Break out the sunblock and bathing suits, summer is here! But before you book a ferry to Fire Island or hop on the train to the Hamptons, why not take a trip to a sandy shore a little closer to home? The city’s finest beaches officially opened for business Memorial Day weekend, and some of the best spots to frolic in the waves are right here in Brooklyn. Check out our list of noteworthy places to eat, drink, and hangout by the beach.
A famed roller coaster, the original hot dog, a renovated historical park, sandy beaches, and one of the best boardwalks in America – what more could you want on a summer day? Although the Cyclone costs a whopping $8, the two-minute ride is worth every life-risking penny (plus the second ride is only $5!). The wide beaches have plenty of space for you to lay your towel and soak up the rays. But watch out for horseshoe crabs. While their population has declined in other parts of the Atlantic, the living fossils are plentiful as ever in Coney Island during their mating season in May and June. If the beach isn’t for you, make the trip to Coney for one of the many cultural summer events that take place there. The Mermaid Parade, the nation’s largest art parade, and the Siren Festival, features two stages and a whole slew of bands. But where to eat? Everyone knows Nathan’s, but Coney Island offers more than hot dogs and boardwalk fare. Changes to the boardwalk in recent years may have caused some businesses to close and others to open, so call ahead.
Ruby’s Old Tyme Bar & Grill (1213 Riegelmann Boardwalk near 12th Street, 718-372-9079)
For cheap drinks and classic Coney Island, stop by Ruby’s. The $4 drinks attract everyone from the leather-skinned locals to the tattooed-boardwalk crowd to day visitors. The cash-only bar offers the perfect place to people watch along the boardwalk.
Luna Grill (1315 Surf Avenue, 718-513-6491)
Formerly Coney Island Surf and Turf, Luna Grill offers more turf than surf for main courses, with an impressive list of specialty burgers. But if you’re in the mood for seafood, stick to the appetizers, which include fried shrimp, steamed mussels, and baked clams.
Totonno’s Pizza (1524 Neptune Avenue, 718-372-8606)
What would a Brooklyn neighborhood be without a favorite local pizza joint? Totonno’s only serves pizza by the pie, and the food critics for NY Magazine swear by the fresh mozzarella baked with sweet splashes of sauce and crispy dough.
Gargiulo’s Restaurant (2911 West 15th Street, 718-266-4891)
Another Italian joint, Gargiulo’s is a fancy gem that specializes in Neapolitan cuisine. Founded in 1907, Garguilo’s extensive menu features traditional Italian dishes like mushroom risotto and homemade lasagna. If you plan on eating here, make a reservation and bring a change of clothes – the restaurant request patrons to wear “proper attire. No shorts, please.”
Transit: You name it! The D, F, N, Q – sometimes even the G train – all terminate in Coney. Bring a bike and explore the surf side area beyond the rides.
Technically still part of Coney Island, Brighton Beach is a Russian neighborhood brimming with character, which New York Magazine described as “a Jewish immigrant’s idea of what an American’s idea of Russia may be.” The vast sandy beaches and Atlantic waves draw New Yorkers from all five boroughs during the summer months. The boardwalk and neighborhood are filled with traditional Russian restaurants and bars where you’ll drink like you’re in Moscow. Here are a few to sample during when you take a break from the sun and sand.
The Winter Garden (3152 Brighton 6th Street, 718-934-6666)
One of the many hybrid restaurant/night clubs that you’ll find in Brighton Beach. You’ll enjoy Russian Moulin Rogue type performances on nights during the weekend. Indulge in vodka and caviar served with butter and warm bread–the traditional way to eat this posh dish.
Tatiana Restaurant (3152 Brighton 6th Street, 718-891-5151)
For a glam night out, Tatiana is the place for you. The huge menu offers everything from traditional Russian cuisine to new takes on American classics. The vodka drinks are strong, and the entertainment is Vegas-style. Be prepared to pay, though. The prices reflect the upscale décor and attitude. During the daytime, the Tatiana Grill offers outdoor seating and more modestly priced eats.
Primorski Restaurant (282 Brighton Beach Ave, 718-891-3111)
You’ll feel like you’re in the old country when you step into Primorskis. The local Russian families that frequent the place add to its authenticity. The $6 lunch special is not to be missed. Take your pick of soup or borscht and 15 traditional Russian dishes, like blintzes stuffed with meat and liver stroganoff.
Café Kashkar (1141 Brighton Beach Ave, 718-743-3832)
If you’re in the mood to try something different, this small restaurant is known as one of the only Uighur restaurants in New York City. The prices are low and the food is good. Critics recommend the lamb in almost any form – roasted, served with noodles and vegetables or skewered on a kebab.
Café La Brioche (1073 Brighton Beach Ave.; 718-934-0731)
You’ll smell this bakery before you see it. For a sweet treat, stop by La Brioche for flaky, delectable treats, ranging from plump vatrushki danishes to slabs of honeyed poppy-seed roll.
Transit: Take the Q train to Brighton Beach.
At the remote corner of the borough, Manhattan Beach is less populated than the rest of the sandy stretches in south Brooklyn. While the boardwalk in Coney Island and Brighton Beach boasts bars and entertainment, the promenade in Manhattan Beach offers views of Breezy Point and the tip of Rockaway Peninsula. The park offers tennis courts, barbecue areas, baseball fields, and two playgrounds that would make any kid’s head spin with delight. Fewer restaurants and shops contribute to the area’s quiet beaches, but there are still good places to grab a bite.
Papa Leone Pizzeria (103 Oriental Boulevard, 718-648-1349)
This family-owned Italian place serves up some of the best pizza near the beach. They offer Sicilian pies, traditional New York style, and brick-oven, and they serve just about every type of pasta you could ever want. Enjoy the traditional fare under the sun and finish off the meal gelato or homemade tiramisu.
Creperie Blinnaya (109 Oriental Blvd, 718-332-2736)
This small Russian restaurant specializes in crepes and blini, thin pancakes with your choice of filling. Another crowd favorite are the potato latkes served with sour cream and sautéed mushrooms. Of course, enjoy your food at one of the outside tables in the ocean breeze.
Transit: Take the Q to Brighton Beach, hop the B1 bus down Oriental Boulevard, or bring a bike for the short ride to the beach.
While The Rockaways aren’t in Brooklyn, they’re just so close we couldn’t do a beach round-up without them. The stretch of beach to go to is Jacob Riis Park. The mile-long stretch of National Park has been dubbed “The People’s Beach” and features snack stands, playgrounds, and way more public restrooms. Plus, alcohol is permitted, so grab a six-pack from your local bodega before heading down there. When you’re ready for a break from the sun, head into town for food and drinks.
The Wharf (416 Beach 116th Street, 718-474-8807)
Hidden behind a gas station at the end of Beach 116th, The Wharf is a mainstay for locals and beach-goers alike. The food is your standard beach fare, things like fresh fish sandwiches and fried hush puppies. Some locals say the quality has gone down hill over the years, but the cheap beers and deck over looking the Jamaica Bay make up for what the food lacks. If you’ve got a boat, you can pull it right up to The Wharf’s own dock. Make sure you bring a sweatshirt if you want to sit on the deck because the wind can get pretty nippy.
Ciro’s Pizza (171 Beach 116th Street, 718-634-6800)
During the day, Ciro’s overflows with beach goers grabbing pies to eat on the shore. Locals refer to this location as “the good Ciro’s,” as there is another location a few blocks away. The sausage and peppers pizza is solid, and the meatball calzone is a delicious cheesy, saucy mess and costs less than $5. The owners have a pastry shop around the corner if you’re craving something sweet.
Rockaway Taco (Corner of Beach 116th Street and Rockaway Boulevard, 347-213-7466)
You can’t go wrong with a menu where everything is less than $4. Opened by two surfers last summer, the outdoor tables at this taco shack are a great place to chill out after a day in the waves. The smoky and piquant chorizo taco with guacamole is a favorite. The line can be long, but grab an Italian ice from the stand next door while you wait.
Belle Harbor Steakhouse (268 Beach 116th Street, 718-318-5100)
If you’re tired of the shore-town vibe, enjoy a classier dinner at Belle Harbor Steakhouse. A great place for a family meal, this restaurant serves generous portions of surf and turf entrees like shrimp and veal francese.
Ciro’s Pastry Shop (415 Beach 129th Street and Newport Avenue, 718-634-7332?)
If you want to get off the beaten trail for a snack, stop into Ciro’s Pastry Shop for an amazing pastries, cookies, cakes and lattes. You will not be sorry you grabbed a sweet treat here, especially since it won’t cost you a pretty penny for the quality and craft of these sugary works of art.
Jameson’s Pub (421 Beach 129th Street at Newport Avenue, 718-474-9364?)
If you need a shady resting spot, Jameson’s is your best choice. This dark watering hole is full of locals and off the beaten trail of rowdy weekend beach goers. Put a few back and emerge once again to soak up some sun.
Transit: The Far Rockaway Bound A Train drops you off at Broad Channel, where you hop off and await the Shuttle train, making stops at Beach 90, Beach 98, Beach 105, Beach 116 Streets. You can set up shop there or hop the Q22 along Rockaway Boulevard to Jacob Riis. Another option is to hop the 2 or 5 trains to the last stop and transfer to the Q35 bus, which makes stops in Jacob Riis and along Newport Avenue to Beach 116. This is a great place to ride a bike, and you can bring them with you on the train, just be aware that the subway gets pretty crowded on a sunny summer weekend.
*In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy many of New York and New Jersey’s beautiful local beach communities are rebuilding their homes and infrastructure. Any help you can offer in the form of donations to the Red Cross or by personally volunteering your time are tremendously appreciated!