New York is full of hidden culinary and cultural treasures, and I guess that's one of the reasons many of us love the city. Take Long Island City's Water Taxi Beach, a two minute boat ride from the East River at 34th Street.
There the lovably eccentric and civic-minded Harry Hawk, one of the city's true gastronomic originals (he owns Schnack in Carroll Gardens and is a veritable hot dog and hamburger historian), has constructed a beach bar, complete with sand and picnic tables and a fantastic view of the city skyline. The setting alone is worth a trip there, but the fact that Harry is making great food there makes Water Taxi Beach an essential stop on any NYC burger and hot dog tour.
Schnack is making what he is calling a Motz Burger (named after burger auteur George Motz, producer and director of the world's greatest hamburger movie, Hamburger USA. The Motz burger is freshly ground chuck made on a super-hot griddle, so the burgers get that great char we all know and love at the Shake Shack. I actually went with Motz himself to have the burger tonight, and he was mightily offended when I ordered my Motz burger with cheese (Motz is a purist who disdains cheeseburgers). The burgers are just the right size, and though they overcooked my first one (I ordered it rare and it was medium), they immediately cooked another one for me that was perfect. The hot dog was also serious, topped with Coney Sauce (chili for the uninitiated).
Water Taxi Beach is worth a summer evening or weekend excursion any time you get the urge for a burger overlooking the water. Water Taxi Beach doesn't really have a street address. It is closest to 2-03 Borden Ave. Take the number 7 line to Vernon-Jackson. It's about an eight minute walk from there. Or take the two minute water taxi from 34th Street and the East River. The boat runs continuously on weekends, and up to about 8 p.m. on weekdays.