If you have any relationship with The Richardson—albeit it a one-nighter, Grand Ferry (229 Kent Ave) will feel strangely, wonderfully, familiar. And that’s because co-founders Jon Derosa and Joel Lee Kulp—as well as the staff, are transplants from Greenpoint’s popular speakeasy. Located on Kent Ave in Williamsburg, this waterfront tavern is inspired by a ferry that docked nearby until 1918.
Dig old stuff? If you are an antique nut like me, you will appreciate that the mirrors, prints, and resident mermaid (who exists as a sculpture and is printed on Grand Ferry’s matchbox) all hail from Kulp’s treks to the Mecca of antique fairs—Brimfield. Lining the walls are early 20th century prints of the East River—including one of the East River bridge, now known as the Williamsburg Bridge.
Behind the bar you might notice a brightly colored vintage cocktail book called Nip Ahoy. In it are screen-printed comics detailing recipes of the classics. According to Stephen (my new favorite bartender), rumors are that the artwork may reincarnate as staff-wide tattoos.
Grand Ferry’s raw bar includes a rotating selection of oysters and littlenecks that are served in 6 pieces per-order. Bar snacks are affordable and include a decadent, Great Blue Fondue. You also have the opportunity to enjoy a full-dining experience off the large plate menu. I sampled the clam roll, and let me tell you—hypothetically—if you had been repeatedly seduced the night before by The Richardson’s tequila-laden maiden, the Devil Woman–this roll is your savior. Battered and lightly fried, a voluptuous portion of full-belly clams is served on a toasted roll topped with fennel slaw—YUM. To all my vegetarian friends, and to those not inclined toward mollusks, you, too, have options! Kulp boasts of his best seller, the Wild Mushroom Shephard’s Pie.
This turn-of-the-century-inspired tavern hosts a slew of exciting cocktails. Among them are classics like the Singapore Sling—and original cocktails, like the aptly named, tequila-based, Captain Badass. While docking at Grand Ferry, you can also savor drinks crafted from their single-barrel Old Weller’s Antique. Aside from the high-octane cocktail selection, those seeking something more polite have only to choose from the 20 European wines and an extensively curated 14 draft beers—each deriving from harbor town distilleries across the US.
It’s not open yet, but in the works is an intimate backyard-dining alcove. Kulp is hoping it will be ready early this fall. Prix-fixe lunch specials are also enroute.
BUT WHERE’S BRUNCH?
Kulp admits that something “vaguely brunch-like” is imminent. But don’t expect to find your average eggs benedict at Grand Ferry. Florida-boy and chef, Bret Ackerman will invent a brunch to inspire your Sunday Funday. Two words: Hangtown Fry. If you were wondering, the answer is yes: this will include gin-fried oysters.
If you identify as a fellow atmospherist, you will most surely be pleased with a visit to what would have been Hemingway’s favorite haunt. If your inclination remains suspended, there’s no doubt that Grand Ferry’s signature siren will romance you. After all, Grand Ferry just might be THE place to get shipwrecked.
Photography by Eddy Vallante.