Lobster lovers rejoice: You can chow down on those scrumptious crustaceans, throw back signature cocktails, and cruise out onto the Hudson River, thanks to this perfect summer recipe proposed by Midtown's 2014-debuted North River Lobster Company. Essentially a floating lobster shack, up to 450 patrons can set out aboard one of four to six casual (and complimentary!) 45-minute sailings daily, where seafood-centric indulgence (including a raw bar and Maine lobster dishes) comes paired with plenty to wash it all down with, including cocktails served up in mason jars and frosty buckets of beer.
The onboard atmosphere is laid-back and pricing is pleasantly affordable. Three decks (with a designated bar on each level) offer an open-air rooftop, open-bow deck, and aft-facing balcony to ensure plenty of outdoor space to pair your seafood with NYC skyline scenery (there are spacious indoor seating sections, too).
While the cruises comprise short runs up the Hudson—just 45-minute mini-getaways—patrons are welcome to linger on the boat pier-side before and after the sailing, so there's no rush to finish up your grub or down your swill. The operation also touts a land-based counterpart where patrons can also enjoy food and drink bought onboard the vessel, with a newly added bar, and dockside dining area offering picnic tables and a rustic fishing-pier aesthetic.
Note there's no table service onboard—self-serve orders are put in at the raw bar (with oysters, clams, crab, and more, displayed on ice in a boat-shaped tub), or for short-order menu items, right at the bar (after ordering, you'll get a number to display and a food runner will track you down accordingly).
Try out appetizers like fried calamari ($15), or New England clam chowder ($8). Or, dig in to heartier fare like fresh Maine lobster ($33 for a 1 1/4-pounder, served with asparagus and potatoes) or fish and chips ($17). My husband and I sampled the fish tacos (($16) and the lobster roll ($22), which were both hearty, tasty, and reasonably priced. Most of the menu offerings center on seafood, though they do have a juicy burger ($17) and grilled chicken sandwich ($16) up for grabs.
Drink options include buckets of beer (from $29), pitches of sangria ($36), and wine (by the glass or bottle, from $7). Signature cocktails ($14) are served up in mason jars—try the "Batten Down the Hatches" (with Captain Morgan, Don Q, OJ, pineapple juice, grenadine, and dark rum).
North River Lobster Company is owned by New York Cruise Lines, which also runs Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises, The Beast speedboat ride, and World Yacht dinner cruises.
No reservations or tickets are needed for North River Lobster Company sailings, which are free, and offered on a first-come, first-served basis. Visit their website for up-to-date departure times. (Note that the operation is closed for private functions on certain days, so do call ahead; cruises are only suspended in cases of severe weather). Kids are welcome, too, though there's no kids' menu currently in place. Undoubtedly, this little slice of New England-flavored summer fun is sure to be one of the season's biggest crowd-pleasers.
Pier 81 on the Hudson River & W. 41st St.; 212-630-8831; northriverlobsterco.com