As confined as we usually are by skyscrapers and subways, it can be hard to remember that Manhattan is actually an island. Which means we’re surrounded on multiple sides by cool, glistening water, and any parcel of land overlooking that beautiful, peaceful idyll immediately becomes a hot commodity.
Surprisingly, one such bit of prized real estate — a 127-year-old historic pier near Battery Park — lay vacant for a number of years; but has now been transformed into the recently opened, 28,000-square foot, multi-experiential food and beverage destination called Pier A Harbor House. It’s owned by prolific restaurateur Peter Poulakakos (i.e., the “Mayor of FiDi”), who’s also behind Bacchanal, the Dead Rabbit, Ulysses, and Le District, the sprawling, upcoming French market at Brookfield Place.
The glorious landmarked building is divided into three separate spaces, one on each floor, with seating for up to 400 indoors, and countless more dining options outside. Expected to open within the next few months, the top level is dedicated to private parties, events and gatherings, such as musical performances and poetry readings, and the second floor houses a trio of high-end restaurants, with chef’s tables, crackling fireplaces, open kitchens, and menus inspired by the bounty of the Hudson Valley.
But until those launch later in the year, you can still avail yourself of the massive drinking den with spectacular water views on the ground level, dubbed the “Long Hall” (referring to its impressive burnished bar that spans the length of the room). A curved staircase grants servers access to the massive array of wine bottles that stretch towards the ceiling, although the pseudo-nautical setting cries out for glasses of housemade Vanilla Maple Apple Cider, tap cocktails, or pints of local, craft beer (including one option brewed on site), to go with hearty pub grub, like Fish & Chips, Clam Chowder and Mangalitsa Pork Bratwurst. Of course, an equally appropriate use for the serene waterside setting is an oyster bar, and Pier A Harbor House has one of those, too, outfitted with sky blue tile and spotless shucking stations, offering an array of briny Island Creeks, Hammersley’s and Puffers Petites, along with icy towers of lobster, shrimp and crab.
While Pier A Harbor House isn’t exactly a mob scene now, expect every single one of those seats to fill (especially the benches outside) once the weather begins to warm. Because after endless blustery, slushy months oppressed by skyscrapers and subways, all New Yorker’s really long for is a leisurely, waterfront escape.