Food & Drink

The Best Hidden Gardens Inside NYC Restaurants

Published On 05/06/2016 Published On 05/06/2016
gnocco nyc
Courtesy of Gnocco
Courtesy of Bobo/Casa Nela

Bobo

West Village

Tucked inside a corner townhouse along West 10th, Bobo exudes charm in everything from its whimsical atmosphere to the carefully curated menu of classic French dishes like foie gras with brioche, duck l’orange, and prime rib for two. A year-round, parlor-floor terrace only adds to its appeal, so be sure to request special seating when making a reservation -- its Saint-Tropez vibe is not to be missed.

Courtesy of Lolo’s Seafood Shack

LoLo's Seafood Shack

Morningside Heights

This snug, counter-service spot serves up hearty Caribbean fare like pom pom shrimp with garlic fries, jerk ribs, and a great selection of seafood boils paired with signature sauces like coco curry and ginger butter scallion. And to enjoy all this fresh, flavorful food, there’s a low-key patio out back filled with caribbean-colored picnic benches and metal stools.

The Waverly Inn

West Village

The gold-standard of hidden gardens, there’s nowhere in the city quite like The Waverly Inn. A dramatic space with soaring ceilings built around full-grown trees, dining in the garden is akin to dining in an enchanted forest, and the food is just as good, too. Tuck into chicken pot pie, steak tartare, and the splurge-worthy truffle mac and cheese, a special that changes daily. But as grandiose as a meal here may be, don’t expect to snap any pics -- the no photography rule is strictly enforced.

Courtesy of Il Bambino

Il Bambino

Astoria

This panini restaurant delivers absolutely insane pressed sandwiches like Italian meatloaf with onion jam and provolone, porchetta with spicy pickle slaw, and chorizo with truffle aioli. But sandwiches aside, the best part of this neighborhood spot is the surprisingly spacious hidden garden with wood paneling, hanging plants, and retractable canopies for when you need some shade.

Early Coffee & Sandwich Shop

Greenpoint

Unlike most coffee shops, the major draw of this joint isn’t just the strong brews, but insanely tasty specialty sandwiches like smoked salmon with lemon dill mayo, chipotle chicken with fontina and arugula, and pulled pork on a brioche bun. Most importantly, you can enjoy all this laid-back fare in the cozy rear garden accented by poppy-red chairs and lattice wood fencing.

Andy Robson/Gottino

Gottino

West Village

This charming trattoria delivers substantial Italian tapas in a Tuscan-inspired setting complete with a romantic hidden garden. The menu is an appealing mix of large and small plates -- think fig and ricotta crostini, shaved brussels sprouts with pecorino, and rabbit pot pie -- so it’s always an enjoyable pitstop. And when dining al fresco, be sure to look up; the garden is surrounded by soaring townhouses.

The Cannibal

Murray Hill

A self-proclaimed “butcher's restaurant,” this meat mecca is also home to a surprisingly dainty patio that’s appointed with bench seating, strung lights, lots of greenery, and an awning that makes it a year-round option. Enjoy adventurous entrees like General Tso’s pig’s head, bone marrow brulee, and lamb & Gruyère sausage all in the great, urban outdoors.

Courtesy of Flatbush Farm

Flatbush Farm

Prospect Heights

A surprisingly large rear garden emerges from the narrow interior of this farm-to-table Prospect Heights spot, but the airy space cloaked in ivy & brick is just the beginning of the charming experience -- friendly service, local clientele, and a menu boasting rustic eats like seared duck breast and lamb chops with mint complete it.

Cucina di Pesce

East Village

A canopy of trees dramatically serve as a garden “ceiling” at this endearing Italian restaurant that’s reliable and low-key. But while dining here is always a good option, we’re partial to eating during the early-bird special -- served daily from 4-6:30pm, when diners can enjoy a salad, soup of the day, choice of seven classic entrees (chicken Parm is on the list), plus coffee and tea for just $13.95 per person.

Courtesy of Birds & Bubbles

Birds & Bubbles

Lower East Side

Classy comfort food is the name of the game at this LES hotspot known for it’s extra-crispy buttermilk fried chicken and sizable selection of Champagnes. And with a giant courtyard punctuated by tiled floors and draped industrial lighting to enjoy your food in, there’s no better place to splurge on tomato pies, heirloom grits, and jalapeño cornbread in style.

Bacchus

Boerum Hill

This beloved neighborhood joint delivers classic bistro fare like braised pork belly, cornish hen coq au vin, and Provencale mussels at surprisingly reasonable prices (most entrees are $25 or less). But best of all, the back garden brims with Parisian appeal -- mosaic-tiled tables, leafy tree cover, and delicately strung lighting help set the mood.

Gnocco

Gnocco

East Village

Gnocco’s courtyard isn’t just massive, it’s gorgeous too. Old-world art, mural-splattered walls, and weaves of tree branches are all part of the allure, not to mention a menu loaded with northern Italian specialties like tagliatelle with beef ragu, burrata with bruschetta, and traditional arancini.

The Black Whale

Bronx

A brick-tiled garden complete with weeping willows, potted florals, and dangling windchimes is one major draw of this City Island spot. The other is the reliably tasty American seafood menu featuring everything from steamed New Zealand mussels to crab cake sandwiches with chipotle mayo and tequila lime shrimp.

Courtesy of Trestle on Tenth

Trestle on Tenth

Chelsea

Trestle has been a Chelsea mainstay for years, but it’s seen a surge in relevancy thanks to its close proximity to the High Line and the impeccable maintenance of its mammoth garden. Nestled underneath a sprawling cherry tree, it’s the perfect backdrop for dining on American eats like steak tartar with quail egg, crab cakes on toasted brioche, and goat cheese gnocchi with swiss chard.

The Mermaid Inn

East Village

This Cape Cod-inspired upscale seafood spot has the ability to transport you from the East Village to the beach, both with its menu of blue point oysters, charred octopus, and lobster Gruyère gratin, and with its beachy and serene hidden garden out back.

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1. Bobo 181 W 10th St, New York, NY 10014 (West Village)

Tucked inside a corner townhouse along West 10th Street, Bobo exudes charm in everything, from its menu of seasonal French classics to its whimsical dining room filled with thoughtfully placed knickknacks. A year-round, parlor-floor terrace only adds to its appeal, so be sure to request special seating when making a reservation -- the Saint-Tropez vibe is not to be missed. But if you're in the mood for a more intimate experience, the tiny upstairs bar is perfect for sipping specialty cocktails or a wine from Bobo's cellar.

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2. The Waverly Inn 16 Bank St, New York, NY 10014 (West Village)

Tucked into the ground floors of two adjoining townhouses, the Waverly Inn will make you feel like you’ve been invited to dine in a cozy, secret club. The menu features American classics alongside contemporary seasonal dishes, and even though the food is notable, the real reason you go to the Waverly Inn is for the scene. Co-owned by Vanity Fair editor-in-chief Graydon Carter, it's routinely packed with a mix of celebrities and the who's who of New York's social landscape. The main room's red booths, fireplaces, and low lighting make for a comfortable hangout, and the indoor/outdoor garden is a West Village gem.

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3. Il Bambino 3408 31st Ave, Astoria, NY 11106 (Astoria)

This panini restaurant in Astoria delivers absolutely insane pressed sandwiches with innovative flavor combinations in addition to tapas plates and antipasti platters. They bake their ciabatta bread fresh every day and offer a small but well curated selection of beer and wine. But the best part of this neighborhood spot is the surprisingly spacious hidden garden with wood paneling, hanging plants, and retractable canopies for when you need some shade.

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4. Early 967 Manhattan Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11222 (Greenpoint)

Unlike most coffee shops, the major draw of this Greenpoint joint isn't just the strong brews (from Toby’s Estate, no less), but the speciality sandwiches. Made with Pain D'Avignon bread and house-roasted meats, Early's sandwiches are one of the more underrated meat, bread, and cheese combos in the borough. The sliced ham and pulled pork banh mi and the Gruyere Cubano are recommended for meat fans, while the Zappie, an open-faced vegetarian sandwich made with sautéed mushrooms, caramelized onions, Cheddar and fontina cheeses, and truffle oil is a solid option for the fancy plant-based eaters. The sandwiches are served all-day and can be eaten in the cozy back garden.

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5. Gottino Enoteca Salumeria 52 Greenwich Ave, New York, NY 10011 (West Village)

This pocket-sized Italian gastropub in the West Village delivers substantial Italian tapas in a Tuscan-inspired setting complete with a romantic hidden garden. The menu is an appealing mix of large and small plates, perfect for a quick bite with a glass of wine or a more relaxed visit. And when dining al fresco, be sure to look up; the garden is surrounded by soaring townhouses.

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6. The Cannibal 113 E 29th St, New York, NY 10016 (Murray Hill)

This cozy, low-key spot is tiny on the inside, with only wooden stools and metal counters for seating, but opens up to a heated patio with an additional 40 seats. The meat-heavy menu focuses on tapas-style plates and charcuterie with remarkable exceptions like an entire pig's head. The beer and wine menu is extensive and includes a broad range of both domestic and European options. Refrigerators full of beer bottles line one wall, and patrons are invited to pluck their choices right out. This is a great date spot as long as neither of you are into the whole veggie-only thing.

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7. Flatbush Farm 76 St Marks Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11217

Affectionately known as "The Farm," this gastropub in Flatbush is wholly dedicated to natural eating. Dishes are expertly crafted with hormone- /antibiotic-free ingredients, and comprised of seasonal fruits and vegetables from local purveyors. The rustic, Old World-vibe is only furthered by the drink menu, which features hard water, ales, spirits, boots, and shooters.

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8. Cucina Di Pesce 87 E 4th St, New York, NY 10003 (East Village)

A canopy of trees dramatically serve as a garden “ceiling” at this endearing Italian restaurant in the East Village that’s reliable and low-key. The interior feels perfectly dated in an old mob-haunt type of way, but the dishes are very contemporary. The almost comically enormous servings come with a wonderfully reasonable price tag, especially during the "early bird" dinner seating between 4 and 6:30pm. If you're at the bar before nightfall, you may even be treated to some free mussels!

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9. Birds & Bubbles 100B Forsyth St, New York, NY 10002 (Lower East Side)

Sarah Simmons' upscale restaurant on the Lower East Side is dedicated to two things: Southern food and champagne. The menu changes with the seasons but you can always expect the signature buttermilk fried chicken, available by the half or full bird, and an extensive selection of champagne and sparkling wines. The subterranean space opens onto a large outdoor patio, and though it's popular for brunch and dinner, Birds & Bubbles serves a late-night menu with the aforementioned fried chicken and biscuit sandwiches that's a huge draw on Friday and Saturday nights.

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10. Bacchus 409 Atlantic Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11217

This beloved Boerum Hill joint delivers classic bistro fare at surprisingly reasonable prices (most entrees are $25 or less). There's also an emphasis on bar food like cheese and charcuterie as well as an incredible selection of wine, with over 200 bottles to choose from. But best of all, the back garden brims with Parisian appeal -- mosaic-tiled tables, leafy tree cover, and delicately strung lighting help set the mood.

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11. Gnocco 337 E 10th St, New York, NY 10009 (East Village)

Tucked into a cozy space across from Tompkins Square Park, Gnocco specializes in northern Italian cuisine from the Emilia region. You'll find handmade pastas and bubbly pizzas along with the namesake speciality, gnocco, a crispy appetizer of deep-fried dough served with Italian cold cuts (read: prosciutto). Though the dining room is rustic and intimate, the place to sit is in the gorgeous courtyard, where mural-splattered walls and weaves of tree branches do a good job of disguising Alphabet City as Modena.

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12. Black Whale 279 City Island Ave, Bronx, NY 10464 (Bronx)

A brick-tiled garden complete with weeping willows, potted florals, and dangling windchimes is one major draw of this City Island spot. The other is the reliably tasty American menu featuring everything from seafood to sandwiches in addition to decadent desserts. Around for ten years, The Black Whale is a revival of a place of the same name from the 60s and displays plenty of old photographs to evoke the nostalgia. Stop by on Sundays for the beloved brunch buffet.

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13. Trestle on Tenth 242 10th Ave, New York, NY 10001 (Chelsea)

Trestle has been a Chelsea mainstay for years, but it’s seen a surge in relevancy thanks to its close proximity to the High Line and the impeccable maintenance of its mammoth garden. Nestled underneath a sprawling cherry tree, it’s the perfect backdrop for dining on American eats that are influenced by chef Ralf Keuttel's upbringing in Switzerland. Check out their acclaimed wine list, which is carefully curated with a focus on small growers, winemakers and vintners.

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14. The Mermaid Inn 96 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10003 (East Village)

Escape from the East Village into this nautical New England fish shack where maritime chic decor complements the seafood-heavy menu. An oyster happy hour, which features $1 chef's choice oysters and littleneck clams daily, is the stand-out offering, but you'll want to camp out all day for the non-bivalve options like beer batter fish tacos, lobster rolls, and sides like Old Bay-seasoned fries and hush puppies. The kitchen saves the best for last, though: all diners get a complimentary cup of chocolate mousse for dessert.

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15. LoLo's Seafood Shack 303 W 116th St, New York, NY 10026 (Upper West Side)

Caribbean meets Cape Cod at LoLo's, a unique island escape in Morningside Heights that specializes in boiled seafood, like snow crab legs and peel-and-eat shrimp soaked in signature sauces like garlic butter and Old Bay seasoning. The steampot combos, baskets of fried fish, and jerk chicken and ribs are so luscious that you'll want to lick your fingers clean at the end of your meal, even though they'll be covered in blue disposable gloves provided by the restaurant -- cleanliness is next to godliness, right? The interior has a kitschy but charming dilapidated beach-house look, but you should grab a seat on the sea-foam green back patio to feel like you've really run away to the beach.