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For nearly a year now, New York restaurants have continued to adapt to the ever-changing regulations brought on by the pandemic. With indoor dining currently on hold, establishments across the city have completely reimagined their outdoor setups in an effort to endure the cold weather months. And many have done so in extraordinarily clever and creative ways.
There’s been an explosion of al fresco destinations featuring stylish private seating chalets, roaring heat lamps, lavish décor, special menus, and innovative experiences to entice guests to safely—and warmly—enjoy a meal. One silver lining: outdoor dining in New York has never looked more magical.
Related: The Best Al Fresco Dining in the U.S.
NoMad’s celebrated modern-Italian restaurant partnered with Hospitality Design to fully revamp their outdoor space. The Scarpetta Chalet is a semi-enclosed winterized structure of private dining bays adorned with cozy textiles, seasonal greenery, festive décor, and substantial overhead heaters for comfort. Diners can snuggle up in mahogany Pottery Barn armchairs to savor Scarpetta classics—like creamy polenta with truffled mushrooms and short rib-bone marrow agnolotti—along with other hearty dishes and warm specialty cocktails (think elevated mulled wine and spiked hot cocoa). On Saturday afternoons, the chalet hosts après ski-inspired experiences with weekly themes, curated pairings, and decadent fondue. Pro tip: you can purchase one of the plush sherpa throws and proceeds will be donated to ROAR.
Chef Andrew Carmellini’s acclaimed NoHo brasserie recently debuted Le Village de Lafayette—an exquisite winter wonderland featuring private heated snow chalets and a prix fixe menu showcasing the restaurant’s signature bistro fare. Lining the sidewalks down Lafayette and Great Jones, the clear-paneled cabins are decked out with handwoven rugs, hanging snowflakes, alpaca furs, and après ski-style accents. Diners can delight in classics like French onion soup, rotisserie chicken Provençal, and decadent fondue (a blend of Comte, Gruyère, and Swiss Emmenthal with optional freshly grated black winter truffle) served with an array of delicious nibbles—now available at brunch and dinner. Also noteworthy: the outdoor setups at NoHo Hospitality Group’s other restaurants including Bar Primi, Locanda Verde, and Winter Village at Westlight, which even has an ice skating rink.
The Greens at Pier 17
Bringing all the charm of upstate to downtown New York, The Greens at Pier 17 is one of the city’s most in-demand winter dining destinations. The waterfront rooftop features rows of roomy private glass cabins complete with cold-weather décor, personal heaters, virtual fireplaces, and sweeping skyline views. Dante is serving up their award-winning classic cocktails (such as signature Negronis and martinis) and seasonal creations like their Fireside Old Fashioned and Hot Smoked Toddy. Comforting food offerings include truffled grilled cheese, creamy fondue, and meatballs over polenta—which can be ordered and paid for through contactless QR code technology. Pro tip: book your 90-minute reservation around sunset (seeing the cabins and surrounding buildings reflect the ever-changing sky is breathtaking).
This buzzy American restaurant in FiDi debuted its seasonal Shy Village in partnership with American Express and Resy. Lining the sidewalk on Pine Street, this collection of canvas yurts were designed to mimic Crown Shy’s dining room—with black painted tent poles and blonde wooden tables—with cold-weather elements to add warmth like woolen throws, colorful rugs, and furry pelts. Chef James Kent offers an excellent prix fixe menu (which includes several appetizers, your choice of hearty mains, and dessert for the table)—served family-style in Staub cookware. Kent’s talents beyond the kitchen are also on display. Hanging in the center of each tent is a custom piece of his graffiti artwork.
To celebrate the change of the seasons, Marea teamed up with Floratoriam and Nusla Design to completely remodel their outdoor space into a showstopping winter wonderland. The Michelin-starred Italian restaurant on Central Park South debuted an extravagantly-decorated installment that will transport guests to the slopes. Since eating outside in New York City becomes much trickier in the winter, “we borrowed from an existing outdoor dining trope, the glamorous après ski scene on the snowy slopes of Europe, an elevated outdoor dining concept to which Marea patrons can relate,” shared Nusla Design’s Designer Alsún Keogh. Highlights include arched winter greenery with string lights, individual chair heaters (which get tucked away under plush fur shams), and a new two-course prix fixe menu that comes with a hot whiskey cider drink.
This winter, Eataly introduced two whimsical dining experiences at their Flatiron location. The popular seasonal rooftop restaurant has been transformed into SERRA Stellata – In the Woods, a star-speckled, woodland-inspired installation with a menu that embraces the bounty and diversity of the winter forest (dishes include smoked butternut squash soup and rustic polenta with porcini mushrooms). Outside the Italian marketplace, Baita brings a taste of the Alps to 5th Avenue and 23rd Street. Guests can cuddle up in solar-paneled private huts—each named after an Italian ski destination and accented with luxurious Falconeri cashmere throws—to savor robust Alpine classics (such as pappardelle with wild boar ragù and Raclette warmed over an open flame) and a new lineup of toasty cocktails.
Chef-owner Greg Baxtrom’s acclaimed restaurant in Prospect Heights invites diners to get cozy at two heated outdoor destinations. Guests can sit at covered sidewalk tables on Vanderbilt Avenue or in the spacious backyard garden—under twinkling string lights in a toasty tent—to enjoy the newly-launched Cozy Cottage menu of creative dishes and drinks. Expect Olmsted favorites with a twist and standout seasonal items (including classic beef bourguignon and a shepherd’s pie variation made with heirloom sweet potatoes, turnips, red pearl onions, Brussels sprouts, and duck confit), along with warming cocktails like their Hot Toddy and Hot Buttered Rum. To make your visit extra comfortable, Olmsted offers individual Cozy Kits containing a hat, blanket, scarf, gloves, and even pocket hand warmers.
This beloved Brooklyn restaurant from chef Missy Robbins and her business partner Sean Feeney also teamed up with American Express and Resy for their winter installation. Their charming Yurt Village brings together the best elements of the Lilia experience—including handcrafted pastas, wood-fired seafood, classic Italian cocktails, and welcoming hospitality—to create a casual, socially-distant dining option in North Williamsburg. The four-course, seasonal prix fixe includes menu favorites such as cacio e pepe frittelle, mafaldini with pink peppercorns and Parmigiano-Reggiano, and a wood-grilled ribeye with rosemary and garlic. Each 8-foot round tent has a clean, modern feel with light wood accents, furniture from Knoll and David Rockwell, charcoal grey throws, and a warm glow created by uplighting.
The all-day West Village café run by Gabe Stulman put a funky, midwestern spin on their Yurt Village (in partnership with American Express and Resy). Fairfax decorated its heated tents with red-and-black plaid tablecloths, rustic textiles, vintage snowshoes, and eccentric accents—creating a unique dining experience that evokes a winter mountain lodge (you may even forget you’re on a city sidewalk). The four-course prix fixe menu showcases elevated tavern fare, like their famous burger, prime rib, and coq au vin, along with a stellar selection of red wine and hot beverages to help keep you warm.
Luckily for New Yorkers, there’s no shortage of fantastic restaurants to support with cozy and creative outdoor dining setups. Here are some more of our favorites: Anton's, Atla, Barano, Carbone, Daniel, Don Angie, Kissaki, Loring Place, La Grande Boucherie, L’Artusi, Loulou, Nami Nori, NoMad (rooftop), Osteria 57, Rezdôra, Rosemary’s, Sadelle’s, Tacombi, The Tyger, Wallsé, Waverly Inn, and Wayla.