In the Rockaways, you can find a plethora of cuisines, reflective of New York’s diversity. From classic beach fare to Uzbek food, we’ve got you covered (and also, we asked a surfer for his favorite spots). See below:
Whitney Aycock’s pizzas are a Rockaways favorite. The Neapolitan-style, wood-fired pies have a soft, pliable crust that holds scrumptious toppings. The Margherita pie, for example, is a combination of sweet tomatoes tinged with a hint of spice, fior di latte, and charred basil ($11). His stand at the Riis Beach Bazaar and his brick-and-mortar, Whit’s End, on Rockaway Beach Boulevard are often packed with hungry patrons.
For classic beach fare done right, head to Ed and Bev’s. Their Detroit-style Coney dogs are everything you’d want on a bun: hot dog, brisket chili, mustard, and chopped onions ($6.50). Pair that with the Coney Fries, a finger-licking mix of fries, cheese, chili, and chopped onions ($7.50).
All that sun will probably make you dehydrated. Refresh yourself with a young Thai coconut from By The Beach ($6), a far more nutritious drink than sugary sodas or juices. When you’re done sipping, you can nibble on the bits of coconut meat too.
More slushie than icy treat, Clean Shave’s shaved ice is drizzled with syrups made in-house from cane sugar and organic, local, non-GMO fruit and vegetables ($4 for small, $6 for large). The result is a delicately sweet drink that cools you down quickly.
For more eateries at the Riis Park Beach Bazaar, visit RiisParkBeachBazaar.com
Chef, owner, and surfer Carlos Varella brings the flavor of his native Brazil to the Rockaways. He’s from Santos, he’ll tell you, and if you have a quizzical look on your face, he’ll simply follow that with one word: “Pelé.”
Here, tapioca flour is turned into gluten-free crepes, their speckled snow-white surface resembling a sand-caked surfer’s face. They’re filled with gooey mozzarella and spinach ($6). The pão de queijo, or small cheese-filled breads, come piping hot and delicious ($6 for five). There’s also a hard-to-find cut of beef, the fat-topped sirloin called picanha, whose mere mention has made many a Brazilian shed a tear of nostalgia ($12 for a sandwich, $15 with mashed potatoes). Wash it all down with passion fruit or caju (cashew apple) juice ($3).
This women-owned Peruvian rotisserie dishes out well-seasoned birds with bold sauces ($13 for whole, $8 for half, $4.5o for quarter). Other items include hearty chicken empanadas, sweet plantains, and avocado salad. Though it is primarily a takeout spot, there is some limited seating.
You can still spot the A train just overhead, but in all other regards, the Rockaway Beach Surf Club feels far removed from New York. Inside, surfboards line the walls and ceiling; and outside, the communal tables, colorful decor, and margaritas invite diners to while away the afternoon. The place gets packed on weekends, with lines forming at Andrew Field’s pop-up Tacoway Beach in the backyard. The fish tacos ($3.50) are an excellent combination of crisp battered fish and red cabbage slaw. Be prepared to wait on weekends.
This Thai restaurant overlooking Jamaica Bay boasts gorgeous views, live music, and jet ski rentals right off its deck. Take in the sunset over a dinner of unabashedly pungent dishes like the Lime Shrimp with garlic, fish sauce, and chili ($12) and authentic dumplings made with turnip and peanuts—hard to find at Thai restaurants ($8). The Tarzan Boat, a mobile jungle gym that’s hauled out to the middle of the bay when in use, is moored there.
Uzbek food served at a concession stand in the middle of the Rockaways beach is an unexpected find, but diversity is exactly what makes the city dining scene so great. The stand at Beach 97 sells fried dumplings and kebab platters, such as the salmon kebab, with juicy chunks of fish and a unique rice variety that’s reminiscent of sticky rice but more pillowy ($14). You can visit the brick-and-mortar on Rockaway Beach Boulevard for their complete menu.
Tracy Obolsky makes freshly baked goodies like a lovely (and not sugary-sweet) blueberry danish, chewy pretzel-peanut butter cookies, hearty croissants accented by a cheese-like savoriness, and an addictive everything-croissant with ham and cheese. The location of the bakery is undisclosed, but follow it on Instagram and you might find out its location. Obolsky will also be selling her pastries at the Riis Park Beach Bazaar.
Claudette Flatow, who was born in Morocco and grew up in France, learned to cook from her chef mother. In the Rockaways, she drew on her culinary experience—having cooked everything from French to Middle Eastern to American fare—to teach the local community how to cook healthy meals, for 15 years.
Five years ago, she decided to finally open a restaurant. Her broad repertoire includes Middle Eastern dishes like baba ghanoush, strongly nutty with the taste of tahini, and falafel with zesty hummus ($10), as well as Moroccan dishes like carrots dressed in a fantastic medley of cumin, harissa, parsley, and garlic ($8.95 per pound) and the Moroccan tomato salsa, made with jalapeño peppers, that gives a heat that slowly spreads around your mouth ($8.95 per pound).
Flatow’s most popular creation is the turkey burger ($10.95), which she developed as a gluten-free option for the many Irish-Americans in the neighborhood who suffered from celiac disease. She found a way to make the patty soft without the use of breadcrumbs. Flatow wouldn’t tell us exactly what’s in it, but we tasted feta cheese, spinach, and other vegetables—like the filling in a creamy, hearty meat pie.
Perhaps what’s most charming about Flatow’s establishment is the homey warmth of her food. The food is prepared fresh daily, ready for purchase at the to-go counter and perfect for picnicking on the beach.
Desserts are equally delicious, including a warm bread pudding with a most wonderful caramelized sugar crust ($3 a piece); pleasantly sweet, moist banana bread ($3); and a vibrant lemon custard tart ($3.75).
Flatow’s son Yarden created the restaurant’s drinks menu, with options like the house-kegged, extra-caffeinated nitro cold-brew coffee ($3.75); cold-brew hibiscus ginger tea ($3.50); and the Jamaican Bay Sludge, a well-balanced New Orleans-inspired drink with chicory and maple syrup ($4).
By subway: Take the A and S trains to reach different sections of the beach.
By ferry: Take the New York Beach Ferry (runs until Labor Day), which docks at Pier 11 by Wall Street.
By bus: On weekends until Labor Day, NYC Beach Bus takes beach goers on a repurposed school bus, with pickup locations at Union Square, Williamsburg, and Downtown Brooklyn. Rockaway Beach Bus has charter buses that pick up at locations in Bushwick, Williamsburg, and the Lower East Side.
If you’re going with a big group, Go Wild NYC picks up from Sunnyside, Long Island City, and Astoria, Queens, as well as Greenpoint and Williamsburg in Brooklyn. Available until October.
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