Whether it reminds you of childhood trips to the beach, or you just need a break from the ripped trash bags and unventilated subway stations, hanging out by the water is a summer standby. New York City may not have pristine beaches or people carrying surfboards on bikes, but we do have an ocean that’s perfectly nice and a couple of rivers that are, well, rivers. And we also have a lot of good bars and restaurants very close to those bodies of water where you can get drinks, food, and a temporary break from summer in the city without actually leaving it. Here are 24 of our favorites.
The outdoor spots
Unless we start seeing residual checks for that time we walked through a set of Brooklyn 99, we’re unlikely to buy a sailboat anytime soon. But at least we can get a sense of what maritime life would be like at Grand Banks. This upscale boat bar has tables along the railings as well as circular bars around each of the two masts, and while it never moves from Pier 25 in Tribeca, you won’t mind because the views of FiDi and the Statue of Liberty are great. It gets really packed on weekends, so get here early if you don’t want to have your rosé and oysters standing up.
While our knowledge of boat models is pretty much limited to the ones in the board game Battleship, we think Pilot looks a lot like Grand Banks. Regardless, these two attractive floating bars definitely have some things in common. They’re run by the same people, they have the same yellow and white striped awnings, and they’re both consistently packed with people wearing boat shoes and drinking Aperol spritzes. The only real difference is that Pilot is docked in Brooklyn Heights at Pier 6 in Brooklyn Bridge Park.
The large stretch of Long Island City that sits on the East River is mostly made up of public parks, so you’re going to have to fill up a Nalgene with pinot grigio if you’re looking to drink there. Unless you go to Anable Basin, an entirely outdoor bar behind some warehouses at the end of 44th. Its hard-to-find location and the excessive amount of picnic tables make it feel less crowded than other spots with similarly impressive views. So keep it in mind when you’re with a big group.
Look out at the water from Brooklyn Crab, and you’ll see giant container ships sitting on water you probably wouldn’t swim in for anything less than a bottle of very nice Scotch (or three bottles of Canadian Club). Even still, this Red Hook spot definitely feels summery. The crab traps and fake sharks hanging from the ceilings will take your mind off the fact that you’re next to warehouse parking lots. After finishing off some crab legs and popcorn shrimp, take off your bib and play cornhole or mini-golf in the backyard.
If you look just behind Tacocina - an outdoor Mexican spot in Williamsburg’s Domino Park - you’ll see an abandoned factory that’s reminiscent of an over-the-top set for a horror movie next to a new apartment complex that looks ready to transform into a robot and fight evil. So just look the other way instead, and you’ll have great views of the river, Williamsburg Bridge, and Manhattan. Drink a margarita or paloma at a picnic table a few feet from the water, and if you want some food, there are tacos, chips and guacamole, and elote.
The city has a lot of spots to drink by the water and even more places to drink good wine, but if you want to do them both at the same time, you should go to City Vineyard. They serve good, affordable house wines (made nearby at City Winery) on tap, and the roofdeck next to the Hudson River in Tribeca has lots of tables, bar seats, and couches overlooking the water and FiDi. It’s an ideal spot for day drinking with a group, and even though the views are some of the best in Manhattan, the huge space makes it so you rarely have to wait for a table.
After the fourth time a tourist asks you to take a picture of them in Dumbo, you may be in need of somewhere a bit more low-key. Take a five-minute Uber or walk south along the water in Brooklyn Bridge Park, and you’ll land at Fornino. In addition to some good Neapolitan-style pizzas and a full bar, this spot at Pier 6 in Brooklyn Heights has a big roof overlooking lower Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty, with far fewer cameras and I Love New York t-shirts than you’ll find in Dumbo.
The Honorable William Wall certainly isn’t the only place in New York to drink on a docked boat, but it is the only spot that’s not docked to land. This floating houseboat is anchored off Ellis Island, and you need to take two other boats (and pay $20) in order to get there. But you can make up for having to pay that $20 by taking advantage of the BYO food policy. Sit on the top deck, eat some shrimp cocktail, sushi, or whatever makes you feel esteemed, and spend an afternoon closer to the Statue of Liberty than you’ve been since your sixth-grade field trip.
Unless you have a kayak or a thick wetsuit, you’ll also need to take a boat in order to get to Island Oyster. This entirely outdoor spot on Governor’s Island is massive, with about as much standing room as Terminal 5, as well as lots of tables and a couple of different bars. Whether you’re eating oysters and bar food at a table, drinking wine on a bench or lounge chair, or playing ping pong or cornhole against some strangers, you’ll be a few feet from the water, with fantastic views of FiDi.
The original PJ Clarke’s has been serving great burgers in Midtown East since 1884, but the only views you’ll get at that location are of a T-Mobile store and people carrying briefcases like footballs as they run to catch a train out of Grand Central. If you want the same burgers (we like the smoked bacon one best) and red-checkered tablecloths, but overlooking a yacht harbor on the Hudson, head to the one in Battery Park City.
Unless you sneak into some hedge fund manager’s yacht party, North River Lobster Co may be your best bet for drinking cocktails and eating lobster while sailing around the city. This boat takes off from Pier 81 around 42nd Street on the Hudson every 90 minutes until 11pm, and has three floors of bars and seating where you can hang out as long as you’d like (after you pay $10 to get on board).
Watermark is a big space at the end of Pier 15 near the South Street Seaport, and both the horseshoe bar inside and tables outside have great views overlooking the East River. When you realize you’ve commented on how impressive the Brooklyn Bridge is four times and you start to feel like a tourist, you can do some people-watching of actual tourists, who constantly stream by on their way to sightseeing cruises that dock next to the bar. Come during Happy Hour (4-6pm on weekdays), or whenever you want to have some wine and oysters.
Pretty much anywhere you go in Coney Island is going to be close to the water. You could even eat hot dogs or funnel cakes in the water if you wanted to. But that sounds gross, so go to Place To Beach instead. This spot right on the boardwalk has a full-service back patio with an expanded menu of bar food that came out of the sea, like fried calamari and fish and chips. They also have Happy Hour during the week, nightly drink and food specials, and DJs or live music on the weekends.
Cecconi’s has a few different giant rooms filled with velvet mini-sofas and chandeliers, and it generally feels like a club-restaurant you’d find in South Beach. You don’t need to go out of your way to seek out this expensive American-Italian food, but the awning-covered patio out front right on the Dumbo waterfront is a great spot to drink a spritz or any of their six types of negronis.
While Cecconi’s feels like it fell off a truck headed for Meatpacking, Celestine seems like it was bound for Greenpoint or Park Slope. This Mediterranean spot in Dumbo has logs for the wood-fired oven stacked in the middle of the dining room, casual servers who walk you through small-production wines from Croatia or the Canary Islands, and a menu where all the dishes are under $20. But it’s on the water, and the views from the dining room and the outdoor patio are phenomenal.
After reading four pages of a James Patterson book and realizing that the beach isn’t actually a comfortable place to nap, head over to Rippers. This counter-service spot in Rockaway Beach has picnic tables right on the boardwalk, where you can have burgers and beers every day until 8pm.
A little further down the boardwalk from Rippers is Caracas Arepa Bar, which serves the same excellent arepas as they do at their East Village and Williamsburg locations. Get a couple of those, as well as sangria or beers, and hang out at a picnic table. If it’s a summer Friday, Saturday, or Sunday, you might luck out with some live music.
The FiDi skyline is great to look at from a distance, but the tall buildings, masses of people, and the feeling that everyone there would rather be on vacation makes actually walking around there pretty awful. Fortunately, you can just walk a couple blocks south to Pier A Harbor House, a huge indoor-outdoor spot with a ton of picnic tables where you can get some good bar food and $6 beers right on the Hudson.
The Boat Basin is the most well-known spot uptown to drink on the water, but at times, it starts to feel like there must be a shuttle bringing people there from the college bars on Amsterdam Ave. If you don’t want to be around an inordinate amount of guys in polos drinking frozen margaritas out of the pitcher, head 10 blocks south to Pier I Cafe. Also, it opens at 8am every morning in case you want to start the day with coffee and a snack on the river.
Williamsburg and Greenpoint have plenty of bars, but very few are on the water. Brooklyn Barge is an exception, which is part of the reason this seasonal Greenpoint spot tends to be very packed most weekends during the summer. Some other reasons are the excellent views of Manhattan, affordable drinks and bar food, and dog-friendly policy.
You may know Industry Kitchen as the place with a $2000 pizza on the menu, but unless you desperately want to eat golden leaves, you should know this spot for its outdoor seating situation. It’s on the East River near the South Street Seaport, and has a lot of tables next to the running path with great views of the river and Brooklyn. If you do want some food, the thin-crust pizzas are actually pretty good, like the $16 margherita pie that’s more than enough for one person.
Unless you’re a security guard at the UN, you probably don’t spend much time on the East River between the East Village and Upper East Side. So you might not know about Riverpark, an upscale new American spot next to Bellevue Hospital at the east end of Kips Bay. It’s a good after-work Happy Hour option, when you can share buckets of beer outside in the connected beer garden, or take advantage of Happy Hour at the bar, which has the same views of Brooklyn and Queens thanks to floor-to-ceiling windows.
If you’ve been on the Hudson River running path by Battery Park, you may have noticed people drinking wine on couches or hanging out at tables behind rows of bushes. This isn’t a commune, it’s Merchants River House. You can go here for a full meal, but we like it best for drinks during Happy Hour (4-7pm on weekdays) on the first-come couches on the terrace.