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Best Of Al Fresco Dining Around the Five Boroughs


Summer has finally arrived.  When you sit inside at a desk all day, the last thing you
want to do is sit inside a restaurant at dinnertime.   Besides, one of the
pleasures of summer in the city is dining outdoors under the stars or sunning
yourself at brunch.  There’s a
variety of atmospheres and options; everything from Crispo’s charming garden with cobblestones and a a running fountain
to quirky tenement spots.  
Take Max’s – an Italian haunt in Alphabet City that’s been around
forever – with its charming backyard, complete with a laundry line hanging
overhead.   There’s plenty of
old & new restaurants to take advantage of the warm weather and fruits of
summer all over New York.

Address: 319 Graham Ave., nr. Devoe
St. (Brooklyn)
Phone: (718)599-8899
Most New Yorkers are used to dining elbow-to-elbow with strangers, but
Brooklyn offers many alternatives to the typical, tightly cramped  quarters and Motorino’s backyard garden
is one of the borough’s best.  A
pizza and a bottle of rose sounds like the perfect night to me.  While Williamsburg isn’t exactly
Naples, Chef Mathieu Palombino’s wood-fired pizzas definitely bring you a
little closer to Italy.  I
recommend you start with Motorino’s cured meats, all excellent, especially the
mortadella – like bologna for grown ups – then try  a spicy Soppressata Piccante pie.  Both pair well with the Pinot Nero and the breeze. 

Address: 158 8th Ave nr.
18th Street
Phone: (212) 675-6564
When I think of Paris, I think of cafes & bistros with al fresco
seating, where fashionable eaters are having red wine, cheese and crusty
baguettes.  Okay, so we’re not in
Paris, but Gascogne (pictured right) takes you pretty close.  All
the servers have thick French accents and the bistro
menus peppered with classics, including a cassoulet, baked snails and a
Croque Monsieur.   During the
summer months, I like their mussels in garlic-butter sauce, the trout
almonds & haricot vert or even a cold terrine with rabbit, black
and Sauternes.  Just like
Paris, you can savor Gascogne’s
bistro classics in the backyard garden.

The Grocery
Address: 288 Smith
Street nr.
Sackett Street (Brooklyn)
Phone: (718)596-3335
Smith Street wasn’t always an exciting dining destination.  For many years, it flew under the radar
to most Manhattanites, who ate on the island of Manhattan, that is until
alums Sharon Pachter and Charles Kiely opened up shop in 1999.    With its creative, market-driven
menu and pedigreed chefs, The Grocery blazed a trail for young chefs to
open restaurants
outside the city.   Their top-notch,
New American cooking has received considerable attention and their
outdoor dining
area happens to be one of the most spacious in the borough.   For diners who want to escape the
sun, but soak up the breeze, the tables are equipped with umbrellas.   Right now, the menu features roasted
beets with goat cheese ravioli, seared scallops and a warm rhubarb
crisp, topped
with vanilla ice cream.

Address: 240 West 14th
Street nr. 8th Ave
Phone: (212) 228-1818
This Northern Italian standby is great all year round, but it’s
in warm months when the backyard garden’s open for dinner.    Crispo boasts incredibly
charming, outdoor seating, outfitted
with romantically lit chandeliers, marble-topped tables and even a
fountain.  I don’t blame diners for lingering over
a cheese or charcuterie plate prosciutto and a wine list nearly as
lengthy as War and Peace.  Frank
Crispo’s spaghetti carbonara is
legendary, but some of the seasonal specials are worth a try, like the
homemade, blue crab tortelli glossed in brown butter and

Address: 308 Bleeker Street nr.
Barrow Street
Phone: (212) 675-2009
We couldn’t do an outdoor dining round-up without highlighting a seafood
joint, and Choptank’s unlike any other in Manhattan.  The menu features “Maryland-bent fare,” with summer classics
like, boardwalk fries and peel n’ eat shrimp, seasoned with Old Bay
spices.  There’s a heated patio out
back where guests can gorge themselves on Chesapeake Bay favorites, the likes
of crab cakes with more crab than filling, crab chowder or crab claws with Old
Bay-spiced vinegar. If you’re prepared to get messy, take advantage of their all-you-can-eat,
blue crab fest with plenty of crackers and wet naps on the weekends.

Water Taxi Beach Long Island City
Address: 54-34 2nd
Phone: (877)974-6998
It’s always a party at this sandy spot with terrific views of the
skyline and some good comfort food. 
If you’re looking for something super casual where can you have a
and a beer,  the Water Taxi Beach
is the place to do it.  There’s a
live DJ and a bacon-chili-cheese dog with fries, or if you want
something a
little more low key, you can sit waterside and try the famous “Motz
created by the author of Hamburger
.  This is the original
of three Water Taxi Beach around the city and it’s still our favorite.

Address: 51 Avenue B between 3rd
and 4th streets
Phone: (212)539-0111
This old-school, red-sauce joint has managed to stake its place in the
city’s dining landscape for over a decade.   The best seats are in their uniquely spacious backyard
where none of the guests seem to mind the laundry line either.  A quintessential New York spot, Max has
bragging rights to one of the finest meat lasagnas and meatloafs in town.

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