New York City isn’t all concrete and skyscrapers. When the weather warms up, I love to get a group of friends together and head to the city’s West Side Highway, where the waterfront along the Hudson River provides the perfect setting for dining al fresco. In fact, I’ve spent many summer weekends scouting the bars along the river in search of the perfect combination of great views, seasonal food, thin crowds and cold drinks.
Here are six bars that have become my favorite spots to spend a sunny day with friends:
Old Bay Fries and Sangria
On the first warm day of the year, my fellow New Yorkers pile onto The Frying Pan, a giant barge-turned-bar offering buckets of beer and sunset views — and we don’t stop filling up its tables till practically Halloween. Although icy Coronitas are a popular drink, I like the white wine sangria with mangoes and peaches. It’s cool, refreshing and just sweet enough. Don’t forget to order a side of French fries topped with Old Bay seasoning, a simple flavor switch that makes the snack taste like summer.
Oysters and Rosé
At Grand Banks you can savor the quintessential summery combination: oysters and rosé. Board the Sherman Zwicker, a docked historic wooden schooner that’s now home to an oyster bar, and try to grab a seat at the bow. I like to sample whatever freshly shucked East Coast oysters the bar has on hand, but you’ll also find crab cakes, lobster and sage-and-seaweed-seasoned French fries on the menu. If you feel a little wobbly after just one drink, it’s most likely not your tolerance — the boat can get pretty rocky on windy days.
Live Music and Wine
City Vineyard, the waterfront offshoot of City Winery, is a live music venue in nearby SoHo. This smaller spot opened at the end of last summer with a roof deck, stellar views across the Hudson and a regular lineup of live music. I love trying the vinos on tap — all of them except the regular guest rotation are made in the New York City winery. For an ultra-local blend, try the chardonnay made with grapes from New York State.
Try to time your visit so you can catch a live music performance on the rooftop while you’re there!
Lobster Rolls and Cocktails
You have two choices at North River Lobster Company: Grab a quick drink at the dockside bar before heading farther uptown, or purchase a $10 sailing pass for a ride on its boat. Every two hours, the river cruiser takes off for an out-and-back trip north on the Hudson. If you can grab a spot on the boat’s two outside decks, the venture makes for a great tour of the city.
Want to keep your land legs? The dockside bar serves beer, wine and nautically themed cocktails like Batten Down the Hatches (spiced rum, coconut rum, dark rum, orange juice and pineapple juice). Either way, make sure to order a lobster roll — the hearty New Yorker version is served with a mustard aioli that gives the sandwich more kick than the typical New England style.
There’s no daily limit to how many trips you can take on the North River Lobster boat. If you have time, wait to order your food and drinks until the boat docks; there’s usually a lull in the line, and you’ll have the entire next outing to chow down.
Burgers and Craft Brews
Newcomer The Ellington in the Park is nestled in Riverside Park, all the way up north on 105th Street. That off-the-path location means it rarely gets as mobbed as, say, The Frying Pan. But you’ll still score wide-open views of the Hudson — which is key during sunset.
My favorite way to refuel here: the Park burger, a Cajun spice–dusted beef burger topped with portobello mushrooms, peppers, goat cheese, bacon and chipotle aioli. When I’m feeling silly enough, I’ll head down to the sand pit, where there’s a sand volleyball court, a few picnic tables and a full set of gymnastic rings. I’ve been known to try the rings, but they’re deceptively difficult, and I almost always fall off!
Beers and Ice Cream Sandwiches
Last but not least, Pier i Cafe is an underrated bar and grill that’s one of my personal favorites — thanks in part to an expansive patio that offers nearly every diner a view of the Hudson. Rotating craft beers are available by the pint or the pitcher, and homemade ice cream sandwiches from Melt Bakery will satisfy your sweet tooth. I’m a sucker for a classic chocolate chip cookie and vanilla pairing, but the red velvet is a solid option, too. If you need a pick-me-up, you can also grab a latte or an espresso to go from the cafe’s full coffee bar.
Remember to put safety first! Drink responsibly, and if you are unfamiliar with an area, pay attention to your surroundings.
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