Summer Restaurants: Jessica’s Picks

June 19, 2014

Summer in New York is the great equalizer. Leave the house and you’re almost certain to experience an ugly confrontation between your sweat glands and the gigantic furnace that replaces the city between June 15 and September 15 every year. Pollen, extreme air-conditioning, the potpourri of rotting garbage and the incessant clamor over weekend plans will be sure to grate on your nerves and nasal passages, but there’s hope yet! The season of outdoor dining hath begun!

So wrap your feet in bandages, tear the sleeves off your wrap dress and get yourself under the closest awning, order a bottle of rosé (“summer water”) and enjoy the season of rhubarb, short nights and ‘al fresco’ everything. Here are a few of my favourite outdoor dining options, new and old.

il Principe: Brand new, and tucked away in far west Soho, this gorgeous, simple Italian — named, presumably, after Machievelli’s tome  – is the sort of place Gio Ponti might enjoy. A tiny, quiet garden in front is the perfect setting for a Campari and soda and power grab brainstorm.

Edi & The Wolf: This magical indoor/outdoor fairy tale forest seems to have no walls or ceilings. Or separate tables for that matter. With flora and fauna growing out of every possible orifice, this may not be a place for the sort of person who likes clearly defined boundaries, but if you ticked the box ‘whimsical’ in your online dating profile, you’ll feel right at home here. Well disguised is the fact that the cuisine is actually Germano-Austrian, and the Spaetzle are simply ausgezeichnet!

La Esquina: This casual Mexican place is one of my New York favorites. During its first summer on the block, the anarchic owners broadcast the World Cup from their outdoor take-out window for the neighborhood to enjoy. A little more grownup these days, they’ve added a baby sister Esquina across the bridge with a Chinese paneled dining room attached to a 1950’s diner and their own cerveza jardín for a mellow Williamsburg evening among the hipsterati.

Since we’re already in Brooklyn, wipe your taco hands, finish your margarita and go for second dinner at the original outdoor venue…

The River Café: Who hasn’t celebrated a special occasion here, under the twinkling lights of the Brooklyn Bridge? And this tiny fragile little paradise survived Hurricane Sandy with gusto to come back stronger than ever. Skip downriver a few steps to the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory for dessert. Let the delightfully old-fashioned ice cream flavors and toppings drip down your arm as you saunter down the pier and admire Manhattan from afar.

Le Charlot: This old French Upper East Side standby is a comforting reminder that some neighborhoods are impervious to flux. Steak frites, impatient French waiters, and the sort of regulars who think ‘downtown’ is another country continue to populate this little sliver of a restaurant like never before. The summer’s the best time to slip into their midst undetected.

Narcissa: The new tremendously good restaurant in the Standard East has a garden that feels like a secret even when every table’s occupied. The farm to table concept has overrun most restaurants from Hoboken, NJ to Huntington Beach, CA but Narcissa adds a delicate touch that will make you want to stay all day and night until you’ve ordered everything on the menu.

Notable Mention: The benches outside Cafe Select and Balthazar, the non-outdoor but seasonally impeccable menu at ABC Kitchen and, of course, the catwalk power couple of Bar Pitti and Da Silvano.

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