Outdoor Drinks: Beyond Bar Food


The best way to end an evening early is to forget to eat along with your drinks, and you don’t have to depend on stale pretzels or free popcorn alone to fuel your fun at these spots, which have drinks and great food.

Montana's Trail House is opening in Bushwick on May 30. Photo: Annaliese Griffin

Montana’s Trail House is opening in Bushwick on May 30. Photo: Annaliese Griffin

Montana’s Trail House (Bushwick, 445 Troutman Street, opening May 30) Located in an old service station at Five Points in Bushwick, Montana’s Trail House has the cozy vibe of an upstate cabin, a bench-lined patio in the front for taking your cocktail out into the sunshine, and a menu that includes fried chicken, root beer-braised brisket and a tongue and cheek reuben. Don’t despair, vegetarians, the spring harvest plate and a few other options are far superior to your usual token pasta dish. It’s the kind of place you’ll want to hunker down in, sipping whiskey and chatting up your neighbor come next winter, but not before a long summer of blueberry basil Pimm’s cups on the patio. Oh, and their late night menu, which goes until 3am, includes a corn dog that replaces the usual hot dog with a sausage. –Annaliese Griffin

Lock Yard, a former locksmith shop turned bar with a 1300-square-foot garden for eating and drinking. Photo: Lock Yard

Lock Yard, a former locksmith shop turned bar with a 1300-square-foot garden for eating and drinking. Photo: Lock Yard

Lock Yard (Bay Ridge, 9221 5th Ave., 718-333-5282) Bay Ridge nightlife has a reputation for being limited to old man bars, but longtime resident Tommy Casatelli has been doing his damndest to change all that. After achieving success with Kettle Black and Ho’Brah, Casatelli opened his latest venture, the Lock Yard, last year in his uncle’s old locksmith shop. The space has a massive,1300 square foot beer garden out back with trees, picnic tables, and a retractable glass awning to allow for outdoor drinking despite the whims of our increasingly weird weather. A familiar list of locally-sourced craft beer is punctuated with rarer specials and several sustainable wines on tap. The food menu is the real showstopper here though: almost 20 varieties of hot dogs and sausages served with toppings like “everything bagel seeds” and “RC Cola carmelized onions” round out a large selection of well-executed bar fare like fried pickles, pierogies, and tater tots. Although the food isn’t fancy (or diet-friendly), it is decidedly high-quality and will please even the most pretentious foodie you know. –Kate Hooker

J’eatjet (South Slope, 685 5th Ave., 347-227-7410) There are already a lot of excellent outdoor drinking establishments on the 5th Ave. stretch of South Slope/Greenwood Heights, which is probably why it took me a while to even notice J’eatjet, a farm-to-table “gastrobar” that opened there last summer. I randomly stopped in one chilly winter night for a beer and ended up with a deeply satisfying dinner of fried chicken and romanesco salad that I couldn’t believe came out of the tiny kitchen. I planned to be back soon, but it was a few months later– when the snow was long gone and the wood-planked patio was actually an option– before I returned. The outdoor area has a small garden that supplies herbs for cocktails, enough wooden tables and benches that you’ll always find a seat, and a colorful rooster mural to keep things interesting. The menu is seasonal, locally-sourced, and offers more healthy dining options than you’d expect to find at a neighborhood watering hole. That said, you can’t go wrong with one of the burgers, not to mention the poutine or the $10 bottomless mimosa brunch special. J’eatjet is cash only, but the food stands out and is definitely worth the trip to the ATM. –KH

The elaborately designed backyard at Sea Witch is just one reason to we love to drink here. The food is another. Photo: Sea Witch

The elaborately designed backyard at Sea Witch is just one reason to we love to drink here. The food is another. Photo: Sea Witch

Sea Witch (South Slope, 703 5th Ave. between 21st and 22nd Sts.) The bar at Sea Witch is cloaked in a cerulean glow thanks to the oblong-shaped aquarium just above; a curvilinear mural depicting a mythical underwater world also adds to the interior charm. But forget about that–the backyard is where it’s really at. With wooden walls, crushed gravel underfoot and two ponds connected by a stream, both filled with bright koi fish, it’s practically a Zen garden. If fish-filled water features aren’t enough to impress, check out the menu. Standouts include the clam roll, stuffed with crisp, freshly fried crustaceans in a caper tartar sauce enveloped in a pillowy bun; the Indian-spiced fried vegetable cutlets; kielbasa, which comes slathered in kraut and mustard; and the burger, a juicy amalgam of freshly ground chuck, brisket and short rib. –BB

Tuffet (East Williamsburg, 286 Graham Avenue, between Grand and Powers) Sometimes you don’t need a whole meal of food, you just need a meal of cheese. That’s when you head to Tuffet for a beautiful cheese and charcuterie plate, which comes presented on a slate with condiments like mustard and marmalade. Pair with a  perfectly-made negroni, Manhattan or martini and you’re set. The backyard is dotted with white metalwork tables and chairs, and there’s a fireplace out back that provides a toasty focal point in cooler months. It’s a grown-up, but not stuffy crowd lining the bar and filling the backyard here–while you’ll overhear lively conversations ranging from web development strategies to neighborhood gossip (and a lot of first dates), no one will spill their beer (a rotating cast on tap, plus Session bottles and Sixpoint cans) on you on their way to the bathroom. Tuffet also opens at 1pm for day drinking, wi-fi work, coffee and sandwiches.–Annaliese Griffin

Union Pool (Williamsburg, 484 Union Ave. at Meeker) Two words: Taco truck. Two more: Margarita machine. Union Pool has a huge backyard that’s home to the El Diablo Taco truck. The additional backyard bar opens in the summer, serving up beers, shots and delicious margaritas. Grab a bench, order your tacos and enjoy a little piece of heaven. –AG

 Sycamore (Ditmas Park, 1118 Cortelyou Rd. at Westminster Rd., 347-240-5850) Sycamore, the multi-hyphenate Ditmas Park bar, already has enough going for it; the flower shop-gig venue-dance club-whiskey snob-cheap beer establishment has a great neighborhood-y vibe, a respectable happy hour, and even a beer-and-bouquet deal for $10. Unsurprisingly, they’ve also got one of our fave backyards in Brooklyn. The two-level space–cafe tables downstairs, benches and some larger tables upstairs–never feels too full, even when it’s busy. And their every-so-often backyard BBQs have turned into a standing, weekend-only “Flatbush Food Court” where a rotating selection of local food vendors show up to serve everything from oysters to noodles from 2 to 8pm. If you’re lucky, someone might show up with an acoustic guitar to add to the companionable buzz.–Casey Acierno

We’ve got more outdoor drink recommendations in our full guide to outdoor bars. Then plot out your bar crawl using our outdoor drinks map.

2 Responses

  1. Paul Muccigrosso -

    “Bay Ridge Nightlife has a reputation for being limited to old man bars”??? I beg to differ with the writer, but I wonder if she has ever been to Bay Ridge on. Friday or Saturday night! Bay Ridge has had a variety of bars and nightspots for my whole life. While there have always been “old man bars,” there have also always been bars full of young people dancing and socializing! I could list dozens of Bay Ridge bars where the average age of the customers were and are in their 20’s dating back 30 years and into the present.


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