Many people consider the River Café to be the best restaurant in Brooklyn, and it is probably the most expensive. The romantic waterside eatery, which could easily skate by on its gorgeous views of downtown Manhattan, has spawned a long roster of great chefs, including Charlie Palmer (Aureole), David Burke (davidburke & donatella) and Rick Moonen (RM, Oceana). Stellar dishes include crisp oysters with smoked salmon and caviar, rack of lamb or lobster specials.
By the peak of summer even New York’s most venerable boat bars can become flooded by a sea of frat-tastic curios, watered-down brews and Lonely Island references. For a more refined seaside escape, step aboard Grand Banks, the historic schooner turned oyster bar docked at Tribeca Piers. Waitstaff outfitted in navy-striped shirts deliver top-notch nautical plates including raw oysters and soft shell crab while you get to gaze at the glittering World Trade Center and spotlit Lady Liberty.
Perched atop Hotel Brooklyn Bridge, this sleek cocktail parlor places guests at eye-level with two of the city's greatest wonders: the Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan skyline. Settle into one of the leather couches with one of Albert Trummer's (Apothéke) craft cocktails or pop a bottle of bubbly as you gaze at the sweeping, 180-degree sunset view through floor-to-ceiling windows.
This industrial-styled French-food complex spans 30,000 square feet, divided into a bakery-café, meat and cheese stalls, an open-air grocery shop, the sit-down brasserie Beaubourg, and cocktail den Le Bar. For the best seaside views, dine al fresco on the terrace along Battery Park City Esplanade as you sip frosé and watch yachts set sail out of North Cove Marina.
Battery Park City
Governors Island pays tribute to New York Harbor's bivalve legacy with this outdoor oyster bar and beer garden from the same crew behind Grand Banks. Slurp down sustainably harvested shellfish sourced both near (Long Island) and far (British Columbia) at the white-marble bar or order fish tacos to one of the mahogany communal tables — then wash it all down with local craft beers (Montauk, Brooklyn) or fruity summer cocktail.
Along with expansive views of the New York's Upper Bay, this three-story, 250-seat crab shack-meets-lawn games court offers both feast and fun. The menu is anchored by seafood specialties like peel-and-eat shrimp, crabcakes and steam pots brimming with lobster, potatoes and corn on the cob while the bar serves up patio-appropriate buckets of beer and frozen daiquiris. Enjoy it all over a round of miniature golf, a game of bocce ball, or a cornhole (beanbag toss) match, in Red Hook's waterfront sunshine.
Get a fresh perspective on your own city. The lakeside setting nestled in the heart of Central Park is serene enough to offset the somewhat stiff service and hefty prices of this quintessential New York eatery. The docket's fish and fowl are all fresh and beautifully presented, but it's the crab cakes — more crab than cake — that really stand out. Paying for location is par for the course in New York routine; here, it’s well worth it.
Top Chef honcho Tom Colicchio’s New American restaurant dispatches dishes like pork chops with an apple–brussels sprout hash, and scallops topped with hen-of-the-woods mushrooms and kale-pear chutney. The ace seats are near the floor-to-ceiling windows, which provide expansive views of the East River. In warmer months, snag a spot on the patio for an even more impressive vista.
Before this three-tiered restaurant-bar opened in 2014, the pier had been closed to the public for 127 years. Every level of the expansive watering hole is decked out in nautical relics, including steamship engine parts, and anchored by a soaring clock tower. The main floor includes a belly-up bar slinging on-tap dark-and-stormys and Pimm's cups, a raw bar, and sprawling beer hall pouring old-world European suds and steaming clams. Upstairs, a second-floor dining room is split into four while the top tier, an event space reserved for community gatherings (think poetry readings and music performances), directly overlooks the harbor.
Have a seat on the deck overlooking Sheepshead Bay, and enjoy Clemente’s all-you-can-eat crab special. You may end up with more meat on you than in you, but the tasty critters—coated with Old Bay or steeped in garlic and butter—are more than worth the mess. (The bib-averse can opt for crab cakes, fried calamari, and other classic seafood dishes.) If you’re going for the record, plan to stay a while: a Marylander once downed more than 11 dozen crabs in a single afternoon.
Yes, it gets crowded. And yes, it gets crowded with annoyingly preppy UWSers. But the view, the terrace and the breeze make it hard to write off the Boat Basin. Summer in the city almost requires a visit or two to this social hub, and if you don’t mind waiting, you will be rewarded with a cynicism-busting sunset over the Hudson while you down burgers and beers with your best friends.
Upper West Side
This sprawling waterfront property along the Hudson River in Inwood encompasses a full restaurant, outdoor lounge, two bars and a sandy beachfront event space for live music and nightly summer beach parties. Sip island-inspired cocktails (passionfruit sangria, frozen daiquiris) on the patio, or grab a table inside for standard seafood plates (fried shellfish baskets, broiled and steamed Maine lobster) and New American dishes like beer-can roast chicken.
Sipping wine along the Hudson with the city at your back can't be the worst thing in the world, right? Enter City Vineyard, the elevated culinary outpost of City Winery within Hudson River Park at Pier 26. Boasting a glass-walled dining room, waterfront wine garden, and rooftop deck, there's a river view to admire from virtually any seat in the house.
If Pilot, the boat bar and restaurant docked off of Pier 6 in Brooklyn Bridge Park, looks faintly—or gobsmackingly—familiar, that’s because it’s a near carbon copy of owners Alex and Miles Pincus’s Manhattan boat bar, Grand Banks. The yellow-and-white-striped awnings, the high-top U-shaped counter and well-heeled crowd—dogs and babies included—all mirror the Tribeca schooner’s lovely scene. Cementing the charm are the historic touches: wooden plank floors, dangling ropes and brass-rimmed portholes that yield an old-world feel.
The grand tradition of floating boîtes (The Frying Pan, Grand Banks) carries on with this permanently docked 100-person barge, offering seating onboard and on land. Cocktails play on summery classics, including the Barg-elata (pilsner, lime, Chamoy hot sauce) and a Salty Spotted Chihuahua sloshed with tequila, lemonade and blueberries. Beyond booze, find straightforward fare like a sirloin burger on brioche, skirt-steak sandwiches with BBQ sauce, and salmon fillets in lemon-citrus glaze. But the barge is set to be more than just a scenic space for outdoor dining and drinking: The team is also offering maritime programs such as kayaking, sailing, stand-up paddleboarding, and community fishing.
You’ll get “zdravstvujte” before “hello” at this serene Russian waterfront spot, a ten-minute boardwalk stroll from bustling Coney Island. The casual, beach-friendly sibling to nearby Tatiana Restaurant slings Eastern European staples like cold green borscht and puffy pelmeni dumplings. Sporting ship wheels and novelty anchors, the eatery unsurprisingly cooks up plenty of seafood as well, such as whole pan-fried flounder, shrimp- and scallop-studded paella, and balsamic-glazed salmon.
Once summer hits its peak, Hudson-docked boat bars often drown in a bustling sea of bros and watery beer. But North River Lobster Company at Pier 81, a former Florida gambling ship rejiggered with New England charm, offers a calm alternative to those stormy waters with fast-casual cruises. Plus, the fully functioning ship actually sets sail on 30-minute jaunts that offer pandoramic views of Manhattan's West Side and the George Washington Bridge.
Boston has Cheers, Coney Island has Ruby’s. The raffish open-air dive has been a neighborhood treasure since the namesake Ruby Jacobs opened it in 1976, making it the oldest bar and grill on the boardwalk. When it’s not serving as headquarters for zany traditions like the Mermaid Parade, this seaside watering hole offers beachgoers a campy reprieve — complete with Harpo Marx figurines, framed photos of bikini babes, beer sloshed into plastic pint cups, and unabashedly greasy eats. Summer-job teens dispatch all things fried: crunchy, golden corn dogs; generously breaded jumbo shrimp, and waffle fries. Just wait 30 minutes before you take a dip in the Atlantic.
This “lightship” — a floating lighthouse once used by the Coast Guard — sank while docked in Maryland and spent three years underwater. Later salvaged, she is now a floating bar near Chelsea Piers that slings burgers and buckets of beer seasonally from May to October. Walk right on to the bi-level railroad barge from Pier 66 to order booze and nautical bites like fish and chips or lobster rolls, then kick back aboard the Frying Pan or its accompanying fire boat caboose, which are moored alongside.