Parks where you can dine outside
Central Park: The Loeb Boathouse
The Loeb Boathouse, in a 150-year-old boathouse, has been a popular Central Park restaurant since 1954. Come the weekend, forget long brunch lines in the West Village and make reservations here under the waterfront awnings. Order the challah french toast if only for the Grand Marnier banana compote ($18).
Bryant Park: Bryant Park Grill
Bryant Park Grill, an ivy-covered cafe in the back of the New York Public Library’s opulent Schwarzman Building overlooking Bryant Park, is one of Midtown’s best spots for a power lunch. Ask for a rooftop seat and order the cobb salad with grilled shrimp and maytag blue cheese ($26).
Union Square: The Pavilion
Located under neoclassical arches on the northern end of Union Square, The Pavilion has a decidedly tropical feel with palm frond fans and potted palms. The menu, inspired by the square’s popular farmer’s market, is similarly refreshing, with fresh salads and seafood options like branzino with a lemon chimichurri ($33). An extra boon for Sex and the City fans: Carrie Bradshaw attended a party here when it was called Luna Park, which shuttered in 2007.
Madison Square Park: The original Shake Shack
After three successful summer runs between 2001 and 2003, Madison Square hot dog cart Shake Shack received the necessary permits to become a brick-and-mortar kiosk in 2004. Architecture firm SITE Environmental Design built the now-iconic wooden structure to blend in with its leafy surroundings. Before you head out for a Shack burger (from $5), be sure to check the Shack Cam to see how long the line is.
Riverside Park: Boat Basin Cafe
The cafe, which is one of the Upper West Side’s most popular summer hangouts, serves barbecue on paper plates and cocktails in plastic cups. Go for the simple menu of burgers and sandwiches (from $9) as the sun sets over the Hudson, or the breakfast specials (from $8) served from 11am until 3pm on Saturdays and Sundays.