Dezeen Magazine

Joey Roses outdoor dining shelter in New York City

Ten sidewalk dining shelters in New York City

Freelance creative director John Tymkiw has spent the last three years photographing the dining shelters that sprang up on the streets of New York during the coronavirus pandemic. Here, he selects 10 of his favourites.

Restaurants and cafes across New York City began erecting makeshift kerbside dining shelters in 2020 in a bid to increase their outdoor seating capacity while Covid-19 restricted indoor gatherings.

According to the NYC Open Restaurants map there are now more than 13,000 dotted around the city, significantly changing the urban landscape.

"Democratic, bottom-up architecture"

Tymkiw argues they have evolved from a commercial necessity into an important new form of architectural expression.

"They're an example of a democratic, bottom-up architecture," he told Dezeen. "A kind of three-dimensional street art that connects design and commerce with New York's favorite pastime: dining out."

"Years from now, they'll be one positive thing we remember from the pandemic years."

Tymkiw has collated his pictures in a series of books, titled How We Ate.

Some of the shelters were designed by architects, but many were designed by business owners themselves.

They have sometimes been criticised by neighbouring residents and linked to an increase in rats, with authorities removing a number of sheds over concerns about safety and others dismantled voluntarily by the restaurants.

Shelters set to become permanent

However, many shelters have been updated and extended, often in collaboration with artists and architects.

Legislation backed by New York City mayor Eric Adams was recently introduced that proposes making these outdoor dining shelters permanent and licensable.

"When I began documenting New York's outdoor dining shelters in 2020, no one knew how long they would last," said Tymkiw. "Let alone evolve into a new vernacular architecture, right on the streets and sidewalks of New York City."

Here are 10 outdoor dining shelters in New York City, selected by Tymkiw:

Bandits outdoor dining shelter in New York City

Bandits, West Village, by Yakka Studio

Bandits owner Adam Fulton worked with Yakka Studio on the design of this '70s-style diner and cocktail bar in the West Village.

"This was one of the first fully reimagined shelters I found," said Tymkiw. "A plywood version of the classic train-car diner that used to be ubiquitous in New York. Classic."

Daniel outdoor dining shelter in New York City

Daniel, Upper East Side, by Stephanie Goto

Local architecture studio Stephanie Goto designed these pink dining huts for Daniel, a two-Michelin-star restaurant run by French chef Daniel Boulou.

It was created as part of a 2020 redesign of the Upper East Side fine-dining spot centred around serving more affordable food inspired by the French Riviera.

Don Angie outdoor dining shelter in New York City

Don Angie, West Village, by GRT Architects

This dining shelter at West Village Italian-American eatery Don Angie is among the most substantially constructed in New York.

Its red, rounded windows, chequered flooring and pendant lights complement the main restaurant, which Brooklyn studio GRT Architects also designed.

Empire outdoor dining shelter in New York City

Empire Diner, Chelsea, by Silent Volume

The Empire Diner is famous as one of the last remaining train-car diners in New York City.

Its outdoor dining shelter, created by multidisciplinary design studio Silent Volume, was conceived as a modern take on the classic form with extensive glazing.

Foreigner Coffee outdoor dining shelter in New York City

Foreigner Coffee, Flatiron District, self-designed

Siblings Nico and Lili Ramirez, owners of Foreigner Coffee and creative production studio East of Normal, designed this outdoor seating area as a nod to the New York tradition of socialising on brownstone stoops.

The bleachers also help to shield customers from the noise and dirt of the street without requiring a full wall.

Honeybrains outdoor dining shelter in New York City

Honeybrains, NoHo, by Rise Projects

"The Hive" dining shelter sits outside healthy-eating restaurant Honeybrains' NoHo location, separated from the sidewalk by a wide cycle lane.

Designed by Rise Projects, it features honeycomb-style windows and a bee-themed colour scheme, while sliding doors help prevent blocking the bike path.

Joey Roses outdoor dining shelter in New York City

Joey Roses, Lower East Side, by Studio Castellano

Modelled on a giant Winnebago, this outdoor dining shelter on the Lower East Side is among the most eye-catching in New York.

It was designed for sandwich shop Joey Roses, run by stand-up comedian Joe DeRosa, by Studio Castellano.

Neue House outdoor dining shelter in New York City

NeueHouse, Flatiron District, by Jenny Sabin Studio

Members' club NeueHouse commissioned Jenny Sabin Studio to build a street-side seating area last year, while it was also undergoing a revamp of its interior.

The studio responded with exoKnit, a pergola of undulating arches adorned with digitally knitted fabric that changes colour under different lighting.

Simò Pizza outdoor dining shelter in New York City

Simò Pizza, Meatpacking District and Greenwich Village, by Büro Koray Duman

Wooden dining shelters with concertina roofs were installed outside Simò Pizza's two locations, in the Meatpacking District and near New York University.

They were created by architecture firm Büro Koray Duman, which also designed the interiors of the Greenwich Village location.

Tacombi outdoor dining shelter in New York City

Tacombi, various locations, by NDNY

Mexican chain Tacombi has 11 locations in New York City and has embraced the outdoor dining shelter trend with a modular solution designed by NDNY at several restaurants.

"Every time I come across one of these I think of a piñata UFO," said Tymkiw. "They are cheerful and literally make me smile. It's also bright and inviting on the inside. A really well-matched design for this brand."

The photography is by John Tymkiw.