The 12 best restaurants to pregame NYC’s outdoor movies, concerts, and more

Credit: Getty Images/Matt Johnson
an aerial shot of the NYC park Little Island

There’s nothing quite like summertime in New York City. Yes, our little concrete island cranks the temperature up an unnecessary extra five or so degrees, and we’re not denying that a subway ride can really lend the term “sweaty masses” a whole new meaning. But those who persevere are rewarded with a constellation of “only in New York” experiences—and an easier time getting restaurant reservations. 

Whether you’re watching a performance at SummerStage in Central Park, cozying up with a blanket for movie night at Brooklyn Bridge Park, or catching a concert at Pier 17, make the most of it with this guide to great spots to eat at before or after.

The Rooftop at Pier 17 (South Street Seaport)

Once a hub for international shipping and eventually the home of the famed Fulton Fish Market, Pier 17 has reinvented itself into an entertainment destination with one of the city’s most scenic concert venues.


The interior of NYC restaurant abcV at the Tin Building
The plant-based menu hits the spot at abcV at the Tin Building. | Credit: Nicole Franzen

Located right in front of the concert venue, chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Tin Building boasts 12 different dining options, ranging from counter-service tacos to a 12-course omakase. But during summertime, the vegetable-focused offerings at abcV hit the spot. Stop by to snack on the beloved green chickpea hummus or tuck into a bowl of mushroom walnut bolognese.

Fraunces Tavern

A Scotch egg sliced in half on a rectangular white plate with a piece of cheese and mustard at NYC restaurant Fraunces Tavern.
Fortify yourself for a show with a Scotch egg at Fraunces Tavern. | Photo credit: Fraunces Tavern

Head to this 260+-year-old restaurant for something of a little history tour of lower Manhattan (Washington made his iconic farewell address to the Continental Army over a meal here in 1783). Fortify yourself for a show with Scotch eggs, a hearty tavern burger, and a proper pint while contemplating how many people have done the same over the course of a century.

Little Island (Meatpacking District)

This man-made island on the Hudson River was built with culture in mind—the waterfront amphitheater plays host to dance, music, theater, and opera performances all summer long.


A series of dishes placed on a white countertop at NYC Burmese restaurant Rangoon.
Rangoon’s Chelsea outpost has dishes you won’t find at the Brooklyn location. | Photo credit: Rangoon.

Since Burmese food is still hard to find in NYC, a trip to the west side should always include a stop at Rangoon. One of the rare pandemic success stories, the Chelsea location is still going strong. Stop by for tea leaf salad, creamy coconut chicken noodles, and to sample a few of the grilled meat and veggie skewers that are unique to this location.   

Smacking Burger

A West Village gas station seems like an unlikely location for one of the summer’s hottest dishes, but here we are. As the name might suggest, this burger joint serves perfectly smashed, onion-topped burgers that don’t break the bank. Even better: the restaurant is open until 1 am on weekends, so you can make a post-performance stop if needed.

SummerStage (Upper East Side)

With its range of performers and legendary location, taking in a concert on the Central Park Summerstage is a right of passage in New York.

Central Park Boathouse

The lake at Central Park in New York with a tall building in the back
Soak up lakeside views at Central Park Boathouse. | Credit: Central Park Boathouse

Sometimes the best answer is the most obvious. Check off two city classics in one go by starting your evening at this legendary restaurant that’s fed park goers since 1954. Lean into the theme and start with an order of oysters Rockefeller, take advantage of tomato season with penne pomodoro that’s topped with stracciatella cheese, and soak up the lakeside views.

A La Turka

If you’re taking the Q to the park, stop at this Mediterranean spot for juicy kebabs, shareable mezze platters, and a really delicious lahmacun—a Turkish flatbread topped with ground spiced lamb. There’s also a full bar that offers all of the classics alongside a robust menu of NA options.

Movie Nights at Bryant Park (Midtown)

Pack a blanket and head to Bryant Park for the unique experience of watching throwback films framed by the Manhattan skyline.

Boqueria W40th

Pregame with tapas and sangria at Boqueria. | Credit: Liz Clayman

Head north to pregame with Spanish tapas like garlic shrimp and creamy croquetas washed down with a glass of sangria. Also helpful: given the restaurant’s proximity to Broadway, the pre-theater menu is designed to get you in and out quickly, offering a starter, two tapas, and dessert for $36 per person.

Mermaid Oyster Bar-Times Square

Summer weather begs for platters of oysters on ice and lobster rolls, and this outpost of NYC seafood favorite the Mermaid Inn makes it a lot easier to find those staples in Midtown. The larger space also has an expanded menu, so your non-seafood friends won’t complain.

Celebrate Brooklyn (Prospect Park)

Each summer, the city’s longest-running, free, outdoor performing arts festival brings musicians, dancers, and films to the Prospect Park bandshell to create months of accessible entertainment.

Emmy Squared Park Slope

Emmy Squared’s Detroit-style pizzas are always a solid move. | Credit: Emmy Squared

Whether you’re here for Detroit-style square pizzas with their crispy, cheesy crust or the multi-napkin burger, Emmy Squared is always a solid move. Snag a seat on the patio for your pre-concert meal, or be the hero of the picnicking population who set up outside the bandshell by grabbing a couple of pies to go.


An oval plate of mole with cilantro leaves and sesame seeds sprinkled on top at NYC restaurant Fonda
Make sure to get the mole enchiladas when you’re at Fonda. | Photo credit: Fonda

Chef Roberto Santibañez’s first Fonda location looks like a quaint neighborhood spot, but just a few bites of the queso fundido or the enchiladas smothered in mole negro are enough to remind you that a star chef is at the helm. The tortillas are hand-pressed, the sauces long-simmered, and the margaritas are always perfectly balanced.

Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Movies with a View (Brooklyn Heights)

Set on the skeletons of former shipping piers in the East River, Brooklyn Bridge Park is one of the city’s modern success stories. Head there for al fresco movies set against a backdrop of the Manhattan skyline and passing ferries. 


Set yourself up to wait for sunset on the already-iconic patio of this Italian restaurant. The waterfront views serve as a good backdrop for beef carpaccio, eggplant parmigiana, and other classics—and the people watching isn’t too shabby either.

Mr. Taka Ramen

Tokyo-based ramen expert Takatoshi Nagara opened his first Mr. Taka on the Lower East Side to great fanfare, but even the most devoted noodle fiends might not know that there’s a DUMBO outpost tucked away in the Time Out Market. But those in the know are rewarded with a great, quick dinner option before the show: order ahead so you have more time to savor your pork belly buns or black garlic tonkotsu.

Marion Brewer is a writer whose first restaurant job was washing dishes. Since then, she’s gone on to work in marketing and events for the Tribeca Film Festival, Bon Appétit, and Crew, a restaurant group who operated properties on historic schooners anchored around the NYC harbor. At OpenTable, she helps shape copy and content for both campaigns and the blog

Find your table for any occasion