Riverside respites

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On the Upper West Side, a few spots for waterfront drinking, eating and relaxing


  • The Pier I Cafe is adjacent to the Hudson River, at about 70th Street. Photo: Victoria Edwards

  • The Boat Basin Cafe is along the Hudson River in Riverside Park at about 79th Street. Photo: Victoria Edwards

I’m a runner and my favorite place to run in the city is along the Hudson riverside — from 130th Street to midtown usually. And there’s no better motivation to run than exploring the bars on my route. I got drinks at Ellington Park, Boat Basin and Pier I. All three share beautiful waterfront views — but each offers a varying experience, from nearby mini gyms to outdoor parties.

Pier I Cafe

This cafe/bar is right on the Hudson River, at about 70th Street. The outdoor space also includes a coffee bar with large green umbrellas over plastic chairs and tables. But don’t expect table service: It’s the kind of spot where you get in line, order and then take your food and drinks back to your table. The cafe is usually crowded and most patrons who score tables have their own methods, one that usually involves multiple people — one to order and the other to scout out and hold a spot.

“I have a table strategy, said Amy Tapper, an Upper West Side resident. She was there on Father’s Day with her husband and their two teenage children. “We always split up to look for empty seats — I have better luck on the upper deck — I’ve never had to leave. It’s like an art.”

Best Feature: Sunset & great place to take part in Summer on the Hudson festivities. Keep In Mind: You WILL have to scout hard for a spot.

Best thing to eat: Hamburger & Old Bay fries ($13)

Recommended drink: Spiked blueberry lemonade ($12) and sangria ($9)


Boat Basin Cafe

Easier to miss than Pier 1, but once spotted to the side of the Riverside running trail at about 79th Street, the Boat Basin Cafe looks a little bit like a fort from the outside. About halfway up a winding staircase are two carts selling everything that is good about summer: Hot dogs ($2) and gelato ($3 for a small and $6 for a large). The interior has amazing architecture featuring Spanish-styled arching ceilings — and it’s all open air so it feels like being outside without the intense heat. The place is buzzing with enthusiastic 20-somethings drinking piña coladas and rosé sangrias. It’s this scene that keeps regulars, like Rebecca Lee, coming back.

“I come here twice a month. I love the vibe. It’s very close to the water and with a light breeze you feel like you’re outside when you’re not. I usually get frozen drinks and Montauk beers,” Lee said

Best Feature: Live music & high energy. It’s its own scene. It’s also another great spot to watch the sunset over the Hudson. They also have a GREAT happy hour.

Best thing to eat: Nachos ($15 with meat)

Recommended drink: Rosé sangria with fresh chunks of peach, apple and blueberries ($11). The frozen drinks are also great: Choose from piña coladas, daiquiris and margaritas.


Ellington in the Park

A definite bar to lock into your GPS — Ellington in the Park is a an amazing spot, particularly because it’s close to the riverside but still somewhat tucked away.

There’s an upstairs and downstairs, with a great open air bar with the Hudson River stretched out in front of you. There is also a sand pit with volleyball courts, ping-pong tables and exercise rings just a few feet away, which is why Milo Saidl continues to come here.

“I come here to swing on the rings like a monkey. I’m not good at it yet,” Saidl said. Although he comes for exercise, getting a beer at Ellington Park has also become part of his treasured routine.

What Stands Out: You can exercise on the rings or play baseball or soccer nearby.

Best thing to eat: Pizza was a customer favorite and runs between $12 and $14, depending on toppings.

Recommended Drink: Schofferhofer Breeze — Hefeweizen and grapefruit beer blend that I had as a frozen drink ($9).

Drink $$ Range: $7-$14

Food $$ Range: $9-$16


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