It’s the time of year when leisure hours demand a patio and a drink. Throw in some tasty food, and could you really ask for more? It was tough, but the GrandLife team have whittled down our favorite outdoor dining and drinking destinations to bring you the city’s must-have patio and garden seats. We’ll even give you three installments — keep your eyes out for parts II and III.

359 Bleecker St. (Charles and W. 10th Sts.)
Chef and restaurateur Marcus Samuelsson (Red Rooster, Aquavit) is part owner of this charming West Village bistro. The snug little dining room and eclectic Mediterranean menu (much of it roasted in the wood-burning oven, including an excellent cod and tarte flambe) are more than enough to entice. But a walled-in and glass-roofed back garden — almost fairty-tale-like with its distressed walls and rambling vegetation– secures the spot as somewhere you’ll want to dine as often as you can.

B Bar & Grill
40 E. 4th St. (Bowery)
To pass by B Bar on a summer evening is to wonder who threw a party and forgot to invite you. So festive is the sprawling courtyard adorned with colored lights and dangling plants that it feels like somewhere you’d go on vacation in some far-off, sand-dusted place. Have another glass of the house sangria and act like you’re on vacation too–the robust pickup scene should help.

398 West Broadway (Spring and Broome Sts.)
Soho’s most spacious and beautiful patio appears like a secret, tree-shaded garden to passerby on Thompson Street. The restaurant’s entrance is on West Broadway, but in warm months, it nearly doubles in size, bringing its Northern Italian menu and serious wine list alfresco for a few lovely months. Meat dishes shine — go for the beef tartare with shaved truffles if you’re feeling flush.

Central Park Boat House
Central Park, E. 72nd St. and Park Dr. N.
In a town not known for its nature, the Boat House is one of the only places to dine while gazing at an idyllic lake (the lake and restaurant were featured in Sex & the City, you’ll recall). In the middle of Central Park, taxi horns fade away, and so do your cares. Particularly over a glass or two of rose and some snacky bites from the grill menu (try the crab cake or the cheese board).

181 W. 10th St. (Seventh Ave.)
This townhouse restaurant’s multiple stories are impressive and gorgeous on their own, but the place wins hearts with its breathtaking back garden. Lights, plants, and stylish diners make for a dreamy summer evening. Chef Cedric Tovar’s (Daniel) menu changes seasonally, with warm-weather specials like grilled snapper a la plancha, with braised fennel and rhubarb marmalade.

Dos Caminos
475 West Broadway (Houston St.)
Is there any better summertime ritual than margaritas on a patio? We say no, and that’s the philosophy at Dos Caminos as well, where you can order them spicy, or made with any of a number of fruits, including prickly pear, strawberry, and blood orange. All this tequila creates a party atmosphere on the spacious corner patio. Don’t forget some fresh guacamole and brisket enchiladas to soak up the booze.

La Esquina
114 Kenmare St. (Lafayette St.)
Serge Becker’s neighborhood hub has many identities (exclusive nightspot, taqueria, cafe) but possibly its most charming is the casual sidewalk scene that crops up in summer. Perched as it is at the Soho-Nolita border, the hodgepodge of folding chairs and metal tables is festive and ideal for people-watching. Taqueria grub is high in flavor and low-priced: try the pork tacos with a side of grilled corn.

The Odeon
145 West Broadway (Thomas St.)
The Tribeca Brasserie that was Keith McNally’s first NYC joint (the Balthazar founder is no longer an owner) boasts a few coveted, shaded sidewalk tables where you can enjoy a white-tablecloth meal. Dig into dependable French classics like the frisee salad or steak-frites, plus an excellent martini if you’re feeling indulgent. On the way out, grab an ice cream from the restaurant’s summertime sidewalk cart.

9 Ninth Ave. (Little W. 12th St. )
Keith McNally’s granddaddy of meatpacking scenes is still the place to people-watch in the neighborhood, particularly when its large sidewalk cafe opens for the season. There might be a wait (a dinner reservation helps, though outside is first come, first served), but think of it as first row seats for a show. You’ll spot many a glamorous face and designer outfit between the potted plants, not to mention passing by on the street. On the menu of French classics, go for the moules frites and dip your crisp, skinny fries in the Pernod-laced shellfish liquor.

The Yard
Soho Grand Hotel
310 W Broadway NY (Grand St.)
Soho Grand’s outdoor venue, The Yard, has officially opened for the summer. With a delicious outdoor grill and a menu full of summertime favorites (try the mouth-watering Caprese Salad), The Yard is open daily from 4pm-12am. Special guest DJ’s feature weekly, and numerous exclusive events are planned throughout the summer months. An ideal escape from the bustle of the work week and the heat of the city streets, the open air expanse has two distinct sections, the Bar, and the Courtyard. Come nightfall, the Courtyard transforms into a cool outdoor lounge flanked by stylish locals and their friends, all happily sipping fresh Mojitos and the famed frozen Margarita’s – enjoying the night air and the summertime soundtrack.