So many boat moments. With my crew: Brett, Krista, Ted & Matt aboard Grand Banks
It’s easy to forget that Manhattan is an island surrounded by water and one of the country’s earliest port cities when you’re tucked inside a cozy West Village bar or caught in the bright lights of Times Square. It was Melville who wrote in the opening chapter of Moby Dick, â€śThere now is your insular city of the Manhattoes, belted round by wharves as Indian isles by coral reefsâ€”commerce surrounds it with her surf. Right and left, the streets take you waterward.â€ť
A vestige of these early seafaring days has rafted up to TriBeCaâ€™s Pier 25 on the Hudson River in the form of a historic 142â€™ schooner-turned-oyster bar. Named Grand BanksÂ for the shallow waters where the boat once fished for cod off the coast of Newfoundland, the vessel F/V Sherman Zwicker, built in 1942, was effectively salvaged from the scrapyard for this venture.
â€śSheâ€™d been for sale for seven or eight years,â€ť said Adrien Gallo, part-owner. â€śWe were gifted her by the [Grand Banks Schooner Museum Trust based in Boothbay Harbor, Maine] and we created the Maritime Foundation to preserve her.â€ť
Gallo, a New York City nightlife veteran whose previous ventures include Double Happiness and Happy Endings, along with professional sailors and brothers Alex and Miles Pincus (the duo behind the development firm Arts & Leisure), have created a unique venture combining the non-profit Maritime Foundation with the for-profit Grand Banks oyster bar aboard the same vessel.
Grand Banks aft deck
Shaded by a yellow and white-striped awning, shackles are tossed atop barrels, a brass mermaid sculpture leans against a mast and dock lines are coiled in ship shape on the wooden deck. Belowdecks, youâ€™re enveloped with the earthy scent that can only come from a wooden boat and a mini exhibition by New Draft Collective is on display covering the history of the Sherman Zwicker and the Atlantic Oceanâ€™s cod fishing industry. The heads (toilets) even keep with the maritime aesthetic, offering varnished wooden seats in a chevron pattern and toilet paper hanging from lines.
The well-edited menu by executive chef James Kim consists of sustainably sourced oysters, seafood small plates (like, fluke crudo with slab bacon, Asian pear, grapes and olive oil) and nautical-inspired riffs on classic cocktails that change daily (like, El Diablo made with tequila, ginger, lime, vermouth and club soda), along with wine and beer.
The waitstaff dons chic nautical striped t-shirts, each accessorized to showcase personal style (a vintage Yankees cap, an arm stacked with brightly beaded bangles, a nose ring) creating the feel of a motleyâ€”and very hipâ€”crew.
With a capacity of 145 people and a no reservation policy, New Yorkers have thronged the gangway ever since it swung on deck in early July, oftentimes waiting in line to snag a seat at the forward and aft bars or midships tables.
So what is it that keeps Manhattanites flocking to Grand Banks all summer?
â€śItâ€™s unique. Thereâ€™s nowhere else like it in the city,â€ť offers Gallo. He quickly amends his answer with the exception of the Frying Pan, a historic lightship-turned-bar-and-grill, which has long held court (albeit under the radar) further up the Hudson River at Pier 66 in Chelsea. â€śWeâ€™re different, though, because weâ€™re more intimate,â€ť he adds, noting the Frying Panâ€™s capacity of over 700 people.
The Frying Pan is another great spot for drinks on the water
This summer, the North River Lobster CompanyÂ has also made a splash at Pier 81 in Hellâ€™s Kitchen as a â€śfloating lobster shackâ€ť that actually leaves the dock for half hour sails at regularly scheduled intervals.
Perhaps itâ€™s the unflinching lure of the sea that Melville wrote of and a unique venue where â€ścrowds of water-gazers [are] posted like silent sentinels… mortal men fixed in ocean reveries.â€ť
Or perhaps, in the case of Grand Banks, itâ€™s a beautifully restored wooden boat offering sweeping views of Lower Manhattan, the Statue of Liberty and sunsets over the Hudson River and Jersey City. Combine that with a dozen fresh oysters and a seasonal cocktail, and youâ€™ve got a winning formula.
As most ships do (and seasonal bars, for that matter), Grand Banks will be sailing on after October 31 when its permit is up. According to Gallo, it may very well raft up to a slip near you in Miami or the Keys during the winter season. â€śThatâ€™s still all in the works,â€ť he said. Until then, you can step aboard in Manhattan from noon to 11 p.m. on weekends and 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. on weekdays.
Other Novel Ways to Enjoy New York on the Water
Paddleboarders on the Hudson at sunset
Sail On- For a bastion of New Yorkâ€™s maritime history, visit the South Street Seaport MuseumÂ where you can set sail on the historic tall ship Pioneer built in 1885. Likewise, the Schooner AdirondackÂ departs Chelsea Piers for regularly scheduled sails and dinner cruises.
Kayak & SUP- While there was a time in not so distant memory when New Yorkers wouldnâ€™t dream of risking submersion in the Hudson River, kayaking and standup paddleboarding has grown in popularity. Try Manhattan Kayak CompanyÂ in Hellâ€™s Kitchen or New York Kayak CompanyÂ in SoHo.
Surfâ€™s Up- Urban surfers flock to the Rockaways in Queens (about an hourâ€™s journey on the A train from Manhattan) where many hip spots have cropped up, including Rockaway Beach Surf Club. Here, you can store your board after a morning session, grab a bite to eat (anything from Carolina pulled pork sandwiches to a vegan lobster roll) and stay for live music or a movie screening late into the evening.
Hotels with Great Outdoor Space
The Standard High Line
The Standard High Line â€“ From the ground level Biergarten and Standard Grill to the rooftop Top of the Standard and Le Bain, The Standard High Line straddles its namesake elevated urban park offering outdoor spaces with views of the city as far as the eye can seeâ€”as well as plenty of trendy dining and nightlife experiences. Rooms from $620.
Hotel Hugo â€“ The newly opened Hotel Hugo, on the western edge of SoHo, boasts a glass-enclosed (and open air) rooftop bar overlooking the Hudson River, as well as Italian restaurant Il Principe with sidewalk cafĂ© seating. The dĂ©cor is maritime-inspired with a modern twist. Rooms from $425.
The Viceroy â€“ The Viceroy on 57th St. offers prime views of Central Park from its rooftop perch, fittingly dubbed The Roof with a bustling after work scene and South Beach-priced cocktails. At ground level, Kingside restaurant offers New American fare under the tutelage of chef Marc Murphy. Rooms from $418.
A version of this story was originally published on Miami.com