Backyard Bites in the Big Apple

Summer BBQs Done City-Style

Concrete jungles such as New York leave little room for personal green spaces, but that doesn’t take requisite yard-party foods off city menus. When you’re looking to relax with a laid-back meal of summer comfort food, here’s where to go—Solo cups not included.

Kings of Kobe (790 Ninth Ave.)
What does it mean to be American royalty? In Midtown West, Kings of Kobe has an idea: burgers and hot dogs upgraded to their most fabulous selves. Gourmet fittings—caramelized apples, frisée, cheddar, and wasabi aioli on the Manhattanite hot dog; burrata, baby arugula, and stone fruit relish on the Better than Caesar burger—dress up all-natural American Wagyu beef, served on buns branded with Kings of Kobe’s logo as a seal of sorts.

However, for all its edible niceties, this joint is an ode to the casual charms of Americana; there are no white tablecloths in this small storefront, and it’s a sign you’re dining right if the generously spooned chipotle aioli, melted smoked gouda, or bleu cheese dressing drips down your chin. The prices, too, are happily affordable for such fine fare, because everyone deserves to eat like a king.

 

Ditch Plains (29 Bedford St.)
Hamptons grill-outs have been given a brick-and- mortar home in Manhattan at Ditch Plains, a cheekily nautical West Village spot with everything you’d expect to find on a poolside spread in the summer—deviled eggs and wings, “backyard” burgers and beer-battered fish and chips, and notoriously good lobster mac and cheese and lobster rolls that are alone responsible for a solid portion of the clientele.

Aproned wait staff pass no judgment when you’ve had one too many Montauk Mules or Spiked Cherry Cola cocktails, and an impressive selection of wine is available only by the bottle or half-bottle, because one glass of vino is never enough in the summer. There may be no sea breeze, but there are fresh oysters and fish tacos, which just may be the next best things.

 

5 Napkin (Various Locations)
In the ongoing debate of which city restaurant serves the best burgers, 5 Napkin Burger is perennially a frontrunner. 5 Napkin doesn’t attempt to win over burger connoisseurs with anything super dolled up or excessively stripped down; rather, it prides itself on classic burgers done to their best, made of high-quality chuck cooked to such a juicy perfection that it requires as many napkins as the name suggests.

Craft beer on draft and classy cocktails like a French 55 (a rose-tinged twist on the original French 75) all enhance the burger experience—as do subtle accouterments like rosemary, truffle butter, Vidalia onions, and porcini ketchup. And if those fresh white rolls aren’t your style, any of the burgers can be served atop a field green, kale, or Mexican-style salad.

 

Virgil’s BBQ (155 West 44th St.)
Is any food more emblematic of American summers than a pulled pork sandwich? If that’s what you find yourself craving, there’s no shame in forgoing the modern- this or fusion-that for some saucy, smoky, sweet, or spicy, or however-you-like-it-darlin’ barbecue—especially if it’s at Virgil’s BBQ, which has been dishing up some of the city’s most acclaimed barbecue since 1994.

Think of it as the backyard of Times Square, where napkins come as towels (because you’ll need it) and families and big groups congregate for long, loud meals of Southern-style barbecue: pulled meat smothered in sauce, wings, buttery toast, collards and cornbread, and build-your- own platters. There are coloring books to keep kids occupied while older folks throw back a couple cold ones, washing down Memphis-style pork ribs or chicken-fried steak battered in a mixture of cornflakes, potato chips, and saltines.