Birreria, Eataly's much-buzzed-about rooftop beer garden, has been open for a month. And while the happy-hour droves haven't ebbed, it is possible to savor the scene without brushing shoulders with the Madison Avenue masses of twentysomethings.
On a recent midday visit, the lush terrace was just busy enough with a handful of late lunchers dining on wild-arugula salads and just-made ricotta--a scene that more closely resembled a Milanese café than Midtown's hottest watering hole. The bartenders kindly helped us navigate the five house-made beers and 24 European brews based on our preferences, much like sommeliers dispense wine (the robust Eataly Brown Ale, with notes of maple syrup, was a favorite).
We suggest heading up to Birreria early in the week for lunch, when the crowds are most sparse. Try the house-made Probusto sausage, a blend of pork and beef flavored with coriander ($21), the soft and tangy Robiola Bosina sheep's-milk cheese ($11 for three slices), and earthy, batter-fried shiitake mushrooms ($15). While wine is fine (and plentiful), the light, fruit-infused Birra del Borgo Enkir ale is the antidote to a steamy summer day.
Though there's no end in sight to the night and weekend mobs, the quiet afternoon hours make Birreria feel like our secret garden.
Birreria, in Eataly, 200 Fifth Avenue (entrance on 23rd St.); 212-937-8910 or eataly.com