We’re On a Boat: And Pilot’s Making it Rain Oysters Over the East River

As construction continues throughout DUMBO, prospectors prioritize bragging rights to prime views of waterfront. Yet Pilot is one of the precious few places that can actually claim to be on the water itself, being based inside of a historic 1920s racing schooner, docked at the end of Pier 6.

Acquired and restored by Miles and Alex Pincus—seasoned sailors, and the co-owners of the similarly situated Grand Banks (aboard the Sherman Zwicker in Hudson River Park) and Island Oyster (a bar spanning the tip of Governor’s Island)—the wooden boat has a storied, 100-year-old history. It is the longest serving pilot ship in the country, was a ferry for soldiers during WW11, and a research vessel, that has circumnavigated the world twice. Yet it’s come home to roost—through the rest of al fresco season at least—on Brooklyn’s own stretch of East River, as a consummate destination for sucking down bivalves and sipping on spritzes, while literally ensconced by the skyline.

Making the very most of the truncated season, by offering lunch, brunch, dinner and drinks, Pilot is outfitted with two circular, stool-ringed bars. One bar is on the bow of the boat, equipped with Navy Point, Wellfleet, and Island Creek oysters on the half shell (anointed with merlot or pickled ramp mignonette), and another is in the stern, dispensing cocktails like the Spirit Animal, a baby-pink blend of strawberry, coconut, light rum and aperol, and the Trinidad Sour, with almond, lemon, bitters, and rye.

As at Grand Banks, the food program comes courtesy of EMP’s opening chef, Kerry Heffernan, and features an optimal assortment of lobster rolls dressed in dulse emulsion; grilled Montauk squid a la plancha; soft shell crab po boys on prototypical Leidenheimer bread, and tidy pails of seaweed-salted french fries, served with spiced ketchup and sage aioli. They’re impossible not to scarf posthaste, which is probably a good thing—as the rocking of the ship is a constant reminder of one’s extreme proximity to sea, especially when passing ferries set white tables dipping, and their edible contents inching overboard.

Consider them alms to the maritime gods, for allowing us to infringe upon their aquatic nirvana.

Brooklyn Bridge Park, Pier 6, DUMBO