Some of New York City's best outdoor bars and restaurants are located right on the harbor. NYC is a collection of islands, with the exception of the Bronx, which is attached to the mainland United States—and even that borough features 75 miles of shoreline. Summer is an ideal time to enjoy sunset views and the breeze off the water. Here are a few of our favorite spots around the five boroughs where you can eat and drink while catching a nautical vibe.
Boat Basin Cafe
West 79th Street (at Riverside Drive), 212-496-5542, Upper West Side
This casual café provides views of the verdant New Jersey Palisades across the Hudson River. It's a lively place with a boisterous crowd—a mix of youngish groups and neighborhood types toting kids or dogs—that shows up to enjoy simple grill fare in an outdoor setting.
200 Vesey St., 212-417-7000, Battery Park
Brookfield Place's collection of fast-casual joints, called Hudson Eats, resembles a very upscale mall food court. Venues include delicious, wallet-friendly places like Black Seed Bagels, Little Muenster, Dig Inn, Umami Burger and Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar—get your food from the counter of your choice and then aim for one of the window seats (or head down to the ground-level piazza) for a sweeping view of New York Harbor. Le District, the French answer to Eataly, is one level below the food court; its centerpiece restaurant, Beaubourg, features outdoor terraces (opening soon) that look out to the Hudson. Also in the complex is publike P.J. Clarke's on the Hudson, which has outdoor seating on the waterside plaza.
Pier 66 (West 26th Street and Twelfth Avenue), 212-989-6363, Chelsea
Looking for a novel place to hold happy hour or a summer Saturday hangout with a big group? Head for the Hudson River, where this reconstructed ship—it was built in 1929, sank to the bottom of the Chesapeake Bay in 1985 and eventually rescued and brought to NYC in 1989—is moored. The actual restaurant is called Pier 66 Maritime Bar & Grill, which serves full meals, including fresh seafood, in addition to buckets of beer; the accessible-to-the-public Frying Pan is parked alongside. Just be prepared to wait in line to enter if you visit on a weekend.
1 Carder Rd., 212-896-4600, Governors Island
This clubby waterfront space on Governors Island, a short ferry ride from either the Battery Maritime Building or Brooklyn Bridge Park's Pier 6, features a man-made beach and an outdoor beer garden with views of Manhattan. This year, the venue will host electronic music shows during the Open Air NY concert series.
Pier 25 (Hudson River Park and North Moore Street), 212-960-3390, Tribeca
This upscale oyster bar and restaurant serves fried squash blossoms and sea bream crudo to a trendy crowd on a 1942 fishing boat, the Sherman Zwicker. Some of the cocktails, like the Yacht Club (tequila, lime, Peychaud's Bitters), fittingly boast nautical themes.
348 Dyckman St., 212-567-6300, Washington Heights
This restaurant, bar and lounge is situated on Dyckman Marina, where wealthy New Yorkers used to keep their yachts; a boat ramp to moor your vessel, should you have one, is still available. But that's not necessary to enjoy the high life: just come sip sangria and slurp freshly shucked oysters in one of the sections of the 75,000-square-foot waterfront space—perhaps at the “The Beach,” a sandy outdoor area with its own bar and a soundtrack provided by live DJs.
North River Lobster Company
Pier 81 (West 41 Street at Twelfth Avenue), 212-630-8831
The North River Lobster Company spends part of its time floating at the pier and the rest setting sail on free, 45-minute voyages along the Hudson River. Those on one of its three outdoor decks get stellar views of the Manhattan skyline to go with lobster rolls, fish tacos, crab claws and mason-jar cocktails. The meals are counter-service only, so it's a casual experience.
Pier A Harbor House
22 Battery Pl., 212-785-0153, Battery Park
Housed in a majestic 19th-century building in Battery Park, Pier A is a multilevel, nautical-themed bar and restaurant with spectacular views of the harbor and the Statue of Liberty. The Long Hall, on the first floor, contains an oyster bar and has popular happy hour specials. The second level is for fine dining, and the third is for events.
Pier I Cafe
70th Street at the Hudson River, 212-362-4450, Upper West Side
This spot keeps it simple, with two grills and few dozen tables shaded under umbrellas in a large courtyard. Open from 7:30am until 11pm or midnight (depending on the day), it's a prime place to enjoy your morning coffee, evening sangria and summertime lobster roll with a view of the Hudson.
Brooklyn Bridge Garden Bar
12 Furman St., no phone, DUMBO
This outdoor café-bar, set in Pier 1 in Brooklyn Bridge Park, features abundant foliage, colorful seating and string lighting—along with, of course, views of Lower Manhattan, the Brooklyn Bridge and the East River.
2902 Emmons Ave., 718-332-8494, Sheepshead Bay
This elegant but unpretentious Italian restaurant is one great reason to visit Sheepshead Bay—a lovely residential neighborhood that may not be your first thought when it comes time for a night out. While dining on wood-fired pizzas, fresh seafood and bruschetta, you can soak in the views of the bay—often loaded with docked boats and wading swans—through the restaurant's massive glass windows.
The River Cafe
1 Water St., 718-522-5200, DUMBO
For nearly 40 years, this upscale DUMBO staple has served New American food like wagyu steak tartare and mushroom Wellington. The romantic atmosphere and location right under the Brooklyn Bridge close the deal. Just know that if you're visiting for dinner (after 5pm), the dress code requires jackets for men.
The Water Table
10 India St., 917-499-5727, Greenpoint
On Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, this casual dinner cruise offers the opportunity to eat three-course New England–style dinners and drink fancy cocktails on board a restored 1944 US Navy boat; Sunday supper sails are shorter and include two courses. The ship departs from the India Street Pier in Greenpoint and cruises down the East River out to the Statue of Liberty and back.
Anable Basin Sailing Bar & Grill
4-40 44th Dr., 646-207-1333, Long Island City
If you're not in the mood for anything chichi, try this mellow eatery—hidden at the terminus of a dead-end street along the East River (with the Manhattan views that have helped make Long Island City an “it” neighborhood). It serves a simple menu of hamburgers, hot dogs and a couple of international specialties (like pikanya, a cut of beef popular in Brazil). Beer, wine and cocktails are available.
Bungalow Bar & Restaurant
377 Beach 92nd St., 718-945-2100, Rockaway Beach
This funky waterfront restaurant sits at the base of the Cross Bay Bridge, which connects Broad Channel and the Rockaways. Sit on the outdoor patio facing Jamaica Bay and listen to live music while enjoying seafood and guilty pleasures like mac-and-cheese balls and “loaded” french fries (read: gravy, bacon and cheese). The seasonal venue's event calendar includes a country night, a Hawaiian luau and a “Drinking Around the World” party.
1115 Richmond Terrace, 718-273-7777, Randall Manor
Watch the tugboats go by on the Upper Bay as you sit outside under the picturesque pergola at this Randall Manor restaurant. Dishes include Mediterranean-Asian fusion fare like wasabi scallops and goat cheese wontons with Thai chili sauce. There's a full bar—heavy on margaritas, mojitos and affordable wines—and Sundays bring a three-course clam bake.
154 Mansion Ave., 718-967-3077, Great Kills
This seafood restaurant, which opened back in 1980, overlooks Great Kills Harbor on the southeastern side of the island. The modern, nautically themed space serves seafood specialties like lobster sliders, pan-roasted bronzini and clams and oysters on the half shell in its glass-enclosed dining room. There is also an outdoor deck with a tiki bar that booms with partyers in the warmer months.
Johnny’s Reef Restaurant
2 City Island Ave., 718-885-2086, City Island
The Bronx's City Island is a New York City neighborhood that feels more like a New England fishing village than an urban enclave. This super-casual joint, which specializes in deep-fried seafood and his been around since 1950, fits right in. Grab a plate of the inexpensive grub and a cold beer, head to the picnic-table seating that faces the Long Island Sound and let the caws of the seagulls be your soundtrack.