The South Street Seaport in New York City is rich with history, culture and excitement. Full of amazing bars, restaurants, local businesses and much more, the seaport is still having a hard time recovering from Superstorm Sandy. Just because full subway service has been restored (including A train service to the Rockaways) does not mean the city is not still hurting from last October’s beating. Water flooded local establishments in the Seaport floor to ceiling, leaving some businesses with no options. One thing that will remain constant no matter what the weather brings is our ability to rebuild. Local tour company Urban Oyster saw an opportunity to get more foot traffic back downtown by creating a food tour titled “Neighborhood Eats: New York Waterfront” that highlights some of downtowns best gems. But this was more than a food tour. Unlike any other tour I’ve been on, Urban Oyster split the day between Manhattan and Brooklyn, with an unforgettable water taxi ride to and from. What a ride!
Our tour began at Bowne & Co. Stationers on Water Street; a famous and privately owned printing company who still use 19th century printing methods. There, we explored their methods of printing and learned a bit about the history of press. The workers there are so well versed on their processes, they said you’ll know if there’s enough ink on the roller based on the hiss it’s making. From there, we walked down Beekman Street to Fresh Salt, a local bar and restaurant that took in almost 10 feet of water during Sandy. Their efforts to rebuild and reopen were fruitless, but still took months. We sampled some of their amazing homemade macaroni and cheese and moved on. Something I learned about the Seaport that day was that the current coastline is not the original coastline. As Manhattan began growing as a port city in the 1700 and 1800’s, the island needed to become more suitable for a larger volume of ships. As a result, they decided to build the land out by creating landfills. Made up of mostly dirt and garbage, the waterline was extended from Pearl Street to the current FDR Drive. Good thing, because our next two stops were part of an outdoor market that sat upon that very land.
Something else I learned that day was that Manhattan used to supply half of the world’s oysters. Henry Hudson, the first European to set foot on the island of Manhattan found an oyster the size of a dinner plate. Because of its availability, it became the food of the poor. But in true American style, the oysters were overharvested, and the harbor polluted. Luckily, oysters continued to be harvested in the North Atlantic which is where our next treat came from. The Brooklyn Oyster Party offered us a beau soleiix oyster. This was my first oyster experience so I asked for a recommendation on what to add. Our shucker suggested adding simply a little lemon juice. I was told to chew a few times and throw it back. To my surprise, it had a pleasant and refreshing taste; definitely trying them again. A few tents down, Landhaus sampled for us a maple bacon stick. I know what you’re thinking – that can’t be real, but it was. A rectangular slice of pork wrapped in maple cured bacon topped with some paprika. Pure bliss. These tents were part of a small gathering of vendors offering delicious treats in hopes to generate more buzz for the neighborhood.
From there, we boarded the Hop-on Hop-off NYC water taxi giving us amazing views of the Brooklyn and Williamsburg bridges. Upon entering Brooklyn, we walked through Brooklyn Bridge Park and the charming neighborhood of DUMBO – Down Under Manhattan Bridge Overpass. In Dumbo, an incredibly famous pizza spot occupies a quaint corner. Any New Yorker can tell you Grimaldi’s is the place to get pizza in Brooklyn. Trademark issues over naming brought us a spin-off restaurant named Juliana’s Pizza. There we sampled pizza made with the freshest dough and tomatoes, goats milk mozzarella and cooked in a coal oven at over 800 degrees. It was DELICIOUS.
Now it was about time for some dessert. We wandered over to One Girl Cookies. Famous for the cookies, cupcakes and whoopee pies, we were given a plate of cookies. We each got three miniature cookies; perfect in every way. One Girl’s idea is to give boxes of cookies or whoopee pies as gifts in place of chocolates. Sensible! Just when we thought it was all dessert from here on out, we approached another outdoor food market. At Rice & Miso Everyday we were given a ‘basic’ rice ball with brown rice black sesame and sea salt, and wrapped in seaweed. Turns out rice balls are more popular in Japan than sushi. They are great snacks for kids and adults because it’s a small portion, but super filling – and super delicious.
To round out an awesome day of snacks, we headed over to Brooklyn Roasting Company, made famous by their fresh coffee. They do all roasting and brewing in house and have over 30 varieties from all over the globe. We tried a standard ice coffee, to which I added a little milk and a little liquid sugar. We looked around a little, but they are currently doing construction to accommodate a larger volume.
While that was the last stop on our tour, the grand finale was the water taxi back to Manhattan. It took us down the East River, around the southern tip of the island, and towards the Statue of Liberty. Devastatingly, my camera died upon entering the boat, but the views were surreal – an angle from which I had never seen the city. We looped around Ellis Island and up the Hudson towards midtown, and were dropped off at 44th street. With a full belly, and a full heart I highly recommend the Urban Oyster tours to anyone either from New York or beyond.
Urban Oyster offers a variety of food tours all over the city including a craft beer tour, a tour of Brooklyn's finest wine distilleries and way more! For more infomation visit Urban Oyster online!