Nice day for a boat ride — and now that summer is here, there are many more to come. On Thursday, June 1, the NYC ferry launched its South Brooklyn route, adding stops at Governor’s Island, Red Hook, Sunset Park and Bay Ridge. While there's plenty to recommend at each of those ports, we’re the most excited about gaining greater access to Red Hook.
Prior to the ferry’s expansion, the sleepy, tucked away nabe with epic dive bars and views of the New York harbor, was only accessible via a 20 minute walk/10 minute bike ride from the nearest F/G station. Now, there’s another means of transportation bringing you to and from the remote and charming hood.
Once you arrive, there's plenty to eat, drink and explore. Here's your guide to getting the ultimate Red Hook experience.
Where to drink
Red Hook is overflowing with excellent watering holes. Visit Sunny’s Bar, the lowkey, old-timey saloon (it opened in the 1890s!) with a nautical feel for cheap beers and an anytime hang. It’s so beloved, that owner Tone Balzano Johansen, the late Sunny Balzano’s widow, was recently able to crowdfund more than $65,000 to keep the bar in business. While away an afternoon sipping on cheap beers and chatting with townies, or catch live music from local folk and bluegrass acts several nights a week, including a Bluegrass Jam every Saturday night.
Catty-corner to Sunny’s, you’ll find Brooklyn Crab, a three-story, outdoor seafood shack and bar overlooking the New York Harbor. Enjoy bloody marys garnished with a meaty crab claw and all the Narragansetts you can put back while playing endless games of cornhole; you’ll feel like you’re in the Florida Keys. We also recommend the Brooklyn Ice House over on Van Brunt St., a stellar dive with red vinyl booths (and a great backyard), more than 60 beers and $5 pulled pork sandwiches.
Where to eat
Speaking of barbecue, a trip to Red Hook would be remiss without a meal at Hometown Bar-B-Que. Its pit-smoked style renders sumptuous brisket, pulled pork, ribs and more cuts by the pound. Don’t skip the Texas-style queso mac and cheese. You’ll probably have to wait on line, but it moves fast, especially if you sip on one of their many craft beers on tap while you wait. Visit Fort Defiance, a neighborhood staple open from breakfast until late night. On the weekends, try their New Orleans-style brunch, or stop by on Thursday nights when the bar goes full tiki for the Sunken Harbor Club. At the Red Hook Lobster Pound, enjoy peel and eat shrimp, lobster rolls, or go all out with a full-on lobster dinner with potatoes, corn and slaw. Oh, and we can’t forget Steve’s Authentic Key Lime Pie. Grab one to-go and eat it at the adjacent Valentino Pier, looking out onto the Statue of Liberty.
What to do
Got pent up aggression? Blow off some steam at the batting cages at Brooklyn Sluggers, where $2.50 gets you 14 pitches. There’s also interactive pirate-themed, indoor mini golf at Shipwrecked, if you're into that sort of thing. For a more cultural affair, on second Sundays, Pioneer Works hosts open studios, live music, exhibitions and participatory programs; stop in any day of the week to check out the latest works on view, or pack a picnic to eat on a bench in their well-landscaped backyard. Just down the street, Pioneer Books offers a nuanced selection of independent titles and fine art texts. On weekends, visit the Red Hook Winery, where a free tour accompanies any tasting ($15, four wines) on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. If whiskey's your poison, stop in at the tasting room at the Van Brunt Stillhouse; book a tour online here. On Thursday evenings and Saturday afternoons, step aboard the Waterfront Museum, an historic, floating barge filled with maritime artifacts.
Where to Shop
Red Hook’s central thoroughfare, Van Brunt St., has a Main St. small town vibe, and it’s lined with cute mom and pop shops to boot. Thrift at Wooden Sleepers, browse stationery and home goods at would-be general store Foxy and Winston, and dive for vintage jewelry at Erie Basin. Saipua is the spot for artful flower arrangements, or just to grab a pretty bouquet (plus, soaps made by the shop owner Sarah Ryhanen's mom!). On a bigger scale, you’ll find Fairway Market at the end of the block, an epic, well-priced grocery store that’s a treat to just wander the aisles. And if you need to do some heavy-duty shopping, Ikea is a stone’s throw away.