NYC’s Outdoor Dining, More Popular Than Ever, Is Being Threatened

An outdoor dining structure at Casa Ora, a Venezuelan restaurant in Brooklyn. | Credit: Casa Ora

Welcome to your monthly guide to the must-know food-world news in New York City right now. Discover the latest industry trends, the hottest restaurants to try, and more. Dine on.

New York City’s streets look vastly different than they did a few years ago, before sidewalks were strewn with tables and dining sheds spilled into the streets. Yet the option to seat people outdoors, a key revenue driver for the area’s restaurants, has kept its dining scene afloat.

Now, a lawsuit filed with the State Supreme Court aims to dismantle NYC’s Open Restaurants program. But New Yorkers are eager to fill those seats, and OpenTable is committed to ensuring outdoor dining survives. OpenTable data, which shows an 118 percent increase in reservations for NYC restaurants that list outdoor dining space compared to pre-pandemic days, emphasizes how vital the program is. Even Mayor Eric Adams agrees: “Outdoor dining is here to stay,” he recently announced.

“The Open Restaurants program has been a savior, as we still have a lot of diners who cannot or will not eat inside,” Mark Lahm, owner of Henry’s End and Fifty Henry, says. Having the option to seat people outdoors is what’s keeping us in business, without the Open Restaurants program, I don’t know if we would be able to survive.”

Here’s some other food news you don’t want to miss this month: 

  • The biggest opening of the season is a sprawling, Jean-Georges Vongerichten project—a bi-level, 53,000-square-foot marketplace christened the Tin Building. Once home to the Fulton Street Fish Market, this reimagined space, which launched in August, is now the city’s largest food hall, crammed with fast-casual and full service restaurants, bars, bakeries, and more. 
  • Top Chef alum and James Beard Rising Star Chef award winner Kwame Onwuachi announced he’s poised to open a brand-new restaurant in Lincoln Center. And though Onwuachi didn’t reveal its name or official menu, the spot will be an Afro-Caribbean concept inspired by his Bronx upbringing. Think chopped cheese buns and egusi dumpling soup.
  • One outdoor dining spot may be in danger. News broke this month that the Loeb Central Park Boathouse will serve its last waterside baby kale salad in mid-October, and the bids to save the iconic spot have arrived. Rumor has it a mysterious billionaire (Oprah Winfrey? Michael Bloomberg?) may swoop in to the rescue. For now, you can still make a reservation to dine here.
  • As colder temps creep in, fill your home with the aroma of New York’s most famous dessert. A brand-new scented candle from Literie, which will set you back $45, was designed to evoke a slice of the iconic strawberry cheesecake from Junior’s

Before you go, these are the NYC restaurants to check out this month:

  • Sophisticated, seasonal omakase at Sushi Yugen Omakase. Book now 
  • Swanky Dominican fare and tropical cocktails at Jalao. Book now
  • Japanese soul food at the highly anticipated Hakata Tonton comeback.  
  • Homemade Korean bites and veggie-forward sides at Little Banchan Shop
  • Plant-based butchery, burgers, and wine at Garden Carver.

Melissa Kravitz Hoeffner is a writer based in Brooklyn, where she lives with her wife and rescue dog. You can follow her on Instagram @melissabethk and Twitter @melissabethk

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