Caity: What we learned yesterday is that no one should ever go to the Statue of Liberty under any circumstances.
Rich: It is a place of hell. It is the worst place I've been to in recent memory. Or maybe in every memory. (It's the worst place I've been to in your childhood memories.) I'm so sick of challenging myself to try new things only to learn what I already knew: DON'T GO THERE.
Caity: Never have I so despised a symbol of freedom and hope. I wish France would take it back. If France knew the kind of behavior its classy housewarming gift was inspiring in America and her visitors, it would have an aneurysm.
The best restaurant in New York is
The Crown Café on Liberty Island.
À la carte.
Cost, including ferry tickets and line snacks
Rich: My vision of this day was that we would take the subway downtown, breeze onto a ferry that was already waiting for us, ride it over with maybe 15 other people, and have a nice afternoon. Maybe even go up into the statue, because we'd surely have the time.
No. We arrived to throngs.
Caity: The weekday afternoon line could not have been longer if we were waiting to see Taylor Swift dressed up as the Statue of Liberty.
Rich: The line could not have been longer if they were giving out Statues of Liberty for free. Or like, money for free. It was a nice day out, but Jesus Christ, get jobs, people.
Caity: I held out hope for a while that we had unwittingly wandered into a flash mob prank, and that everyone would soon perform their meticulously choreographed dance and then leave us to our peace. But there was no flash. It was just a regular mob.
Rich: Things started to go south almost immediately when we got out of the subway with NO idea where to actually find the ferry, and a gap-toothed man in an orange vest told us he'd sell us tickets onto the boat for $60. After we balked at the price, he clarified that it's $60 because we'd get a "complimentary" bus ride afterward.
First of all, the only way you're gonna get me on a bus is if you pay me.
Secondly, it was at this point of almost being scammed that I realized WE HAD BECOME TOURISTS.
Caity: We were his marks. "There's two suckers," he said to himself. He didn't try to sell us a bridge in Brooklyn but he did try to sell us a free bus for $60.
Rich: The actual no-frills ferry costs $18, which is still $18 too much, but we forked it over. We were then told that there would be a 30 minute wait to go through security. That was off by approximately infinity.
Caity: 30 minutes ON MERCURY.
Rich: What was your favorite thing that happened while we were waiting to board?
Caity: I enjoyed imagining everyone laying out the outfits they would wear to tour to the Statue of Liberty the night before. I'm going to tour the Statue of Liberty tomorrow, so I will wear: a business-appropriate skirt suit. I'm going to tour the Statue of Liberty tomorrow, so I will wear: shredded jeans and metal earrings big as pie plates. There was a man wearing a novelty tee reading "This Is America So Speak English" that I am fairly certain was not official Yellowstone National Park-brand apparel, although it did bear the words "Yellowstone National Park" underneath that command. There were so many members of the United States Polo Association present in their signature embroidered shirts and hats, that I can only assume there was some kind of team event being held at the site.
Rich: I liked the woman ahead of us who, after eavesdropping on our conversation about sunscreen, said, "I have lupus, that's why I'm protected from the sun." (She had a scarf draped over most of her body, including her hat.) Curiously, she then added that "sunscreen is like Elmer's Glue."
Yeah, in that I'd eat it if you handed me a bottle because I'm so fucking hungry.
Caity: Although multiple signs in the Battery Park waiting area promised "airport-style security" (as if this in itself was an attraction, like family-style dining), the resulting security was only airport-style in the sense that airports have security. For instance, most airports don't have giant signs boasting "KNIVES ALLOWED" erected in various locations around the premises.
Rich: We didn't even have the joy of being shoeless for two minutes.
Caity: Also, airport security proceeds with the eventual goal of getting all those who pass through from Point A (inside the security checkpoint) to Point B (their final destination). The Liberty Island security team seemed content to leave everyone at Point A. A beautiful metaphor for how far Americans will go to protect their Liberty.
Rich: What are they guarding against? Not hijackers.
Caity: We did overhear a fly-by-night unofficial tour guide in line talking about September 11th, for reasons unclear. "9/11," he said. "The Twin Towers."
Rich: We overheard him explaining that only two ferries were running instead of the normal three, and that two members of his group boarded a ferry without the other members.
Caity: We overheard him saying—one thousand times— that he was going to find out what the deal was. Good luck, Jerry Seinfeld. (New York joke.)
Rich: He both voiced my frustration and made me more frustrated because I was soon sick of hearing his voice. I didn't like anyone. I didn't like the people who cut the line very shamelessly, saying, "Excuse me, excuse me." I didn't like the 7th graders who got on the ferry ahead of us and stood on the side heckling strangers. I didn't like the baby with a huge head of hair and no teeth that you made friends with. I didn't like the woman that sat on you on the ferry. I didn't like the man who sat next to me with his feet together and legs bowed out to take up the most possible room.
Most distressingly, after a couple eons of waiting and a trip through the airport-style security followed by even more waiting, we watched 15 minutes' worth of people pour off the ferry that we would soon board, and none of them looked happy. ONE guy raised his arms and made a peace sign with his fingers. That was the only discernible emotion. Peace.
Caity: Like when you look at the waxy, make-up-caked skin of a corpse in a coffin and say, "Well, he's at peace now."
Rich: It felt like waiting in line at the gym for a treadmill. Even once you get to the front of the line, you're like, "Fuck. Now I have to run on a treadmill."
Caity: By the time we finally got on the ferry—TWO HOURS after popping out for a quick lunch—you were so ravenous that you ordered food from the on-ferry concession stand. In fact, we were so concerned about the time investment that we seriously considered NOT EVEN LEAVING THE FERRY and instead just reviewing the corn chips and corn muffin you bought while at sea.
Rich: The Best Restaurant in New York Is the Liberty Island Ferry.
Caity: The Best Restaurant in New York is Corn.
Rich: The chips were crunchy! The muffin had a hint of banana. All that was good. It was just hard to eat since we were squeezed on the boat like back-in-the-day immigrants. I bet the conditions were better for them, even. They didn't have to balance their ballpark nachos on their laps and risk dripping day-glo orange cheese on their shirts.
Caity: "Risk." But...you did.
As we were pulling up to Liberty Island, a ferry employee informed another member of our huddled mass that she would not have enough time to visit both the statue AND Ellis Island, because the final boatswould depart for Manhattan at 5 p.m. Basically, as soon as you wake up in the morning, you have already run out out of time to tour the historic sites of New York Harbor.
Rich: It was like the recurring dream that I always have before Memorial Day that summer ended without me noticing that it had even started.
Caity: I would like to see Ellis Island, but I know in my heart that I never will. I'm like an early 20th century immigrant who's too infirm to leave the old country. Maybe one day my children will make it to Ellis Island and can write to me to tell me what it's like.
Rich: At one point while we were waiting for the ferry to take us over, you said of Liberty Island, "It's not a place of joy or sadness." I'd say having been there it's a place of anguish. The hardest thing you'll ever have to do in life is go there.
Fuck that place.
Caity: Four generataions later, the ferry docked and we rushed—literally rushed; we were the first ones on land—off the vessel.
Rich: To find...more people. Waiting to board the boat we were departing. Waiting not for Liberty, but for liberty.
Caity: The wretched refuse of Liberty Island's teeming shore.
Rich: Not a happy face among them.
[There was a video here]
Caity: People were trying to get off that island like it was Alcatraz. One woman, who obviously had come to take portraits, was slumped over in her wedding gown.
Rich: Oh, I missed her.
Caity: I was afraid you had, and I wanted to turn around and call your attention to her but—and this is true—I DID NOT THINK WE COULD SPARE THE TIME.
In person, the Statue of Liberty is a lot smaller than you expect it to be. Conversely, Liberty Island is a lot bigger. I was worried we would have trouble tracking down the Crown Café (note: it is not located where its name would suggest), but luckily it was in the first building we ran(!) into.
Rich: Despite the huge mass, the line moved well. Most people were just standing there, mouths agape, reading the menu, which consisted of burgers and burger-like sandwiches. There was a very angry man screaming. I identified with him. He may have been wrong, but his frustration felt so right. A reckoning felt imminent.
Caity: Ordering the food took approximately 30 seconds of line waiting, which is all the more impressive since the atmosphere was one of chaos.
Rich: Everyone who worked there seemed world weary. I would describe our counter girl's expression as "I give up." Calgon, or some other brand I don't even care what, take me away.
I got the Baked Potato-Crusted Cod Sandwich with Crinkle Fries. I can say confidently that this sandwich was not worth two and a half hours of traveling. I live upstairs from BAD Burger now, and I'd barely go that far to get it. It was ok. I like cod.
Caity: I got the Bartholdi Bacon Cheeseburger with Onion Rings and a Magnum Double Caramel Ice Cream Bar.
It goes without saying there was nothing particularly Bartholdi-esque about my burger, except perhaps that it tasted like it was prepared in France 200 years ago and only just reheated. But the team at the Statue of Liberty and Liberty Island really try to sell the idea of Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi as a cool historical character kids might want to meet. There is a man walking around dressed up as him on the premises (wearing those signature Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi clothes we all know and recognize instantly).
People were 1000 percent more excited to have their picture taken with the street performer dressed up like the Statue of Liberty wearing a green bed sheet in Battery Park than to talk to this man.
Rich: I did the same not-really-looking-at-his-face-while-rejecting-him thing I would have done were we in a gay bar. He made me sad.
Caity: He said "Hello," and we said "Hello," and he said "Hello!" and then we left.
Rich: History lesson over.
We did eat having the nicest view we've had yet. Such a nice day.
Caity: My ice cream was delicious. Our soda bottles were curiously undersized.
Rich: We wolfed down our food and immediately rushed...back into a line.
Caity: The line for the return ferry was EVEN MORE COMICALLY LONG than the line to get out there in the first place. It stretched for 9000 city blocks, culminating in a near perfect circle.
Rich: A circle of hell.
[There was a video here]
Caity: It was interesting to watch a line form around the natural curves of the space. A perverse part of me wanted to see the circle spiral in on itself as more and more people joined.
Caity: We were warned over and over again about the 5 p.m. departure time for the final ferry, and at times it seemed impossible we would make it. (Keep in mind, we left the office at 1 p.m.) We debated whether it would be easier to just live on the island.
Rich: On the scale of difficulty, I think it would have been like sleeping in a stranger's backyard.
Rich: A leather store went up on Prince Street in the time that we were gone. That's how long this trip took. You tripped over my beard that was by then touching the ground while you were reading that news off your phone.
Caity: All around us, cars were flying through the air like miniature space ships, and still we were waiting for the ferry.
Rich: A cyborg greeted us when we finally reached the vessel.
Caity: "Final vessel departing Land Mass LI-17 to Earth Colony M-X65P. Now boarding."
Rich: The tides were so high. The wind, so hot.
Caity: Anyway, welcome, Allie. Enjoy the new leather store. Don't ever go to the Statue of Liberty.
Is Everything Okay?
Questions about the Dining Experience
Would you go back?
Rich: NO, I WILL NEVER GO BACK AND YOU CAN'T MAKE ME.
Caity: The only way I could see myself going back would be to show it to my children, and there is no way on God's earth I would ever make that trek in the company of children. So no.
Is it a good first date spot?
Rich: It's a good last date spot because you'll probably grow so old during your visit that you'll die from natural causes.
Caity: While we were waiting in line, I had a vision of flirty strangers saying things like, "Let's just be spontaneous! I want to kiss you at the top of the Statue of Liberty!" and then spending the next three hours waiting in introspective silence for a crowded ferry. Also: the food is bad. It is not a good first date spot.
Is it a good place to have an affair?
Rich: You're always alone in a massive crowd, but I would still say no. This is not a good place for anything. Liberty Island is a bad place.
Caity: It is a great place not only to have an affair, but to (totally undiscovered) raise a new colony of Liberty Island natives with your lover after abandoning your family.
If the people you know are New Yorkers who do not work for the National Park Service, there is a 0% chance you will run into someone you know there. If the people you know are 14-year-old boys from New Jersey, there is an 8% chance.
Is it a good place to bring a doll?
Rich: It's a good place to bring Chucky because knives are allowed.
Caity: It's a good place to bring a doll made of knives, particularly because she probably would not be allowed many other places.
There are a bunch of restaurants in the world, including some in New York City. But in a city of over 24,000 restaurants, how do you find the best? You begin your search in places that are already popular: New York's hottest tourist destinations. In The Best Restaurant in New York Is, writers Caity Weaver and Rich Juzwiak attempt to determine the best restaurant in New York.
Previously: The Best Restaurant in New York Is: The Campbell Apartment inside Grand Central; The U.N. Delegates Dining Room; Play at the Museum of Sex; Le Train Bleu inside Bloomingdales; LOX at The Jewish Museum; The American Girl Café