Well Parked

Four restaurants offer gourmet meals in park-side settings

As Manhattan finally finishes thawing out from another long winter, there’s nothing anyone wants more than to be outside. Luckily for hungry people still wanting to enjoy the city in bloom, these park-side restaurants offer fine dining next to some of the city’s most beloved oases.

At the bottom tip of Manhattan, Battery Gardens in Battery Park offers one of the most landmark-filled views in the city. Whether seated at an umbrella-shaded outdoor table at the beer garden or inside the sleek, white restaurant with wraparound windows, diners can muse on the history of New York Harbor, the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island while enjoying the creations of Ari Nieminen, former head chef of the Four Seasons. Some options are more adventurous than others; wood oven pizzas nicely complement more creative options such as fire roasted mushroom salad with poached hen egg. Hudson Valley duck foie gras speaks to the decadent; herb crusted salmon and steak frites are sure crowd pleasers. (Battery Pl. at Broadway)

Just behind the New York Public Library, Bryant Park Grill offers fusion food beside the Midtown refuge that is Bryant Park. Fresh and trendy, the menu never ceases to be as fun to read as to eat: baked persimmons, quinoa with fire-roasted eggplant, Australian rack of lamb. Vines grow up the sides of the dining room designed by Hugh Hardy (renovator of Radio City Music Hall), but patio and rooftop tables during the summer months are more fully immersed in the setting. (40th St. nr. 6th Ave.)

Celebrity restaurateur Danny Meyer must have wanted to never have to travel far again for good Italian food when he designed Maialino right on the edge of Gramercy Park, where he also lives. Tucked beneath the Gramercy Park Hotel, the Roman trattoria offers glorious food throughout the day, from its frittata Bianca at breakfast to its comprehensive pasta selection and braised oxtail at dinner to its late-night menu with three different Negronis and house burger, which Time Out New York voted the best burger in the city. Reservations are necessary in the wood-beamed dining room, where a well coifed creative crowd makes itself at home with the four course family-style menu, but the front bar offers walk-ins comforting delicacies of country pate and bacon Panini. (21st St. at Lexington Ave.)

Brand new from its $15.9 million makeover, Tavern on the Green in Central Park has been the most anticipated restaurant opening all year. What was once a sheepfold for the animals grazing in Sheep Meadow, the structure passed through different hands getting increasingly decadent and decreasingly properly cared for. Now, it’s been taken back to its roots, stripped to its original façade, shrunken back down closer to its original size (still a sizable 11,000 square feet) and focused on locavore food catering as much to nearby residents as tourists and big-name clients. Leather, dark wood and beamed ceilings lend it an authentic farmhouse feel, while Russ and Daughters fish, Mast Brothers chocolate, Hot Bread Kitchen baked goods and Hudson Valley Fresh dairy products make the menu solidly farm-to-table. But as one of the most storied restaurants in the city, it will be hard to keep the celebrities away; rumors say that Salma Hayek tried to book a seat months ago. (Central Park West nr. 66th St.)