One of our favorite things to do in the summer in NYC is to take advantage of the city’s stellar outdoor dining options, including waterfront restaurants. NYC is jam-packed with dinner cruises, boat bars and beach eats favorites. For all of your seaside dining needs, check out these top-notch waterfront restaurants in NYC.
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Best waterfront restaurants in NYC
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.
Top Chef honcho Tom Colicchio has partnered with Sisha Ortuzar (Gramercy Tavern) to open this New American restaurant. Bryant Hunt is in the kitchen, dispatching 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 views of the East River (in warmer months, the patio also offers an impressive vista).
FiDi-focused restaurant mogul Peter Poulakakos has launched a whopping 10 projects south of Chambers Street (Dead Rabbit, Pier A Harbor House), but this industrial-styled French-food complex is his largest undertaking yet. The 30,000-square-foot market is divided into a bakery-café, meat and cheese stalls, an open-air grocery shop and the sit-down brasserie, Beaubourg. “This is not a food court, it’s a cultural experience,” says Poulakakos. “In each pocket there are different influences—from Tunisia, Vietnam, even New Orleans.”
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.
By the peak of summer even New York’s most venerable boat bars have become flooded with frat-tastic curios, all watered-down brews and Lonely Island references. A more refined anchor dropped in the Hudson, offering grown-up alternatives to that bustling sea of bros: Grand Banks, the historic schooner turned oyster bar captained by Mark Firth (Marlow & Sons). Bid farewell to plastic chairs and “I’m on a boat!” sing-alongs—it’s only smooth sailing from here.
The setting for this bar from Peter Poulakakos, with partners Danny McDonald and Michael Jewell, is a pier that's been closed to the public for 127 years, a retrofittedre-creation of the Gilded Age divided into three levels and anchored by a soaring clock tower. Decked out in nautical relics like pipes from steamship engine rooms, the first floor includes a belly-up bar slinging on-tap dark-and-stormys and Pimm's cups, a raw bar shucking oysters and steaming clams, and an expansive beer hall pouring old-world European suds. Upstairs, the second-floor dining room is split into four, named for a maritime police boat, a firefighter patrol boat, the nearby Lady Liberty and W.R. Grace, the mayor who signed off on the pier. The top tier, an event space reserved for community gatherings (think poetry readings and music performances), overlooks the harbor.
This waterfront property encompasses a full restaurant, an outdoor lounge, two bars and a pavilion. Sip a gin and tonic in the waterside lounge, or grab a table indoors for a full meal. The kitchen turns out smart seafood plates (lobster flatbread, chimichurri salmon) and New American dishes like chicken and waffles and a yuca Benedict at brunch.
Have a seat on the deck overlooking Sheepshead Bay, and enjoy Clemente’s $30 all-you-can-eat blue-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 worth the mess. (The bibphobic can opt for crab chowder, fried calamari and other seafood dishes.) If you’re going for the record, plan to stay a while; a Marylander once downed more than 11 dozen crabs in an afternoon.
Boston has Cheers; Coney Island has Ruby’s. This raffish open-air dive has been a neighborhood treasure since the late Ruby Jacobs opened it in 1976 (Jacobs’s daughters Cindy and Melody took over in 2000), making it the oldest bar and grill on the boardwalk. When it’s not serving as headquarters for zany traditions like the Mermaid Parade and the Polar Bear Club, the seaside watering hole offers beachgoers a campy reprieve, with Harpo Marx figurines, pictures of bikini babes, plastic cups of beer, a Sinatra-heavy jukebox 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.
Get a fresh perspective on your own city. The lakeside setting is serene enough to offset the somewhat stiff service and hefty prices. The Boathouse salad is a gorgeous sculpture of tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, olives and large, rectangular chunks of feta cheese. Crab cakes, more crab than cake, are worth every penny. Fish and fowl are fresh and beautifully presented, if a bit bland. Paying for location is par for the course in New York routine; here, it’s well worth it.
Looking for a higher view of the city?
La Avenida's charming East Harlem neighborhood is precisely the area where you might expect to find great cuisines unhindered by the hustle and bustle of lower Manhattan. Once inside, every employee from the bartender to the waiter in the back will politely drop what they’re doing and salute you in a way that makes you feel like you’re being welcomed into a friend’s home. Once you’re seated, you’ll find that this warm reception is an example of the restaurant's excellent customer service and not a false attempt at inclusiveness. The menu of traditional Latin American favorites dovetails nicely with the restaurant's homey, neighborhood feel. If you’re looking for authentic ceviche de camaron ($14), then you must try La Avenida's. Shrimp are combined with grilled pineapple, avocado, corn, red onion, cucumber, huitlacoche and poblano and chiltepin peppers, then served in a margarita glass. Though the ceviche has a strong seafood flavor, it's not overpowering. The pollo al horno ($15) is another standout. Warm and succulent, the oven-roasted chicken breast mingles beautifully with silky mashed potatoes. If you’re not impressed yet, you must finish your meal with the citrus flan ($9.) This pan-traditional Latin American desert or postre has the flavor and texture of typical flan, but with an unexpected kick of citrus fruit that leaves you craving more. You can round out the meal with an affordable glass of red Malbec ($9), a spicy michelada ($7) or one of the restaurant's many
Venue says: “HAPPY HOUR ALL DAY, Sunday & Monday! HAPPY HOUR Tuesday - Saturday 4 - 7 pm. We are FINALLY Open for BRUNCH Saturday & Sunday 11 am--4 pm!!!”