Fare Afloat

Dine on the water at these boat restaurants


The thing about Manhattan is that with all of its tall buildings and busy sidewalks, it makes it easy to forget the fact that it is, in fact, an island. And there’s no better way to be blissfully reminded of this than heading to one waterfront, boarding a boat, and enjoying a fantastic meal in the late-summer air.

Many attribute the start of boat-restaurant trend to The Frying Pan, an old 1929 lightship brought from the depths of the Chesapeake Bay, refurbished into a no-frills bar and restaurant, and docked in the Hudson. Everyone comes here¾visiting families, tanned young things, locals¾and in the summer, it’s one of the few places that’s actually worth its hours-long wait. Seafood-shack fare like oysters, sandwiches, and fish-and-chips are a cut above what one might expect for a place that has bathrooms down near the engine room, and buckets of Coronas and a handful of craft beers have never tasted better than while watching the sun set over New Jersey as the Hudson gently laps at the boat’s sides. (26th St. at West Side Hwy.)

For foodies, there’s one boat restaurant that’s a must-try: Grand Banks. Set on an old fishing schooner named Sherman Zwicker, the intimately sized restaurant was started last year by Mark Firth¾one of the founders of Brooklyn’s Diner and Marlow & Sons¾who this year tapped chef Kerry Heffernan of Eleven Madison Park to head the kitchen. Start with a selection from its award-winning oyster bar before diving into the short but impeccable small-plate selection¾scallop ceviche, swordfish confit, and a Maine lobster roll that’s more than worth its 25 dollar price tag. More cocktails have been added to the menu this year, with options such as an absinthe-based old fashioned and Negroni with sparkling wine. (Pier 25, North Moore St. at West St.)

Dinner cruises have a reputation for being something of a thing: dress codes and buttoned-up or DJ-fueled and boozy. North River Lobster Co. thankfully offers a different option. Reservations are not required (450 can be on board at a time), seating comes as picnic-style tables, and cruises that leave from Midtown’s Pier 81 in the Hudson last only 45 minutes, making them a convenient way to spend an alternative lunch or dinner without having to block off an entire afternoon or evening. It deems itself the city’s “only floating lobster shack,” and its fare is wonderfully low-key: Maine lobster in three sizes, fish and chips, peel-and-eat shrimp. Or, if a raw bar and cocktails is all you fancy, there’s that too. (Pier 81, 41st St. and West Side Hwy.)

After cutting his teeth at the likes of Gramercy Tavern and Rye, chef Kelli Farwell decided to turn his career in a different direction, bought an old World War II tug boat, and turned it into a gourmet restaurant named The Water Table. Sailing twice nightly, the boat takes diners on a tour of New York Harbor starting from Greenpoint in Brooklyn and heading down to the Statue of Liberty and back. As the sun sets, it couldn’t be a more romantic way to see Manhattan, passing sites like the Domino Sugar Factory and Brooklyn Bridge. And the menu is as fine as any reservation-only restaurants’, with ricotta and mint-topped crostini, a smoked scallop lobster bisque, seafood stew, and dry-rubbed organic chicken. A three-course menu is served on the two-and-a-half-hour trips that run on Thursdays through Saturdays, while a two-course menu is served on a slightly shorter Sunday Supper cruise. Both are reasonably priced and 75 and 50 dollars respectively, making it more than reasonable to tack on a specialty cocktail, beer, or glass of sparkling wine as well. (India St. Pier, Brooklyn)

(Photo Credit: Alan Silverman)