-img3- The Rusty Knot 425 West St, at 11th St
I wouldn’t have thought the West Side Highway was a great place to go immediately after work — I mean, you have to book it immediately after work, and you show up pouring sweat — but I forgot the old truth: that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. And the Rusty Knot, looking out at the ancient spires of Hoboken through its giant, spotless windows, gets one of the most beautiful sunset views I’ve ever seen in Manhattan. Sure, there are some gorgeous rooftop bars (like 230 Fifth), but you pay for their beauty with watery $14 gin and tonics. And no regular, ground-floor bar, embedded in the cool forest of Manhattan’s skyscrapers, gets so flooded with glorious, angelic golden sunlight that the bartenders wear sunglasses and aren’t made fun of.
Plus it’s cheap, in ways. The theme is faux-crappy nautical, with plastic fish mounted on the wall, lamps in wooden wheels, a tiki-style bar and a gaudy neon fish tank, but the vibe is tony and buzzing, and by 7pm it’s packed. Being on the West Side Highway, which isn’t at all near (by NYC standards, at least) any subways, tailors the crowd to mostly cab-takers and West Villagers, meaning they’re generally over 25 and fancy — some comfortably over 25, some very comfortably fancy. The drinks and prices match the rustic beachy décor: cans of Busch are $3, and thimble-sized glasses of it are a mysterious and useless 99 cents. Mixed drinks come with plastic mermaids hooked over the edge, like the eponymous Rusty Knot ($7), a dreadful and undrinkable frozen mix of what seemed like bile, high fructose corn syrup, Everclear and hail, or the much better and very rummy Dark and Stormy ($11). The specialty cocktails and beers are spelled out on one of those hand-lettered catch-of-the-day style signs, and there’s a menu of clam-shack food on another — like the Roasted Razor Clams ($13, in a basket), the Coca Cola Ribs ($12, extra napkins) and the Pickle ($2).
Although the Rusty Knot doesn’t replicate the sand-in-the-shoes laziness of Cape Cod, the Jersey Shore or, I don’t know Coney Island, in any authentic way — “relaxing” wouldn’t be one of the first 40 words I used to describe it — it does have its own really good ‘50s-yacht thing going on, with prawn baskets, glass lantern lights, air conditioners, closed windows, stilettos and pomade. And the best sunset you’ll get at water level, unless the Frying Pan opens back up, as promised, this summer. God, I love the Frying Pan.