In case you haven’t heard, this week’s Bike Expo New York is in a new location: Pier 12 in Red Hook, Brooklyn.
As far as NYC neighborhoods go, it may be off the radar for many of you… but it shouldn’t be! Red Hook is one of the coolest places to explore in the five boroughs. Get to know this overlooked New York gem and scope our picks for what to see, where to go, and what to eat while you’re in town for the Expo.
Some Quick History
Red Hook has come a long way from its humble and historic roots. Named “Roode Hoek” by the Dutch, the low-lying coastal settlement teemed with tidal mill ponds in its early days. It was an important site during the Battle of Brooklyn, the first major American Revolutionary War battle after the U.S. declared its independence. The docks of Red Hook rose to prominence in the 19th century, when the industrial boom made shipping a major industry: by 1920, it was the busiest freight port in the world.
In the decades that followed, the neighborhood hit some tough times, as chronicled in Hubert Selby, Jr.’s Last Exit to Brooklyn and Elia Kazan’s On the Waterfront. Fun fact: Red Hook is the place where Al Capone received his famous scar.
In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, virtually the whole neighborhood was left underwater. But with its resilience and port-town charm, Red Hook bounced back, luring a steady stream of creative people and small businesses. Exploring the shops and scenic views from Van Brunt Street toward the waterfront by bike or by foot has become a popular pastime for New Yorkers and visitors alike.
EAT & DRINK
A well-respected fixture in NYC’s cocktail scene with a small but first-rate food menu that includes one of the best burgers in New York. Also featured on Jerry Seinfeld’s “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.” A little info on Fort Defiance’s recovery after Hurricane Sandy can be read here.
365 Van Brunt Street
Brooklyn Ice House
Known for its impressive beer selection, this inviting dive-y bar has it all: classic bites, a friendly atmosphere, and a spacious back patio area.
318 Van Brunt Street
This may look like an ordinary supermarket, but if you go all the way to the back you’ll find they serve lunch, snacks, juice, and more. Take what you buy to the tables outside and enjoy great views of the water.
480 Van Brunt Street
If the weather’s nice and you like seafood and tabletop shuffleboards, there aren’t many better places to be.
24 Reed Street
Stumptown coffee and plentiful baked goods. Simply put: yum.
359 Van Brunt Street
If it’s open—the listed 2pm opening hour is more of a suggestion than a guarantee—go inside and experience one of the best bars in New York. Featured on Anthony Bourdain’s “No Reservations” and in The New York Times, but doesn’t act like it. Once popular among longshoremen and stevedores, it’s now a hangout for fans of bluegrass, jazz, country music, and whiskey.
253 Conover Street
Steve’s Authentic Key Lime Pies
If you have a sweet tooth and a little time to kill (and you’re a careful eater), try the “Swingle,” a frozen, chocolate-dipped key lime pie on a stick.
185 Van Dyke Street
Court Street Grocers Hero Shop
Sandwich lovers, take note: Court Street Grocers’ experimental and classic offerings are equally enticing.
116 Sullivan Street
Not ideal if you’re a vegetarian. Mouthwatering if you’re a carnivore. Get your fix of ribs, brisket, pulled pork and more.
454 Van Brunt Street
Red Hook Winery
After nearly being wiped out by Sandy, Red Hook Winery came back stronger than ever with help from the surrounding community. Stop by from 12pm – 6pm for tastings.
175 Van Dyke St
There are some neat shops along Van Brunt Street, including Erie Basin, which has a very interesting antique jewelry selection; Papillionaire Bicycles; Foxy & Winston for stationery; and Wooden Sleepers for a well-curated collection of vintage menswear. There’s also an IKEA not far away.
For modern art, head to Pioneer Works, a “center for research and experimentation in contemporary culture.” Check the website to see current exhibition details and to confirm hours. Expand your horizons at Look North Gallery, featuring a collection of photos and sculptural work from Inuit artists. And for families, stop by the Kentler International Drawing Space on Saturday morning to sign up for the kid-friendly “Drawing Together” class.
Cap off the day with a stop at Jalopy Theatre and School of Music. You never know what you’re going to see at this unique vintage venue, and that’s half the fun–with a broad array of programming ranging from new folk to old soul, you’ll feel like you’ve taken a trip back in time.
Know other ‘must stop’ locations? Tell us in the comments. We hope to see you at Pier 12 on May 4th or 5th!