With brownstones decorated with buoys and anchors, an abundance of fresh seafood shacks, and locals commuting by ferry, you’d be excused for mistaking Red Hook for Montauk. The neighborhood celebrates its waterfront and unparalleled views with incredible restaurants, bars, stores and many vistas to take it all in. (Even megastore Ikea has a mile of open space along the water, in the form of Erie Basin Park, and supermarket Fairway provides plenty of harborfront seating.) It’s a great seaside place to explore, but without the weekend traffic, loud tourists, or overpriced clam rolls.
Photo: Pioneer Works1. Cultural center Pioneer Works (159 Pioneer St.) is the creative pulse of the neighborhood. A visual arts gallery, a performance space (where Erykah Badu has been known to surprise DJ), and an event space, Pioneer Works hosts a range of performances, concerts and events. Second Sundays is a free monthly party with open studios, live music and a rotating schedule of events that could include star gazing or sound installations.
Photo: Waterfront Museum
2. At The Waterfront Museum (290 Conover St.), guests climb aboard the historic Lehigh Valley Barge and learn everything there is to know about the importance of Brooklyn’s maritime heritage. This gem of a museum also hosts performances, art shows and special events throughout the year. Through October 28th, take in the New York Harbor Scenes oil painting collection by Bill Mesching. Hours: Thursday 4-8pm, Saturday 1-5pm. free.
Photo: Hometown3. If you are in the mood for stick-to-your-ribs barbecue, then line up at Hometown (454 Van Brunt St.). Known as some of the best BBQ in all of NYC, waits can be up to two hours long on weekends. Send a friend to bring drinks from the bar to whet your appetite while you’re standing in line, and prepare yourself for pounds of “Brooklyn style” pulled pork, brisket and ribs carved to order.
Photo: Emma's Torch
4. Housed within the cafe, Home/Made, the
non-profit culinary organization Emma's Torch (293 Van Brunt St.) empowers refugees through culinary training. Students take classes during the week and prepare brunch on the weekends at this pop-up restaurant within a restaurant. Blueberry Muffin Waffles are served alongside dishes like Shakshuka, reflecting the different backgrounds of the chefs. The eight-week paid apprenticeship program provides training and work experience, ensuring graduates find success in the culinary world. Hours: Saturdays and Sundays 9am-2pm.
Photo: The Good Fork
5. With its cozy interior and global cuisine, The Good Fork (391 Van Brunt) is constantly considered the best restaurant in Red Hook. It’s certainly where you’ll find the locals on their date nights, or when the family is in town toasting a special occasion. This mom-and-pop shop, literally owned by a husband (Ben Schneider) and a wife (Sohui Kim), who also run the karaoke restaurant, Insa, serves up homemade dumplings, steak and eggs Korean style, and a burger with kimchee that satisfies a craving you never knew possible. Reserve early, since tables tend to book up in advance.
6. If you want to get your seafood fix in Red Hook, you’ve got a few incredible options. Brooklyn Crab (24 Reed St) is a multi-level crab shack where you can indulge in a bucket of Dungeness crab with Old Bay seasoning, a raw bar of oysters and an afternoon of corn hole or mini golf in the yard. If you prefer your shellfish in the form of lobster, look no further than Red Hook Lobster Pound (284 Van Brunt)- where you can choose between the Maine-style (a touch of mayo), Connecticut-style (just butter), Tuscan-style (in a basil vinaigrette) lobster rolls or lavishly spring for a full lobster dinner (which is a steal on Wednesdays for $25.)
Photo: Antonio de Pietro
7. Finding a place to kick back with a brewsky is no problem in Red Hook. The best dive bars sit side by side on Van Brunt, making bar hopping a cinch. The more eclectic of the two, Red Hook Bait & Tackle (320 Van Brunt), is like a madman’s trophy room complete with taxidermy and tchotchkes covering every square inch. The Brooklyn Ice House (318 Van Brunt) is more of a chill venue to spend the evening watching football or hanging out on the backyard deck.
Photo: Antonio de Pietro
8. If you’re looking for a beautiful sidewalk cafe and homemade seasonal artisanal cocktails, then Botanica (220 Conover) is the right bar for you. With floor-to-ceiling doors opened wide and an ocean breeze floating through, this European-style lounge might be the most decadent way to spend an evening. Old world flavors combine with fresh ingredients for a dizzying array of drink choices and no real reason to ever leave.
9. Fan favorite Sunny’s (253 Conover) is a sprawling space that includes a room to see bands play, a yard for the smokers, and an epic bar. The crowd is full of patrons from all over Brooklyn, and on occasion, a celebrity like Paul Dano has been spotted. The vibe is welcoming no matter who you are, or how many times you’ve been here--everyone is treated like a regular. It’s the kind of place you hope never closes, and over the summer, patrons actually raised enough dough in a crowdfunding campaign for the owner to purchase the building and avoid shutting down.
10. Perched near the water next to the Louis Valentino, Jr. Park and Pier, locating Steve's Authentic Key Lime Pie (185 Van Dyke) feels like stumbling onto a hidden treasure. For over 20 years, this institution has been whipping up key lime pies in Red Hook, and the tangy filled graham cracker crust concoctions are now sold all over the city. Grab a chocolate covered “Swingle” key lime popsicle, find a sunny spot in the park, and take a bite of history. Hours: Monday-Friday 12pm-7pm; Saturday & Sunday 11am-7pm.
11.The spacious buildings in Red Hook lend themselves to new business prospects, like Raaka (64 Seabring St.), a massive chocolate factory (whose name means ‘raw” in Finnish) that opened in 2014. With 3,600 square feet of space, they offer tours, chocolate-making classes, and the sale of their delicious artisanal bars, with free samples to boot! (Tours: Saturdays & Sundays, 12pm, $15). If you’ve caught the cacao bug, Cacao Prieto (218 Conover Street) is another Red Hook organic beans to a chocolate bar that you can tour and taste. (Tours: Saturdays & Sundays, 12pm, 2pm and 4pm, $20)
Photo: @cb112358 on Instagram
12. You can’t miss Baked (359 Van Brunt), the little bakery in Red Hook with the bright orange door and top-notch treats. As one of the most well-known bakeries in Brooklyn, customers can’t get enough of the cake-y whoopie pies and sweet-and-salty brownies. The bright space is the perfect place to indulge your sweet tooth along with a cup of coffee and a side of smiles.
Photo: Kempton & Co.
13. Don’t think about leaving Red Hook without some shopping. There is one stretch of Van Brunt with unique boutiques that will beg you to open your wallets. First up, Record Shop (360 Van Brunt) is one of Brooklyn’s finest record stores. With a bench and speakers outside, it’s the type of place that encourages hanging out, but the selection is so great, you’ll be hard-pressed not to buy. Erie Basin (388 Van Brunt) houses the most exquisite antique jewelry with a modern flair, as well as an in-house jewelry line. Her stuff isn’t cheap, but it is heirloom quality that you’ll be passing down to your grandchildren. If you’re more in the market for adorable gifts and paper products then your heart will be aflutter at Foxy & Winston (392 Van Brunt) with botanical scented candles, clever notebook sets, and soft alpaca wool Bambi baby hats. Right next door, fashion mavens can swing by Kempton & Co. (392 Van Brunt) for stylish yet utilitarian leather bags.