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  • Writer's pictureRebecca B.

Al Fresco, Finally

New York: Restaurants are open! (Sort of.) And not just to pick up food and take it home to the same room you haven't left for months except to go pick up food. It's only for outdoor dining, but ya'll it's summer in NYC and we ALL need some fresh air! Plus our restaurants need support. Now, Is it safe? You have the same info we do on safety, and the amount of risk you're comfortable with is a personal decision. Yet. Reason tells you the more actual outdoor area a restaurant has, the better chance one might have to maintain a safe distance from others. Much of it has to do with the restaurant staff and protocols, and of course the number of tables there are. That said, I don't care if you have three tables or twenty, there are some NYC sidewalks that are not made for a cafe. Not just talking safety, I'm picky about my ambiance and don't want to be sitting on a subway grate. Some places are trying hard but not really delivering. Here's a quick list of restaurants who seem to be doing it right.

Melba's (Harlem)

This was the first date night spot for Bill De Blasio and Charlene McCray, upon NYC reopening. We're not huge De Blasio fans, but this was a good move. This mainstay is a big local favorite for Harlem comfort food. The outdoor seating has expanded into the street (with booths no less!) and they have gone the extra mile of putting up clear dividers between tables. Great food and great people. Go-to dish: Chicken and Waffles.

Ten Hope Outdoor Garden (Williamsburg)

With 2500 square feet of outdoor space, these guys are poised to have a great debut this week. Can you imagine, opening for the first time during a pandemic?! Help them out by having a cocktail or two. They have a rotating frozen drink menu including margaritas, negronis, and frosé. Welcome to summer! Go-to dish: Shrimp and Scallop Ceviche.

Forino (Brooklyn Bridge Park)

This restaurant has a terrace and rooftop space, AND it's on a park. Easy contingency plan if it gets too crowed. The pizza ovens here are legit. Also, there is a great cocktail menu and slushies. What says summer more than slushies? Go-to dish: The Lombardi (pizza w/ mozzarella, prosciutto, arugula, parmigiana, and lemon zest).

Gitano Garden of Love (Soho)

Cheesy name aside, this place is literally a tropical oasis in the middle of the city. With 24,000 square feet of garden, it's like they planned for the pandemic. Their tables were already nicely distanced, many tucked away in corners, canopied with palm leaves. It's expensive, but if your vacation to Tulum was cancelled, this would be a good runner-up and a bargain. Go-to dish: Banana-Roasted Brook Trout.

Cafe Cluny (West Village)

This charming village bistro is on one of those quintessential cobblestone New York streets. It's probably been the backdrop for countless movie scenes, romanticizing life in the city. Well, now dining is actually IN that beautiful street, decorated with twinkling lights. This guys are doing it right. Also, doesn't hurt that the food is divine. Go-to dish: Warm Mozzarella and Tomato Salad.

Catch Steak (Chelsea)

Catch Steak and it's sister restaurant, Catch, are opening back up in one venue with a huge combined menu of steak and seafood. With all the limitations right now, the amount of choice they offer is remarkable. Plus, there are three outdoor spaces, decorated impeccably. And the spaces are all off the street; no seeing your neighbor picking up their dog's poop a few feet away from your meal here. It's pricy, but if you haven't been out of your house in four months and need a splurge, this is it. Go-to dish: Truffle-Butter Filet Mignon.

The Odeon (Tribeca)

You can't get more classic New York than this Tribeca institution. Their two sidewalk seating areas are magically lit and staff is doing what they can to make you feel all is normal with the world. Cocktails are always special and the food is worth writing home about (or leaving home for!). Go-to dish: Steak Tartare.

Bel Aire Diner (Astoria)

Talk about doing it right, these guys have figured out a way to set up a drive-in movie in the parking lot next to their diner. I KNOW! Talk about a business model pivot. I'm so excited for this one. Find them on instagram for upcoming movies. Go-to dish: Grilled Cheese and a Vanilla Malt. Old school.

Do you have other outdoor dining suggestions? Let us know! It's such a big decision right now, where to spend a much needed night out. Let's help each other know where to go. Get out there, New York, and help our restaurants stay in business!

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