Outdoor Dining Igloos, Cabins, Yurts and More Creative Setups at NYC Restaurants
Though nothing beats a home-cooked meal, especially during a pandemic, families are still seeking opportunities to enjoy their favorite restaurant eats safely. With indoor dining shut down again, outdoor dining is the only option for a meal out. We've found more than a dozen local restaurants that have gone above and beyond, concocting creative outdoor dining setups—from igloos to yurts and space pods—to get New Yorkers through the winter comfortably.
These eateries offer families a chance to dine together in the open air or celebrate a special occasion with less COVID-exposure risk. We found creative outdoor dining setups in each of the five boroughs, where, in addition to warming up and replenishing, you may even discover a favorite new eatery to enjoy in your own backyard for years to come.
You can find more great family-friendly restaurant picks in our Restaurant Guide, and remember, these venues have faced a pandemic roller-coaster in 2020, so tip generously. If you prefer to stay in, consider ordering takeout or delivery instead from a local restaurant.
Editor's note: Keep in mind, COVID cases have been steadily rising in New York City. While we are trying to promote safer activities that occur outdoors or with social distancing guidelines in place, please keep your family and others safe by always wearing a mask and maintaining an appropriate distance.
Many restaurants require reservations for their outdoor dining tables. Waitstaff and restaurant employees must wear masks at all times, while patrons ages 2 and up must wear masks whenever they are not seated at the table. You may be given single-use menus or be asked to use your phone to peruse the menu. Credit card payments may be required to minimize contact.
It's a good idea to visit each restaurant's website before stepping out to review any specific guidelines, too, and definitely bundle up. While these outdoor dining setups help, they don't quite manage to replicate the magic of indoor heating.
Enjoy a breathtaking view of the Empire State Building from the dining igloos at the 230 Fifth Rooftop.
Creative Outdoor Dining Setups in Manhattan
1. Igloos at 230 Fifth Rooftop – Midtown
Normally, this swanky rooftop bar in the trendy Flatiron District caters to a 21+ crowd, but crazy times call for creative measures, which is why its heated, transparent igloos are open to all ages during brunch hours. If you want to have brunch, the options are limited, though no purchase is actually required to hang in an igloo and enjoy the view. Reservations can be made online.
2. Dine Together, Apart – Harlem
The Frederick Douglass Boulevard Alliance and Stella Artois have teamed up to bring a series of safe outdoor dining pods to one of Harlem's hottest dining districts, lining the entire FDB corridor with dining pods for restaurants Chocolat, Vinateria, Harlem Burger Co., Mess Hall, Double Dutch Espresso, Bixi Harlem, Silvana, and BLVD Bistro, which gives visitors plenty of outdoor options at any time of the day.
3. Cafe du Soleil – Upper West Side
This popular, long-standing French eatery enjoyed a bit of insta-fame with the installation of its "space bubbles" for outdoor dining and recently added an eclectic collection of snowmen floating whimsically overhead and keeping a watchful eye on diners. A wide-ranging menu includes plenty of classic French dishes no matter the time of day.
4. Yurt Village at Crown Shy – Financial District
This sophisticated downtown eatery worked with the city to close Pine Street, where it's assembled a yurt village offering patrons a chance to enjoy a meal with their pod. Yurts accommodate parties of two to six. Visitors are required to order from a prix fixe menu; a special kids version is also offered. High chairs are available, and dinner reservations are taken beginning at 5pm. If you plan to bring little ones, we recommend an early meal as the scene grows more lively late in the evening.
Dine in warmth in the cozy popup Yurt Village at Fairfax.
5. Yurt Village at Fairfax – West Village
If you love the idea of dining in a yurt but would prefer a different location, Fairfax has got you covered—literally. It also provides regular outdoor seating if all the yurts are full. Most of its tables are covered by umbrellas or awnings. Amex cardholders do get priority access to yurts, so take advantage of this perk, and like Crown Shy, a prix fixe menu is the only option for the yurt. Temperature checks are required, and guests must leave contact tracing info for the party. Fairfax dubs itself an "all-day neighborhood cafe" and offers options from morning pastries and coffee to burgers and Old Bay tots in the evenings.
6. Cabins at Pier 17 – South Street Seaport
Lunch and dinner options are available seven days a week on the Rooftop at Pier 17, aka "The Greens," which is self-described as "upstate downtown." Appetizers, mains, and a kids menu featuring grilled cheese with fries or penne with tomato sauce, plus a slew of yummy, well-priced, seasonal treats are enjoyed in the well thought out and creative dining setup. Its heated cabins, which can accommodate up to 10 people, allow for contactless ordering and include virtual fireplaces, floor to ceiling views of downtown Manhattan, and a Molekule air filter. Reservations are released on Monday at 10am for the following week, so set a calendar reminder to snatch one!
RELATED: NYC Kid-Friendly Restaurant Guide
Haenyeo offers two types of outdoor seating options, including heated sidewalk seating. Photo by Chieun Ko-Bistrong
Creative Outdoor Dining Setups in Brooklyn
7. Outdoor Pods at Haenyeo – Park Slope
Up to six people can enjoy Korean-style home cooking in private heated pods located just across the street from the main restaurant at Haenyeo. It also offers an outdoor dining setup where 75% of the heated space is closed, allowing a fresh, wintery breeze to accompany kid-friendly dishes like glass noodles, vegetable pancakes, handmade dumplings, and wings, served sauce-free for the spice averse.
8. Secret Garden and Private Dining Quarters at Le Crocodile – Williamsburg
If you're looking for a cool outdoor eating experience in the unabashedly hippest corner of Brooklyn, perhaps you'll enjoy French fare in a stunning "secret garden" at Le Crocodile, which boasts plenty of outdoor heaters to keep you warm while you dine on classic French fare. While it's dinner fare may be too high brow for some petite New Yorkers, its breakfast and lunch menus are more approachable.
9. Enclosed Personal Space at Hamilton's – Windsor Terrace
Hamilton's provides comfortable outdoor dining opportunities in its enclosed, heated patio and its open-street heated dining area, which offers each group its own enclosure. Plexiglas and curtains create cubicles where kids can enjoy hits like a 3-ounce mini-burger or grilled organic chicken breast sandwich with cheese and potato wedges. High chairs are available, and the amazing Greenwood Playground is just around the corner, making Hamilton's a sweet family destination.
10. Greenhouses at Lea – Ditmas Park
Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are available in "the greenhouses" at Lea. The small, transparent huts are first come, first served, but staff can often accommodate same-day reservations with a quick phone call. High chairs are available. Smaller houses seat two to four people; larger houses seat up to six. Kid-friendly menu items include Margherita pizza, mozzarella sticks, and cottage fries with rosemary served alongside housemade garlic aioli and ketchup. It also has mini potpies, spaghetti with butter sauce, burgers, sandwiches, two fresh soups daily—a vegetarian option, and chicken soup. After your meal, peruse its market—indoors and out—for some take-home goodies, including homemade bread and pastries.
Meet Santa and indulge in banana splits, egg creams, malts, and milkshakes from the comfort of your igloo at Eggers Ice Cream Parlor.
Creative Outdoor Dining Setups in Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island
11. Igloos at Eggers – Richmond Town, Staten Island
Save room for dessert, and stop by Eggers Ice Cream, one of our favorite sweet shops, where your family can indulge in treats inside your very own igloo. Seasonal ice cream flavors like gingerbread, rainbow cookie, egg nog, and cinnamon are up for grabs, along with the classic kid favorites like chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, cookies n' cream, and more. Igloo rentals are a weekend-only perk, last for 45 minutes, and require a $10 minimum purchase per guest. Each igloo accommodates up to eight guests. You can opt for its $10 prix fixe, including ice cream and a beverage, such as milk, soda, hot chocolate, or a juice box. Adults can enjoy a cappuccino or a latte. Igloos can be rented for parties or extended periods; reach out to Eggers for more information or make a reservation online.
12. Piazza-Style Outdoor Dining at Enzo's of Arthur Avenue – Belmont, the Bronx
The Belmont Business Improvement District has created Piazza di Belmont on Arthur Avenue, providing outdoor dining in the street where, normally, cars would be zooming by. Child-friendly options at this Bronx spot include chicken parm and spaghetti and meatballs. High chairs are available. You'll find tables in the front with heating lamps, plus an enclosed patio in the back.
13. Palm Trees in the Wintertime at Blend – Astoria, Queens
Latin-fusion restaurant Blend has big plans to build a dining chalet complete with chandeliers and wood beams. In the interim, its outdoor seating area, which is available on warmer days, boasts "palm trees" which lets diners play make-believe, transporting themselves to warmer memories. Call before visiting to ensure the outdoor area is open and bundle up. Though no kids menu is advertised, kid-friendly offerings include grilled chicken strips, french fries, pasta, and quesadillas. Blend has high chairs and is stroller-friendly
Photos courtesy of the restaurants