We here at Brooklyn Based have been excited about the Water Table ever since the summer of 2013, when we first heard that a new take on the tired old dinner cruise was coming to the borough of kings. But The Water Table had little time in Greenpoint before the India St. pier collapsed, forcing it to relaunch across the river in Manhattan this spring and summer. It finally returned to Brooklyn earlier this month, and I was among the first clamoring on board.
Keep in mind: this is not your grandmother’s dinner cruise. The loading point is the pier shared by the East River Ferry, found by walking down a dark block set between warehouses on India Street, and the boat is not a triple-decker cruise line, but a U.S. Navy Yard Patrol boat, a cozy, 62-foot-long WWII vessel retrofitted with dinner tables, 35 seats, and a greenmarket-sourced menu. It’s low down to the water, and things can get a little choppy (hold on to your handcrafted cocktail). Once you sail away from Greenpoint though, it takes on the feel of a very classy tour, sailing under the Williamsburg, Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges, before continuing down for an up-close view of the Statue of Liberty and downtown skyline. You can roll up the windows and take in the vistas from your dinner table, or head upstairs for a fresh-air panorama.
But on to the more important part: the food. The grub here is, thankfully, a step above your standard booze cruise, featuring a three-course seasonal menu. The fall version starts with a hearty salad of butternut squash, arugula, maple-candied pecans and cranberries, or a delicious Maine lobster bisque—helpfully served in a candy jar, to minimize spillage in case of any bumpy water. For mains, the Portuguese fisherman’s stew is very flavorful and comes chock full of mussels and cod; a ricotta meatball dish was also tasty but confusingly served sans starch, just a couple of balls overboard in a sea of marinara, no one throwing a ziti preserver their way.
Dessert is served in a to-go bag as you head back up the river, so you can munch on Ovenly cookies and Mast Brothers chocolate as you wrap up the ride, or take them with you. The cocktails, ranging from classic warming drinks like Irish coffee to the more original Crownimal (bourbon, cider and saffron syrup) are very good. All in all, the food isn’t revelatory, but setting-appropriate and quite impressive considering it’s prepared in a true galley kitchen.
With the $75 price tag including both the two-and-a-half-hour trip and the three-course menu (but not drinks), The Water Table is a pretty good deal, too (a 2.5-hour trip on the Circle Line starts at $40 a person, and you don’t get any food with that). It’s the perfect fit if you’re looking for something that straddles the line between Brooklyn-y and touristy—say, when your parents are in town but you’re not about to wait in line for the Empire State Building again. The Water Table departs every Friday and Saturday evenings at 7:30pm sharp (don’t miss the boat—they won’t wait!), and this week they launched their first Brooklyn brunch as well; they leave at 1pm on Sundays for a two-hour, $40 ride.
They will be mixing up the route each season and also offer special events including a four-hour fall foliage lunch cruise up to the Hudson Valley this Saturday, Nov. 1 ($90, but discounted to $60 if you use the code Greenpoint), and even a classic Thanksgiving dinner on Nov. 27.
The Water Table, India Street Pier, 10 India St., 917-499-5727