I believe that this is the first straight-out restaurant review that we have done on the Old Salt Blog. Then again the Grand Banks Oyster Bar on the schooner Sherman Zwicker is not your typical restaurant. Sherman Zwicker is a 142′ long wooden auxiliary fishing schooner, originally built in 1942 for dory fishing on the Grand Banks. She is now alongside Hudson River Park’s ‘Pier 25 in Manhattan with an oyster bar named Grand Banks on her deck and a soon-to-open exhibition by New Draft Collective in her hold. The schooner is said to be the largest wooden vessel now afloat in New York.
My wife, son and I had dinner last night on the Sherman Zwicker. The new oyster bar on the deck of the old schooner fits remarkably well. Two oval bars are set at the base of the schooner’s two masts. Tables line the deck port and starboard. The schooner’s booms support awnings to keep off the summer sun, though we when arrived they were furled, as the gusting southerly wind would have turned them into sails. The forward deck houses are still in place, as are the sail hoops on the masts, as well as most of the standing rigging. The new bars and tables are just simple, stylish yet industrial enough to fit in well with the weathered deck planks and the painted deck houses and rails. The stacked dories are gone, but the new restaurant does not feel entirely out of place.
Both the bar and food menus are somewhat limited, but tasty. Last night they offered four types of oysters and five small plates. We tried and enjoyed all the oysters and four of the five small plates. The oysters were delicious and the squash blossoms, baked oysters, ceviche and arugula salad were all wonderful and distinctive.
Food and drink are one reason to patronize the Grand Banks Oyster Bar on the schooner Sherman Zwicker, but hardly the only reason. The experience is paradoxically both relaxing and highly kinetic. The schooner is on the outermost berth on the south side of the Pier 25, which means that the view is panoramic with of views of Jersey City on the far shore of the Hudson, down past the Statue of Liberty, with Staten Island and the Verrazano Narrows in the distance, and then over again to the Battery, not quite visible behind the buildings on the Manhattan shore.
While the view is breathtaking, it is by no means tranquil. The view from the deck is so magnificent because the schooner is in the most exposed berth on Pier 25. Between the southerly wind blowing across the full fetch of the upper harbor and the wakes from boat traffic, the schooner was in constant motion. We were told that this was the windiest that they had seen since the oyster bar opened for business. Even so, the motion was not unpleasant. The Sherman Zwicker is large and heavy enough to dampen most harbor chop. Plates and glasses were secure on the table tops, though the bartender commented that fixing drinks on the moving schooner took a bit of getting use to.
New York City is a high energy place and the same is true of New York harbor. From our table looking over the upper harbor, we watched a constant stream of tug boats, running free and with barges in tow. Ferries criss-crossed the Hudson in wide arcs to compensate for the swift current. Dinner boats and harbor taxis joined in the traffic, as did a fleet of small sail boats, racing in a mini-regatta beneath the torch of the Statue of Liberty. Add in power boats and yachts of all shapes and sizes, as well as the passing kayak, and it it felt as if we were sitting, watching the nautical world go by, as we gently bobbed in waves and wakes. It was both relaxing and invigorating.
The oyster bar on the Sherman Zwicker has only been open since Saturday but reportedly has been packed since it opened. On Saturday, they apparently ran out of their entire oyster supply for the weekend. Fortunately, they were able to arrange an emergency oyster delivery on Sunday. The schooner will remain at Pier 25 through October. If you are near New York harbor, it is well worth a visit. The schooner is open from 10am to 11pm daily, while the oyster bar is open daily 3pm to 11pm.