Grand Banks- a Restaurant, or a New York Staycation?
By Jennifer Shanteau
Upon walking up to this New York staycation which is Grand Banks I felt at once astonished, excited and horrified all at the same time. I was astonished that this remarkable floating heaven existed, excited to experience it, and horrified that I was just now finding out about it. Why didn’t anyone tell me about this place? I instantly felt betrayed by all of my foodie friends. How many times have I seen boats sail down the East River and wish I was on one? How many sailboat tours did I have to take? I could have eaten here numerous times in the past couple of years! I mourned for the lost time. Seriously, though, stepping onto that floating heaven…..yes, it’s a boat. Oh, did I not mention that? Grand Banks is a restaurant located on the Hudson River in a historic wooden schooner called the Sherman Zwicker, hand- built in 1942, to be exact. I cannot describe the feeling of walking onto that sailboat to you well enough, and I’m a writer. You have to experience this for yourself. I felt like Alice falling down the rabbit hole into New York staycation-land…..just wow!
Of course, like any sane people, we began with Cocktails. Over the years I’ve tried so many, its becoming difficult to find something new. All I ever ask for is a creative twist, something I haven’t seen a million times before. I got it…..house made Almond Syrup! They used this in both the College Try (Blanco Tequilla, Mezcal, Velvet Falernum, lime, syrup) and the Coo-ee Special (Gin, Absinthe, lemon, syrup). Both drinks were absolutely delicious, although the almond syrup was more prominent in the Coo-ee.
Sometimes, when you have an incredible view, you rest on those laurels and don’t pay much mind to the food. This is not the case in staycation-land at Grand Banks. Lets start with the Scallops. Scallops are either a rubbery mess or they melt in your mouth like butter. These were the later. I’ve had so many over-cooked scallops; I’ve stopped ordering them for years…yes, years. I was so glad I made the leap of faith to try them again.
The Crab was so delicious, only lightly battered, so the true crab taste shone through. It was my dining companion’s favorite. Frankly, I wasn’t sure he was going to give me a bite! The menu at Grand Banks is set up tapas style, and our waiter recommended that we share three dishes. And…..well, you just can’t be aboard a ship and not accept a Lobster Roll if presented, right? I’m not crazy am I? Wait….don’t answer that! I personally don’t think it’s possible to make a bad lobster roll, and after indulging in this one, my theory stands strong. What was unique about it were the cucumber slices added for crunch, which I loved. It gave it a certain freshness sometimes achieved by celery, but much more deliciously with cucumbers.
Ok……I didn’t end the meal with oysters, but they were definitely the “piece de resistance” for me…..so I waited until the end of this article to share their amazingness. I don’t know if you are familiar yet with my loves…..my “preciouses”, (think Hobbit). Yes, I know, I made that word up, but Oysters are one of them. I get so excited to eat an oyster, unreasonably so. They say its an aphrodisiac. I don’t know about you, but it definitely is for me! I get all happy like a toddler going to see Mickey Mouse, and assault the waiter with numerous questions about where they came from, when they were harvested, and who is in their family tree. Once in Florida, I had some of the best oysters I’ve ever had to this day, and all they could tell me was that they were from Texas. It was like stabbing me in the heart. It was like meeting your soulmate, having a lovely evening together, and never hearing from them again. Actually, I assume that’s what it’s like, no one has ever done that to me, (knock on wood), but anyways….we are talking about food, right? Thankfully, our waiter was filled with oyster knowledge. Everyone has their own favorites, so to give you a reference point, my usual fav is the East Coast Malpeck. I like them brinely and on the small side. We tried an assortment of wild caught, sustainably harvested East Coast Oysters, and I liked them in this order: Island Creek, Beausolie, Navy Point then Montauk.
Had I known about this secret gem earlier, I would’ve already had a permanent table all summer, and been on a first name basis with the entire staff. For about the first twenty minutes of my staycation on magical Grand Banks all I could do was coo in awe of its splendor. I felt instantly transported. I immediately felt rested, relaxed and happy, and all I had to do was step aboard. The drinks and food added to my elation, and secured Grand Banks a spot in my heart. See you next summer!