As you walk down the canyon of skyscrapers in midtown Manhattan or the Canyon of Heroes (Broadway from the Battery to City Hall; the site of the city's famed ticker-tape parades), it's hard to believe that Manhattan is an island. But it is, as any visit to the Empire State Building's observation deck or a trip on the Circle Line will convince you. Islands mean water, and water means waterfront bars and restaurants. Many places with great views often have mediocre food. So, remember, you're here to look out, not chow down.
Midtown-West Side: Chelsea Brewing Company (Pier 59, Chelsea Piers, West Side Hwy at 18th St.; tel. 212/336-6440; www.chelseabrewingco.com)
Chelsea Piers (www.chelseapiers.com) is the urban equivalent of the great outdoors: all the sports activities you can imagine under one roof. Along the piers, which run from 23rd St. to 18th St., there are splendid views of the mighty Hudson River and several places to grab a bite.
Chelsea Brewing Company is a friendly, low-key microbrewery serving moderately-priced burgers, sandwiches, and wraps. Try their Checker Cab Blond Ale from the deck overlooking the water. To work up an appetite, practice your golf swing right next door at The Golf Club (www.chelseapiers.com/gc01.htm).
Access: #M23 bus, heading west on 23rd St.; drop off, 11th Ave./pickup right in front of Chelsea Piers.
Midtown-East Side: Water Club, Crow's Nest (East River & FDR Dr. at 30th St.; tel. 212/683-3333; www.thewaterclub.com)
The Crow's Nest, on the upper deck of The Water Club, has breathtaking views of Manhattan and the East River. The atmosphere is lively and in the summer months (opens Memorial Day), The Crow's Nest is a popular spot for those in the know. Drinks and a "casual outdoor menu."
Access: The difficult part is getting there. The best access is from the pedestrian bridge at 25th St. Cross over the FDR Drive, descend the staircase/ramp and walk north past the Waterside Plaza residential complex along the East River. Of course, you can always take a taxi.
Downtown-South Street Seaport & Hudson River Esplanade:
Harbour Lights (Pier 17, South Street Seaport Mall, 3rd fl.; tel. 212/227-2800; www.harbourlightsrestaurant.com)
The Harbour Lights restaurant offers up some pretty spectacular views of the Brooklyn Bridge along with their Manhattan Clam Chowder. The surf & turf menu is a bit pricey but the views are divine.
For the same vista at a more affordable rate, head to the Food Court, also on the 3rd floor, South Street Seaport Mall, (tel. 212/SEA-PORT; www.southstreetseaport.com/html/AttractionDetail.asp?aid=2217) for a selection of fast food. The doors around the seating area open onto wide balconies with benches. It's like sitting on the deck on an ocean liner.
Access: Subways: A, C or #4/5 to Fulton St.; walk east until you reach the water.
Steamers Landing (Hudson River Esplanade, between Liberty & Albany St.; tel. 212/432-1451; www.steamerslanding.com)
This particularly pretty section of the Hudson River Esplanade (www.hudsonriverpark.org) is also referred to as the Battery Park City Esplanade (www.bpcparks.org/bpcp/parks/parks.php). The entire stretch is lined with mini-parks, gardens and marinas. The food offerings range from snack shacks to sushi. Steamers Landing is a tranquil respite. Stop by for sunsets and seafood on their outdoor terrace.
Access: Subways: R/W or #1 to Rector St.; walk north on Greenwich St., then west on Albany St. until you reach the water.
Uptown-Riverside Park: Boat Basin Café (Riverside Park, W. 79th St. & Hudson River; tel. 212/496-5542; www.boatbasincafe.com)
Riverside Park (www.riversideparkfund.org) stretches for four miles, from 72nd St. to 158th St., along the Hudson River. It's a lovely park on a steep hillside that slopes down from Riverside Drive to the water's edge, offering magnificent views along the way.
From a perch at 79th St., the Boat Basin Café's patio overlooks the 79th Street Boat Basin-Public Marina and the river with great views of the sun setting over the Palisades. The food is burgers, beers and barbecue, If you arrive on your own schooner (hey, it could happen), there's a Dock & Dine fee at the Marina (4 hour maximum).
Access: Subway: #1 to 79th Street. Bus: #M79, #M5 to W. 79th St. & Riverside Drive. Walk west on 79th St. At the park, take a staircase, underneath an overpass, down to the restaurant.
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