Is this Floating Party NYC’s Best Gate-Kept Birthday Spot?

La Barca CantinaWhile the Staten Island Ferry still holds the title for being the most inexpensive way to glimpse close-range views of Lady Liberty, there’s another vessel that can give the ferry a run for its money in the fun category. La Barca Cantina, a Mexican restaurant boat docked at Pier 81, allows passengers to take in Liberty Island’s most famous resident while enjoying tacos and a cocktail—or three. Of course an unlimited brunch can be a lively experience at any establishment, but one on open waters only seems to up the ante for revelers. 

Horseshoe Bar

The Boat

While boarding La Barca, it is immediately obvious that donning a million layers to accommodate for an adventure akin to guest starring on an episode of “Deadliest Catch” is not, indeed, necessary. As it turns out, La Barca is a three-level yacht, with two of the levels being temperature-controlled. From the indoor area, guests can appreciate the captivating views from the comforts of the loungelike accommodations—no foul weather gear required. A stylish horseshoe bar makes for an impressive focal point and creates a space for socializing, and on the day of my boat ride, there was plenty of space to move around without feeling crowded. Better yet, when the weather cooperates, sundecks are available where posing and picture-taking become part of the fun. 

Hands holding mimosas

The Brunch

On Sundays, La Barca offers an all-you-can-eat-and-drink brunch, and the mimosas were free-flowing during my excursion. The food on the buffet is a good mix of Mexican dishes and American breakfast fare; there were scrambled eggs, crispy bacon, and sausages alongside soft tortillas with multiple fillings including a standout shredded chicken in salsa verde. There was also a nacho bar with guacamole, but it was the self-serve coffee that came in clutch after enjoying all those mimosas. For non-brunch cruises, La Barca’s menus contain a variety of Mexican foods and group-friendly drink options like beer buckets and margarita pitchers. There’s also an extensive list of spirits for tequila and mezcal enthusiasts.

Women clinking glasses

The Birthdays

Maybe it’s the bottomless brunch, the DJ, or just being on a boat, but judging by the number of cakes and balloons guests brought along, La Barca’s party vibes are certainly attracting birthday crowds. Now, if you’ve suffered through enough Manhattan birthday celebrations while being table-trapped next to complete strangers, then you know these occasions can be a bit tricky to navigate. This just may be the reason La Barca has become a popular celebration option because floating down the Hudson while drinking mimosas (and perhaps joining in a dance or two) feels more like a mini-escape than another obligation, making it an invitation that is pretty easy to get on board with. 

La Barca Cantina docks at Pier 81 at West 41st St. and 12th Avenue. Information about schedules, special events, and private party packages can be found here.

Amy Hamblen

After spending over a decade in New York, Amy Hamblen is still impressively bad at giving directions around the city. Fortunately, not knowing one's exact whereabouts creates the opportunity to stumble into new places, so what she lacks in navigational skills, she makes up for with an abundance of solid happy hour recommendations. Amy is originally from Indiana, and whether or not her years spent covering the food and entertainment scene in NYC has earned her a seat at the table may be debatable, but it's of little consequence — she much prefers a stool at the bar.