On Friday, Governor Cuomo of New York announced that restaurants in NYC would no longer be allowed to offer indoor dining until the rise in Covid cases subsides. Indoor dining had only resumed in September — before that, it had been shuttered since March. The difference being that between March and September restaurants were able to put tables outdoors in the street. They can still do that now, but who’d want to sit at them in the freezing temperatures of December, January and February?

Well, we might. But the truth is, we don’t like freezing any more than the next person, and the fact that we dine topless makes us even more prone to freezing, assuming that the next person is clad in a quilted down coat, knit hat and mittens. But so far this year we’ve managed to pick our shots, and by selecting abnormally warm days we’ve been able to find afternoons in both November and December where outdoor dining was not just tolerable but positively scrumptious.

Our November visit was to a downtown burger joint called Royale, named after the “Royale with cheese” conversation from Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, and what could be more appropriate for our group than that? We packed up some of our finest pulp fiction reading material–

–and trekked down to Alphabet City in lower Manhattan on an afternoon that promised to be less than freezing and that wound up, semi-miraculously, actually being sunny and warm.

Royale is your typical downtown bar, with a narrow entryway and tight seating along either side. But what sets it apart is that once you pass through that entry you reach a private outdoor back yard, with an overhang shading a wooden deck and a scattering of metal two-tops down a small flight of steps at the far end.

Did the neighbors mind our eating topless? We don’t think so. We spotted one or two at the windows overlooking the space but none ran and got binoculars, or a cellphone. (Or a shotgun.)

And what could be more natural on a sunny day than dining al fresco without a top on? Royale’s burgers are juicy and delicious, and if you haven’t got a top on, that’s one less thing to accidentally stain.

We shared tater tots and truffle fries, downed hot cider to keep any remaining chill at bay, and regaled each other with stories of our pandemic summer. It was joyful and a relief — to be with other humans, to laugh together again, to share each other’s company. And to do it outdoors, where it was relatively safe. (You will be happy to hear that more than two weeks have passed and nobody got sick. So, whew.)

Now, December is colder than November, and January will be colder still. But if the gods of temperature shine favorably on us, we’ll keep meeting, where outdoor space makes it feasible. That said, how many of New York’s restaurants will be able to make it through this dark winter on the back of outdoor dining alone? (There’s takeout and delivery as well, for many. That might be the season’s saving grace. Anytime you pass a restaurant, make sure to grab a takeout menu.)

But outdoor dining is important, and as long as any of them keep at it, we’ll do our best to find them and do our part to keep them going.

We also wish the best to those restaurants we’ve contacted who, heaven knows, could use the business we were offering but as a matter of principle or out of fear of the unknown declined to have topless women use their outdoor space. (Even Ayza, a place that welcomed us twice before in previous years!)

We respect their decision, and hope they find some other way to stay afloat. It takes a powerful commitment to the premise that breasts must always remain covered to turn down a group of paying customers during a pandemic. But we are happy to give our trade to those that welcome it, and we are pleased by how many of NYC’s eateries do.

If you’d like to join us at one of these events, email toplesspulpfiction@gmail.com. We’d love to feed you on a chilly winter day.