Best Casual Waterfront Dining in NYC
On Saturdays during the warmer months, NYC locals swarm the Smorgasburg held in the Williamsburg neighborhood by the East River State Park just off the ferry landing. Dubbed by the NY Times as “The Woodstock of Eating”, it features more than 100 gourmet booths offering every imaginable type of food. We sampled Texas-style moist beef brisket, Maine lobster rolls, hummus, red velvet cake, and a salted chocolate ice cream sandwich. All delicious.
Details: From Manhattan take the East River Ferry @ 34th St, to East River State Park in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The Smorgasburg event has expanded throughout the boroughs on different days with different names. Can’t vouch for the other locations, but you can find more food on Sundays in Brooklyn Bridge Park, Pier 5 (near Manhattan’s NY City Hall); and Long Island City, Queens on Saturdays. All open 11 AM – 6 PM. Since these events seem a bit transient, Google before you go.
The Frying Pan, Hudson River Park
This popular local spot started its life as a Lightship in 1929, keeping ships from running into the Frying Pan Shoals (thus its name) 30 miles off Cape Fear, NC. In 1965 she was abandoned in the Chesapeake Bay and apparently sank, spending three years underwater before being rescued.
Today, the Frying Pan is a floating historic lighthouse, permanently docked at Pier 66a in the Hudson River Park, West 26th Street, and 12th Ave. The food is average but I hear the evening bar scene is lively; plan to visit for the history and the incomparable setting.
Only open seasonally, table service is available in the summer months, starting around Memorial Day, 11:30 AM – 11:30 PM. The best thing to do is follow them on Twitter and/or Instagram to make sure they are open and check the hours. Their Facebook page, Frying Pan-NYC, also has information, but, be forewarned, some of the info on their website is incorrect.
Boat Basin Café, Upper West Side
Our daughter is still a Florida gal at heart and doesn’t miss a chance to be around water when possible. She introduced us to the Boat Basin Café on the Hudson (Upper West Side at W 79th St), for a beautiful sunset, drinks and a casual dinner overlooking the marina and river. Don’t get caught walking along the river with an open drink, you will be fined (we weren’t caught).
The Water Club’s Crow’s Nest
We had a great late lunch-break at The Water Club’s Crow’s Nest on the East River at 30th. The main restaurant has a nice bar and indoor dining, and the Crow’s Nest offers roof-top drinks and lighter fare (classic NY hot dogs, lobster rolls, salads, etc). It’s all paired with a super view across the river and the 59th St Bridge to the north. Word has it, it’s also a great spot for happy hour. BTW, our city friends tell us, it’s also great because they have parking.
Brunch Cruise with Classic Harbor Line
There are plenty of ways you can navigate around amazing Manhattan island and there are options for every pocket-book. But you do get what you pay for, and today we had a really special experience.
The Classic Harbor Line uses old-world style yachts in the Roaring Twenties-style. For the brunch cruise, the maximum number of guests is 40, and everyone has a window seat. Their brochure states they are “classically designed for contemporary experiences” and that is very well said. Our trip was on the Manhattan II, just one-year-old, but built to resemble a vintage yacht.
As we cruised up the East River and down the Hudson, we ate. Brunch was a delicious four-course affair, served buffet-style. First with bagels, lox, pastries, and self-made waffles, followed by frittata and incredibly good pork sausage (which we are seriously trying to locate for purchase). Spiral-cut ham, potatoes, and salad were followed by a wonderful fruit assortment, puff pastries, small napoleons, and cannolis. A glass of Champagne, Mimosa, or Bloody Mary was included along with soft drinks and coffee; a full bar was also available.
The crew was amazing. They could not have been nicer or more helpful. The Captain’s commentary was interesting but not intrusive. Many of the passengers also asked the knowledgeable crew for more information about what we were seeing.
It didn’t hurt that it turned out to be an incredibly beautiful day. We ventured outside for some photo-ops and often pulled back the large sliding picture windows by our comfortable table to snap a good iPhone shot.
The entire 2.75-hour trip was quiet, relaxing, unhurried, interesting, and very scenic. A perfect adventure for all the ages in our group, from 30-something to 85.
Details: Classic Harbor Lines is the same company that offers architectural harbor tours narrated by the AIA NY and sailings on majestic schooners. Boats leave from Pier 62 at Chelsea Piers and Pier 5 at the Brooklyn Bridge Park Marina. Check out the options at: Sail-NYC.com or call 888.215.1739. You may also be able to find a discount voucher if you search online. BTW, the bathrooms onboard are comfortable and pristine.