Friday, August 15, 2008

Take me out, the higher the better

Yeah, the Zebra's my wingman.
(photo from the New York Times)

Outdoor space is at a premium in NYC, and so are great views. How to get them both in one shot? A rooftop bar or restaurant of course.

A little voice has been chanting "outdoors, outdoors, outdoors" to me since the summer started. Being cooped at work has been torture during the lovely weather so I've spent as many nights as possible enjoying the warmth, ignoring the humidity and taking in breathless views.

I never get sick of staring at skyscrapers and being high up gives me the illusion (or, ahem, delusion) of being a superhero looking over the city from above. We may not have mountains or scenic amber waves of grain here but we do have glorious seas of steel and light.

Part of the view from 230 Fifth.

In picking a rooftop bar, I look for a view things: 1 - a view of either the Empire State Building or the Chrysler Building (both is awesome); 2 - seating; 3 - palm trees. No joke. I feel like every single NYC rooftop bar has palm trees these days. Big fat F's go to any private clubs or hotel rooftop bars that require you to be a guest. I find those policies to be quite gauche.

Since it's summer I'm not alone in my desire to be outside. The bars are almost always packed and sometimes there's even a line to get in. I hate lines. At least none of these places have gone cover yet. The only thing worse than lines is the privilege of having to pay to drink somewhere.

The western view from Tonic East.

When I first moved here I hung out at Tonic East a lot. They have many, many TVs and were a great place to go on NFL Sundays. But what I loved most of all is that the rooftop bar had killer views of both the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building. The place was always full but never crowded. I could move easily around the place. Last time I went though it was packed to the brim and I hate that. The service is not great but they have an amazing tater tots appetizer with three kinds of dip.

The summer deck at Bar 13.

My work used to be located in Union Square and I spent many Thursday happy hours at Bar 13, which has a nice summer deck. The staff there is super nice and they have a nice selection of unique mixed drinks. The crowd was always young and hip (maybe a little too hip for me). It's hard to get in there on Fridays. It is not cheap to drink there. Bring a date or be the sugar mamma.

Bars aren't always my scene though, so sometimes I go for lunch outside instead. The city is full of restaurants with 2nd floor outside dining or sidewalk cafe dining. Way too many to name. But I have to give props to a couple of my faves. First, by my work. Wichcraft (another in the long line of Craft names from Tom Colicchio, this time with Sisha Ortuzar and Jeffrey Zurofsky) just opened up a second-floor outdoor eating area. You get a back-alley view of other people's fire escapes but it's suprisingly nice being in the back, away from the traffic and most of the noise. The patio is of course tastefully yet minimally decorated. Then there's Pescatore, an Italian seafood place in midtown. Its rooftop balcony is small but airy. It's surrounded by other restaurants with the same layout but the food stands head and shoulders above anything else out there. BFF M introduced me to this place and I love it.

Sometimes I want the illusion of being outside without actually having to, you know, be outside. On those nights I round up some friends and head to The Park. Their garden is awesome -- Japenese maples and a couple of tin deer. The middle part is open to the sky but the sides give the feeling of being outside without actually being open air.

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