Red Hook: The best of the Brooklyn neighborhood

Find the best restaurants, bars, attractions and things to do in the waterfront neighborhood of Red Hook in Brooklyn.

1/12
Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

Cocktail bar Botanica in Red Hook

2/12
Photograph: Beth Levendis

Louis J. Valentino Jr. Park and Pier offers great views of the Statue of Liberty and free kayaking sessions in the summer.

3/12

Louis J. Valentino Jr. Park and Pier

4/12
Photograph: Lizz Kuehl

The semioutdoor tented dining room in the back of Pok Pok Ny, is the most atmospheric spot in the restaurant to try chef Andy Ricker's superlative Thai fare. 

5/12
Photograph: Bill Kelly

Red Hook Park during a SummerStage concert

 

 

6/12
Photograph: Beth Levendis

Make sure to drop in to Fort Defiance, the cocktails rank among the best in the borough.

7/12
Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

Sunny's Bar, you can't miss it, just look for this car

8/12
Photograph: Jeffrey Gurwin

If the weather's nice, take a drink up to Rocky Sullivan's roof deck.

9/12

The Red Hook Pool, you weren't thinking of cooling off in the East River or Gowanus Bay were you?

10/12
Photograph: Sean Ellingson

IKEA Brooklyn, it's why the majority of people come to Red Hook, but escape the labyrinth of reasonably-priced goods and a charming neighborhood awaits.

11/12
Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

The Brooklyn Crab seafood shack in Red Hook offers views of the bay and games of mini golf and cornhole in its backyard.

12/12

The Waterfront Museum and Showboat Barge hosts art exhibits, readings, and music, theater and dance performances.

To the southwest of Carroll Gardens, beyond the BQE, the formerly rough-and-tumble industrial locale of Red Hook remains a secluded neighborhood, thanks to the lack of subway stops, which makes it perfect for a day out exploring. 

RECOMMENDED: Full coverage of things to do in Brooklyn


Despite the arrival of gourmet mega-grocer Fairway and Swedish furniture superstore Ikea, the area is still home to smaller, artisanal businesses and factories, like the Sixpoint brewery. Its time-warp charm is still evident, and its decaying piers make a moody backdrop for massive cranes, empty warehouses and trucks clattering over cobblestone streets. 

Red Hook suffered badly during Hurricane Sandy, with buildings flooded out and residents without electricity for weeks on end. Most businesses have reopened by now, although the community is still feeling lingering effects.

To find out more about things to do, see, eat and drink in Brooklyn and discover other neighborhoods in the area, visit our Brooklyn borough guide.

Map of Red Hook and travel information

The waterfront neighborhood of Red Hook in Brooklyn runs south west of Hamilton Avenue (which follows the BQE) between the East River and Gowanus Bay. It borders the neighborhoods of Carroll Gardens, Gowanus and Cobble Hill. Public transport options are limited, with the nearest subway stop being Smith-9th Streets—requiring either a 30-minute stroll into the nabe or a transfer to the B61 bus. Your other options are taking the New York Water Taxi or cycling, the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway connects Red Hook, Dumbo, Brooklyn Heights and Williamsburg via (mostly) protected bike lanes along the East River.

Read more
Read more

Restaurants in Red Hook

Pok Pok Ny

Critics' pick

There are plenty of chefs toying with far-flung flavors in New York, but few have flawlessly captured the true taste of distant cultures. Once in a while, though, an outsider manages to find a way in, learning to cook like a native son. Andy Ricker, raised on ski-town grub in Vermont, flipped for Thai food years back, as a rudderless vagabond wandering across Southeast Asia (working on boats in the Pacific). His immersion started in Chiang Mai, where great local cooks took him under their wings. Year after year he returned to the city to build a repertoire of authentic Thai tastes with a scholar’s devotion to detail. His first restaurant, the original Pok Pok, opened in Portland, Oregon in 2005 as a takeout shack, serving Thai-style barbecue chicken and mortar-and-pestle papaya salads. It gained momentum organically, evolving over the years into one of the country’s top spots for a serious Thai feast. Recently, Ricker exported the concept east to New York, opening a small wing shop on the Lower East Side, followed by a full-fledged replica of the Portland Pok Pok on the Brooklyn waterfront, featuring the same intense flavors and honky-tonk vibe. The new spot, like the original, replicates the indigenous dives where Ricker’s Thai food education began, with a tented dining room out back festooned with a jungle of dangling plants, colorful oilcloths on the tables and secondhand seats. Ricker is a rare out-of-town chef who hasn’t jacked up prices in the move to New York—nothing o

Read more
Red Hook

Red Hook Lobster Pound

Critics' pick

This lobster seller trucks the critters from Maine to the storefront every week. You can order two styles of lobster roll—the warm and buttered Connecticut version or the cold and mayo-laced New England one—plus Maine Root sodas and Robicelli treats.

Read more
Red Hook

Stumptown Coffee Roasters

Critics' pick

Stumptown founder Duane Sorenson opens this coffee bar inside his Red Hook roastery. Caffeine geeks can select their bean from 30 sustainable options roasted on the premises—you can even pick your preferred brewing method (Chemex, French press, Melitta and more). A small retail area offers coffee gear and whole beans to take home.

Read more
Red Hook

Defonte’s

Critics' pick

If you’re lucky enough to live or work near this legendary Red Hook sandwich shop, you know the secret of its success: massive, old-school Italian heros. Buns are layered with ingredients like ham, provolone, salami, roast beef, mozzarella and fried eggplant. In the Gramercy location, prepared dinners (macaroni with vodka sauce, chicken parmigiana) in microwaveable containers are available to go.

Read more
Red Hook
See more restaurants in Red Hook

Bars in Red Hook

Sunny’s

Critics' pick

This unassuming wharfside tavern has been passed down in the Balzano family since 1890. On weekends, the bar buzzes with middle-aged and new-generation bohemians (the latter distinguished by their PBR cans), and the odd salty dog (canines, not sailors). Despite the nautical feel, you’re more likely to hear bossa nova or bluegrass than sea chanties warbling from the speakers.

Read more
Red Hook

Fort Defiance

Critics' pick

The serious take on tippling offered at Fort Defiance is rare in isolated Red Hook, but the cocktails rank among the best in the borough. The Journalist, made with gin and vermouth, is as clean and crisp as a classic Manhattan. A Prescription Julep is an extra-potent mint julep featuring cognac and rye, poured over hand-crushed ice. If you live in the ’hood, this could be your new local spot (it opens at 7am on weekdays, serving coffee and breakfast). The frontier pricing—most drinks are under $10—helps justify the trek for the rest of us.

Read more
Red Hook

Brooklyn Botanica

Critics' pick

Though this Red Hook bar is still a work-in-progress (note the tough-to-spot entrance), the easy vibe and inventive drinks list are, thankfully, fully formed. Fresh fruit can be found in cocktails like the blueberry gimlet (muddled berries, vodka and lime juice), and absinthe makes an appearance along with champagne in the sparkling Death in the Afternoon. As for food, the small-plates program has yet to arrive. Brooklyn Botanica may still be evolving, but the bones are there for a beautiful local bar.

Read more
Red Hook

Botanica

Critics' pick

Before gastro fanatics hunkered down for a two-hour wait at Pok Pok Ny or cocktail nerds made the pilgrimage to Fort Defiance in Red Hook, seasonal bar Botanica beckoned Brooklyn locals to a quiet corner in the ’hood for its produce-driven libations and stunning Venetian-inspired room. But though the April-to-October spot gained fans from the borough, it never quite made its way onto the lips of culinary sophisticates. That may soon change (or should, at least): This past spring, one of those local admirers, Michelin-starred chef Saul Bolton—who discovered the Red Hook gem on a trip back from Fairway—rebooted the food and drink menus, with plans to keep the joint open year-round. Bolton, a pioneer of Brooklyn’s now-surging food scene, already had his hands full with his restaurants Saul, the Vanderbilt and (coming this fall) Red Gravy. But he was so charmed with Botanica that he tracked down owner Dan Preston, who also presides over the glass-windowed chocolate factory and distillery Cacao Prieto housed in the same 1846 Dutch building, and convinced Preston to let him take over operations. With Bolton’s own team in the kitchen and behind the bar, the gorgeous spot—easily one of the city’s best-looking watering holes—finally has destination-worthy food and cocktails to match the dreamy setting. DRINK THIS: Bolton installed his head barkeep at Saul, Dan Carlson, behind the stately copper bar at Botanica. Carlson’s breezy nine-drink list hits all the notes of today’s cocktail tr

Read more
Red Hook
See more bars in Red Hook

Attractions in Red Hook

Shopping in Red Hook

Chelsea Garden Center

Between this spacious Red Hook emporium and its smaller Chelsea locale, this plant purveyor has one of the largest selections of greenery in the city. While you’ll find gardening tools such as glossy clay pots ($20–$200) and small Fiskars hand shovels ($4), the bulk of Chelsea Garden Center’s stock is comprised of lush vegetation. Apartment-friendly picks include low-maintenance cacti ($4–$20) and air plants ($10–$20), although gorgeous orchids ($45) that bloom annually are worth the extra effort. Proud New Yorkers may claim that no city tops Gotham, but few would knock the beauty of L.A.’s palm trees. To get the best of both coasts, make room in your pad for bright green dracaenas ($17–$200) or kentia palms ($225–$350) sourced from Hawaii.

Read more
Red Hook

Foxy & Winston

You’ll be searching for a reason to send someone one of the large square screen-printed cards ($4–$5 each) that illustrator and owner Jane Buck makes right in the store: Each features charming animal graphics, like a tortoise carrying a cupcake on its shell, with kitschy sayings (cheer up, buttercup). For those occasions when an old-fashioned note alone won’t cut it, there are baby bibs ($16) and little pouches ($6) adorned with the store’s signature menagerie of birds, elephants, rabbits and more.

Read more
Red Hook

Wooden Sleepers

After running a successful online shop and flea-market booths, Brian Davis found a permanent home for his curated collection of vintage men’s classics in Red Hook. The store focuses on military items (versions of De Niro’s Taxi Driver jacket go for about $150), outerwear and Americana gear for guys from as early as the 1930s. Sweaters start around $80; small items like wool caps are $10 and up.

Read more
Red Hook
See more of the best stores in Red Hook

Comments

0 comments