Yesterday, which at 88 degrees and sunny felt like the first day of summer, the Brooklyn Barge reopened for the season. Greenpoint’s waterfront bar, located between Transmitter Park and Milton Street, is literally housed on a barge jutting out into the East River. Its reopening has been long-awaited, as last year’s season was cut short due to permitting issues and it didn’t open the doors until the fall. But now it’s here to float, and we’re pretty dang excited about spending our summer chilling on a boat with stunning views of the Manhattan skyline, because honestly is there anything better than drinking on the waterfront?
When we showed up to the barge around 5:30, folks were beginning to trickle in, from friends meeting up for after-work drinks, to couples with strollers, to one solo guy enjoying himself with a beer and The Lord of the Rings. The experience of being on the barge is pretty glorious; when a ferry or tugboat passes through, the waves from its wake cause the barge to sway in the water, so you can pretend you’re actually at sea (just don’t get sea sick). Although it was hot as hell out, umbrellas on the tables provide ample shade, and you catch a nice breeze off the water.
Nine taps offer a good selection of mostly local brews, from a signature Brooklyn Barge Brew, to Montauk Session I.P.A., to Coney Island Mermaid Pilsner, ranging from $6-$8, and bottles and cans from $5-$10. (We’re hoping to see some happy hour prices soon.) The bar is well-stocked with liquors, with a signature cocktail list in the works, the bartender told us. The kitchen, which opens on Friday, will be serving tacos and sandwiches along with bar snacks, like the Tugboat Fries with BBQ pork, cheddar and jalapenos and Harpooned Shrimp with garlic-tomatillo salsa.
Two patrons, John, 29, and Callie, 30, who work in film and live nearby, told us they were pleased to have found a true waterfront bar in north Brooklyn.
“I live two blocks from here so I’m very happy about the situation,” Callie said.
“I don’t want to go to the Frying Pan — it’s meatheads, it’s not a lot of fun,” John said, referring to the similar but notoriously bro-y Hudson River boat bar. When we asked him if he thought the Brooklyn Barge would see a similar fate, he said, “I give it a month, it’ll probably be the same way.”
Projections of a boat-bro mutiny aside, the whole enterprise is foremost about encouraging residents to spend more time on — and in — the water, according to co-owner Jim Gill, who along with his partners Thomas J. Morgan and Matt Perricone, has decades of experience in both the maritime and hospitality industries. He stressed that the Brooklyn Barge, more than just a bar, is a space to foster a waterfront community.
“The waterfront is so underutilized, in Manhattan and Brooklyn, as far as access to the water; some of these piers are beautiful but they’re few and far between,” he said. “You can walk out on a pier but can you actually get in the water? I think a lot of people have this concept, oh I’d never get in the East River, I’d never get in the Hudson; well it’s doable, under the right circumstances.”
That’s why starting June 1, the bar’s programming leg kicks off, with Manhattan Kayak offering stand-up paddle-boarding and kayaking (first lesson free) and Hudson River Community Sailing providing lessons and rides, right there in the harbor alongside the barge. The Billion Oyster Project will also be involved, installing a few of their wire cages filled with oysters off nearby moorings to filter the water and restore the East River’s oyster population.
“We open at 11:30 in the morning; we want to create a daytime environment,” Gill continued. “This is one of the most amazing sunsets in the city.”
Roger that. With views like this, we’re ready to drop anchor right here for the whole summer.
Follow Kate for more news that is barge and in charge: @yatinbrooklyn.