Now that summer is winding to a close, you better either RUN here in the next few weeks, or else bookmark it for next summer. Because there is NOTHING about The Frying Pan ... absolutely nothing... to go for except location, location, location.
And for that, they have a mint corner on a prime market. The boat is actually a 1930's lightship that sunk of Chesapeake Bay, but was salvaged and resurrected as a summertime destination for simple food and relatively cheap meal on the water. On a breezy summer day, you can sit high on the upper level of the rusty old boat and gaze out over a panorama of New York and New Jersey, sailboats cruising by and a the sun glinting off gentle crests of the Hudson. And you won't starve (although they can keep you waiting for your order long enough to think you might), you're not going there for the food.
But food there is and you can't really just go and take up a table without ordering, so I'll give you an idea of what you'll encounter. Ordering is done at the little kiosk set in the middle of the boat and then picked up when it's ready from the counter flanking the open-air kitchen. Orders are frequently misplaced and out of order, but they keep parties together so at least you'll all get your food at the same time. The menu is a standard, diner-esque list of burgers and wraps, a couple of entrees and salads thrown in for good measure and a smattering of side dishes. They are, after all, cooking in a very small, very limited kitchen, on a boat. You can only expect so much. And don't try and stray much from the menu with substitutions or alterations: they'll get back at you either by messing it up or making you wait so long your melting ice cubes'll water down your Coke. I tried adding some (generic, canned) shredded beets to my salad and a resultant twenty one minute wait ensued.
But the burger is good, 8 ounces of prime Pat LaFrieda sirloin with your typical trimmings: cheddar is a buck more and bacon, avocado or mushrooms an additional $2. Its fries are crispy, salty, if unremarkable. Vegetarians won't die here, either: there's a chopped veggie burger with the same offerings, a goat cheese sandwich and the grilled vegetable-hummous wrap, which I tried. The vegetables were a fresh mix of zucchini and summery peppers, but the hummous was grocery-store caliber and all of it rolled into a thick, naan-style flatbread that was a little heavy for its fillings. Comes with a little tub of tzatziki and salad, which was a nice little fresh touch. Deciding to stay seasonal, we nabbed some corn on the cob as well, but it wasn't much to speak of besides corn on the cob just being inherently good, but these ears weren't particularly juicy or flavorful, although cute with some random white kernels along with the yellow ones, giving a happy, polka-dot effect. We saw some buckets of Corona, which wouldn't be a bad idea for a group just out for libations, but they also have some local craft brews that might make for a better New York experience.
Dinner opens up a couple more options with fried chicken and a clam-bake, so foodies might want to wait 'til evening hours to expand their options. But day or night, the real reason to go to The Frying Pan is to escape the city, feel the bob of the boat as you attend to a meal, and forget for a time all that stress and bustle and filth that, while only steps across the West Side Highway, for the moment seems so very, very far away.