It may seem like just yesterday that the August sun was beating down on us, but guess what? Oktoberfest officially begins on September 22nd. Instead of hiking out to Queens this year, Manhattanites only need to go as far as the Lot on Tap, the Colicchio-orchestrated spot under the High Line. It has the feel of the real thing in Germany – but it’s also quintessentially New York.
Walking the length of the High Line from Gansevoort to its new end in the West 30s is the perfect way to work up a thirst before descending to the Lot on Tap below, where communal picnic tables in a big parking-lot like space can accommodate hundreds.
The design scheme is bare bones but visually appealing. Fluorescent tube lights hang vertically from steel beams of the old High Line overpass and above futuristic, lighted umbrella shades. The crowd dynamic is old as the hills, though: drinkers have to claim their territory here with German-style hegemony, taking over spots as soon as one is vacated. It can make for great camaraderie, or alternately, cast a hell-is-other-people pall on the evening.
Everything gets pretty easy once you have a place to sit, because the ticketing system for beer and wine eliminates the need for complicated addition and subtraction at the bar. Brooklyn Brewery is supplying the beer, including the excellent, custom-brewed High Line Elevated Wheat Beer.
In an ingenious problem-solving move, a rotating cast of food trucks supplies the grub in an outdoor space that otherwise would be difficult to service. On the day we visited, we had a choice between the Kimchi Taco truck, the Red Hook Lobster Pound truck, Eddie’s Pizza, the Taco Truck (yes, two taco trucks), and an ice cream truck. The participating trucks are listed on the Lot’s website that day, and generally there’s something for everybody.
They’re not messing around with the kimchi in these kimchi tacos – super spicy and laced with scallions, they drew a big line to the Kimchi Taco truck. Fortunately, the line moves quickly.
The Red Hook Lobster Pound’s lobster rolls are the real Maine item interpreted with fancier ingredients, griddled with real butter, not margarine and dressed up with scallions and fresh lemon juice. Don’t forget the whoopie pies either – they’re a Red Hook Lobster Pound specialty, and that night my friend Nichelle of Cupcakes Take the Cake snagged the last one.
Eddie’s Pizza was a welcome addition to the scene on the night we visited mainly because of the smell – the wonderful aroma of charred wood gives the place a campground feel. But the pizzas, with a crust more hard and tough than crisp, didn’t fare so well in a mobile oven.
As commercialized as pop-up anything’s have become, there’s still an experimental feel to the best ones, like the Lot of Tap. Since it exists on property that was donated by the Related Companies for the summer of 2011, it may not be there next year, so go now. You never know – a successful Oktoberfest outing could end at the pop-up next door: the Uniqlo roller rink.
The Lot on Tap
Corner of West 30th Street and 10th Avenue
New York, NY
Reservations only for 20 or more people, only on certain days.