4 Unique Outdoor Dining Experiences In New York

If it weren’t for the skyscrapers in the distance, a mere eight minute ferry ride away, it would be easy to think that you’re in the countryside when you’re at the Collective Retreats location on New York’s Governors Island. There’s a manicured lawn leading down to the river and the view of sailboats skimming by along with the Statue of Liberty just to the left of sunset. Dotted around the restaurant are glamping tents with bicycles for guests to explore the property and the 172 acre island.

You don’t have to be an overnight guest, though, to come out for dinner, an evocative, romantic experience especially if you choose to sit outdoors on the deck and watch the changing colors in the sky. There is also a new Argentine grill menu that for a set price ($110 for two main course selections; $145 for all four) offers a three course menu of rotating mostly wood fired dishes that are absolutely delicious including grilled bread that was so surprisingly flavorful that I took the leftovers home. The night I was there, the starter was a strawberry and heirloom tomato salad, the four main course choices were wood fired pork chops, jerk spiced wood fired hen, pizza oven baked branzino (the fish would stick too much on the grill) and wood fired vegetables glazed with tamari and kumquat accompanied by a pasta salad and wood fired long beans. The dessert, roasted pineapple in a rich, pure caramel sauce, was so delectable that I would take the ferry back just to have it again.

For those who would rather not do a complete dinner, there are other menu options available such as a selection of East Coast oysters, lemon and poppy shrimp, a burger with caramelized onions, candied bacon and sharp cheddar and a summer truffled grilled cheese sandwich. And for maximum privacy, there is also a private water taxi option instead of taking the public ferry; email [email protected] or call (917) 994- 6167 to arrange.

Similar Financial District skyscraper and river views can also be experienced with the added advantage of being on a vintage, historic 147 foot schooner by booking a table at Pilot docked at Pier 6 of Brooklyn Bridge Park. Originally commissioned as a racing vessel, she’s now a beautifully restored, extremely atmospheric oyster bar with an elevated mostly seafood menu by chef Kerry Heffernan. Among the offerings: a Pan-American array of oysters; a delicate lobster roll; ceviche of wild caught Montauk sea bream with tomatillo, makrut lime, brunoise of shallots, habanero, sweet peppers and mint and seared day boat scallops with sweet corn succotash and coriander emulsion.

The same menu is available at its historic schooner sibling Grand Banks, docked at Manhattan’s Pier 25. Holywater, the newest member of this restaurant group opened in May by brothers Miles and Alex Pincus as an homage to their New Orleans upbringing isn’t outdoors but is worth a visit for its memento and nautical-packed design by the brothers, cocktails and Louisiana menu featuring seafood towers, BBQ shrimp, Crawfish Étouffée and, on Wednesdays, chicken and andouille gumbo.

The rooftop garden Gallow Green in the fictional McKittrick Hotel has always had a theatrical slant, appropriate since the long running immersive take on Macbeth, Sleep No More, is performed below. This summer, a new Champagne brunch is taking place on weekends between the foliage and trees accompanied by live music, a sketch artist and tarot card readings. A mimosa bar is part of the scene with orange, cranberry, strawberry, blueberry, and passionfruit juices available for diners to make their own bespoke combinations. Among the food offerings: salmon and porchetta carving stations, an omelet station and buffet including moussaka, Amish chicken, red quinoa and yellow tomato salads and a table of breakfast pastries. Later in the day on Sundays, the rooftop also hosts “Sunset Sundays” with live performers and the regular dinner menu which includes steak frites and a taco bar.

The pocket sized restaurant Saishin by Kissaki is hidden away from the raucous bar scene of the Gansevoort Meatpacking rooftop through a hard to find black door. But once through it, you’ll find a black and gold sushi counter and even better, several outdoor tables raised on a platform that seem to put you in touching distance to the panorama of lighted skyscrapers.

There are a la carte items on the menu such as Kumamoto oyster with uni and ikura white soy gelee and an array of sushi including otoro (bluefin tuna belly), nodoguru (black throat sea perch) and kinmedai (golden eye snapper.) But the main event here is a 12 or 15 course omakase and it’s exquisite, presenting a succession of dishes such as bonito in ponzu sauce, amberjack in a chili vinaigrette, medium bluefin tuna with truffle and toro tartare over rice. Elsewhere on the roof, some of the simpler preparations—sushi, sashimi and rolls- are available in the Gansevoort Rooftop restaurant. And guests of the hotel, the only ones who have access to the pool, can also have a selection of maki poolside.

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