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Getting creative with outdoor dining

Since eating outdoors is such a big part of restaurant dining during the pandemic, many places are working hard and getting creative to make outdoor dining as enjoyable as possible.

News 12 Staff

Aug 17, 2020, 5:49 PM

Updated 1,404 days ago

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Since eating outdoors is such a big part of restaurant dining during the pandemic, many places are working hard and getting creative to make outdoor dining as enjoyable as possible. 
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Doesn’t eating sushi on a rooftop vineyard surrounded by gorgeous city views sound like a dream come true? 
The Rosella pop-up dinner series at Rooftop Reds is making that magic happen for the rest of the month, and likely into September. 
"We thought that teaming up and taking advantage of that beautiful outdoor space at a time when outdoor space is so valuable, was really good idea for us," Rosella partner TJ Provenzano said. 
Rosella is a sushi-focused restaurant that will be opening this fall in the East Village. They’ve got a strong focus on sustainability and waste-limiting practices. 
Chef Yoni Lang said, "All the fish we're using is either local, or it’s from a company that we really support how they either farm or fish."
COVID-19 threw the team’s opening plans for a loop, which brought them to the idea of popping-up at Rooftop Reds. Rooftop Reds is a rooftop vineyard at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. 
Lang said, "It's really exciting for me to get that going up on the rooftop, because that kind of fits in with our sustainable business model."
The pop-up dinners are at 7:30 p.m., prime sunset time, on Saturdays and Sundays. They feature elaborate, 15-course sushi-tasting menus, and local wine, beer and sake.
Other than the setting being beautiful, it’s ideal for social distancing. 
"You're not on top of one another, you don't need a bubble, and you're outdoors with air flowing," Provenzano said. 
Another spot making the most of its outdoor space is Strangeways, a brand new garden restaurant in Williamsburg. 
They were planning on opening months ago in a different space, when COVID-19 caused them to shift gears. 
"With the whole COVID thing happening, I just feel like people want more green spaces, and we've created that," co-owner Jamie Webb said. 
They now have a space perfectly suited for beautiful and safe outdoor seating in an urban environment. 
The luscious greenery accompanies a menu of eclectic dishes, and a robust drink program with plenty of frozen options. 
The Strangeways team is hoping to make a name for themselves in this strange and difficult time. 
Webb said, "Our intent is to be in the neighborhood for many years to come. We love the neighborhood and the people, and I think we're a good fit."
For restaurant venues that don’t have the luxury of a ton space at their hands, the reopening of outdoor dining in New York City meant time to get creative with city streets.
Founder/CEO of Balade Roland Semaan said, "All of a sudden, we were on the street and on the sidewalk, and we had to put the dining room just on the streets of New York."
For the team at Lebanese restaurant Balade in Manhattan, that meant quickly getting their hands on a large tent, trees, fake grass, and plexiglass to use in between tables. 
"We're very excited about it. People are liking it and enjoying it," Semaan said. 
To kick their outdoor dining vibe up a notch, Balade is using interactive table-side experiences. 
In addition to live music, there are fan-favorite dishes like the mixed grill supreme. It’s a huge platter of warm dough, opened up table-side to reveal a variety of grilled meats. 
"We engage the diners to interact more with the food," Semaan said. "It is so good because all these juices from all the meats are on that bread, and diners can use that bread to eat that meat. When you bring these things and you engage with them, with performers or with a fun dish, they let go and they enjoy."
Balade is also using outdoor dining to give back to a cause close to their hearts. Many team members at Balade have friends and loved ones injured and impacted by the recent explosion in Beirut. 
They created a special drink called Beirut Hope, which is perfectly refreshing for dining outside during the summer. It’s sparkling wine with rose water and strawberries, and all proceeds from the drink will be donated to Beirut relief funds. 
"My heart has been with Lebanese people with my family and my friends," Semaan said. "We're trying our best, and this is just the beginning of what we're doing. We're going to do much, much more."
There are countless ways to safely enjoy dining outside at restaurants in the tri-state for the time being, and restaurants are constantly working to up their game for those who want to come partake. 


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