Go al fresco: BK open-air eateries

Roots Cafe

Roots Cafe. Photo by Jennifer Holder.

The great outdoors: leafy trees, blooming flowers, trickling brooks… coffee at a sidewalk café, cheap beer and tacos at a backyard bar. This is Brooklyn, we’re talking about here, land of ball-field taco trucks and water-views from the Fairway café. And of course there’s this dinner view just a notch or two above our price range. But there are still so many other great places to eat outside—to get your sunlight and sustenance in one foul swoop. With a few old faithfuls and some new highlights, here’s our list of affordable outdoor food and drink spots around Brooklyn. As always, please add your own favorite haunts in the comments.

Outpost Café (Clinton Hill)
1014 Fulton St. between Grand Ave. and Downing St., 718-636-1260

Outpost offers cheap, hearty sandwiches and salads, and a variety of fresh-squeezed juices, coffee and tea that are 100% organic and fair-trade. Local art adorns the walls, and the café’s generally full with a group of regulars who enjoy the free Wi-Fi. The outside has rustic furniture with random items lying around—like a flea market with nothing for sale. Outpost also boasts daily specials, including $1 PBRs on Mondays after 5 pm, and as the weather gets warmer, Sunday “Sangria Parties” specials for $1.

Roots Café (South Slope)
639A Fifth Ave. between 18th St. and 19th St., 205-246-2149

Roots Café is a small, inviting café with free Wi-Fi and eclectic antique decor with everything from accordions to mounted fish. They offer local favorites such as Blue Sky Bakery’s muffins and La Bagel Delight’s bagels, as well as Stumptown coffee at $2 a cup (with $1 refills), and Samboya teas for around $2. Their menu has a Southern slant (the owner is from Alabama) with cheese grits in almost all the breakfast food and vegan options like a meatless Sloppy Joe. Their comfortable outdoor space is partly shaded by a neighbor’s backyard patio. Every Friday night between 8 and 11, you can BYOB (or snag some PBR with a small donation!) and enjoy live music. There are also open mic nights every Monday and local art openings every month.

Farmer in the Deli

Farmer in the Deli

Farmer in the Deli/Fort Greene Park (Fort Greene)
357 Myrtle Ave. between Adelphi St. and Clermont Ave., 718-875-9067

Farmer in the Deli may look like your ordinary combination deli-convenience store, but it’s become a neighborhood standard. This sandwich spot, located just steps from Fort Greene Park, is known for its made-to-order fare. The portions are generous and the ingredients are fresh, with the same prices as the same-old deli down the street (<$5). Grab a cold-cut sandwich and a giant drink and park yourself under a tree in the peaceful park. The deli’s open 24 hours, in case you get a hankering for a double-meat hero at 3 am. It happens to the best of us.

Glass Shop/Prospect Park (Prospect Heights)
766 Classon Ave. between Sterling Pl. and St. John’s Pl., 718-387-4777

Glass Shop is an Australian-style coffee shop in a former glass workshop in Prospect Heights. Espresso’s the specialty, the baked goods are top-notch and the coffee is well-balanced and kindly poured. Try the olive oil cake or a croissant, and take advantage of the free Wi-Fi. An airy patio is available for relaxed sipping, and Prospect Park is a short walk away for that coffee picnic.

Peter Pan donuts. Photo by bitchcakesny.

Peter Pan donuts. Photo by bitchcakesny.

Peter Pan Bakery/McCarren Park (Greenpoint)
727 Manhattan Ave. between Meserole Ave. and Norman Ave., 718-389-3676

Tina Fey was right—Peter Pan’s donuts are freaking delicious. And the bakery and the prices ($0.90 a donut) are old-school to boot. You might get lost in all the choices, but it’s hard to make a bad decision, and picking anything with cream or their standard “honey dip” is always reliable. Grab a bag-full and a coffee and walk a few short blocks to McCarren Park for a sugar-rush picnic. There are always baseball and soccer games to watch, and a track that you can contemplate running on later… once you finish your donut ice cream sandwich.

Court and Spark (Carroll Gardens)
550 Court St. between 9th St. and Garnet St., 718-222-2991

Court and Spark is Joni Mitchell’s sixth album. In Carroll Gardens, though, it’s a bar with a magical outdoor garden and daring cocktails by owner Henry Lopez. The bar opens at 6 pm, so there aren’t many hours to enjoy the garden in the drunken sunlight, but the hours do let you take advantage of the cool nights. And there is a daily Happy Hour between 6 pm and 9 pm, with every drink $1 off. They also have a small snack menu of everything from mango salsa and chips for $4 to a chorizo and goat cheese panino for $8.

Song (Park Slope)
295 Fifth Ave. between 1st St. and 2nd St., 718-965-1108

This restaurant features cheap, delicious Thai food ranging from favorites like pad thai, pad see yue and fried rice to specials like mango salad: chunks of mango, peanuts, red onion and more over a bed of lettuce with a sweet vinaigrette. Most of their entrees are around $7 and are enough food for two people. Song’s twin sister is Joya in Cobble Hill, a place with practically the same menu and outdoor space. Both spots are always packed, but the backyards are delightful escapes from the bustle inside the restaurants.

Graziella’s (Fort Greene)
232 Vanderbilt Ave. between Dekalb Ave. and Willoughby Ave., 718-789-5663

From the minute you walk into Graziella’s, you smell the wood-burning oven fresh pizzas. The homey menu includes classic pasta dishes and large sandwiches and panini, and while the food is not the cheapest, the view makes up for it. The restaurant’s roof is a huge outdoor patio with a view that takes in Fort Greene. When it opens in May, that wood-burning oven will work overtime as loyal customers join neighborhood newbies. The biggest deals here are the cheap beers ($3 domestics, $4 imports) and large portions.

Pacifico. Photo by Lindsay Buckley.

Pacifico. Photo by Lindsay Buckley.

Pacifico (Cobble Hill)
269 Pacific St. between Boerum Pl. and Smith St, 718-935-9090

The food at Pacifico is slightly more expensive than other neighborhood taco joints, but the large portions and festive outdoor patio more than make up for it. The patio has multi-colored furniture atop an expansive wood porch. Food-wise, they offer Mexican staples, including fajitas, tostadas, gigantic burritos and of course, margaritas at $25 a pitcher during happy hour—definitely the way to go.

Almondine/Brooklyn Bridge Park (DUMBO)
85 Water Street off Main St., 718-797-5026

Just up the block from Brooklyn Bridge Park, Almondine, Jacque Torres’ little French pastry shop, sells carefully-crafted desserts and breads, along with a few sandwiches and crepes. The prices here aren’t bargain-basement, but they’re reasonable, considering the high quality. Be sure to grab a coffee and a couple $1 macaroons, or try their famous pretzel bread, with or without cheese (with!), before heading to the park. The river-side views can’t be beat.

Habana Outpost. Photo by Alexandra Moss.

Habana Outpost. Photo by Alexandra Moss.

Habana Outpost (Fort Greene)
757 Fulton Street at South Portland Ave., 718-858-9500

Habana Outpost’s large outdoor space, crazy colors, picnic tables and umbrellas makes it feel like the beach without all the sand and awkward almost-nakedness. The food’s good, but the deal here’s the Six Point drafts for $2.50. Habana offers free events all summer, and during the day you can make your own fruit drink with a bike-powered blender. Stop by on a summer afternoon and try to snag a table, or squeeze your way into an intense card game.

Union Pool/El Diablo Taco Truck (Williamsburg)
484 Union Ave. at N. 8th st., 718-609-0484

Union Pool is located in the heart of Williamsburg and draws a lively crowd on warm evenings. The large backyard boasts lots of seating, festive lights, a fire pit (sometimes lit on cooler nights), and a taco truck. Check out the drink specials at the bar inside, and order a couple of tacos at the truck for $3 a-piece. On weekend nights, the crowd swells with trendiness. For a more relaxed vibe, visit on a nice afternoon for happy hour and drink and eat cheap under the sun.

Lassen & Hennings/The Promenade (Brooklyn Heights)
114 Montague St. between Henry St. and Hicks St., 718-875-6272

Before parking it on a Promenade bench next to romancing couples and dog-walkers, stop in Lassen & Hennings, a couple of blocks away on Montague Street. The shop specializes in prepared foods, desserts and catering, but the sandwiches and drinks make it worth a stop. The large menu of specialty sandwiches named after Brooklyn neighborhoods and streets is worth a try, and the prices ($6-$8) are right for the portions. The best part? You can fix your own iced tea, with lemonade available for custom blending.

Gowanus Yacht Club

Gowanus Yacht Club. Photo by Jennifer Holder.

Gowanus Yacht Club (Carroll Gardens)
323 Smith St. between Union St. and President St., 718-246-1321

Gowanus Yacht Club is basically an outdoor dive bar, and this is what makes it great. The Carroll Gardens establishment is only open during warm months, and seating’s all outdoors. When a nice day hits, go early and grab a pitcher and a picnic table with your friends, or make some new ones with the lively crowd. There are eats—basically a guy grilling hot dogs and hamburgers ($4)—and the drinks are served in plastic cups. For those of us without the backyard and summer grill-outs we’ve always dreamed of, this will do just fine. Especially once you’ve finished that pitcher.

We know we haven’t covered all the great outdoor spots for food and drink (or even your neighborhood, maybe), but we’ll get there. If we’ve missed one of your favorites, let us know.

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