YOUR GUIDE TO THIS SUMMER’S BEST SEASIDE INSPIRED RESTAURANTS IN THE NEW YORK CITY AREA
My trip to NYC last weekend turned into a full-blown tour of all the nautical/seaside inspired establishments in New York’s five boroughs (although, to be fair, we only visited two boroughs). We did it all: from the most authentic (see Sunny’s) to the most outlandish (see ZZ’s Clam Bar) and everything in between.
Basically, it was my dream weekend. I discovered so many off-the-beaten-path gems, that of course I had to share my favorites with all of you. Get ready, because this post is a mouthful (literally).
ZZ’s Clam Bar
Let’s get one thing straight: ZZ’s instantly took the number one spot as my favorite restaurant/cocktail bar in the world. If that doesn’t convince you, let me explain the ways. From the street, you wouldn’t even know ZZ’s exists—other than the majordomo standing at the door and the mini ZZ neon sign in the window, it’s completely hidden. I should probably point out that you’ll need a reservation if you’re hoping to get in.
You walk in to ZZ’s in a tiny dimly lit space with 4 tables (four, it’s not a typo!) and two staff: one incredibly charming waitress who looks strangely like Kiesza, and one dapper bearded mixologist standing behind his extravagantly stocked cocktail station, looking straight out of a Wes Anderson movie. The décor: marble tables, pearl handle flatware, mahogany panelled bar, vintage wallpaper and turquoise tile. The space is decorated with oversized bird-of-paradise flower arrangements and mountains of seafood/fruit on display. Basically, if Steve Zissou and The Grand Budapest Hotel had a baby, it would look like ZZ’s Clam Bar.
Let’s go over what we ate and drank because you’ll want to try every single thing. First (and most notably), the uni toast was one of the best things I’ve ever tasted. Ever. We also tried the lobster ceviche, live seared scallops, a healthy dose of oysters and a fish crudo I forget the name of. Since ZZ’s is known for cocktails, we skipped the wine and indulged in libations fancifully named Sarsparilla, Smoke, Marsala, Iced Coffee, Coconut & Chai (among others, we didn’t hold back). The cocktails came out in flaming coconuts, gilded pineapples, nautical flasks… No presentation was too extravagant.
I could go on and on about this place, but you should try it for yourself. And after ZZ’s, if you can handle one more cocktail, you should head a few blocks south to The Ship, a nautical inspired cocktail bar, for a night cap.
ZZ’s Clam Bar — 169 Thompson St, Greenwich Village
The Ship — 158 Lafayette St, SoHo
The Water Table
This restaurant inspired this whole list. Why? Because it’s located on a refurbished WWII navy boat and it cruises the New York harbour on weekends at sunset. It serves a set menu of traditional New England fare (lobster mac’n’cheese and rosé anyone?). I’ll argue that in NYC, you can’t find a better activity for a balmy summer Sunday night.
The Water Table tugged at all the strings of my nautical-obsessed-off-the-beaten-path-tourist heart (that was a mouthful): a sunset cruise around the Brooklyn Bridge, Financial District and Statue of Liberty with a small but friendly bunch of locals (no tourists here! Except yours truly). It features a quaint nautical decor, good wine, and I’ll say it again: lobster mac’n’cheese. With Ruffle chips! No one other than my mother had ever served me lobster mac’n’cheese with Ruffle chips before. It was glorious.
The Water Table — Leaves from India St Pier, Greenpoint
It’s five-‘clock somewhere and you’re feeling like a cocktail? Then head to happy hour at Maison Première in Williamsburg. The house specialty is oysters & absinthe, served in a France-meets-New Orleans setting. I should probably say that I’m not an absinthe connoisseur and this was my first taste at the concoction (because: when in Rome—or in this case—Paris-inspired Brooklyn). It was definitely particular (it tasted vaguely like Pernod) but it wasn’t as whacky as I had imagined (or seen in movies). I thankfully kept my composure. The vibe at Maison Première is quaint, fresh and delicious. My recommendation: sit at the u-shaped bar in the back and enjoy the impressive view of professional oyster shucking and seafood platter arranging.
While you’re in the area, make a point to drop in to Ramona for a cocktail, because 1. they’re delicious, and 2. the decor is pretty great too: a five-tier copper chandelier, a 35 foot long marble bar and herringbone Carrara marble floors (yes you read that right—get your Instagram ready). #ihavethisthingwithfloors
Maison Première — 298 Bedford Ave, Williamsburg
Ramona — 113 Franklin St, Greenpoint
Red Hook Lobster Pound
Channel your inner hipster and plan an entire day in Red Hook, because trust me, it will be worth your time. The Red Hook ferry is free on weekends and leaves from Pier 11 in Wall Street. Show up hungry and thirsty. Start your day with an iced latte at Black Flamingo.
Slowly make your way across the street to the Red Hook Lobster Pound for the best lobster rolls you’ll taste in, maybe ever. I loved the decor there: reclaimed whitewashed plank walls, painted brick, gray and white lacquered doors, rope wrapped columns, a wall of nautical flags. My recommendation: sit at the bar and order a classic lobster roll with sweet potato fries and a pint of Narragansett. Then, venture out on Van Brunt and stop in at Fort Defiance to admire their nautical decor and gilded chandeliers.
After a couple of drinks (keep it classy), head to Brooklyn Crab—or as I’ve come to refer to it: Brooklyn’s answer to the Sloppy Tuna or Cyril’s. Anyone who’s ever been to either of those bars in the East End will know what I mean. It’s big, it’s loud, it’s outdoors: it’s filled with picnic tables and all sorts of games: shuffle board, sandbags, mini golf or knock out—they’ve got you covered. All they’re missing is a ping pong table. My recommendation: have a Bloody Mary, sit in the sun or play a round of shuffle board. Try not to get sand thrown in your face by the children of over-relaxed Brooklynite parents. Have lazy drawn-out conversations about parenting styles.
After Brooklyn Crab, walk around the corner until you see an old green truck. Sunny’s is one of those establishments that looks like it hasn’t changed in forty years (but it must have, because it got destroyed in hurricane Sandy). It’s a sailor’s watering hole at it’s most authentic (or as authentic as it gets in hipster Brooklyn) and the oldest continually run bar on Brooklyn’s waterfront (it’s been around since the 1890s). The green truck parked in front probably hasn’t been moved since Sunny’s early days. My recommendation: sit at the bar and order a Dark & Stormy.
Red Hook Lobster Pound — 284 Ban Brunt St, Red Hook
Black flamingo — 281 Van Brunt St, Red Hook
Fort Defiance — 365 Van Brunt St, Red Hook
Brooklyn Crab — 24 Reed St, Red Hook
Sunny’s — 253 Conover St, Red Hook
Last but certainly not least: Santina is the latest restaurant to come out of the Major Food Group (ZZ’s Clam Bar, Dirty French, Carbone). It’s located in the deep in the Meatpacking District beneath the High Line near the new Whitney Museum, making it the perfect venue for a Friday or Saturday night dinner. The fare is coastal Italian: calabrian tuna cecini, branzino crudo, shrimp zingara, lobster catalan… Of course, as with any other Major Food establishment, the cocktails are a must.
Santina is set in a Renzo Piano-designed glass house decorated with colorful murano glass chandeliers, white marble bars, cheery-hued hand painted ceramic tableware and more oversized bird-of-paradise arrangements (these Torrisi guys really love their birds-of-paradise)! Oh and fully grown trees: palms and orange trees mostly. Think 1960s Amalfi Coast chic transported in today’s Meatpacking District.
My prediction is that the greenhouse effect and colorful summery coastal vibe at Santina will make it a preferred destination come the dark days of winter, so get in while you can.
Santina — 820 Washington St, Meatpacking District
Disclaimer: I’m not an expert, I just really really really love food (and cocktails), and trying new restaurants or hotels. Maybe I should have been a food critic. Or a travel writer. See all my favorite NYC addresses in the Savvy Home Directory.