Despite what you might have heard elsewhere, summer is the season of glorious magic, its seemingly endless days filled with fun and possibility, dissolving into equally endless nights that you'll remember the rest of your life. These are just
facts opinions. And to get things started right, Rockaway Beach kicked off its summer last weekend, with all the concessions along the boardwalk back in business, and the restaurants in "town" gearing up for the big holiday weekend to come. Here's your complete guide to everything. (And here's our complete guide to all the NYC and NYC-area beaches, open for swimming this weekend.)
Food And Booze On The Boardwalk
First you should know that the entire beach is open once again, all the way from Beach 69th to Beach 116th (and beyond, but that's the area I covered on Saturday), and it looks fantastic, with 348,000 cubic yards of newly dredged, spectacularly soft sand making for the consistently widest, healthiest-looking beachfront in memory.
When you're done marveling at all that sand, it's time to eat. Brothers Rockaway is back at the Beach 106th concessions, serving its excellent, extremely fresh and healthy breakfast sandwiches (on homemade English muffins), as well as a Kimchi Grilled Cheese, a loaded-up Brown Rice Bowl, and all sorts of snacks, treats, and smoothies. Brothers shares the stand with old pros Caracas Arepas, who, in addition to making an impressively deep menu of those overflowing Venezuelan delights, handles the alcohol at this end of things.
A few sun-soaked blocks away at Beach 97th is the largest and most varied of the concessions, featuring a spacious dining and drinking picnic area at which to wolf down, say, one of those superb Steak Burritos from Super Burrito, or a pretty pile of fish from La Cevicheria, or all manner of grilled meat from Breezy's BBQ. Lobster Joint, High 97 (with first-rate Fish and Chips, among other solid lunch-time fare), Uma's, Palenque, Edible Island, La Fruteria (which is especially good for breakfast) and ice cream at City Sticks round out the options here. Low Tide Bar keeps the booze flowing.
The legendary Rippers fills the entire Beach 86th concession, slinging some of NYC best burgers (get the sensational, double-stacked Hardbody, and a boat of top-notch Chili Cheese Fries to share with the table) and happily pouring all of your day-drinking needs. They always play fun, loud music, too. Is this the best party on the beach? Maybe.
Note that all three concession stands often host live performances and other special events well into the night; full schedule should be available here soon, but their Instagram appears to be more fully updated.
Croissant Bread at Rockaway Beach Bakery. (Scott Lynch / Gothamist)
Food and Booze Off the Boardwalk
For eleven years now the indefatigable Andrew Field has satisfied tens of thousands of sun-burnt beachgoers with his phenomenal fish tacos--the chorizo ones are pretty incredible as well--first at Rockaway Taco and now firmly established at the Rockaway Surf Club as Tacoway Beach. I always go on my way from the train to the sand, before the line gets too crazy, but know that even when the place is slammed (which is often), your food will always be prepared with attention, skill, and love. This is the gold standard by which all other counter-service restaurants should be measured.
Also over here at this end of Rockaway Park is Tracy Obolsky's great Rockaway Beach Bakery, now entering its third summer on the Boulevard. Obolsky's croissants are perfect (eaten as is or surrounding some sort of sandwich), her sticky buns will buckle your knees, as will her pies, and just last weekend she made me a gooey Salted Butterscotch Blondie that I know I'll be craving all summer.
The extremely passionate Whitney Aycock is another Rockaway icon ready for the season, and he's redone the interior of his excellent Whit's End pizza restaurant yet again, adding, among other things, a herd's worth of taxidermy animal heads. Whatever, Aycock's large-sized individual pies are some the best in the city, and he loves blasting good music (old school rap, heavy metal, etc.), making this a solid post-sun choice before getting back on the train.
Other options along (or right near) the Boulevard include Uma's proper for Uzbek dumplings, Fat Cardinal Bakery for jumbo cookies, La Barracuda for outdoor coffee, a new ramen spot called Oasis, Rockaway Dog House for chili dogs and cheesesteaks, and over by the last stop on the shuttle train at Beach 116th, Cuisine by Claudette for vegetarian-friendly fare and, to my surprise, a ton of different cupcakes.
Sadly, the beloved-by-me Brazilian Beach Bistro 96 has closed, but Carlos Varella and Andressa Junquiera said they're about to open up a similar venture in Manhattan, so stay tuned for that. And coming soon in its place is a family-run "breakfast spot" with dishes like steak and eggs and chicken and waffles.
Finally, over in Arverne at Beach 72nd, the exceptional Sarah Peltier has taken over the kitchen at Andrew Field's Taco Bay this summer, which is the outdoor food stand at Rockaway Brewing Company. Conveniently located a few blocks from the A train (and right in front of a huge beer bar), here Peltier is serving up tacos filled with things like Grilled Shrimp and Mushroom Tinga, as well as a Nachos Deluxe with Beef Shank that will make you giddy with delight.
One final note: after a promising launch last July, Rockaway's dockless bike situation is a goddamn travesty. Pace has completely pulled out, and though there are Lime bikes still scattered throughout the peninsula, they're in terrible shape, too broken to even ride in some cases, or "unable to unlock" in others (though you'll still be charged the unlock fee just for trying). So sad. Just get Citi Bike out here, please.