Where to Eat and Drink on the Water in NYC
New York City is made up of five boroughs and about forty islands, give or take a few. (The count changes with the tide, and also as we continue to conjoin our tiny islands with landfills). While there’s not a lot of fun stuff happening on, say, Rat Island, or the Chimney Sweeps, the city’s tangle of rivers and bays ensures we’ll always have plenty of waterfront.
Summer has reached its unofficial end, and soon it’ll be too cold to swim in the water off our many shores, but it’s still warm enough to enjoy some of their sea breezes. And anyway, isn’t it more pleasant to sip a $14 cocktail than to fight off a landfill-fattened Coney Island shark? Whether you’re a Brooklynite, a Manhattanite, a Hog Islander, or just visiting, these are the ten best places in the city to eat and drink while taking in some of our most spectacular waterfront views.
Pilot, a floating oyster bar on Pier 6 in Brooklyn Bridge Park, is a bougie update to a nearly 100-year-old schooner that once ferried soldiers in WWII. It’ll close for the season before too long, so order New York oysters, sip on a maritime-inspired cocktail -- the “Seabrined Martini” features a Champagne mignonette -- and take in some glistening views of the Manhattan skyline while you can. Is it kind of mean to eat oysters while you’re literally sitting on top of the river, which is their house? Maybe! Sorry, oysters!
Departing from Chelsea Piers on Saturdays and Sundays, this nearly three-hour brunch cruise features a four-course buffet -- including New York City staples bagels and smoked salmon -- for $86 per person. The cruise goes all the way around Manhattan, with views of the Statue of Liberty, the East River bridges, and the entire New York skyline. Your ticket only comes with one alcoholic drink, but the opportunity to make your friends do the full-on Titanic pose for Instagram is priceless.
Want to drink on a boat, but don’t have much money? Either become a pirate or board the Staten Island Ferry, where the tickets are free and the beer is cheap. Here’s the catch: It’s only a twenty-five minute ride from Staten Island to South Ferry, so you’ll have to get your beer early and chug it down quick. No one’s stopping you from riding the ferry back and forth all day, but you will have to get off and on again every time you dock.
City Island -- only .5 mile wide and 1.5 miles long -- is like a miniature New England, right in the Northeastern Bronx. With Victorian homes, a small-town feel, and super-fresh seafood, you can take the 6 to the last stop, transfer to the BX 29, and immediately forget that you’re in the five boroughs. Order the $47 lobster (it’s served whole, with steak, spare ribs, or fried shrimp) at City Island Lobster House and pretend you’re on vacation.
At Pier 66 in Hudson River Park, the Frying Pan has a reputation as the place to go for a real summer shitshow. The weekends do get pretty crowded with the day-drinking crowd, so head over on a weekday after work to watch the sun fall over the water. The Frying Pan is permanently docked, but it still rocks, making it tough to tell if you’ve had too much to drink or if you’re simply being buoyed by the waves.
Only a five-minute ferry ride away from Brooklyn Bridge Park or the Battery, a reservation at Island Oyster is the perfect excuse to visit the recently-reimagined Governor’s Island. The colorful, sprawling space was nominated for a 2019 James Beard Best Restaurant Design award and offers panoramic views of the New York Harbor. If you’re willing to pay $3 for the ferry, you just might avoid the crowds clamoring for a waterfront table back on the big island.
This Long Island City bar is significantly more laid-back than most of the fancy-schmancy seaside spots in the city. Picnic tables, a chain link fence, and a (frankly delicious) hot dog on the menu make Anable Basin a little more gritty, a little less Instagrammable, and a lot of fun. The cocktails still aren’t cheap, but the views of Manhattan and Roosevelt Island are just as beautiful with a plastic cup of Bud Light in your hand.
Sometimes on the waterfront, the views are great, but the food’s just...fine. Not so at Celestine, a top-notch Mediterranean restaurant that just so happens to be tucked neatly under the Manhattan Bridge. With an outdoor patio and gigantic windows looking out onto a close-up of the bridge’s cables, it’s hard to say what’s better: The mezze platter, with its za’atar-dusted flatbread and creamy Maast O Musir, or the spectacular view of the East River.
Hometown Bar-B-Que and Steve’s Authentic Key Lime PiesRed Hook
Hometown Bar-B-Que’s walk-up counter near the Red Hook Fairway serves up fall-off-the-bone oak-smoked meats, craft beers, and cocktails. For a DIY waterfront experience, order a tray full of brisket, down a drink or two, then walk the few minutes to Steve’s and order a Swingle. The Swingle -- key lime pie dipped in chocolate, then frozen on a stick -- is the ideal dessert to eat as you walk along the waterfront in nearby Louis Valentino, Jr. Park.
Located just beneath Transmitter Park, the Brooklyn Barge is a low-key bar with tons of seating and some killer waterfront real estate. Belly up to the barge, or, if you’re secretly more of a landlubber, secure yourself a picnic table on the dock. The food is bar fare at its best -- french fries, nachos, burgers -- just right for soaking up an entire afternoon’s worth of liquor. On a sunny day, sit back and stay a while. Nothing beats sipping a frozen cocktail and watching the sun glint off our skyline.
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