I guess you could say it’s been spoiled by success. Strolling the enormously popular High Line of late has not exactly been a walk in the park. So slow. So crowded. And it is having the very breath squeezed out of it by the ever encroaching Hudson Yards project, which, for better or worse, is changing the landscape of far west Manhattan.
So we took a different route the other day. “Head west, old people!” And just a little north.
We slipped beneath the West Side Highway at 70th and Riverside Park South last Saturday morning and discovered Pier i Cafe, which is sort of a cross between a restaurant and a backyard picnic. The vibe is a cheerful tableau of brightly-colored umbrellas, lawn chairs, paper plates and a joyous assembly of baby strollers and dogs amid views of the Hudson River.
The menu is promising: lots and lots of food options and on the drinks side, a beer-lover’s paradise plus plenty of rosé and wine coolers all exuberantly chalk-drawn on blackboards. Although I must admit that once you put a Caesar salad on a paper plate, it loses a bit of its mojo. As Shakespeare might say, you come here not to praise Caesar, just to get a bite to eat.
But who cares about the food when this is your dining companion at the next table:
And while you might come for the snack, you stay for the walk. That giant among men, Central Park visionary Frederick Law Olmsted, designed Riverside Park’s in the 1870’s when it looked like this:
It looks a bit different today, but no less charming, and, at least when we visited last weekend, no crowds!
We saw lots of willows, a few stone cairns and vestiges of a bygone railroad yard – but very few people. It was lovely.
Last Saturday there were girls in bikinis sunning themselves lazily along the walkway, but the weather has changed. A twenty-degree temperature drop tells me that summer has exited stage left and autumn is on the way. I hear it gets a bit brisk over on Riverside in the bitter months, so if you’re planning a walk, you might want to do it sooner than later. Pat a dog on the head and say hi to the Hudson for me.