afternoon outdoor drinking and nibbling
Just experienced my maiden voyage at Miracle Grill--albeit the one on Bleecker and Hudson, not the East Village branch. And I've got to say: Although almost everything was aggressively mediocre (icebox-cold grilled tuna; candy-sweet calimari; bland chicken fajitas), the macaroni and cheese, topped with a solid inch of crunchy, gently buttered crumbs and extravagantly flavored with green chiles, was just spectacular. Definitely: get the mac 'n cheese.
Not only does the east village Miracle Grill not offer the awesome mac & cheese, they also don't offer the mojitos that are so good at the west village branch. Also, it's not on the menu, but you can just get a side of mac & cheese for a few bucks. Mmmm. And, though I agree that Miracle Grill isn't the greatest restaurant in town, their catfish tacos appetizer (offered at both locations, I think) is SOOO good--one order with a side of mac & cheese is one delicious (and cheap) comfort meal.
American Park located in Battery Park is a bit yuppie-ish but has a huge outdoor section, a great view and good, if a bit expensive food.
Le Jardin Bistro on Cleveland between Spring and Kenmare in East Soho and its next neighbor Va Tutto have really rleaxed gardens and at least Le Jardin has good bistro fare. I've never eaten at Va Tutto but I remember seeing a couple of good write-ups.
For drinking, the best outdoor bar gardens are in the East Village:
DBA on 1st Avenue (I believe near 3rd or 4th streets), which also has one of the best drink selections in the city, i.e. single malts, wheat beers, 100% blue agave tequilas...
Barramundi on Ludlow Street, a few blocks south of Stanton Street, which has a spacious and intricate back garden.
But beware, these gardens close early, maybe around 11 pm at DBA and a little later at Barrumundi.
For totally care-free late-night boozing outdoors, I've found that you need to go to the Bohemian Beer Hall in Astoria. But I'd love to know if anybody out there has found a real late night outdoor garden watering hole in Manhattan.