Our latest installment of Quick Bites brings us to Bushwick, for pizza, burgers, nectarines and an atmosphere that really reflects our new subtropical climate.

THE VIBE

If Outerspace, a restaurant that opened this past weekend in industrial Bushwick, seems uniquely well designed to handle NYC's Pandemic Summer well, that's because the whole thing was conceived and executed after COVID-19 hit the city back in March. Outerspace's co-founders Molly McIver and Wells Stellberger took on a complete revamping of their core business — 99 Scott Studio, an event space that, obviously, can no longer host events — to survive the pandemic, while still bringing people together to relax and have some fun.

The restaurant can seat an impressive 125 people at large picnic tables, each of which gets their own bamboo "room" amidst an eye-popping number of potted tropical plants. It's all outdoors, with large umbrellas providing both necessary shade and suitable cover for our new near-nightly downpours. It's really quite stunning to turn the corner on this desolate dead-end by the railroad tracks and enter such a verdant and roomy place. And the music is excellent, with curated playlists from local DJs played just loud enough through a first-rate sound system.

hand sanitizers in dining area

A hand sanitizer station

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A hand sanitizer station
Scott Lynch / Gothamist

Other pandemic protocols include the requirement of masks, which you must wear whenever you leave your table (you should also mask up every time you interact with your server), one-way foot traffic in, out, and around the space, menus via QR code, disposable dishware, and a reservations-only policy after 7 p.m. so people don't gather waiting for a table to open up. Walk-ups are allowed between 5 and 7 p.m., which is when I went for two meals over the weekend. I'm not sure what happens as the night goes on and people get multiple drinks in them — the last reservation slot is at 10:30 p.m., notably late for the COVID era — but in the early going each evening it felt like the safest place I've eaten all summer.

THE BITES

All of that lush, luxurious distancing would be less noteworthy if the food at Outerspace was a failure, but fortunately for us chefs Conner Updegrave and Luis Herrera really deliver, with plenty of winners from a menu of crowd pleasers. The six-slice Pepperoni Pizza was particularly satisfying, the chewy sourdough crust holding up well under the generously laden toppings. Three other pies are also available, all of which are either vegetarian or vegan.

Pepperoni Pizza ($17)

Pepperoni Pizza ($17)

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Pepperoni Pizza ($17)
Scott Lynch / Gothamist

Also very good was the Outerspace Burger, a juicy, medium-sized patty that comes on a soft potato bun, fully loaded with all the best toppings and accompanied by some excellent blistered potatoes. The bowl of "deconstructed" elote, called simply Corn on the menu, makes for a terrific shareable side dish, all sweet and spicy with peanuts adding crunch. And by using cashew butter as the mayo here, the kitchen has another vegan dish to offer as well.

More good things eat: the grilled Broccolini, glistening with an anchovy sauce and then buried beneath crisp-fried garlic chips and shredded, melting ricotta salata; and the Stone Fruit salad, a well executed bowl of grilled nectarine slices, served cold, a big blob of burrata, and a dollop of chili oil. The only misfire during my two dinners were the Scallops, served aguachile-style but more bitter than sweet or refreshing. Cocktails are poured by the glass or the pitcher, and there's a variety of beers, ciders, and wines (reds, whites, rosés, sparkling) available as well.

THE VERDICT

Outerspace has pretty much the ideal setup for dining during the pandemic — it feels festive and fun, but also safe — and for the most part the food is really good. Definitely worth a trip for a night out with your pandemic pod, or however you're doing things.

Outerspace is located at 99 Scott Avenue in Bushwick, between Randolph Street and the railroad tracks (the entrance is all the way down near the chain link fence) and is currently open on Thursday through Sunday from 5 p.m. to sometime after 11 p.m. Reservations required after 7 p.m. (99outerspace.com)