West 70th Street and Riverside Boulevard
New York, NY 10069
(212) 362-4450

The first time I went to the Pier I Cafe (or is it the Pier i Cafe?) was for a date, and since then I keep finding myself back. It's just so relaxing. You can sit under the umbrellas for hours and read, watch the ships pass by, stare longingly at the joggers who run by, or chill out with friends nursing beers.

Pier I is nestled just under the West Side Highway and every seat is outdoors. This can be problematic in the rain, despite the over-sized umbrellas... but at least you're guaranteed a seat. Pier I has no table service. You order and pay McDonalds style and then find a seat. They'll call your number when your order's ready. On a crowded day, if you order and are by yourself with no one to save your table, you may wind up with a cold hamburger by the time you get to sit down.

On my first food-related trip here (I usually go to drink a beer and relax), ordered the i Burger. It was hard not to. You can smell the grill for blocks. It comes with lettuce, tomato, pickle onion, seasoned fries and your choice of cheese. Pretty good, but a wee bit greasy. Grab some extra napkins.

But Pier I is not just diner food. Those with more sophisticated palates can order the likes of grilled salmon or skirt steak. I returned with Bro recently and tried their Fish and Chips (no sophisticated palate for me), deep fried cod with the same seasoned fried that the burger came with and a small salad. Pretty good. The "homemade" tartar sauce was mediocre. Bro ordered the Southern Chicken Wrap, a barbecue chicken wrap with Monterrey jack cheese tomato and greens and a salad. I liked his wrap more than my fish and chips, but that might have been because it felt more healthy.

The Pier I Cafe isn't expensive, but it's not a cheap place either. It's about average. Their small menu averages just under $20 for a dinner entree and the salads can get as high as $16 if you want grilled shrimp. Beers can be had by the bucket for $28 and sangria by the pitcher for $33. Naturally, there's a small wine list.

Think if the Pier I Cafe as an upscale picnic experience with a waterfront instead of grass and with tables instead of tablecloths.

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