Even a small step away from shore turns a meal into an adventure.
1. Royal Argosy, Seattle, Washington
This retro-feel ship cruises Elliott Bay and Puget Sound for brunch, lunch, or dinner. So the scenery's spectacular. Amazingly, the food matches it, thanks to a partnership with Consolidated Restaurants, which operates such terrific Seattle dining places as Metropolitan Grill, Elliott's Oyster House, and Union Square Grill. Dinner and brunch excursions feature live entertainment; 800/642-7816 or argosycruises.com.
2. Captain Runaground Harvey's Floating Restaurant, Key West, Florida
The captain buys his seafood directly from the boats that dock nearby on Charterboat Row. Or he'll cook whatever you happen to have caught that day. The two-story dockside barge provides nice marina views. As for amusements, nothing beats the eavesdropping, thanks to the fascinating collection of locals who hang out here to drink, debate, and dine; 305/296-9907 or strandlopersportfishing.com.
3. William Thornton, Norman Island, British Virgin Islands
A two-masted schooner, universally known as the Willy T, rides offshore at a favorite Caribbean yachting stopover. The short but surprisingly varied menu gets excellent reviews. Still, most patrons come for the party. Dancing and good times carry on far into the night. To win a free T-shirt … well, let's just say it involves a whole new twist on the concept of "bareboat"; williamthornton.com.
4. DiMillo's Floating Restaurant & Marina, Portland, Maine
Lobster rules the menu and Portland Harbor rules the views on this striking vessel moored at Long Wharf. The 206-foot-long restaurant seats more than 600 patrons. It began life in 1941 as a humble car ferry. The DiMillos, who have run restaurants in Portland since 1954, have kept this very much a family operation. As the menu pledges, "There is always a DiMillo on board"; 207/772-2216 or dimillos.com.
5. Anthony's Riverboat Restaurant, Newport Beach, California
The restaurant shares space aboard a stationary stern-wheel paddleboat with the Newport Harbor Nautical Museum. Exuberant chef/owner Anthony Pesci offers lots of seafood, plus live entertainment. In good weather, locals especially love the Sunday brunch; 949/673-3425 or riverboatrestaurant.com.
6. The Moshulu, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
For sheer visual splendor, the Moshulu (pronounced moe-SHOO-loo) ranks number one. Interiors of this four-masted tall ship, launched in 1904 as a cargo vessel, combine the wood-paneled splendor of Titanic-era luxury liners with a tasteful Polynesian theme. The outdoor deck tables afford sweeping views of the Philadelphia skyline and waterfront. The ambitious international fusion menu enchants most diners. Some grumble about slow service and high prices. But no one complains about the setting; 215/923-2500 or moshulu.com.
7. Blackfish Cafe, Victoria, British Columbia
What began as a snack bar has become a full-service, breakfast-lunch-dinner restaurant among the fishing charter services, whale-watching companies, and other outdoor-adventure enterprises at Victoria's Inner Harbour. The Blackfish will pack a box lunch for such excursions. It also offers various burgers (salmon, halibut, oyster, chicken, or beef), plus great halibut-and-chips and a wide variety of other seafood; 250/385-9996 or marine-adventures.com.
8. Rockmore Floating Restaurant, Salem, Massachusetts
During the summer, launches shuttle visitors daily from Salem and Marblehead to this floating purveyor of seafood (especially fried) and salty Salem Harbor panoramas. Big striped bass leap out of the water to grab leftovers. The restaurant opens Memorial Day weekend and closes after Labor Day; 781/639-0600 or rockmore.us.
9. Forbes Island, San Francisco, California
Touristy gimmick or inspired bit of whimsy? Opinions differ. But how can one pass up the chance to dine on what is purportedly the world's only floating island, complete with live palm trees, a beach, a waterfall, and a 40-foot lighthouse? Forbes Kiddoo built the island as a floating home, launching it in 1980. He now anchors just off Pier 39 in San Francisco Bay. Visitors enjoy French cuisine in the wood-paneled below-decks dining room, warmed by a fireplace and entertained by fish swimming past the portholes. A couple of notes: The round-trip shuttle to the island costs $3. And anyone prone to seasickness should take precautions; 415/951-4900 or forbesisland.com.
10. Hornblower's Barge & Grill, Cleveland, Ohio
The scenery rather than the food constitutes the chief draw at this two-deck barge moored on the Lake Erie waterfront. Evening and nighttime provide the most dramatic vistas of sunsets and the bold glass pyramid that houses the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. The service may not please those in a hurry; 216/363-1151.