A Night at the Frying Pan, NYC’s Surprisingly Chilled Out Party Boat – Eater NY

Two decades ago, Chelsea’s Hudson River waterfront was a far different place. The Hudson River Park was just being excavated and the waterfront was a maze of abandoned piers, dug-up bike trails, and half-built structures. Getting there required negotiating an obstacle course. In the middle of this mess, through the efforts of maritime preservationist John Krevey, a strange apparition appeared in the form of a bathtub of a boat called the Frying Pan. It was moored at Pier 66, just north of 23rd Street, by an old railroad barge at the crumbling pier.

Soon, another decrepit boat joined it at the same pier, and the three pieces of marine architecture presented something of a spectacle as they emerged from the fog in the early morning. The complex soon became a makeshift riverside pub, with most of the seating on the two boats, and a bar and hamburger grill positioned on the barge. The entire thing swayed in the lapping waves of the mighty Hudson, and the first customers tended to just be locals.

But in the years that followed, the sense of the Frying Pan’s exclusivity completely vanished, and the swelling crowds came to include tourists and Wall Street bros in their shirt sleeves, ties unknotted. The boat became known as a frat party on water, with long lines regularly forming on any semblance of a nice day of people vying for a spot on the boat to chug buckets of beer, find hook-ups, and occasionally even (illegally) dive into the river below.

Now, the barge functions as a massive seating area prized for its views of the sunset. Lines have slightly calmed down, and visitors range from those aforementioned financiers and neighborhood locals to tourists from Tel Aviv and those attending birthday parties. Yes, some of the romance is gone, but the Frying Pan has become more democratic in its outlook. No more is it a place for clubsters and the terminally hip to hide out, but that’s also a good thing. The beer list is better than before, and surprisingly, the hamburgers almost as good as ever.

Here’s who went on a recent Friday evening in May, taking advantage of the rising temperatures and free feeling that comes along with them.

Nawell Valerio, left

Nawell Valerio, 38, Manhattan

Have you been here before?

It’s my first time this season. But I’ve come countless times for years. I’m a repeat offender.

Why do you like it so much?

The atmosphere is very chill. You can have a beautiful day in New York on the water, enjoy a little beach vibe without having to travel. Today we surprise got out of work early and we were like, “We’re gonna do this right!”

What’s the craziest thing you’ve seen here?

I saw a wedding here once. I don’t know where they got married, but sure enough the couple and their core friends all walked in. It was late on a Friday night and they got drinks with everybody at the bar. I was like, “OK, yes, the Frying Pan! Do you!” We all had champagne.

A.J. DeAngelo, left

A.J. DeAngelo, 42, New Jersey

Do you come here often?

I used to come for after work drinks, like six times over the years. It’s what I expected, it’s beautiful, it’s sunny, lots of pretty people hanging. I’m wearing island style — the big island of Manhattan.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve seen here?

Last time I was here, I fainted. Seriously. It was four years ago. There was a storm, and I had a few Coronas. We went on the boat. During the storm, five hours later, with the alcohol, I lost my sea legs.

Bruce Dumont

Bruce Dumont, 39, security director at the Frying Pan

What’s the craziest thing you’ve seen?

Typical relationship fights between couples. They come here and get in an argument. We’re kid friendly, so we don’t want people arguing in front of kids. We ask people to step off board.

Are there a lot of wasted people?

You get drunk people anywhere you go. When people get intoxicated in the boat, we try to get them off as quick as possible. We rock so when you’re intoxicated, it enhances it. You get that here from time to time. It’s when somebody’s been here since 11:30 a.m., and they’re still here at 6 p.m. But it’s a good environment.

Have you seen anyone having sex?

Not yet.

Kiticka McRae-Roberts, center

Kiticka McRae-Roberts, 23, corporal in the U.S. Marines

So, are you guys having a successful Fleet Week?

Are we able to get free drinks? Are Americans generous toward patriots? Yes! Americans in New York City are very generous, and they support patriotism completely. So we have the opportunity to hook up with generous Americans.

Bryan Dewey, left, and Jack Griffin, right

Bryan Dewey and Jack Griffin, both 25, roommates in Chelsea

Have you guys been here before?

Griffin: It’s my first time. It’s sick. I love the water.

What are you drinking?

Griffin: Jameson on the rocks. It’s my second one. I’ll have one more of these maybe.

Do you have any goals today?

Griffin: Meeting new people. It’s already a success. It’s all up to me now. But I feel like if we stay here long enough, something will happen.

Dewey: It’ll be me.

Karlen Norton

Karlen Norton, 37, bartender at the Frying Pan

How long have you worked here?

Seven years. I’ve definitely seen some stuff — mostly beautiful sunsets. And the occasional jump in the water. That happens about once a year. But that’s a $5,000 jump. Not worth it between the cop fine and diseases from the Hudson. And you can’t come back.

What’s the most popular drink?

The most popular cocktail is the watermelon frosé. We’ve only had it for like three years. Most popular drink, though, is the Sol bucket. It’s not Corona; it’s just a better beer.

Do you ever pick up the customers?

Back in the day I picked up, but I’m married now.

How many people?

Enough.

How much do you make?

On a busy night, I make enough. Let’s call it a thousand-dollar Saturday.

Ilana Freeman, 22, New Jersey; Erna Nalic, 24, Hoboken; Stephanie Cetrulo, 24, Florida

Have you been here before?

Freeman: It’s my favorite place. I love being on the water. It’s a great atmosphere. I came four or five times last year.

Cetrulo: It’s my first time.

What do you think?

Cetrulo: I love it. I love that I’m in the city, but I can see the city view. It’s a good experience.

Nalic: It’s also business man heaven.

Do you ever bring anyone home?

Freeman: No. It’s nice to look at.

Nalic: I like the vibe.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve seen here?

Nalic: One time we got hit on by guys who smelled like they hadn’t showered in two weeks. But other than that, nothing crazy has happened.

Danielle Kurtin

Danielle Kurtin, 33, district manager/beverage director at the Frying Pan

How long have you worked here?

18 years. Since I was 18 as a bartender. We call it summer camp. It’s a short season, but no day is ever the same.

Have you seen anyone having sex?

Yes I have, girl! And a bunch of other stuff you’d consider crazy. But that hasn’t happened in a while because we’re trying to change the narrative. We don’t want people to just think it’s always a frat party. The crazy stories are from a decade ago.

How are you trying to change the narrative?

We don’t just want to be dive bar with shots. We want to be known for food and atmosphere and history. We’re doing away with plastic, and we want to not be a day-drinking frat party. Every Sunday, we do live music to promote movies and kids. We’re trying to not gear ourselves to one target group.

Jeff Kornin, 27, Williamsburg

Why are you only getting here at 10 p.m.?

I’m supposed to meet a Tinder date here and didn’t want to be here too long.

Edward Moreel, 25, Upper West Side

Do you come here often?

This is only my second time here. I promote rooftops, so I’m usually on one of those.

Why are you back then?

The first time I came here was with a group of au pairs, and it was a good time.

Marvin Cyrus, 32, security staff member at the Frying Pan

How long have you worked here?

Five seasons. I love this place. It’s unique; it’s one of the kind. You don’t really see a place like this in New York City.

How does the vibe change throughout the day?

The sun deck is extremely packed until 8 p.m. But it’s like a ghost town after sunset.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve seen?

I’ve seen a guy jump off the pier and swim to the next pier, from Pier 66 to the one next to it. It was a $500 bet with his college buddies — but he got a $2,000 fine. We had about seven different fire boats that came and five different fire trucks. We had to call them. They were wasted.

Terrence Jackson, 25, Long Island

How many times have you been here?

Ten times. I love the vibe and people. I love coming here with my coworkers.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve seen here?

I picked someone up one time. She was a client asking about her finances. I work at Merrill.

That’s the craziest thing?

One time, I saw some dude on the ledge. There was a fight, and a guy threw him over, and he hit his head and fell in the water. I had to get outta here. Shit was crazy.

Mark Flynn, 24, Upper East Side

Why are you here?

It’s a good environment on a Friday afternoon, beautiful day. I’ve got a long weekend of drinking, so why not?

What’s the craziest thing you’ve seen here?

I saw a dude chug an entire pitcher of sangria. He looked like he was having a great time.