NYCGuide

The Best Places To Eat & Drink In The Rockaways

All of our favorite restaurants and bars near Rockaway Beach and Jacob Riis Park.
Wall painting of skull with sign reading "live, surf, die" and another sign that reads "Rockaway Beach Surf Club"

photo credit: Noah Devereux

NYC beaches might not be full of turquoise water, palm trees, and groups of ambitious snorkelers, but they have their own special, concrete-adjacent charm. For one thing, you don’t need a car to spend a summer day in the Rockaways, or Coney Island and Brighton Beach. And if you choose the Rockaways, there’s the added perk of a glorious ferry ride from lower Manhattan or Sunset Park. The next time you make the trip to this Queens peninsula—with your friends, your kids, or a person who loves hot dogs and fried clams as much as you do—these are the restaurants and bars to visit between Rockaway Beach and Jacob Riis Park (with a bonus spot in Broad Channel).

THE SPOTS

photo credit: Noah Devereaux

American

Rockaway Beach

$$$$Perfect For:KidsOutdoor/Patio SituationQuick Eats

If you’re hanging out on the eastern end of Rockaway Beach, the answer is always Rippers. Their burger is an essential order, but the cheese fries are also amazing, and you can get some beer or a cocktail as well. This place will keep you from having a heat-related meltdown after you let someone bury you in the sand, and because it’s on the boardwalk, you can house a burger and then get back to the beach as quickly as possible (or bring your burger to the beach). When they have live music, this place really turns into a party, so keep an eye on their Instagram. Also—they sell hats. There’s bound to be one person in your party who didn’t bring one.

photo credit: Molly Fitzpatrick

$$$$Perfect For:BreakfastQuick Eats

Rockaway Bagels is on the north side of the island, within close walking distance of the ferry and the Rockaway shuttle stop at Beach 116 Street. Therefore, it’s both convenient and logical to lay down a base of carbs and gluten here before your full day in the sun. The BECs are stellar, as are the plain old bagels. They’re the right balance of chewy and fluffy, and we'd be happy to eat them in any part of town. A “small” iced coffee here is in fact the size of your head, and therefore a wise investment at $3.50.

photo credit: Boardwalk Pizzeria

Boardwalk Pizza isn’t on the boardwalk, but it’s worth the walk up the road to grab a few slices of some of the best pizza in the Rockaways. We like the chicken parm pizza topped with lemon slices, and they also do a great grandma pie that would be right at home at a solid Brooklyn pizzeria. If you want to do a full sit-down Italian meal, there’s a large selection of impressive red-sauce dishes you can eat in a space that screams beach culture with blue walls and a big surfboard sign.

Tacoway Beach operates out of a shipping container in a fenced-off yard filled with picnic tables, and they’re only open during the summer months. Proceed directly to the fish tacos—each order arrives with two, topped with cabbage slaw, chunky guacamole, and a spicy cilantro lime salsa. We dream about these exceptional tacos more than we dream about retiring to look for buried treasure on the beach. Expect crowds on summer weekends.

If you’re looking for something to take to the beach for an easy little picnic, consider Kimo’s. The narrow Greek spot is two blocks away from the beach, and right next to a wine store, so you can pick up a spread and something chilled to drink at the same time. Grab some dips, a Greek salad, and a Fatboy Pita, which is stuffed with fries, white sauce, and your choice of protein. But, if you’re reading this having just finished your beach day, and now you’re really in the mood for the Fatboy, not to worry—Kimo’s also has a great shaded backyard.

photo credit: Noah Devereaux

$$$$Perfect For:Quick Eats

Head over to the boardwalk at Beach 97th Street and you’ll find a large outdoor space filled with vendors, picnic tables, and occasionally live music. It’s a great place for a group, because everybody can get something different, and nobody has to be annoying about it. Some of our favorites include La Cevicheria, a Peruvian stall with cold, citrus-bathed fish, La Fruteria, for iced lattes and avocado toast, and Sand Shark Bar—that’s where you’ll get alcohol.

photo credit: Team Infatuation

$$$$Perfect For:Quick Eats

At this counter-service Dominican restaurant you can get a plate or to-go container, and dictate exactly how much yellow rice, chicken, pork, plantains, and empaguetadas (spaghetti on the beach, anyone?) you’d like piled onto it. Locals love this place enough to keep both locations—a mere five minute’s drive from each other—full.

photo credit: Molly Fitzpatrick

$$$$Perfect For:Day Drinking

Connolly’s is an Irish dive just half a block from the beach. Virtually everyone who comes here will order the iconic Rockaway beverage that is their frozen piña colada ($10, with the option to add a spiced-rum floater for another $2), and so should you. Garnished with a radioactive-red maraschino cherry and served in a paper cup, this thing is creamy and dangerous. Also dangerous: The knowledge that Connolly’s opens at noon. You can hang in the charmingly dank basement and watch episodes of Baywatch, or adjourn to the sunny patio.

We have a soft spot for Rocco's based on atmosphere alone: the over-the-top fake flowers covering the exterior, the wall of mafia movie quotes, the regulars at the next table who will affectionately roast you for taking too many pictures of your food. But the main reason to stop here on your walk to or from the ferry is their incredible margherita pizza with a sweet, garlicky sauce, and unexpectedly complex frozen limoncello. It’s one of our favorite frozen drinks anywhere in the Rockaways.

photo credit: Bungalow Bar

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We can’t believe we’re saying this, because it’s not really a very New York thing to say, but it’s time to find someone with a boat and make them drive you to Bungalow. The massive restaurant sits right on the bay, and there's boat parking out front. However you choose to arrive, expect things like fried chicken sandwiches, sriracha oysters with buttery breadcrumbs and a lot of lemon, and servers wearing shirts that say, “Coldest Beer In Queens.” (It's like they read your mind, and know exactly what you need.) Bring a group and spread out on the patio for several hours.

Thai Rock is one of the best hangs in the Rockaways, thanks to its huge patio on the water near the Cross Bay Bridge. Stop by this Thai restaurant and live music space for a burger and a lychee martin adorned with fruit and flower petals, and you’ll feel like you’re much further away from the rest of the city than you are (even while you see it in the distance across the bay).

photo credit: Sayra's Wine Bar

Sayra’s is a nice little wine bar that also serves some great small plates. It’s two blocks from the beach, so wipe as much sand off your body as possible, grab a glass of wine or sangria and a jalapeño grilled cheese, and and sit out back on their shaded patio for a sunkissed date night, complete with a glass of wine or sangria, and a jalapeño grilled cheese. If you finished that whole bottle and need something a bit more substantial, head to Uma’s a few doors down for some baseball-sized manti.

photo credit: Noah Devereaux

Uma’s is an Uzbek restaurant that’s open year-round, and it's one of the livelier sit-down spots in the area. The menu features baked pastries like bichak and samsas and plenty of kabobs, salads, and soups. Their yogurt sauce has a cult following, and for good reason. It adds a special tang to any dish lucky enough to be served with it, like the scallion pancakes and our favorite, the baseball-sized manti, stuffed with either ground beef or squash. Hot outside? Don’t sleep on the creamy sesame halva ice cream. Cold outside? Hell, order it anyway.

Go to Happy Jack’s Burger Bar hungry hungry. The burgers are big, with perfectly seasoned crispy onions on top and excellent housemade salt and vinegar chips on the side. But you also need to get the Dublin eggrolls. These eggrolls have been famous around town since before Happy Jack’s came into being, when they lived on the menu at the owner’s previous restaurant just across the street (the now-closed Rockaway staple Dalton's Seaside Grill). Their signature filling involves essentially all the ingredients of a reuben, inside a fat New York eggroll.

For all those looking for seafood on Beach 97th Street, don’t let Whit’s titular pizza stop you from coming here. Granted, they still make some of the best pizza you’ll find in the area, but most of the daily-changing menu is dedicated to seafood—expect things like scallops, sesame crusted bluefin tuna, and pan seared swordfish, and bring beer and sunscreen. It’s BYOB, and there isn’t much shade in their big backyard.

This NYC staple has an outpost at the beach, located on the boardwalk at Beach 106th Street. It’s a great place for a quick arepa, they have A+ frozen drinks, and you’ll probably make some friends in the busy picnic area. Two or three of their palm-sized arepas can make a meal, especially if you get one that’s super stuffed. We like the arepa de pabellón, chock full of beef, beans, cheese, and fried plantains.

This bar has views of the Atlantic just a few blocks from the beach, with an indoor space on one side and an outdoor terrace on the other. We’d tolerate mediocre rooftop fare in exchange for the ocean view—but the food and drink at this Rockaway Hotel spot are actually great. A mason jar of the fattest sardines we’ve seen in a long time screams “by the sea,” and there's also shrimp cocktail, and clam pizza. You’d think a rooftop by the beach would turn into Spring Break pretty quickly, but this place remains a calm, beachside spot, even when they turn the music up and the bar fills up towards sunset. If you're looking for upscale beach town charm—with a seafood tower and a bottle of wine—head to Margie’s at the same hotel.

Located on Jamaica Bay, The Wharf is a cash-only restaurant with a noteworthy outdoor deck, right on the water. It’s a perfect setting for brunch with the family or a drink at the shaded outdoor bar. The best place for a group is on a covered portion, which extends even further out into the water, but the bar area is where you come for a long, leisurely drink with yourself or one other person. And if you need a bite, they’ve got classics—benedicts at breakfast, burgers and the like—as well as some seafood specials, like fish and chips and a pretty sizable lobster roll.

photo credit: Willa Moore

If you need cooling down by way of air-conditioning and $11 frozen margaritas, head to Pico. The Mexican spot on Beach 129th Street makes an expertly slushy concoction that’s not too sweet, ice cold, and very, very drinkable. (Get it with a salt rim for optimal salty-sweetness.) The space is good for big groups, with a long communal table in the center, and big booths that could easily fit seven of your closest, sandy friends. Stick to the margaritas and the seasoned warm tortilla chips with guacamole—and maybe a shrimp taco, Ensenada style with guac, pico, and crema.

photo credit: Willa Moore

The most alluring part of this casual, counter-service spot is the big backyard, where you’ll see families and friends hanging out at picnic tables with $8 frozen Arnold Palmers and shrimp po’boys. That, plus they have regularly scheduled live music that you can keep track of via their Instagram. And though you’re not really here for the food, it’s solid enough, so if you come after a long day at the beach and just finished your third Arnold Palmer, a crispy chicken sandwich will hit the spot.

Adrienne's is tucked away in Broad Channel, a tiny island community between the Rockaways and the mainland. But it's well worth a stop if you're driving back from the beach, because there’s something a little bit magical about this location, especially the back deck, with gorgeous waterfront views of Jamaica Bay. It’s like you’ve found yourself at the end of the world, only to discover they make excellent pastas out there. We love the rigatoni bolognese and the crispy calamari, but you're also going to want to give the menu's dedicated spritz section your full attention.

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