Setting Sail: Where to Drink on NYC's Waterways

Ahoy! Bartender Sarah Wilke welcomes you to the Honorable William Wall with yummy booze.
Ahoy! Bartender Sarah Wilke welcomes you to the Honorable William Wall with yummy booze.
Photo by Samuel Zide for the Village Voice

Ah, summer. The season of the outdoor boîte. And as the days warm up, the notion of being on a patio with a bottle of wine seems so romantic. Unfortunately, that romance really only lasts until about the first day the temperature climbs past 90 degrees, forcing everyone out of the urban jungle and into air-conditioned caves. We have a solution for you: Head for the water and hitch a ride on a ship. Because the romance of boat season never dies. It's cooler on the waves, you see, and New York looks lovely from the harbor when you've got a drink in your hand and wind in your hair. And hey, most of us in this city live on an island. So you have no excuse to stay on land. Here are seven ways to set sail (or at least float) while you eat.

The Honorable William Wall
The Honorable William Wall
Photo by Samuel Zide for the Village Voice

The Honorable William Wall This barge anchored in the New York Harbor serves as a clubhouse for the Manhattan Sailing Club, but you don't have to be friends with a member to gain access — you just have to book yourself a $20 ticket on the Admiral's Launch, which gets you a boat ride from Jersey City out to the floating bar. (If that price seems steep, know that fairly cheap drinks await — beer prices hover around five bucks.) Once aboard, post up on the deck and take in views of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island; you can bring your picnic food to supplement the booze. The best seats get claimed early, so we recommend booking the earliest launch of the day, unless you happen to be friends with a Sailing Club member. They get to skip the line. Liberty Harbor Marina, 11 Marin Boulevard, Jersey City, willywall.com

Grand Banks Is there anything more pleasant on a hot summer's day than slurping your way through a dozen oysters and washing them down with a pint of cold beer? We think not. And while you can do that many places in New York City, none are quite like Grand Banks, the restaurant aboard an old 142-foot schooner anchored at Pier 25 near Tribeca. The boat specializes in Atlantic oysters, but you'll also find West Coasters among the half-dozen or so varieties. Follow up your shells with a lobster roll, and don't miss the maritime artifacts that pepper the walls. Pier 25, Hudson River Park, North Moore Street at West Street, 212-960-3390, grandbanks.org

The River Café The River Café now blends in seamlessly with its tony DUMBO neighbors, but for decades, it was an island — or more accurately, a barge — that was the only draw in the neighborhood. This is fine dining with all the stops out — a live piano player provides the soundtrack to a multi-course meal paired to nice bottles of wine. This being summer, you should reserve a table outdoors, where you'll have unobstructed views of Manhattan. If you're planning to propose this season, this is a fine place to consider popping the question. Reservations are required. 1 Water Street, Brooklyn, 718-522-5200, therivercafe.com

The Water Table Sue Walsh and her wife, Kelli Farwell, were baffled by the fact that island-dwelling New Yorkers spent so little time on boats. So the couple picked up a ship and built a dinner boat for locals. A far cry from the tourist cruises that offer mediocre buffets over views of the skyline, the Water Table specializes in New England–style cuisine, served as part of a two- or three-course prix fixe menu. Sup on lobster bisque and dry-rubbed chicken, or lobster mac 'n' cheese and whoopie pies. Cruises last two or two and a half hours, and as you float you can take advantage of the bar, which offers several cocktails, New England brews, wine, and rum. India Street Pier, 10 India Street, Brooklyn, 917-499-5727, thewatertablenyc.com

North River Lobster Company This floating seafood shack sets sail at least four times a day (more on weekends), hauling boatloads of feasters out into the Hudson for a 45-minute cruise. You don't have to sail to enjoy it, though. Board the boat any time it's docked to eat shack classics like peel-and-eat shrimp, fish 'n' chips, and Maine lobster. You'll also find raw-bar treats to supplement your entrées, and you can pair your food to mason jar cocktails or, better yet, a bucket of North River Lobster Company blonde ale. The vibe here is casual, by the way — North River doesn't accept reservations, and there is no table service. Pier 81, West 41st Street, 212-630-8831, northriverlobsterco.com

Manhattan by Sail Manhattan by Sail owner Tom Berton wanted to offer New Yorkers a way to sail their waterways without having to listen to the droning tour operators who man most of the city's bookable boats. The company operates two sailboats, which glide through the harbor passing iconic sites. Many of the sails are built with a food or drink element; you can partake in a Champagne brunch, a whiskey tasting, or a lobster and beer pairing. We especially recommend the craft beer sail, which often features a local brewery's lineup. North Cove Marina, Brookfield Place, and Slip 2, Battery Park, 212-619-6900, manhattanbysail.com

Staten Island Ferry If you're really strapped for cash, you can still get out on the water — pick up a six-pack and head for the free Staten Island Ferry, from which you can take in views of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island as you motor through the New York Harbor. When you dock, turn around and take the 25-minute return trip, watching Lower Manhattan's skyline heave ever closer. 4 South Street and 1 Bay Street, Staten Island, siferry.com



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