New York City is famous for fine cuisine. There are hundreds of restaurants all over town. Many offer delightful outdoor dining areas, though some are admittedly more spectacular than others. The key is to know which ones are the best combination of high quality meals and outdoor enjoyment. The following five selections were gleaned from the top award winning restaurants in the city, while keeping an eye toward the excellence of their Al fresco dining areas. The five were culinary critics’ top choices, award winning, and offering some of the most delicious foods and beautiful ambiance in their categories.
It was a tough choice to narrow down the many into these few, but these are standouts:
Battery Gardens Restaurant
This New York classic located at 1 Battery Park, is right on the edge of the water. It has the best views of The Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and the New York Harbor. It also offers delicious food. Its Beer Garden is open every day at 11:30 AM and so is its Harbor View Bar. It is also open for lunch and dinner Monday through Sunday.
The menu varies by season, but some examples of the delicious items range anywhere from pizza to full meals with fresh vegetables, chicken. steak, filet mignon and much more. Prices can be anywhere from $14 to $32 and more. Chef de Cuisine Mauro Lujan also offers two prix fixe menus for $49 or $69. His menus feature American-Continental fare at its freshest and most delicious.
The outdoor terrace is filled with lovely seating shaded by greenery and picnic umbrellas. The panoramic views of boats sailing past on the blue water is worth every effort to reserve a table and come to this Manhattan gem and oasis. Many who know this spot well, recommend arriving to watch the sunset and have a delicious cocktail while enjoying the luxury of its outdoor spaces.
In 2006, Barbetta enjoyed its 100th anniversary with a celebration. It was a fitting tribute for the family who founded it and has tended it throughout their generations. It was also a landmark occasion for the Italian restaurant that has the distinction of being the oldest in New York. Located in the Theater District, at Restaurant Row 46th Street, between Eighth and Ninth Avenues, it has been designated a Historic Establishment, or Local Storico by Locali Storici d’Italia. It’s the only American restaurant to have been recognized as such by this prestigious organization. This designation ensures that the restaurant’s period style interior is prohibited from alterations of any kind.
In 1962, owner Laura Maioglio decorated Barbetta’s spectacular interior to create the style of an 18th Century Piemontese palazzo. Ms. Maioglio holds a magna cum laude degree in Art History from Bryn Mawr, and she collected 18th century Piemontese antiques to transform the restaurant into an elegant establishment. Using significant period pieces from the region’s peak artistic period, she filled each space with beauty. Some notable pieces include the signed 1631 Fabbri harpsichord in the foyer and the chandelier in the main dining room which came from the Torino palazzo owned by Italy’s royal Savoy family.
In 1963, Ms. Maioglio designed an open air dining garden, which was a rarity in Manhattan then. a rare She filled the Barbetta garden with verdant trees, and flowering plants. Today, this romantic space is exuberant with the fragrance and colors of blooming gardenia, jasmine, magnolia and wisteria. Century-old trees stand over all, providing shade and flowing sunshine through their canopy overhead. When dining there, guests feel the richness of visiting a grand country estate. For summer dining, combined with the delicious Peimontese menu, many in the city seek out the experience in this garden offers.
Since Sebastiano Maioglio’s 1906 founding of the restaurant, until the present ownership by Laura Maioglio, his daughter, the cuisine has been Piemonte. Traditional dishes such as agnolotti, bollito, polenta and risotto have been on the menu continuously.
Founder Sebastiano Maioglio achieved many firsts for Barbetta during his tenure:
- 1906) opened Piemontese restaurant in New York
- 1906: served wild, personally hand-picked Porcini mushrooms from the woods in Connecticut
- 1906: served risotto
- 1906: served polenta
- 1911: personally imported an Espresso machine and used it in his restaurant
It’s no surprise that the historic décor of Barbetta would draw film and television directors. Here are a few of the many filmed there:
- In 1959, The FBI Story, with Jimmy Stewart, Murray Hamilton and Vera Miles
- In 1981, Arthur, with Dudley Moore, John Gielgud and Liza Minelli
- From 1998 to 2004, Sex and the City, with Sarah Jessica Parker, Kristin Davis and Kim Cattrall
- Starting in 2007, Mad Men, with Elisabeth Moss, Jon Hamm and Vincent Kartheiser
- In 2006, The Departed, with Jack Nicholson, Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon
Barbetta’s wine cellar boasts rare vintages and award winners numbering over 1,700 labels, and dating to 1961. The collection won Wine Spectator’s 2005, Award of Ultimate Distinction First Prize, and many others.
Barbetta is open for Lunch from Noon to 2:30pm; and PreTheater and Dinner from 4:00pm to Midnight.
The Terrace at Nougatine
When Jean-Georges opened Nougatine at 1 Central Park West in the Trump Hotel Central Park, it was acclaimed as the crowning glory of Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s culinary kingdom. Since its premier in 1997, it has offered fine dining of the highest quality. The New York Times has consistently awarded it four stars, and Michelin has awarded it three.
The menu is seasonal and changes based on the highest quality ingredients available from the farmer’s market. Sourcing local products allows Chef Jean-Georges to create exquisite dishes with the freshest, seasonal foods. His menus include American, Asian and certainly French inspirations, blended inventively.
The restaurant offers a prix-fixe menu in three courses, two tasting menus in six courses, a chef’s tasting menu including his signature creations, and seasonal tastings which include ingredients fresh from the market.
Offerings from the Spring menu include two plates for $58, with each additional plate for $29.
The Tasting Menu uses produce available by seasons at a price of $158.
There is an extensive beverage menu sourcing fine wines from California, France and other prime locations and an in house menu using fresh juices and ingredients:
- House Made Sodas $6
- Jean-Georges Juice and Smoothies $14
- Champagne and sparkling wines: From $16 to $85
- White wines: From $9 to $35
- Rose wines: From $12 to $15
- Red wines: From $9 to $35
Though the interior dining areas are impeccably designed, there is a wonderful outdoor terrace which is wonderful for summer dining. It offers remarkable views of Columbus Circle and Central Park.
The Terrace draws its menu from the main restaurant, and which are offered seasonally. It is open daily as the weather permits. The cozy space is described as an inviting oasis for summer gatherings and parties. It was inspired by the inviting Amalfi Coast terazzos. The exacting service and delicious meals of the terrace draw many to this delightful spot.
There is a dress code, so guests should inquire about it when calling for reservations. There is also a wonderful, well priced lunch menu offered with two courses. The restaurant is open for dinner Mondays through Sundays.
Chef Tom Colicchio created a wonderful dining destination with Riverpark. It is located in the Kip’s Bay neighborhood of Manhattan, and it has spectacular views of the East River. Certainly his culinary vision developed the restaurant and its own Riverpark Farm. His fresh from the farm menus feature American dishes with modern, international influences, and the waterside location feature some of the best scenery in the city.
The layout of Chef Colicchio’s establishment allows him to showcase produce picked only a few feet from his kitchen. His menus do change daily, but guests can enjoy the selections from his Riverpark Farm at Alexandria Center, which has grown foods for the restaurant for four growing seasons consecutively. In 2011, the farm was created to house the largest urban resource of its kind in New York City. It is an award-winning venture which benefits the local community as a resource for learning about using urban spaces for innovative gardens.
Guests return repeatedly to enjoy entrees created from farm to table produce at its waterside location at 450 E 29th Street. The Patio and Terrace offer two choices for dining al fresco. The Patio is actually an extension of the traditional restaurant space. It expands outward toward the river, and has a casual, sleek ambiance created by comfortable padded seating and candle light on the tables. The Terrace is more casual, with picnic tables under the trees to encourage guests to mingle and visit. At both spaces, it is possible to order from the regular menu or from the bar venue. The enticing vistas are shared by both spaces.
Riverpark offers Lunch and Dinner from Mondays through Saturdays with varied hours by day, and Brunch on Saturdays and Sundays. Reservations are required.
When owners Elise Rosenber, Tamer Hamawi and Emelie Kihlstron decided to create their authentic Mexican restaurant, Gran Electrica, they were inspired by Mexican street foods. Their traditional, authentic and regionally inspired menu uses diverse cuisine typical of Mexico and inspired by their travels to the country.
Executive Chef Robert Stauning is the creative mind behind the dining at Gran Electrica. He is an experienced chef who recently explored the region of Oacaxa to learn more about its culinary traditions and bring those bold and exciting flavors to the restaurant.
The menu features the techniques of the best cooking Mexico offers, and includes such favorites as crema and queso fresco made in-house, and tortillas freshly hand pressed. Only the finest corn, heirloom to be exact, is used. For beverages, seasonal ingredients spice Mexican flavored cocktails using mescal and tequila from artisan distillers made in small batches.
The décor is filled with the vibrant art and painting of Mexico, using Day of the Dead celebratory themes. The art of Jose Guadalupe Posada inspired the wallpaper, though the Mexican themes are prominently featured within a Brooklyn landscape.
In the typical warm and friendly neighborliness of Mexico, an outdoor area welcomes the neighborhood to come and enjoy casual dining and company in its location under the Brooklyn Bridge. The area is festive with twinkling lights, and it is fun to sit on the wood decked area.
Popular dishes are the skirt steak with sopes, the whole-roasted pig with rice, garlic and lime, and the tasty margaritas concocted with freshly squeezed citrus and spicy jalapeno syrup and flavored salt. Tamer Hamawi makes these delicious drinks, and serves tequila with relish.
The menu has a wide variety of beverage and food items available priced from $9 to $22. The restaurant has varied opening hours daily. Reservations are wise, gift certificates are available, and walk-ins and credit cards are accepted.
Customers come to the 5 Front Street, Brooklyn address to gaze up at the Brooklyn Bridge and indulge in the flavorful foods. It’s almost irresistible.