The oyster barges of yesteryear are a peculiar relic of New York history: giant waterfront shipping containers that once doled out Crassostrea virginicas by the bucket. History repeats itself—with a makeover—with tomorrow's opening of Grand Banks, an oyster-and-booze bar on the Sherman Zwicker, a handsomely refurbished 142-foot fishing schooner docked at Pier 25 in Tribeca.
The project is the brainchild of Brooklyn new-wave dining pioneer Mark Firth (Diner, Marlow & Sons), Adrien Gallo (Double Happiness) and Maritime Foundation co-founders Miles and Alex Pincus. (The restaurant's name is borrowed from the Newfoundland waters the Zwicker trawled some 70 years ago.)
Transforming the wooden vessel into a functioning restaurant presented a unique set of challenges for Firth, whose previous operations have all been built on terra firma.
"The first thing you learn is you can't have fire on a boat," he observes, laughing. "You can use hot plates, but not open flames."
The ship originally featured a wood-burning stove in the sleeping quarters (now the kitchen). "Sadly had to take it out, " Firth says. "It made sense when you're in the North Atlantic in winter, but not when you're moored to a dock and it's 87 degrees outside."
The above-deck bar will serve shucked-to-order oysters from New York and further afield, wine, beer and cocktails. Chef James Kim, formerly of North End Grill, will turn out a rotating menu of seafood-focused dishes including olive oil-poached salt cod and lobster rolls from the tiny kitchen. Firth and crew plan to stay docked until chillier temperatures roll in October, when they'll set sail for the warmer waters of south Florida.
"I hear that North Miami Beach is like Williamsburg 15 years ago," Firth jokes. "We'll head down there, make some friends, then come back in the spring."
Update 7/3/14: Due to the possibility of a serious summer storm, Grand Banks announced today that they are postponing their official opening until this Saturday. "We are on a boat after all!" Check their website for more details.