New Yorkers who are wary of the potential virus risk of dining indoors are sticking with the streets. But forget last summer’s makeshift, pop-up canopies. Restaurants all over town are gearing up for comfier, cozier alfresco noshing as the air turns chill.
Thanks to relaxed city rules, owners are upping the warm-and-fuzzy factor on the asphalt turf. Space heaters, blankets and hand-warmers are everywhere. Umbrellas gave way to subway-car-long tents with retractable sides. They’ll soon be joined by more permanent-looking structures, yet to be revealed, where you’ll almost feel like you’re indoors: sidewalk cabanas at Restaurant Daniel on the Upper East Side, a snazzy shed at Pineapple Club in the East Village and igloo-like bubble enclosures at Odo in Flatiron fancier than the ones at Café Du Soleil.
The new rules to stave off frostbite allow electrical, gas and propane heaters with certain restrictions. Partial-tent enclosures require 50 percent of side walls to be open. Full tents can be closed all around but capacity is limited to 25 percent.
Enclosed structures such as plastic domes for individual parties are OK too, as long as they have enough ventilation for air circulation.
The setups should keep customers happy and prop up restaurants’ bottom lines until they can increase indoor capacity from 25 percent to 50 percent, hopefully by Nov. 1. They might not be ideal on 12-degree winter nights. But autumn in New York should be more delicious than ever. And who goes anywhere when it’s 12 degrees?
The bustling, French-tinted American bistro Rue 57, at the corner of Sixth Avenue, has 70 seats on two sides. Customers eyeballing the busy Midtown corner’s passing parade from tents and a wooden enclosure can warm themselves in big, soft and colorful polyester blankets “from Macy’s and Nordstrom Rack,” said GM Stacey Callahan. Don’t worry, they’ll be dry-cleaned after every use. Disposable hand and feet warmers lend an apres-ski mood. Callahan said she’s experimenting with kerosene heaters for colder nights. The something-for-everyone menu boasts everything from chicken soup to sushi to Dover sole meuniere.
60 W. 57th St.; 212-307-5656, Rue57.com
Avra Madison Estiatorio
Avra Madison Estiatorio’s endless-seeming white tent, enclosed on three sides to block the wind and soon with blankets and propane heaters, is a great spot to forget the pandemic. Pristine, Greek-style seafood vies for diners’ attention with a sidewalk procession of dressed-to-kill fashionistas. “Nobody told them Barneys is closed,” a waiter joked. While the a la carte dinner menu can cost $50-plus for a gleaming, grilled whole fish, the $29.95 three-course lunch, which includes some whole specimens, is a phenomenal bargain.
14 E. 60th St.; 212-937-0100, TheAvraGroup.com
Haven Rooftop, the popular see-and-be-seen spot atop the Sanctuary Hotel, has installed a half-dozen sleek high-top tables for four with heaters hidden in the table legs. Guests can change settings to raise and lower the warmth, which flows to the table top itself. Standing electric heaters line the roof venue’s central area. Libations like Bubbling Kiss (cognac, lemon juice, grenadine, prosecco) will further hold back the chill. The view takes in Times Square, Sixth Avenue’s corporate corridor and a score of new hotels that one day soon will hopefully be full again.
132 W. 47th St.; 212-466-9000, HavenRooftop.com
A few blocks from the Main Street No. 7 station at Kyuramen, a dozen connected, cozy-looking booths for up to six people each line up like luxury passenger train carriages. The “private” dining compartments have a solid roof, a plastic screen on one side and an open sidewalk door. Seats are hard, uncushioned wooden benches. Only lattice-work bamboo separates the booths, so you hear your neighbors’ complaints (e.g., “My butt hurts”). There’s noisy construction and traffic all around. But it’s a fun destination for terrific inexpensive ramen bowls (most $13.99). Chashu pork’s thin, buttery and delicious. Be warned: “spicy” often means really hot.
133-42 37th Ave., Flushing; 917-285-2332, Kyuramen.com
Deep in the heart of Nolita, Cedric Vongerichten’s French-influenced Indonesian menu at Wayan is right at home under an airy structure made from plywood that was reclaimed from lockdown uses. It has a canvas top and canvas side panels that roll down during bad weather. Lush green plants add a jungle touch. In addition to rafters-hung electrical heaters, sidewalk butane units will soon be added under city guidelines. The exotic menu boasts beautifully turned-out specialties such as banana leaf-steamed black sea bass with chili-calamansi vinaigrette and pea shoots.
20 Spring St.; 917-261-4388, Wayan-NYC.com
You always wanted a Michelin-starred, four- or seven-course contemporary-Korean meal served under a sidewalk tent next to a Citibike rack, right? Jungsik, named for chef/owner Jungsik Yim, nails it. Three conical-topped, pagoda-inspired private tents have transparent mosquito netting on their sides. They’re not as elegant as the sleek indoor dining room but the service is just as caring and polished. Specialties like bluefin tuna kimbap with truffled rice are transporting far beyond Tribeca’s borders.
2 Harrison St.; 212-219-0900, Jungsik.com
Kitchen at Cobble Hill
The welcoming, nightly glow at Kitchen at Cobble Hill radiates from tall, electrical “torches” that throw heat as well as light onto the alfresco patio. Plush, plaid blankets for guests and potted greenery add to the warmth under a draperied tent. The menu appropriately emphasizes American comfort food: farm-to-table favorites such as chicken soup with dumplings, latkes and chipotle-garnished salmon burgers.
254 Court St., Cobble Hill; 347-689-4279, KitchenAtCobbleHill.com