Ever since the Rockaways was renovated back in 2011 to include a series of star-studded concession stands such as Rippers (a collab between The Meat Hook and Roberta’s) and Motorboat & the Big Banana (a since-defunct fish shack courtesy of Vinegar Hill House), beaches across the outer-rim of the outer-boroughs have transformed into legit culinary hubs, angling to take advantage of the sun and sand-worshiping crowds. So pack a bathing suit, a towel, and not much else, because NYC’s boardwalk eats scene is bigger and better than ever.
While other beaches rush to play catch-up with the Rockaways, the OG has only made minute changes to their solid selection of vendors (Rippers, Tacoway Beach, and Caracas Arepa Bar are all returning favorites). Newbies include a French-Brazilian café (Beach Bistro 96) and a grain bowl and green juice-slinging storefront (Brothers), but much more notable additions are nearby brick-and-mortars, such as a gastropub called Community House, the sprawling Rockaway Beach Golf Club, and an in-the-works tasting room from the Rockaway Brewing Company.
Since coming under the purview of the Brooklyn Night Bazaar, Riis has given the Rockaways a run for its money as far as boardwalk bites are concerned. And this year’s season promises to be even more impressive than the last, with the Sussman brothers launching outposts of both Samesa and Ed & Bev’s, Trop Pops serving chocolate-coated, 100% whole fruit frozen treats from handcrafted wooden sailboats, and Queens standby Whit’s End (a strictly whole pies only joint) opening a dedicated slice shop at the seashore, anchored by a wood burning, Stefano Ferraro oven.
Not only does Nathan’s finally have some fierce hot dog competition in their century-old progenitor, Feltman’s (which returned to Steeplechase for a reduced-priced wiener-off on Memorial Day, and will likely reappear throughout the summer), but Wahlburgers—which opened at the tail end of the season last year—finally gets to take advantage of their bi-level, open-air space across the street. It includes a rooftop bar, misting stations, and a birds eye view of the Atlantic. And while Smorgasburg has declined to resume residency in their shipping container “village” by the boardwalk, Dinosaur Bar-B-Que will occupy one of the vacated spaces, with a lineup of other Thor Equities-approved vendors yet to come.
Yes, it’s bordered on an entire side by sand and surf, but a trip to Brighton Beach is essentially an excuse to visit the stolidly Eastern European neighborhood, and stock up on edible essentials such as the thin-skinned dumplings known as vereniki from Café Glechik and deep-fried pirozhok pastries lined with meat, hawked by various sidewalk vendors. There’s also singular Korean-Uzbek fusion to be found at Your Mother in Law, which offers borscht, samsa and plov alongside spicy chicken wings, seaweed salad and soy soup.
While only directly served by a couple of old school, pre-frozen burger and french fry stands, Manhattan Beach is within walking distance of dynamic Sheepshead Bay—which necessitates a dedicated pilgrimage to Brooklyn landmarks like Randazzos (get the soft shell crab sandwich) Roll n’Roaster (roast beef with cheez, obvs.), or full-on Greek seafood restaurants (Yiasou, Liman), serving whole, grilled, lemon and olive oil anointed fish. A good bit newer—and significantly to the water—are Russian spots like Hot Potato House (think latkes with caviar, pierogi topped with sour cream and oven-baked spuds stuffed with pork) and a branch of the East Village’s Anyway Café, offering vodka infusions, handmade pelmeni, and chicken and herb sauce crepes.
Pier 4 Beach
The closest thing you’ll get to an actual beach in the center of Brooklyn, you can dip your toes in the East River, picnic on provisions like General Tso’s Beanie Weenies from No. 7 Sub; crab, shrimp and lobster rolls from Luke’s Lobster; thin crusted sopressata picante pizza from Fornino and Crack Caramel cones from Ample Hills, and—if not an actual castle—at least construct a tiny studio apartment from the petite strip of sand, surrounded by an awe inspiring panorama of the New York skyline.
Dog Beach at Prospect Park
Don’t bother bringing your bathing suit to Prospect Park; this cordoned off pond by the ballfields is for four legged frolickers only. But if you stop by on Sundays, you can avail yourself of an impromptu picnic from Smorgasburg as you watch your pups at play; notable newcomers to the 100-strong lineup include Jianbing Co. (serving stuffed Shanghainese mung bean pancakes), Heros and Villains (elevating traditional bodega sandwiches), and Kotti, specializing in German-style doner kebab.