Squeezing every last drop out of summer is the guiding maxim these days, and dining al fresco is a swell way to do that. While many flock to waterside tables, out-of-view patios and courtyards hold a special, sometimes enchanting charm. Here are three places that aren't exactly visible from the street, but have outdoor tables and those secret-garden vibes (plus, great food to boot).
Basil Cafe Restaurant (413 Lake Ave., St. James): Understated from the front, this restaurant opens like a diorama once you are inside — from an elegant, candle- and chandelier-lit dining room to a lush walled back garden that emulates a friend's house. Chef Ray Akhlagi reinforces that feeling of welcome with soulful, aromatic Persian food, from koobideh (skewers of marinated, grilled beef) to zereshk polo, or chicken in a saffron sauce with pistachio- and barberry-studded basmati rice. You can bring your own wine or beer, too, to drink under the stars. More info: 631-862-4444, basilcaferestaurant.com
South Shore Dive Pub & Kitchen (65 Main St., West Sayville): Despite the name, its uneven lines and akimbo looks, this spot isn't really a dive. Instead, the tiny kitchen turns out sophisticated takes on bar food, and the outdoor patio — a greened-up former alleyway tucked behind a wall — is a relaxed respite from all that might be on your mind. Come for the oyster happy hour (every last Thursday of the month), stay for a pork-belly Cubano, vegetarian banh mi or (and?) a lavender-tinged margarita. More info: 631-218-6500, southshoredive.com
The Harrison (86 S. Tyson Ave., Floral Park): The dining room might be all leather booths, inky tones and mood lighting, but we're going to bypass all of that (at least this month) to get to the walled, sun-dappled patio; an intimate stretch of bleached-wood, brick walls and crisscrossed strings of lights. The food template for the evening is Italian steakhouse, starting with Kobe-beef meatballs, a BLT wedge or crab cocktail, and seguing to steak frites or short-rib pappardelle. Weekend brunch delivers bottomless mimosas and Bloody Marys, doughnuts and omelets, eggs Benedict or avocado toast. More info: 516-775-2682, theharrisonfp.com