New York City boasts an almost dizzying number of bars. Some upscale, some dingy dive bars, and the rest somewhere in-between. You could form a pub crawl every night for weeks and never end up in the same place. Even with such a volume of choices many of them feel like the same place, just with a different coat of paint and rotating happy hour specials. That’s not to say that there aren’t unique bar experiences in the Big Apple, you just need to look in places you wouldn’t normally.
Like on a boat. (I’m on a boat! I’m on a boat!)
Is that something you might be interested in? (I’m on a boat!)
Located along the west side highway at 26th street, a few blocks north of the Chelsea piers, The Frying Panoffers one of the more unique settings in Manhattan for bar goers. Appearing like a tavern you might find along the coast of Zilargo, the “bar”, if it can even be called that, is composed of a former railroad barge (with a caboose converted into a little lounge), a lightship, and a fireboat. A seasonal bar and grille, The Frying Pan is one of the more popular west side destinations from May to October.
While the Frying Pan boasts a full bar with all the staples, many patrons are content to take part in the “bucket” of beer. Thirty-five dollars gets you a bucket of six Coronas on ice, and some limes. If Corona isn’t your favorite you’re out of luck as far as the buckets go, but the bar does offer a number of other beer options varying from the well known brands, to smaller micro-brews you might not find at your local liquor haunt. After that, all that’s left is for you and yours to find a spot on the boats, or somewhere along the barge (perhaps on the top level) to enjoy the scenery and sea air. A word of warning for those seeking to imbibe. Bring your sea legs with you if you choose to drink on the boats. The combination of alcohol and undulating watercraft will very quickly suss out those in your party who are seaworthy and those are not. Boat shoes are optional.
A full menu is also offered. The most prominent items being the burgers and “Old Bay” seasoned garlic french fries. Old Bay is a traditional spice mixture that originated in the Chesapeake Bay area and is very popular in the South and the Gulf Coast. While it has a variety of applications, it became (and remains) most popular as a seasoning for crabs and other seafood. Speaking of which, the dinner menu boosts some fantastic seafood options, but you cannot go wrong with the “Clam Bake on the Hudson”. A full serving of clams, mussels, and shrimp with potatoes and corn. Coupled with the fries and some cold beers; it’s the perfect means of transporting you from the west side of Manhattan to a country clam bake on the banks of the Chesapeake. For those who aren’t big fans of seafood, there are other options including chili, and ribs. The food is all good, made with care and with deep flavor, but some of the less nautical items clash with the atmosphere and tone of the Frying Pan, so I tend to stay away from them.
On most Friday and weekend nights it gets incredibly busy, so service at times can be a little lacking. This isn’t so much due to the staff as it is the tremendous volume of customers. Yet, another reason the bucket of beer idea is such a good one, as it results in rather quick turnaround at the bar. Food usually takes longer, so if you’re hungry, or plan on being hungry, best to order up as soon as you get there. Regardless of the wait, the staff are exceedingly patient and friendly considering the number of customers in various states of coherence that they serve throughout the night.
The Frying Pan is not a late night haunt. Closing at midnight it tends to be the jumping off point for an adventure into the New York nightlife, rather than the end of the journey. It is not exactly the easiest place to get to seeing as it isn’t near a bus or subway stop, but being along the West Side highway, taxis are usually plentiful. The Frying Pan does not accept reservations so be sure to get there early for a premium seat. In the waning weeks of the summer sun, when the weather is still optimal, it’s hard to find a better venue to spin yarns about your defeat of the Shadow Marsh clans or recall that time you caught that REALLY big fish than Chelsea’s Frying Pan. Or you could just go and see how long it takes before those “I’m on a boat” references get old.
Some of the menu items just don’t fit the setting, but they have top notch burgers, addictive french fries, and great seafood options to accompany your beverage of choice.
When it gets really busy, it can be hard to get food service and waits becomes very long. Yet, the setup of the restaurant, with the centrally located bar and friendly/patient waitstaff keeps the experience from becoming frustrating.
A truly unique bar experience in New York City. Not to be missed for anyone making a visit to the Big Apple, or locals looking for something more outside of the usual bar crawls and neighborhood haunts.
(photo from fryingpan.com)