May 27, 2007 | BITE: My Journal

79th Street Boat Basin Café Sunset

River view in a tunnel of noise at the Boat Basin Cafe. Photo: Steven Richter

    The long Memorial Day weekend exodus seems like a blessing. Who’s in town beside the fleet? All of us who were so myopic that we didn’t buy that house on the dunes in Amagansett for $330,000 when we actually had the cash. In my crowd of strivers and achievers, we are precious few. “I love New York when it’s empty like this,” we tell each other.

    But it isn’t empty.  It’s full of students and apprentices, the dis-in-cottaged, people who never heard of the Hamptons…dare I say it? Poor people.  Almost all of them are lined up tonight for a table at the 79th Street Boathouse Café. Except the cash strapped few who seem happy enough picnicking on the grass overlooking the Hudson. It will be a two and a half hour wait, the guardian of the signup sheet estimates.

     I am shocked to see dozens willing to wait.  Not me.  My guy and I search for the friends who promised to meet us…and then she, briskly efficient, triumphant, finds us.  “We got here an hour early…Come, we have a table.”

     It’s not a coveted table inside under the arches with its river view and lovely colored globe lights.  Thank heaven for that.  Having caught the last rays over New Jersey while waiting, I’m thrilled to sit on the deck beyond -- the 79th Street entrance to the West Side Highway curling around us overhead -- where our very civilized friends, just back from their Aspen retreat, have been sipping beer and reading.

      So, no two and a half hour wait.  In twenty minutes, an agreeable waiter, wrangling thirty or so tables around us, brings us chips, a burger (about as unimpressive as you might expect, but edible), an acceptable Caesar, decent cole slaw and a hot dog.  He wasn’t sure the kitchen would be willing to split it open and "broil the hell out of it," as our Aspen pal requested, but the kitchen does. An ordinary dog is certainly better caramelized that way.

     In a place like this, you are likely to get BBQ baby back ribs so sweet or hideously sauced they make you angry. These are sort of okay.  But I’m hooked on the moist corn-niblet-studded corn bread alongside. And for $9.95 the black forest ham, brie and apple sandwich on raisin nut pumpernickel is remarkably good.

In Riverside Park at the end of 79th Street. 212 496 5542