It's the season of eating outside. From rooftops to sidewalks to gardens, there's a place to dine and swill wine right around the corner.
But there are also some hidden gems out there, spots you might not know have hidden or tucked away outdoor spaces. Those are the best places in which to dine outside, because everyone loves a secret.
Here are some of our favorites.
Maison May Dekalb, Fort Greene
At the pioneering Brooklyn farm-to-table restaurant Maison May DeKalb, formerly called ICI, the garden is the star. The romantic Fort Greene spot is the perfect place to bring a date if you want to really turn on the charm. The garden is enclosed by a blue gray wooden fence, evoking summer nights in the south of France. Dine on charcuterie, local mushroom fricasse and olive oil brandade. 246 Dekalb Ave., Fort Greene, icirestaurant.com
Lolo's Seafood Shack, Harlem
Lolo's Seafood Shack, the Caribbean/Cape Cod-style seafood restaurant in Harlem, features a "secret" outdoor space. Venture to the blue-green deck and colorful tables to be transported to the beach, with seafood stables like steamers and soft shell crabs on the menu. (303 W. 116th St., Harlem, lolosseafoodshack.com)
Maison Premiere, Williamsburg
The beautiful and leafy backyard garden at Williamsburg oyster and absinthe hot spot Maison Premiere is hidden behind a similarly beautiful inside bar area. Even when the sun is shining it can be a tough choice choosing whether to sit in or out. (298 Bedford Ave., Williamsburg, maisonpremiere.com)
The West Village is teeming with top-notch pasta spots, but none transport you to Italy quite like Palma. If the music and ambiance (exposed wooden beam ceilings, white stucco walls) don't do the trick as soon as you step inside, head out back into the ivy-covered garden and grab a table among the abundant fresh flowers and herbs. The garden's roof is open during the warmer months. Palma's menu is centered around traditional family techniques and recipes using organic ingredients. Start with the crispy, cheesy arancini and then dive into a homemade pasta. 28 Cornelia St., palmanyc.com
Milk and Roses
Not only is this idyllic restaurant tucked away in the nether regions of Greenpoint, it's garden courtyard is hidden from sight, too. This is the place for a glass of fine Italian wine amongst lovers and friends. A $29 prix-fixe weekend lunch, with an entree, coffee or tea and unlimited mimosas is particularly enchanting. 1110 Manhattan Ave., milkandrosesbk.com
Pok Pok NY
Pok Pok's second location on Columbia Street features a garden that's less of a garden and more of a patio, but it's still a magical spot, especially once the food starts arriving. (Did someone say Ike's Vietnamese fish sauce wings? If you don't know what I'm talking about, run to Pok Pok.) The vibe here is easy, carefree and no frills and the plastic-lined and brightly-colored tablecloths help translate that. So do the painted milk crates lined with garbage bags and filled with dirt so plants can grow. It's all very ramshackle-chic, which is likely just how chef and owner Andy Ricker wants it. 117 Columbia St., pokpokny.com
If you live in Astoria, you're probably well aware of Sweet Afton, a local favorite that's great for drinks, dinner or a hang with friends. The small but comfortable backyard garden is dotted with plants that make it feel country-like indeed. Sweet Afton is affordable and fun, with live music some nights and the famous mac and cheese with scallions, New York state cheddar, muenster and gruyere every night.30-09 34th St., Astoria, sweetaftonbar.com
La Lanterna di Vittorio
Tucked away behind its quaint MacDougal Street facade is La Lanterna di Vittorio's hidden gem, a cozy, intimate garden seating area with ivy-covered, exposed-brick walls, a glass ceiling that welcomes natural light and antique-style, wrought iron tables and chairs that would be just as at home on the Tuscan countryside as they are in Manhattan. Try one of the authentic, thin-crust pizzas or rich lasagna. 129 MacDougal St., lalanternacaffe.com
One of Brooklyn's most highly-regarded restaurants, Frankies Spuntino also features a beautiful backyard. It is often closed for weddings and events on weekends, but during the week it's a must visit, especially during the lunch hour if you can swing it. The sun peeks through the trees, the F/G train faintly rumbles in the distance as it makes its way up and over the Gowanus Canal and did we mention the food? Frankies serves some of the freshest and most delicious bistro-style Italian food in the city. Always start with the bufala mozzarella and arugula salad. 457 Court St., frankiesspuntino.com