crowd. The Lafayette location across from Lt. Petrosino Square makes it a convenient and ideal place for people-watching, especially if you’re able to snag one of the four outdoor tables. Whether you come for breakfast, brunch, lunch, or dinner, the restaurant is sure to be packed. Offering schnitzel, bratwurst, muesli, Ovomaltine, the menu is decidedly European, and the setting offers a unique space in a sea of Italian and French bistros and brasseries.

Hours: Mon through Thurs, noon – 12am; Fri, 12pm – 1am;  Sat, 11am – 1am; Sun, 11am – 12am

212 Lafayette, Nolita

Greenwich Village: Bar Pitti

A wide sidewalk on Sixth Avenue makes this NYC classic a perfect place to people-watch. The Tuscan-inspired restaurant opened in 1992, and has been consistently packed ever since. Known as a celebrity hangout, the tables spill onto the sidewalk with plenty of room for street traffic and mingling. Though you will likely wait for an outdoor table, the experience is “quintessentially New York” and the exquisite food makes it well worth your time.

Hours: Sun through Wed, noon – 11pm; Thurs through Sat, noon – 12am

268 Sixth Ave, Greenwich Village

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