When you’re a native New Yorker — or even just a longtime transplant — there are many terrifically touristy things you never wind up doing. Visiting the Statue of Liberty. Climbing to the top of the Empire State Building. And taking one of those Circle Line cruises down the East River. But the Water Table is not quite on the radar of those Frommer’s-toting sightseers from abroad (although maybe it should be), and it’s a far cry from the wet bar and strobe light-outfitted party boats that draw hot pant-clad twenty-something’s to the far side of the pier.
Launched last year by Captain Kelli Farwell (former wine director at Dressler, Dumont and Rye), and “First Mate” Sue Walsh (an accomplished graphic designer), the Water Table is essentially an intimate, floating restaurant, held aboard a converted World War II yard patrol vessel called The Revolution—one of only three of its kind still in service. Originally billed as Brooklyn’s first dinner boat, Hurricane Sandy unfortunately forced the seafaring little eatery to relocate from Greenpoint’s India Street to the Skyport Marina at E. 23rd this season, although, happily, the route remains very much the same. The Water Table sets sail on Friday-Sunday for one service per night, and a $75 boarding pass includes a three-course meal of New England-inspired favorites, like potato leek soup, Maine crab cakes and a blueberry ice cream soda (or $50 for two-courses on Sunday), plus a 2 ½ hour cruise around the brilliantly illuminated harbor. So essentially, chump change, to anyone who regularly burns through c-notes at sedentary restaurants, with unobstructed views of garbage piled in alleyways awaiting Monday pick-up.
Grooved wooden tables and benches arranged along the windows (simply unzip the plastic coverings for a balmy, salt-kissed breeze) assure stellar views both coming and going. And a steady supply of Narragansett lagers and lavender bitters-scented gin and tonics (hold on tight when you’re in the wake of a Seastreak, or one of those throbbing, floating discothèques), as well as fun, throwback tunes from Farwell’s personal playlist add to the congenial, houseboat atmosphere. But it’s hard to resist the urge to spend the bulk of the evening above deck (it’s cool; the wait staff will give you the heads up when the next course is on its way), adjusting your weight as the boat gently lurches from side to side, swirling in the silky, fragrant sea spray, and flooding Instagram with smug selfies set against the glorious skyline.
Disembarking a couple of hours later (at the same time as the now green-faced, mini-skirted hordes, chumming appletini remnants into the blue-black water), we felt exhilarated having enjoyed one of our most unique nights out in ages, and thrilled to have finally found a respectable way to be a gleeful, unapologetic tourist in our own glittering city.