The Frying Pan has a few things going for it. It’s on the Hudson River, and the entirely-outdoor space has nice views and a lot of seating. It’s also, technically, on a boat. But hanging out here feels less like sipping Champagne on a yacht with Rihanna, and more like going to a frat party on a decommissioned tugboat. You can count on long lines whenever the weather is halfway decent, and once on-board, having to wait too long to get a plastic cup of beer.
Fortunately, there are lots of other NYC places that feel like a summer party, where you can day drink with both friends and strangers who, like you, will try to power through the urge to take a nap in a few hours. Next time you’re thinking about waiting in line for an hour on the Hudson River running path to get into The Frying Pan, check out any of these 14 bars instead.
the Outdoor spots
Grand Banks is the most obvious alternative to The Frying Pan. It’s a popular boat bar, and because it’s docked pretty close to The Frying Pan on the Hudson, the views of the river and New Jersey are similar. But while The Frying Pan is a place to drink light beers on what looks like the deck of a cargo ship, Grand Banks is a very attractive sailboat where you can drink negronis and eat platters of oysters.
Sunday at The Frying Pan feels kind of like wedding brunch at the hotel the day after the reception. The space is about half as full as it was last night, people are hoping that there’s science behind the concept of hair of the dog, and there’s a vague scent of regret in the air. For something much more upbeat, head to Mister Sunday at Nowadays in Ridgewood. The daytime dance party that happens in the massive outdoor space here every Sunday is a great way to make the most of your weekend (even if it means you won’t make much of your Monday morning).
If you really only go to The Frying Pan because it’s an opportunity to drink on a boat, then you should know about The Honorable William Wall. In order to get to this floating bar docked near Ellis Island, you’ll need to take two other boats first. But hey, you like boats. Once you’re here, you can drink on the deck while getting some sun, or at an indoor table on the level below. This place has a BYO food policy, so make sure to bring some caviar or fried chicken or whatever seems like boat food to you.
When you were an intern in Midtown, you and the rest of your training program would go to The Frying Pan to talk sh*t about your bosses. Now you work in Midtown, and you want an outdoor after-work spot to go with colleagues where you can do the exact same thing. Head to The Polynesian, a big indoor/outdoor tiki bar on top of the Pod Hotel near Times Square. It’s from the people behind Carbone and The Grill, and it’s a great spot to drink a flaming cocktail with rum and absinthe outside on a wraparound terrace.
The closest body of water to Habana Outpost is probably a baby pool in front of some brownstone near the Barclays Center, but this Cuban spot in Fort Greene still feels like a beach party. Order some frozen margaritas or piña coladas at the counter inside, and then find some seats on the big outdoor patio. This is also a good spot to bring kids, dogs, or both.
This is basically the Brooklyn version of The Frying Pan: a big, floating bar docked in the East River with great views of Manhattan. It’s also always packed, but since it’s in Greenpoint rather than walking distance from Meatpacking, it’s a bit more low-key. And if you’re able to get here on a weeknight, you can basically pretend the boat is yours.
It’s great to be on the water in the summer. It puts everyone in a better mood, and removes all traces of hot trash smell from the air. Go to Island Oyster, and you’ll get an extra dose of that fresh air on the ferry to Governor’s Island. Because it takes a bit more work to get to, this usually isn’t as much of a zoo as most places on the water in Manhattan. You might still have to wait a little for a table, but you’ll be rewarded with a lobster roll, oysters, and an amazing view of downtown.
You could go to The Frying Pan with a bunch of friends, but while half of you take 30 minutes to get another round of drinks, the other half will have nothing to do but tell eight different groups of people that you are indeed using all of your chairs. At Greenwood Park, a massive outdoor bar in South Slope, you won’t have any trouble ordering another frozen cocktail or pitcher of one of the 20 rotating beers on tap. There’s also some very good bar food and full-size bocce courts.
If you want to go someplace that feels a lot more upscale than The Frying Pan, but is still a crowded outdoor bar full of people who will probably end the night at Pianos or Flower Shop, check out Mr Purple. It definitely has an LES party scene, but it’s also on the roof of a nice hotel, so you can drink a cold brew martini on a couch on the terrace, or jump into the pool if you need to cool off.
Instead of paying $37 for a bucket of Sol at The Frying Pan, drink some really good, unusual beers in the big backyard at DBA in the East Village. Not only does it have one of the best outdoor spaces in the neighborhood, but it’s also dog-friendly.
Union Pool is kind of like The Frying Pan in that it’s a day-drinking spot full of people who probably haven’t had their 10-year high school reunions yet. But this Williamsburg bar has three different indoor spaces as well as a huge outdoor courtyard, so it doesn’t feel too crowded - plus, the drinks are cheaper (especially during Happy Hour, which goes until 9pm during the week), and they serve some good tacos until 3:30am every day.
You want a fun outdoor bar with enough space for a big group, but you don’t want the less-punctual members of the group to have to stand in line for 90 minutes while the rest of you are already inside. Make a reservation (they’re required) at Rooftop Reds, a rooftop bar in the Brooklyn Navy Yard with its own wines, hammocks overlooking Manhattan, games like cornhole, and a BYO food policy.