Breaking news: you don’t need a car to get to the beach in NYC. In fact, you don’t even need to leave the five boroughs. You can take the subway, or the super convenient NYC Beach Bus to the part tropical, part concrete oasis otherwise known as Rockaway Beach. OK, it’s mostly concrete and a car is certainly helpful, but the beaches are great.
Also great: the food situation at Rockaway Beach. There are a whole bunch of new things to eat & drink this year, so we’ve updated our guide to make sure you know about all the best spots. Start planning a beach weekend.
The single most important eating and drinking destination in Rockaway. Tacoway Beach is the “new” Rockaway Taco, which closed its original location a few years back. They serve the incredible fish tacos, and are worth a trip to Rockaway on their own merit.
Located right on the beach, Rippers serves your standard snack bar fare: dogs, burgers, chicken sandwiches, and fries. At the very least, it’ll keep you from going hungry while you spend the day in the sand.
This NYC cheap eats staple has an outpost at the beach, located on the boardwalk at Beach 106th St. It’s a great place for a quick bite in the area. They also have A+ frozen drinks.
97th Street has the biggest variety of concessions on the boardwalk, including a Juice Stand (La Fruteria), a ceviche stand (La Cevicheria), a full service bar (Low Tide Bar), and our top pick, Lobster Joint. Get a lobster roll or slider, and eat it outside.
These guys have a stand at the 97th Street Concession where they do San-Francisco style burritos (which probably aren’t too different from the burritos you’re used to). They’re pretty simple - rice, beans, meat, a good tortilla - and they only have a few varieties, including a great al pastor. Also, they aren’t as massive as the ones you get at Chipotle, so you can feel just fine taking your shirt off after you eat one.
Uma’s is one of Rockaway’s more modern, cool, and lively restaurants, and focuses on an extremely enjoyable kind of food: Uzbek. Specifically, they specialize in fresh pirozhki - big, doughy dumplings flash fried and filled with anything from egg and scallion to green cabbage to beef and rice. Kebabs are another big fixture on the menu, in addition to a bunch of other dumplings, salads, and rice-based dishes. There’s also an Uma’s stall in the 97th Street beach concessions.
It’s all about the fries (papitas) and the empanadas (salteñas) at the Llama Party, also located at the 97th Street beach concessions. The food here is both delicious and very beach-friendly.
Post-Sandy, Bungalow Bar has done a really nice job renovating their old divey space. They have an amazing setup on the bay, looking out at the Manhattan skyline, and the food is decent. The vibe has also changed from an older, local group to a more social, younger crowd. Come here for a drink.
Sayra’s is a nice little wine bar that also serves some tasty food, including a meatball sandwich on a pretzel bun and truffle mac and cheese. This is probably about as upscale as a meal around here can get.
The cool coffee shop in town, this is your caffeine move, your pastry move, and also your health move as they have a pretty serious fruit, juice, and bowl situation.
While the beers are actually brewed in LIC, Rockaway Brewing Company has opened a cool tasting room on Beach 72nd Street, which will also involve a yet-to-be-named food setup by the crew behind Tacoway Beach. (In the meantime, if you get hungry, you can go to the corner and get Goody’s BBQ - delicious Caribbean BBQ take out that the owners don’t mind if you bring in.) It’s a little further away from most of the action, but it’s a worthy destination if you’re into craft beer.
A new-ish addition to the mix, Pico is a big indoor/outdoor sit-down Mexican restaurant. They make excellent margaritas, the space is great for big groups, and the Mexican food is good enough (and comes out in large enough portions) that it’ll more than get the job done after a long day at the beach.
You don’t go to Connolly’s to drink - you go to Connolly’s to get drunk. Connolly’s is the old-school Irish bar steps from the beach hub of 96th Street that is pure Rockaway. Their speciality is frozen drinks, which come in styrofoam cups. You’ll see people drinking out of them everywhere - at the bar, on the street, and at the beach. If you’re coming to Rockaway, a Connolly’s piña colada needs to be part of your experience.
You need to lay down a base before your full day in the sun, and Rockaway Bagels is the place to do it.
Now in its third year of existence, the Riis Park Beach Bazaar has made the Riis Park Beach a destination well worth spending an entire day at. What started as four of five vendors in one location has slowly but surely expanded, and now there are things to eat all over the “boardwalk,” or whatever you want to call the concrete path that surrounds Riis. The main area, known as “Bay 9” is the place to be - that’s the main hub that has ample seating and lots of action. It’s also where all of the below vendors are located.
Fletcher is a good BBQ spot in Gowanus, and they have an on-site smoker at their Riis Park Beach Bazaar outpost. They do pulled pork very well, so focus your attention there.
Whit’s recently moved to a kiosk at the Bazaar (with a big outdoor oven), but they’re still serving Rockaway’s best puffy crusts pizzas. And, if your timing is on, you might even get fish tacos. The owner (Whit) goes fishing in the morning, brings his catch to the restaurant, then cooks everything to order. So feel free to go off-menu and ask him what he’s got - just be careful, as you will be cursed at regardless. That’s how Whit shows affection. He’s the mayor around these parts, so be sure to show proper respect.
Ed & Bev’s
Ed & Bev’s does is a “Detroit-style Coney Island diner,” which means they make beach eats like hot dogs, fries, chicken fingers, and grilled cheese. Unlike your standard frozen-patty beach burger shack, though, the food here is actually high quality (organic, grass-fed, etc.). The Detroit-style Coney Dog is the main attraction.
Ample Hills Ice Cream
Our favorite NYC ice cream, with a location at the beach. Life is good.
Rockaway Clam Bar
Rockaway Clam Bar comes to us from the creators of Red Hook Lobster (who are actually local Rockaway folks), and they now have a stand in the Riis Park Beach Bazaar. In its first season this year, Rockaway Clam Bar serves reasonably priced seafood like peel ’n eat shrimp, chowder, fried clam rolls, lobster rolls and a bunch of other goodness. This is a necessary addition to the area, and the lobster/clam sliders should not be ignored.