New York

NYC's Outdoor Dining Situation Is Wild Right Now

Alternate side dining now in full effect.

Matthew Kelly
Matthew Kelly
Matthew Kelly

The COVID-19 pandemic crippled NYC’s restaurant industry perhaps more than any other, shuttering in-house dining for the foreseeable future and leaving operators scrambling to pivot to delivery/takeout models that many had never offered before.
 
After months of takeout only, Phase 2 of reopening arrived in late June, which brought an entirely new challenge/opportunity for restaurants. Outdoor dining would be allowed but with it came a slew of rules and restrictions. That meant custom-built dividers, patio-style fencing, and turning streets and parking lanes into fully operational dining room turf on the fly.

The result? NYC’s sidewalks are suddenly full again, with some stretches closed down completely on weekends thanks to a program called Open Streets. Overnight, the Big Apple started to look a whole lot like Europe.

But outdoor dining isn’t without its complications. First, the construction is costly and labor-intensive for owners, and it’s created a run on raw materials with every operator building out at once. According to Gertie GM Flip Biddleman, “When you go to the big-box home improvement stores right now, they are all running low on materials, and jam-packed at all hours of the day with customers. It feels like the entire city is working on construction projects.” 

Then, suddenly, rules changed shortly after 4th of July weekend, with a new city mandate to make dining barriers 18 inches thick. Shuka owner Vicki Freeman tells us, “We built up our outside area and then the rules changed. We had to go back and redesign them after being served with a summons.”

Beyond the cost and effort that goes into such an undertaking, the prospect of outdoor dining is still fraught for both restaurant employees and patrons, especially in a town where separating tables by six feet with limited available sidewalk seems logistically impossible. Some restaurateurs aren’t willing to put their employees at risk by reopening. And diners, depending on who you ask, are split on wanting to go to restaurants IRL at all, with no vaccine and rising numbers just outside of NY State. 

Regardless of where you stand, today we’re taking a second to document this truly bizarre moment in NYC dining history in photos: You’ll witness Katz’s Deli take over Ludlow Street with outdoor dining for the first time in its 130-year history, East and West Village brunchers separated by wooden and plexiglass dividers, and Williamsburg and LES streets entirely shut down and looking like European piazzas filled with chairs, tables and plants. In short, dining out in NYC is just wild right now. Take a look.

The Bronx

Courtesy of Beatstro
Courtesy of Beatstro
Courtesy of Beatstro

Beatstro
The South Bronx cafe which pays homage to the borough being the birthplace of hip-hop, had custom barriers made and then adorned with murals by artist Andre Trenier. The custom art features portraits of female hip-hop performers, primarily to address the lack of women in the art inside the space when it was originally painted. According to owner Alfredo Angueira, “We wanted to mirror as closely as possible the art inside our space while addressing anything we may have missed the first time around. This is the reason all the illustrations are of women in hip-hop.”

Lower East Side/Chinatown

Matthew Kelly
Matthew Kelly
Matthew Kelly

Katz’s Deli
For the first time in its 132-year history, Katz’s Deli took over Ludlow Street with its custom-built outdoor patio. 

Matthew Kelly
Matthew Kelly
Matthew Kelly

Nom Wah Tea Parlor
The 100-year-old classic Chinatown staple is dabbling in outdoor dining, shutting down the very unique alcove of a street that is Doyers with street-side tables. Neighboring spot Peachy’s is about to follow suit starting this weekend.

The Village/Soho

Matthew Kelly
Matthew Kelly
Matthew Kelly

Boucherie/Petite Boucherie and Olio E Più
One of the most striking build-outs are the custom branded five-foot-high dividers found at the sibling Village restaurants. Designed by Julien Legeard of The Prestige Group and made by Interior Palace in Brooklyn, the team had a month or so for fabrication as well as to source plexiglass (in short supply during the pandemic) and get the wood branded dividers made in time for Phase 2 reopening. 

Courtesy of AVEC
Courtesy of AVEC
Courtesy of AVEC

AVEC Table
This roving pop-up table from the namesake beverage brand, designed by Black entrepreneur Dee Charlemagne, has been popping up all over town including at the now-shuttered White Horse Tavern and the PDA 4th of July block party in Williamsburg which went down over the past weekend.

Courtesy of Wayan
Courtesy of Wayan
Courtesy of Wayan

Wayan
The SoHo French-Indonesian spot from husband-and-wife team Cedric and Ochi Vongerichten created a lush outdoor setup complete with plants and wooden tables and chairs. Using Re-ply, a company that has been up-cycling plywood used to board up windows during the protests of early June, the company fashioned all the tables and chairs for the sidewalk cafe. 

Courtesy of Joyface
Courtesy of Joyface
Courtesy of Joyface

Joyface
The East Village bar has set up a “sidewalk backyard” of sorts right on Avenue C complete with string lights, fake grass, and lawn chairs.

Courtesy of Shuka
Courtesy of Shuka
Courtesy of Shuka

Shuka
The popular SoHo spot inspired by the flavors of the Middle East built an expanded patio that spills into the streets and looks something like a catwalk complete with exotic plants on each side. Owner Vicki Freeman shares some of the highs and lows of the process: “In some ways it’s been fun trying to figure out how to build a new restaurant outside, ie how can we maintain the feel of the restaurant. But it has also been frustrating and expensive as well.” Freeman unfortunately had to redo the outdoor construction after the July 4th change of policy by the city.

Matthew Kelly
Matthew Kelly
Matthew Kelly
Matthew Kelly
Matthew Kelly
Matthew Kelly

Chelsea/Flatiron

Kelly Dobkin
Kelly Dobkin
Kelly Dobkin

Cafeteria
Dinner in the bike lane, anyone? The Chelsea mainstay has added additional outdoor seating sandwiched between the bike lane and street parking in the middle of 7th Avenue.

Kelly Dobkin
Kelly Dobkin
Kelly Dobkin

Cote
The elevated Korean BBQ spot known for frose slushies and wagyu meat options has pivoted to an outdoor bar model, with food/meal kits available in to-go containers. The custom tables were also built from plywood used to protect the restaurant windows during the early June protests, constructed by the restaurant’s in-house handyman.

Williamsburg

Matthew Kelly
Matthew Kelly
Matthew Kelly
Matthew Kelly
Matthew Kelly
Matthew Kelly
Matthew Kelly
Matthew Kelly
Matthew Kelly
Nate Zack
Nate Zack
Nate Zack

Gertie
The popular all-day cafe in Williamsburg constructed a Summer Shack concept featuring beach chairs and small tables. According to GM Flip Biddleman, “We enlisted our wine director’s uncle to build our outdoor furniture, which took about four days to construct — custom barriers and the beginnings of a canopy — but this was also not without hurdles as the city changed their guidelines multiple times without warning.”

Courtesy of Casa Ora
Courtesy of Casa Ora
Courtesy of Casa Ora

Casa Ora
The Venezuelan eatery scrambled to create an outdoor dining barrier, built by owner Ivo Diaz himself.

Matthew Kelly
Matthew Kelly
Matthew Kelly

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Kelly Dobkin is an editor at Thrillist and she used to wait tables at a mostly outdoor restaurant. She can’t believe this shit.

New York

Scavenge for Peeps Cookies and More Fun Treats in NYC This Easter

The best Easter desserts in NYC this spring include Easter Bunny Churros and Carrot Cake Macarons.

Photo courtesy of Funny Face Bakery
Photo courtesy of Funny Face Bakery
Photo courtesy of Funny Face Bakery

As spring makes its way through New York City, not only do we get to enjoy beautiful weather, stunning cherry blossoms, and cool activities priced at $Free.99, but it’s also the perfect time for some limited-edition desserts.

With Easter fast approaching, bakeries are filling their shops with tons of chocolate eggs, carrot cake-flavoured everything and all types of flavours that offer both nostalgia and innovation within the city’s dessert landscape. After you’ve picked up a cake from the city’s best new bakeries, from Easter Bunny Churros to Carrot Cake Macarons, here are 8 Easter desserts to try in NYC right now.

Photo courtesy of Magnolia Bakery
Photo courtesy of Magnolia Bakery
Photo courtesy of Magnolia Bakery

Magnolia Bakery

Throughout April
Various locations
There’s great news for devotees of Magnolia Bakery’s Classic Banana Pudding: For Easter, the spot is mixing up the iconic dessert’s vanilla pudding with some carrot cake. The Carrot Cake Pudding is filled with freshly grated carrots, coconuts, pineapples, raisins, and walnuts. And if both bananas and carrots aren’t your thing, they’ll be offering their Classic Vanilla Cupcakes in pastel colours with a Cadbury chocolate egg hidden inside.

Photo courtesy of Funny Face Bakery
Photo courtesy of Funny Face Bakery
Photo courtesy of Funny Face Bakery

Funny Face Bakery

Through Easter Sunday
NoHo and Seaport
Known for their celebrity face and meme-worthy decorated cookies, fans of Funny Face Bakery know that a new fun design is always just around the corner. For Easter, they’ve created the adorable Hoppy Easter decorated cookie that resembles a classic box of marshmallow Peeps. Along with that, they also have the return of their fan-favourite Caramel Pretzel Chip cookie flavour, plus a set of three mini-decorated cookies perfect for gifting.

The Doughnut Project

Friday, April 7 through Easter Sunday
West Village
With the ever-changing flavours at The Doughnut Project, it’s super easy to miss out on trying out a new debut. But this Easter weekend, there will be two new flavours available. One is of course, a carrot cake doughnut topped with a cream cheese glaze, and the other is known as the Doughnut Nest-a French cruller “nest” with a cream-filled doughnut hole “egg” in the centre.

Photo by Cole Saladino, courtesy of The Fragile Flour
Photo by Cole Saladino, courtesy of The Fragile Flour
Photo by Cole Saladino, courtesy of The Fragile Flour

The Fragile Flour

Wednesday, April 5 through Easter Sunday
East Village
For stellar vegan desserts this holiday, head to The Fragile Flour, a plant-based bakery and dessert wine bar. They’re known for going all out for each holiday with a variety of new pastry options that you can pair perfectly with a glass of wine. This Easter, they’ll have a whole dessert menu that’s both delicious and gorgeous for posting on IG. The menu includes Stuffed Carrot Cake Cookies, a Lemon Cake (whole or by the slice), some festive cupcakes, and specialty macarons.

Photo courtesy of Kreuther Handcrafted Chocolate
Photo courtesy of Kreuther Handcrafted Chocolate
Photo courtesy of Kreuther Handcrafted Chocolate

Kreuther Handcrafted Chocolate

Through mid April
Midtown
For a luxurious take on Easter chocolates, browse the selections available at Kreuther Handcrafted Chocolate. You can even pick the Easter Signature Chef’s Selection for a special box curated by award-winning chefs. For something other than chocolate, choose between the Carrot Cake Macarons or the cake flavored Easter Marshmallow Trio, both of which are almost too cute to eat.

La Churreria

Throughout April
Nolita
This churro-centric spot is putting the cutest Easter spin on their crispy cinnamon churros by twisting them up into bunnies and bunny ears. At Churreria, choose from a Bunny Churro Lollipop topped with your choice of chocolate or dulce de leche and sprinkles, or the bunny ear churros in the Ube and Matcha ice cream sundae or the Ube Milkshake, both of which are made with ice cream from il laboratorio del gelato.

Photo by Briana Balducci
Photo by Briana Balducci
Photo by Briana Balducci

Lafayette

Throughout April
NoHo
You’ve surely seen this croissant tons of times while scrolling through IG or TikTok, whether it’s the Pain au Chocolat one or the latest of the month. Known as Supr√™mes, these filled croissants went viral and continue to live up to the hype each time a new flavour comes out. April’s flavour-sour cherry amaretto with a Luxardo custard and toasted almonds. While you’ll have to be super early and wait in line during one of their three drops of the day to get a taste, we promise you it’ll be worth it.

Photo courtesy of Levain
Photo courtesy of Levain
Photo courtesy of Levain

Levain

Seasonal
Various locations
We all know the iconic cookies from Levain-they’re gigantic, perfectly crispy and chewy, and well worth the long lines. For spring, the shop is launching a new flavour: Caramel Coconut Chocolate Chip. Filled with gooey caramel chips, fresh shredded coconut, and melty dark chocolate, it’s one you’ve got to try while it’s still around. To further celebrate the new season, all of Levain’s storefronts will be decked out in spring floral displays, serving as the perfect backdrop for pictures.

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Alaina Cintron is an Editorial Assistant at Thrillist. Her work can also be found in Westchester Magazine, Girls’ Life, and Spoon University. When she’s not at her desk typing away, you can find her exploring a local coffee shop or baking a new recipe.

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