17 NYC Restaurants With the Best Secret Gardens
From green backyards to courtyards, discover these hidden gems.
In a year where New Yorkers had more outdoor dining options than ever, it seems like you could go just about anywhere for idyllic al fresco dining. But let’s not forget we’re still in New York City, so sometimes, grabbing a meal outside means having to shout over honking taxis and servers dodging pedestrians running through their sidewalk tables.We’re all for taking advantage of the city’s bountiful outdoor dining options—especially because it helped us escape our tiny apartments while supporting our favorite spots over the past year. But if you’re ready to mix up your outdoor dining repertoire or want something a little more serene, we’ve rounded up 17 NYC restaurants with the best backyard and secret gardens to enjoy. As the weather warms up, head to one of these hidden gems and urban hideaways for your next outing, and as always, please social distance responsibly.
Located behind an old-school German butcher shop, Blume utilizes the space that once held Schaller & Weber’s smoke house. Now, the hidden backyard garden space has been transformed with dozens of plants, string lights, and touches of pink into a wine garden, perfect for weekend brunch by chef Chris Norton or sipping Austrian wine and sampling charcuterie from the shop in front.
The garden at this Oaxacan restaurant may be pretty well-known at this point, but Claro’s street view conceals all the fun going on in the backyard. With lush trellises and colorful outdoor seating, the vibrant atmosphere outside matches the food. And diners that choose the backyard garden will have a front-row seat as chef TJ Steele whips up four-course dinners in the open-air kitchen.
This laid-back Brooklyn spot feels more like hanging out in a friend’s backyard than going to a bar—and that’s precisely the point. Co-owners Bill Pace and Molly Bradford live above this neighborhood beer bar with 16 constantly rotating taps (which always includes two ciders) and more than 250 bottled and canned brews. In the backyard, guests will find various tables and umbrellas in a grassy space with a robust garden where, on some days, you’ll find Bradford tending to flowers and herbs.
How to book: Walk in
Venture through the sleek dining room at this neighborhood-favorite bistro, and the back of the restaurant opens up to a gorgeous backyard. Canopies overhead create an airy feel while saving you from some of the sun, and vines and other greenery surrounding each table adds to the garden vibe. The backyard seating area is available for brunch and dinner services, where chef Adam Volk serves classic dishes along with seasonal spins on French bistro fare.
This super sleek restaurant has a garden terrace with a retractable roof, string lights, and bunches of flowers. The decor makes it feel like a modern garden getaway, and new executive chef SangMin “Lenny” Moon (Jungsik) dabbles in Chinese, Thai, and Korean flavors for the a la carte and pre-fixe menu options to complete the elevated experience.
This classic French cafe has been a neighborhood mainstay for nearly four decades, but its lush back garden remains one of Brooklyn’s best-kept secrets. With twinkling lights and a vine-covered trellis overhead, guests will feel like they found a real oasis in the bustling city while enjoying weekend brunch or dinners of classic French fare.
How to book: Call 718-770-7918
This Mediterranean favorite in Fort Greene built out an impressive streetside patio where guests can share hummus, labne, and skewers of halloumi by Israeli-born chef and owner Tomer Blechman. But opt for seating in the sun-drenched garden hidden behind the restaurant instead and dine alongside herbs used in the restaurant’s dishes and cocktails alongside a playful mural of people drinking wine.
The Musket Room
This long-time lauded restaurant in Nolita has a hidden back garden that’s not only beautiful—it’s also extremely functional. Several tables in the garden area surround large planters of lemon balm, nasturtium, basil, and other ingredients that chef Mary Attea and the bar team pull from for dishes and drinks on the restaurant’s globally inspired menu.
At this cool neighborhood spot located steps from Prospect Park, guests can dine in the backyard garden where chef and owner Greg Baxtrom grows produce and herbs to inspire the seasonal menu. The backyard seating area features a special menu with exclusive items like English pea spaetzle with oyster mushrooms and pea tendrils, in addition to seasonal desserts like a frozen yogurt served with whipped lavender honey.
Walk past the entrance and around the corner, and you’ll find Oxalis’ idyllic courtyard tucked away in an alley. While the restaurant is known for its tasting menu in the dining room, dining al fresco in the courtyard gives you more freedom to try constantly changing seasonal dishes on chef Nico Russell’s a la carte menu. These days, each seating area has walls up around it to ensure proper social distancing.
This quaint, 35-seat rustic Italian restaurant is tucked away in a 200-year-old West Village carriage house and has all the charm you’d expect based on that description. But beyond the vintage serveware and homey atmosphere inside this family-owned restaurant, the secret garden out back has ivy-covered walls, several varieties of flowers growing at all times, and a warm atmosphere that make the eatery feel like a true hidden gem.
This under-the-radar rotisserie operates in a fast-casual style with counter service and a full bar—and the laid-back vibe carries out into the restaurant’s back patio. The multi-level space has a mix of tables and ground-level seating options where you can sprawl out on bright-colored cushions and poufs.
How to book: Walk in
It’s the perfect Neapolitan pies that helped this NYC staple expand to multiple locations (its newest is in Domino Park) and find a home in the local freezer aisle. But the Bushwick location’s semi-hidden garden is what keeps neighbors coming back every summer for outdoor hangs. Around the corner from the restaurant’s main entrance, an expansive patio with dozens of picnic tables is hidden behind old shipping containers to create an outdoor space that is oh-so-Brooklyn.
Rule Of Thirds
Individual huts made this all-day Japanese restaurant a go-to in the winter. But as the weather warmed up, Rule of Thirds transformed its outdoor space, which sits tucked away in an adjacent alley, into a summer hideaway. Make a reservation for a Summer Pavilion, and 6-10 guests can dine in individual, airy huts and choose from two pre-fixe menus with temake and other Japanese small plates that highlight seasonal ingredients.
This restaurant has an unassuming storefront and dim dining spaces throughout, but the back opens up to reveal a section of the restaurant you’d never know existed, where a retractable roof lets the summer sun in. Under hanging glass chandeliers and surrounded by plants and luxe velvet seating, guests can dine on chef Luis Bollo’s menu of authentic Spanish tapas from daily croquetas and cauliflower with citrusy yogurt to a charred Basque cheesecake.
Santiago’s took advantage of a neighboring alley to create ample space for serving up Dominican staples like maduros (fried sweet plantains), skirt steak churrasco, and tres leches. The colorful decor, lush greenery, and huge murals match the restaurant’s vibrant dishes, and the outdoor space is semi-covered for unpredictable weather.
New Yorkers flock to Wayla for its menu of homestyle Thai food by chef Tom Naumsuwan, but the secret garden out back is a reason to visit all on its own. Decorated with bamboo furniture and colorful textiles on rugs and pillows, the verdant backyard transports guests away from the Lower East Side for a few hours while enjoying dinner or weekend brunch.