Finally, the warm weather has arrived. Here are a few excellent venues to both wet your whistle and wile away the hours as you watch the setting sun and celebrate the new season. But remember, folks: outdoor seating at such establishments is premium and always depends on the weather.
-By Kevin Byrne
Pier i Café
Pier I at 70th St. & Hudson River
New York, NY
Set on the esplanade along the Hudson in Riverside Park South, Pier i Café (yes, the lowercase is deliberate) might at first seem concealed from the crazy rush of everyday city business. Yet it’s surprisingly close and easily accessible to anybody seeking shade, a soft summer breeze and a beautiful waterline vista (just descend the staircase at 68th Street and walk under the West Side Highway). There’s an outdoor bar & grill with two-dozen shaded tables (plus lounge chairs), the drinks are inexpensive (beer, sangria wine only) and the water is FREE and ICE COLD. Also, if you’re up for affordable noshes (all entrees under $20), try the La Frieda burger and fries, both of which are out of this world.
Chelsea Brewing Company
Located just off the marina at Chelsea Piers, this sprawling 12,000 square foot microbrewery is a tony two-story treat with almost as much sparkle as the seafront. Boasting beautiful, broad mahogany bars, a cigar lounge and a great selection of gourmet cuisine, CBC is bright, airy and popular with summertime crowds and equally ideal as an indoor meeting space when the temps cool down or when the weather is bad. As for its assortment of homebrewed ales (over 30 on site), daylight hour drinkers won’t go wrong hailing the Checker Cab Blonde, which is as full-bodied as the real thing. Or, when the sun starts to sink, try their sweet-tasting Sunset Red. Lunch and dinner are served seven days a week, and catering is available.
Only in a maritime-based metropolis like Manhattan would someone have the creativity and ingenuity to take a sunken 1929 lightship and turn it into a dive bar. Perhaps that’s why The Frying Pan has become one of the city’s biggest summertime hot spots, in every sense of the term. Rustic, gritty and ever so slightly steampunk (its exposed engine room is a sight to see), The Pan once spent three years at the bottom of the Chesapeake before it was salvaged and turned into this half-sunny, half-moody industrial ode to old school ocean travel. Seating is first come, first served and it crowds up fast; so, if you’re with a large group, get there early. And, fair-weather warning to all booze-loving landlubbers, the tables on this temporary tidewater sometimes wobble with the waves, so if you’re the sort who’s easily seasick, you’re better off staying on terra firma.
Boat Basin Café
One of the city’s most picturesque and popular outdoor gathering spots come summer, a visit to the 79th Street Boat Basin is one big loud, friendly barbecue for both tourists and hoity-toity folks who like to play at being hoi-polloi. Dozens of makeshift tables with checkerboard cloths are parked right beside open grills, where the staff serves decent burgers and dogs in perpetuity. Speaking of dogs, the site is pet-friendly, but patrons who own noisy pooches with impulse control issues (especially around human food) should probably keep Fido at home. Drinks are standard, running $6-$8 for a beer or mixer (they serve a very strong margarita). And of course, the Basin wouldn’t be half the attraction it is without that one enviable attribute that annually draws city denizens like fireflies: THE VIEW. And what a view it is, especially on a clear night, when the gorgeous afterglow of a sunset beyond the Palisades seems to go on forever. Happy hour runs from 4 to 7pm, Mon-Fri, with $2 off drinks at the bar only. Closes at 11:30p.
Beekman Beer Garden
89 South St (Pier 17)
New York, NY 10038
You don’t hit this beer garden up for its massive selection of brews (it’s only got a handful), but rather for the unparalleled harbor and East River views. Located below South Street Seaport, this sand-covered stretch of Pier 17 features surprisingly comfy plastic sofas and bench seating, above-ground fire “pits” and plenty of opportunities to gaze across the water at the Brooklyn Bridge. Grab a Blue Point or Ommegaang beer, or a cocktail from the full bar and find a place to sit with a special someone or a group of friends. It can get packed here, particularly right after work and on weekends, but if you catch it on the right evening, you might believe you’ve been transported to a serene stretch of the Hamptons or Cape Cod coastline. You know, with a cityscape.