By ET Rodriguez
Summer is here and Bronxites are eager to shake off the cobwebs of COVID-19 and show some skin. As days get longer, people flood the streets desperate to enjoy some semblance of normalcy and sun-kissed tans. And as the weather heats up, patrons are happy to enjoy food and beverages al fresco. From full meals to casual bites, here are the best rooftops, backyards and patios in the Bronx. Cheers!
Zona de Cuba
558 Grand Concourse
Opens 5 p.m., seven days a week.
This rooftop oasis sits on a post office on 149th Street and Grand Concourse, and although the address indicates the Grand Concourse, the entrance is located on Anthony Griffin Place; one block east on 149th Street.
Take the freight elevator up and be transported to a large, beautifully designed layout where guests are greeted by a selfie mirror that reads, Zona de Cuba. The large refrigerator filled with upscale bottles of white wine, rosé and champagne, shines like a beacon for the thirsty. Zona de Cuba is a destination with a dress code and feels like a mini vacation. Their large portions of octopus salad, ceviche and whole fried fish are as impressive as the view. After 7 p.m., they turn up the volume and the old ‘80s Salsa turns into Reggaeton.
Do not come here if you have other plans — this is your plan. Leave your fast-paced New York attitude at the door and slip into something a little more tropical.
Brewski’s Bar & Grill
3718 E. Tremont Ave.
8 a.m.-10 p.m., seven days a week.
Happy Hour: 3-7 p.m.
Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, by noon the horseshoe bar at Brewski’s has a small group of regulars chatting away. A woman kisses the cheek of a life-size cutout of a New York Rangers player in the patio on an early afternoon. The menu features American fare like macaroni-and-cheese, burgers, salads, sandwiches and ribs. And the list of local craft beers is a welcome surprise. Their large, outdoor beer garden sports several picnic tables and a stage where they have live rock, pop and even country music on Fridays and Saturdays.
The “quaranfreezies” is a clever moniker for the frozen beverages Brewski’s began selling during the 2020 pandemic shutdown to keep business afloat.
With all her charm and wit, the waitress Joanie is a hoot and a sweetheart. This salt-of-the-earth establishment is perfect for a birthday, a date-night or a casual hangout with friends.
The Bronx Brewery & Empanology
856 E. 136th St.
Monday-Thursday 4 p.m.-8 p.m., Friday 3-11 p.m., Saturday 12-11 p.m. and 12-8 p.m. on Sunday.
Nestled in the boondocks of Port Morris sits the sprawling patio of the Bronx Brewery. It has picnic tables, umbrellas to shade from the sun, a DJ, cocktails, craft beer and a food truck serving the famous Empanology empanadas. Each empanada is slightly smaller than the palm of your hand and come in creative varieties like their shrimp with arroz con gandules and red velvet cake. They also serve fries and sandwiches; the fries are the winner.
The space is a Millennial hub as smiling, attractive adults revel in music and laughter. The brewery also hosts events. In June, they had free-play Nintendo gaming systems and a table selling novelty items like anime statues and a Cup Noodle’s do-it-yourself toy. The brewery is kid-friendly during the day and the Bx33 bus is conveniently located around the corner, but some Bronxites advise taking a car service at the end of the night.
2331 Arthur Ave.
12-9 p.m. every day, closed Tuesday.
Open since the 1980’s, Emilia’s maintains the charm of an era before the internet changed humanity. The old-world Italian music interwoven with Frank Sinatra classics acts as a time machine and suddenly, it feels like a Scorsese movie.
Located in the original Little Italy on Arthur Avenue, Emilia’s is a quaint refuge from the bustle of modern-day life. The patio is hidden in the back and has a charming rock wall with a gentle waterfall. The bread is delicious as olive oil and balsamic vinegar on the table, is a tell-tale sign of a good Italian restaurant. The salmon is seasoned and broiled perfectly and the Spagliato, (a cocktail made with Campari, vermouth and prosecco) is a great accompaniment to the food and a hot summer day.
A perfect spot for a quiet lunch date or a secret meeting.
47 Bruckner Blvd.
Monday-Thursday 4 p.m-1 a.m., Friday, Saturday & Sunday: 2 p.m.-2 a.m.
Happy Hour: 4-8 p.m. on weekdays
This spot is more about the bar and clientele than anything else, but it does have a patio with brightly colored seating. Along with a cozy alcove by the front window stands a long, beautiful walnut bar which is the owner’s pride-and-joy — leather banquettes line the back. You won’t find a full meal here, but there are finger foods like air-fried wings and hummus with pita, along with whimsical snacks like tater-tots and ice cream sandwiches. Their cocktail “Islands in the Stream” is sure to kick off those summer vibes with its strawberry flavor.
They host several occasions like pool night, trivia night and a DJ on Fridays. Everyone is inviting and armed with a smile, and newcomers immediately become regulars. Beware, as the competition on the pool table is fit for shark-infested waters.
Rosa’s at Park
2568 Park Ave.
Monday-Friday 3-10 p.m., Saturday & Sunday 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
Right around the corner from the 138th Street stop on the 4 and 5 trains, is Rosa’s at Park. The dining room is past hotel reception at the Wingate by Wyndham hotel.
Once there, the guava and pineapple wings are nicely cooked through and have a balanced sweetness. The shrimp croquettes, while styled after the Japanese korokke, eats more like a yucca mofongo. But it is very tasty and a bargain given the size of the colossal shrimp.
However, dining is not a pre-requisite to enjoy their rooftop. Don’t be fooled by the wall covered in faux ivy, somewhere there is a door that leads to a perfect sunset view and a DJ to amp those chill vibes. The word has gotten out about this spot as it is a packed house and reservations are highly recommended to dine. One can find Rosa on-site and hands-on.
Citi Chef Eatz
1488 Bruckner Blvd.
2-10 p.m., seven days a week.
This spot is a food truck that also rents the land around it. It has a combination of picnic tables and high tops with stools. The space is enclosed by a large iron gate and features expertly anchored rainbow umbrellas that seemingly float above in the open sky. The menu is fun with items like Dominican sushi roll stuffed with rice, fried plantain and fried salami. Their cheeseburger empanada is on point, and they are 4/20 friendly. The passionfruit drink is tasty and a good bang for your buck.
Because this place is not a brick and mortar, the facilities are a porta potty. However, it comes stocked with hand sanitizer and it is by far, the cleanest porta potty in New York City. Parking is easy and the ambiance is familiar and laid-back — like chilling on the block.
Billy’s Sports Bar
856 River Ave.
9 a.m.-12 a.m. everyday, closed Sunday.
With entrances both on 161st Street and River Avenue, this behemoth establishment has a fire code capacity of more than 1,000 people. Diagonally across the street from Yankee Stadium, with more than a dozen TVs and an expansive food menu, it is the ideal place to pre-game or post-game. The beers are a bit pricey, but for people already being price-gouged at the stadium, it is expected.
One can hang out in the sprawling first floor complete with leather lounge seats or up on the rooftop where there are wind-blowing fans paired with a water system that creates a spray of mist over drinkers on a sweltering day. A swarm of Yankee jerseys hug and discuss summer plans and baseball stats. There are four large bars, so patrons won’t have to wait long to quench their thirst, toast to a win or drown their sorrows.
Kingsbridge Social Club
3625 Kingsbridge Ave.
11:30 a.m.-11 p.m. everyday. Open until 12 a.m., Fridays and Saturdays.
Happy Hour: 3-7 p.m. on weekdays
The Kingsbridge Social Club (KBSC) recently acquired their backyard from the neighboring auto body shop in 2020. This place has an expertly curated list of rotating craft beers and a unique dome-shaped brick oven that renders a delicious pizza. They serve classic Italian dishes, innovative specials and a featured pizza every day.
Wednesday date-night is a must. Even if you’re just friends. For $50, it includes a salad, a whole pizza pie, dessert and a bottle of wine. The co-owner Dave is sweet and accommodating. The murals on the wall are done by graffiti legend Tracy 168 and bring a flavor of old-school Bronx into this five-year-old establishment. They even make their own limoncello.
KBSC is a five-minute walk from Van Cortlandt Park, (which has a museum and a public pool.) Take the 1 train all the way up and make a day out of it. If you do anything in the Bronx, visit this gem.
2 City Island Ave.
11:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m. everyday. Friday & Saturday until 11 p.m., Sunday until 10 p.m.
Serving the neighborhood for more than 60 years, Johnny’s Reef is at the dead end of City Island Avenue and a staple of the waterfront neighborhood with the best variety of seafood dishes in the borough; frogs legs? Always. The open air is filled with the smell of saltwater and freshly fried fish. This well-oiled machine has one line for ordering food with several walk-up stalls like the DMV, and a separate line for ordering cocktails.
Their most popular drink is the piña colada. Its taste is vibrant, refreshing and arguably, the best in the Bronx. They also offer the virgin variety if dining with little ones; kids love the frozen drink.
There is indoor and outdoor seating. Outside, one can opt for sitting in the shade or directly under the sun. There is a row of wires that are unnoticeable to the diner, but obvious to the seagulls hovering above, so one can enjoy their food without fear of being poached by unruly birds.
This story was updated at 10:25 a.m. on July 13.
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