The New York City Ferry runs all year long and frankly, it’s the better way to travel for those who can get to it in this pandemic. It has routes running up and down the East River and beyond from Soundview in the Bronx to the beaches of Far Rockaway, with stops in Queens, Manhattan’s east side and all along the Brooklyn riverfront. Each boat has an upstairs deck, which offers one-of-a-kind views of the city skyline (and a safe, open-air seat).
Whether you’re indulging in a staycation, out for dinner for the first time in months or simply looking for a change of scenery, the NYC Ferry is here for you. Service begins daily at dawn and runs through 10pm. Luckily, there are some excellent restaurants within walking distance of nearly every stop.
Here’s your North to South guide to eating along the NYC Ferry route.
Vesta Trattoria (Astoria)MICHELIN Plate, MICHELIN Guide New York City & Westchester County 2020
This neighborhood Italian restaurant has a delightful menu of pizzas, pastas and more inspired by the greenmarket. The cute corner spot is an eight minute walk from the Astoria ferry pier and has a handful of outdoor tables. Weekend brunch is popular with dishes like carbonara mac and cheese and the “hangover pizza” with potato, bacon, sausage and baked eggs. Dinner starts at 5pm weeknights—4:30pm on weekends—perfect for catching that good light and a “better together” mural by local artist QueenAndrea!
Casa Enrique (Hunters Point South)One MICHELIN Star, MICHELIN Guide New York City & Westchester County 2020
A ten-minute stroll through scenic Hunters Point South park and into Long Island City will land you at this One-MICHELIN-Starred restaurant serving some of New York City’s finest Mexican cuisine. Outdoor dining is available at generously spaced tables on the sidewalk where you can sip a frozen margarita and enjoy Chef Cosme Aguilar’s legendary mole. Or order some excellent tacos for takeout and enjoy the feast back at the park.
Turkish Kitchen (East 34th Street)MICHELIN Bib Gourmand, MICHELIN Guide New York City & Westchester County 2020
Less than a mile from the 34th Street ferry stop, this longtime Turkish Bib Gourmand has set up an impressive outdoor dining room quite literally on Third Avenue (thanks to a new city law, restaurants have used everything from plywood to planters to commandeer portions of the street for outdoor dining). The star of the menu are the grilled kebabs but with over 20 appetizers to choose from alone, there is bound to be something for everyone. Order an imported Turkish wine to go with your meal and enjoy the hustle and bustle of New York City streets—from the middle of one.
21 Greenpoint (Greenpoint)MICHELIN Bib Gourmand, MICHELIN Guide New York City & Westchester County 2020
Just behind Transmitter Park, and steps from the Greenpoint Landing ferry pier, 21 Greenpoint by Chef/Owner Homer Murray (yes, he’s Bill Murray’s son) is an American restaurant through and through. The culturally ambiguous but indisputably delicious menu is filled with chicken tinga tacos, veggie dumplings and sushi—all cooked to order for your enjoyment on the patio or in the park. The selection of very reasonably priced wines by the bottle are as drinkable as the food is easy to love.
Egg (North Williamsburg)MICHELIN Bib Gourmand, MICHELIN Guide New York City & Westchester County 2020
The North Williamsburg ferry stop is a short distance from one of Williamsburg’s best lunch and brunch spots. Egg, going on fifteen years old this year, gets much of its produce from its own Goatfell Farm in the Catskills. Hand-crafted ingredients and comfort food favorites collide in dishes like homemade pimento cheese or crispy fried chicken tucked between buttery biscuits with in-house pickled cucumbers. And of course, there are eggs every which way. For now, food is available for pick-up only, but breakfast with a view at North 5th Street Pier and Park sounds pretty good.
Barano (South Williamsburg)MICHELIN Plate, MICHELIN Guide New York City & Westchester County 2020
At this Old World-meets-New World Italian trattoria in Brooklyn, hearty pastas and pizzas are best eaten at a handful of outdoor tables in the shadows of the Williamsburg Bridge. The restaurant is around the corner from the South Williamsburg stop and benefits from cheery orange umbrellas for protection from the sun and the rain. The menu is served continuously from noon to 10pm with dishes like mozzarella sticks, cacio e pepe ravioli and a seven-ounce chicken parm. The restaurant also sells fresh pasta by the pound to-go (add on a sauce or a pizza kit).
Gran Eléctrica (Dumbo)MICHELIN Bib Gourmand, MICHELIN Guide New York City & Westchester County 2020
Mexican street food is the inspiration for the menu at Gran Eléctrica. Here, hand-pressed tortillas are stuffed with a wide variety of excellent fillings from juicy pork carnitas to crisp Baja-style battered fish fillets. Each taco is dressed with a unique combo of crunchy slaws, creamy sauces and a spritz of lime for the perfect bite, every bite. There are plenty of snackable bites and kid-friendly quesadillas to choose from plus signature margaritas and natural wines. The restaurant’s garden is open and there are shared outdoor picnic tables just down the block on Dock Street.
Celestine (Dumbo)MICHELIN Plate, MICHELIN Guide New York City & Westchester County 2020
Located at ground floor of One John Street residences in Dumbo, Celestine may be a bit off the beaten track (even though it’s just a ten-minute walk from the pier) but it offers incredible views of the East River and downtown Manhattan. Though the dining room is closed for now, the patio is open with full, unobstructed access to those inimitable views. The kitchen is churning out Mediterranean mezze or a smash burger pop-up menu which are equally delicious as a picnic at one of the many waterfront parks nearby.
The Fulton (Pier 11 / Wall Street)MICHELIN Plate, MICHELIN Guide New York City & Westchester County 2020
Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s South Street Seaport restaurant is a sea foodies haven, and it reopened to the public just last week. Set on the recently developed Pier 17 (a short walk to the Pier 11 ferry terminal), the restaurant is fortuitously adorned with prime waterfront patio seating—perfect for a socially distanced summer meal. Riches of the sea are present at every course, from the Long Island fluke crudo to everything-crusted calamari and longevity noodles served with a one-plus pound Maine lobster.
Saint Julivert Fisherie (Brooklyn Bridge Park Pier 6)MICHELIN Bib Gourmand, MICHELIN Guide New York City & Westchester County 2020
Though not exactly set on the water itself (the restaurant is about fifteen minutes by foot from the East River) Saint Julivert Fisherie is an ode to ocean cuisines. The menu, in partnership with sister Spanish restaurant La Vara, channels the beaches of Baha to the white-washed hillside villages of the Greek islands. It’s a fitting end (or beginning) to a day on the water. If the soft-shelled crab is still on the menu, get that; otherwise fresh or fried fish in other forms will be excellent, too.
Hometown Bar-B-Que (Red Hook)MICHELIN Bib Gourmand, MICHELIN Guide New York City & Westchester County 2020
Residents of Red Hook lucked out with the opening of Hometown Bar-B-Que back in 2013. For the rest of us, what used to be a very long trip for some of New York City’s best barbecue can now be accomplished via a pleasantly scenic boat ride and a short, ten-minute walk. Pittmaster Bill Durney’s oversize beef rib is well-worth its weight (meat is priced by the pound here) and the brisket is stunningly consistent—juicy, tender and crusted with a black pepper bark. Food is only available to-go and orders must be placed in advance online, but barbecue this good is worth the extra planning.
Hero Image: The NYC Ferry at Dumbo Ferry Pier via Pixabay.