The Boat Power RankingsNew York City’s finest nautical vessels where you can eat and drink, ranked from best to least-worst.
There’s nothing quite like a boat. Except for an airplane, which is like a boat for the sky. Also, cars. Cars are similar to boats. But you can’t put a car in the Hudson River, then sit on top of it and drink a bottle of wine. That’s why we put together this Boat Power Ranking, a list of the boats in NYC that are open to the public, ranked according to how much we enjoy being on them. Most are open seasonally, some are permanently docked, others provide close-up views of the Statue of Liberty, and a few are like odd, floating mixers for the seafaring folks of Midtown.
photo credit: The Baylander
A former navy vessel docked at the West Harlem Piers near 125th Street, The Baylander is a supremely pleasant place to catch a breeze and drink a margarita. Even on weekends it doesn’t seem to get too busy, and there’s plenty of room for big groups across the multiple decks. Also, the view isn’t bad. You can see New Jersey and the George Washington Bridge, and if you look toward land, you can take in a few billboards for places like Columbia Medical School and Manhattan Mini Storage. Have a summer birthday here, and eat a burger.
Pilot is a 140-foot sailboat docked off Pier 6 in Brooklyn Bridge Park. In a disappointing turn of events, the boat doesn’t actually sail anywhere, but it’s still a nice spot to hang out and observe a sunset. The menu is seafood-centric in a New England sort of way, and the entrees are both decent and pricey (mostly in the $30 range)—but no one ever said you had to eat a full dinner here. Get some oysters and fries while you sit on the deck of the ship and look at the East River and lower Manhattan.
photo credit: Noah Devereaux
The Honorable William Wall is a houseboat anchored off Ellis Island, and we’re positive you’ve never heard of it. In order to get here, you have to buy a $20 ticket and take two boats. That might sound annoying, and that’s because it is. But the trip only takes about 30 minutes, and, once you arrive, you can enjoy what feels like your own private, floating clubhouse. There’s an outdoor deck with tables, astroturf, and a little bar, and you can also hang out in a nice little indoor area that feels like the lobby of a Holiday Inn circa 1992. Most importantly, this place is BYO food. Bring a few pizzas or a full charcuterie board.
photo credit: Emily Schindler
Parked at Pier 25 in Tribeca, Grand Banks is a perfectly nice place. It’s actually pretty much identical to Pilot, although it’s slightly more annoying, because it’s harder to get a table here. You won’t have to stalk the reservations page a month in advance or anything, but if it’s a warm Friday night and you realize that you want to be eating shellfish on a boat, you might as well just build your own vessel out of plywood. So plan ahead, and bring a few tourist friends. They’ll love Grand Banks. The menu is identical to the one at Pilot, with items like burrata, trout, and a lobster roll.
photo credit: Noah Devereaux
The Staten Island Ferry is free, and you can bring alcoholic beverages on board. Also, it provides a great view of the Statue of Liberty, and the upper deck is a very nice place to hang out when the temperature is above 60 degrees. Is it a good place for a party? No. It’s a ferry. But it could work for a creative date night. As an added bonus, this boat helps thousands of people get to and from Staten Island.
The Frying Pan used to be the worst. This barge docked off Pier 25 was always packed with intoxicated people who couldn’t get into Le Bain, and it felt like a frat party thrown by whichever frat owned the most cargo shorts. But something changed. It’s not as hectic anymore, which means it’s a solid option for an outdoor drink with a group. Sure, they were playing Imagine Dragons the last time we stopped by, but maybe you love that band. Who knows. Get some friends together on the next sunny afternoon and take advantage of the massive outdoor space. If you need food, you can eat some tacos, wings, or a burger.
A very large boat with three different levels, North River Lobster Co. is like a crowded amusement park ride with shellfish and alcohol. You’ll find this thing docked at Pier 81 near West 41st Street, although every 90 minutes or so it takes off for a short sail around the Hudson. A ticket will run you between $10-$25, and for another $32 you can get a lobster roll that does a decent imitation of a better lobster roll. This is actually the sister boat to the next entry on this list, although it’s a bit smaller and draws a bigger crowd, which makes for a more festive atmosphere. North River is definitely gimmicky, but it’s also kind of fun.
photo credit: La Barca Cantina
How does this place exist? What are the fuel costs? How much is the insurance?! We have so many questions about La Barca Cantina, a Mexican restaurant on a massive ship docked alongside North River Lobster Co. Like its sister boat, La Barca leaves port several times a day and rambles around the Hudson for a bit. Tickets mostly run between $10-$25, and there are three levels that you can explore like you’re in some kind of sparsely populated, vaguely Mexican-themed RPG. The margaritas are truly not great, although the tacos aren’t bad, but we wouldn’t recommend a full dinner here. If you’re curious, stop by once, and sit on the top deck. It’s lovely up there. Should you need to drink a margarita on the Hudson in December, La Barca Cantina is open year-round.