Now Docking Downtown: An Oyster Bar on a Boat

The restaurant's partners, from left: Adrien Gallo, Mark Firth, Miles Pincus and Alex Pincus.

The restaurant's partners, from left: Adrien Gallo, Mark Firth, Miles Pincus and Alex Pincus.

Via The New York Times:

For Alex Pincus, the question wasn’t whether Manhattan needed a floating oyster bar and mini-maritime museum on a 72-year-old codfish schooner, but rather where to put it. Now, his vision has become reality in the form of Grand Banks, which will begin serving food and drinks Thursday afternoon on a boat docked off Hudson River Park in TriBeCa.
Pincus, who grew up sailing on Lake Pontchartrain and founded the Atlantic Yachting school on the Upper West Side with his brother Miles, had been reading about the city’s 19th-century oyster barges a few years ago when the idea occurred to him to build a modern-day version. Piled high with just-dug Crassostrea virginica, says Pincus, the vessels would sell their wares to hungry New Yorkers directly from the docks. “We thought, ‘why don’t we have that here?'” he says of a conversation with Miles that followed. The two gathered their restaurant-industry friends — including Mark Firth, a co-founder of the Brooklyn restaurants Diner and Marlow & Sons and Adrien Gallo, a former owner of downtown bars including Palais Royale and Double Happiness — and “started looking around for the spot.”
That spot turned out to be the park’s Pier 25, where the partners have a yearlong lease to park a 142-foot-long Nova Scotian wooden fishing vessel called the Sherman Zwicker. (Tentative plans are to stay until fall, says Alex Pincus, and then sail down to Florida for the winter.)
The Sherman Zwicker was once the property of the Maine Maritime Museum, where four decades ago a sailor and nautical-history buff named George McEvoy (“the ultimate old soul,” says Pincus) lovingly restored it. As of last week McEvoy’s pride and joy — the last of its kind used to fish among the Grand Banks of Newfoundland and now the largest wooden vessel in New York City — was docked in Red Hook, Brooklyn. There the Pincuses and their partners hustled to outfit the kitchen (formerly bunks where sailors slept) and to prepare marine-education exhibits in the stalls where just-caught cod was once buried in salt for the trip to South America.
Above decks, they also built out two bars, one for drinks (such as daily nautical-themed cocktails and ales from Red Hook’s Other Half Brewing Company), and another topped with zinc for a rotating menu of sustainably sourced oysters. Those, as well as the rest of the Grand Banks menu — lobster rolls, small plates of seasonally and locally available seafood — will be overseen by Firth, who is also the owner of Prairie Whale restaurant in the Berkshires.
It was in those landlocked mountains, where both Firth and Alex Pincus had moved a few years back, that the seed for Grand Banks was first planted. The two men, old friends from the city, crossed paths at the gym and got to discussing how they shared both a love of the urban waterfront and a desire to connect the rest of the city to it. It was that conversation that spurred Pincus to research old New York’s oyster barges. Now, both are splitting their time between the boat and the Berkshires. “It’s kind of ironic that we had to move away,” says Firth, “to figure this out.”