Sure, dining with a river view is great, but if you really want to impress a date, shoot for a restaurant on the water—literally. Brooklyn’s the Water Table, the borough’s first dinner boat, sets sail once again this Friday, bringing your dream of dining in a WWII minesweeping vessel (we all had that dream, right?) back to NYC.
The brainchild of Kelli Farwell and Sue Walsh, The Water Table dishes out a New England-themed menu aboard a 1944 Navy minesweeping boat—one of only three vessels of its kind still in service. After its military career, the boat logged time as a fireboat in the New York harbor, a passenger ferry in Maine, and a charter boat in the Boston Harbor before finding its way to Farwell and Walsh, who combed through boat listings for a year before they were able to purchase the vessel with help from an Indiegogo campaign.
The idea of creating a restaurant on a boat evolved naturally for the couple. Farwell was able to put both her years of experience in the food industry and a commercial captain’s license to use, Walsh utilized her graphic design experience for the restaurant’s branding, and both spent time researching the prix fixe menu served on board.
“It sort of all came together a little unexpectedly, but then it was like ‘Oh, this is the perfect set of elements that could come together and make this project work,’ ” says Farwell. “And so far it has.”
The restaurant’s success owes a lot to Farwell and Walsh’s perseverance. After its initial launch, The Water Table was sidelined by the seemingly never-ending winter and repairs to the floating restaurant’s standard boarding location in Greenpoint, which it had to abandon in favor of the Skyport Marina in Manhattan. There’s also general upkeep, but you won’t hear Farwell complaining.
“There are tons of things you have to maintain with an old wood boat that makes it an ongoing process,” she says. “You never really get to the end of it, but if you love it you just keep at it.”
Thanks to the couple’s hard work, you can once again enjoy the two-and-a-half hour meal as the boat cruises past the Manhattan skyline, either at the wraparound counter or one of the boat’s two large tables. The coursed meal nods to its New England origins and also takes a seasonal focus, with items such as a spring panzanella salad, baked Peekytoe crab cakes, and a Maine root beer float. And it’s not unusual to see either Farwell or Walsh helming the kitchen.
“We’re not really able to get just anybody to cook on a boat. People romanticize it,” says Farwell. “It’s fun for me. We like it, but that’s what we signed up for.”
While there are possible plans for a later cocktail cruise, right now Farwell and Walsh are focusing on the primary dinner seating and continuing to pour their energies into a venture they didn’t exactly plan on starting as a wife-and-wife team—but again, no complaints from Farwell.
“It was just sort of an organic, and I think that’s the only way it would work. If we had set out like, ‘now we’re going to have a business together,’ I think on paper neither of us would have said that’s what we wanted to do upfront,” she says. “But this is the how it all came together, and it worked out great.”