Last-chance guide to Rockaway
Thu Aug 18 2011
Photograph: David Rosenzweig
Soon enough, we'll be snowed in again and you'll be wondering why you didn't get any sun or even a single damn frozen margarita this summer. You don't want to live with that kind of regret. It's August—crunch time—so here is your game plan for making the most of a trip to Rockaway Beach before the summer disappears.
You've heard the hype: Rockaway Taco is the most spectacular oceanside culinary experience since Jaws picked his teeth with that little kid in the raft. We're here to tell you that it's true. This modest shack, located a couple blocks from the beach, has some amazing tacos (tofu, fish, carne, chorizo; $3) and serves a plantain quesadilla ($4) that somehow encapsulates the joy of summer in each sweet bite. You should be able to find it by way of the loud music and faint smell of heaven. 95-19 Rockaway Beach Blvd at Beach 96th St (347-213-7466, rockawaytaco.com)
Col. Bill Kilgore, the surf- and war-loving character played by Robert Duvall in Apocalypse Now, would probably have enjoyed being stationed at Fort Tilden. The onetime home to a family of Nike Hercules surface-to-air missiles is now a popular beach destination. It's possible to get there by subway and bus, though we think the best way is by bike. The ride is long, but jumping in the ocean on a hot afternoon after chaining up your whip can be the most satisfying event of your summer. Beach 169th St at the Atlantic Ocean (718-318-4300, nyharborparks.org)
Boarders Surf and Skate Shop
No one is going to believe that you enjoyed your summer if all you have to show for it is some clearance board shorts from Target. Buy your gear where the locals do, at this wave-riders' emporium. Unlike Borders the bookstore, which is large and bankrupt, Boarders Surf Shop is small and thriving. Much of the gear is made in the USA, and you can rent a surfboard for a half day ($35) or a full day ($50). They'll provide showers and a place to put your stuff. Throw in another $5 with your rental and Boarders will lend you a wet suit for the afternoon. You probably won't need it, as the water has had the entire summer to warm up. 192 Beach 92nd St at Rockaway Beach Blvd (718-318-7997, boarderssurfshop.com)
The Irish Circle Ices by the Lemon Ice King of Corona
At Irish Circle Ices—home away from home for Queens frozen-treat vendor the Lemon Ice King of Corona—you can enjoy frozen treats in a Hibernian bar setting. Bubble gum, cotton candy, coffee and dozens of other varieties (two scoops for $2.50) are there for your brain-freezing enjoyment. 101-19 Rockaway Beach Blvd at Beach 102nd St (718-474-9002, thelemonicekingofcorona.com)
Bungalow Bar & Restaurant
All summer you've had to stare longingly at your teacher friends' Facebook profiles, which look like something out of spring break in Cancun circa 1997. While you might be a little old to pour tequila on your head and pass out with your face in the toilet, you still owe yourself some summertime R&R. Bungalow Bar & Restaurant, a great little place by the bay, is a good spot to put up your feet and enjoy a grown-up beverage in the sun or the AC. 377 Beach 92nd St at Beach Channel Dr (718-945-2100, bungalowbarny.com)
Surf lessons and yoga
By now, the list of things you meant to do this summer has grown long, even as the days grow short. You've neither learned to surf nor taken that vinyasa yoga class. It's time for the old Tom Berenger--in-Sniper "one shot, two kills" treatment: Head to Rockaway Beach's Surf and Yoga Day Retreat (Sat 20, Sept 3, 17 10am--2pm; $225). Harness the energy of the waves—and the energy inside yourself. Then, at the end of the day, you can go harness the energy of a shower and your bed. Beach 69th St at Rockaway Beach (718-496-3371, surflessonsnewyork101.com)
Jacob Riis Park
Called "the people's beach," the park is best known for its uncrowded waterfront and recently renovated Art Deco bathhouse from the '30s. Lay out on the mile-long stretch of sand or head to one of the courts for paddle tennis, basketball and volleyball. Beach Channel Dr at Rockaway Beach Blvd (718-318-4300, nyharborparks.org)
Breezy Point Executive Golf Course
Located inside Jacob Riis Park, this establishment features an 18-hole, par-three course. Rockaway Beach Blvd at 155th St (718-474-1623)
Floyd Bennett Field
Founded in 1931 as New York's first municipal airport, the field now operates as a huge recreation park attracting model-airplane enthusiasts. While there, check out the community garden or visit the Aviator Sports & Recreation Center for ice-skating and rock climbing. 50 Aviator Rd at Flatbush Ave, Marine Park, Brooklyn (718-338-3799, nyharborparks.org)
Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge
Just a short walk from the Broad Channel A-train stop, this oasis draws bird-watchers and outdoor adventure enthusiasts to its 9,155 acres of salt marsh, woods and fresh-water ponds. Cross Bay Blvd between Broad Channel and Howard Beach (718-318-4340, nyharborparks.org)
Breezy Point Tip
One of the most isolated sections of Gateway National Recreation Area, the beaches here are ideal for long, quiet walks. Beach 227th St at Breezy Point Blvd (718-318-4300, nyharborparks.org)
The Rockaways outpost of this Lower East Side sweets shop specializes in vegan and gluten-free baked goods. Shore Front Pkwy at Beach 96th St (babycakesnyc.com). Wed--Sun noon--6pm.
The folks behind Brooklyn's the Meat Hook and Roberta's run this beachside burger shack. 86-01 Shore Front Pkwy at Beach 86th St (rockawaybeachclub.com/rippers). Daily 10am--8pm.
Blue Bottle Coffee
This full espresso bar is run by the noted West Coast purveyor. 106-01 Shore Front Pkwy at Beach 106th St (bluebottlecoffee.net). Mon--Fri 8am--4pm; Sat, Sun 8am--6pm. Labor Day weekend 8am--8pm.
This stand specializes in traditional Venezuelan grub like arepas ($4--$7.50), empanadas ($4--$5) and fried sweet plantains ($4.50). 106-01 Shore Front Pkwy at Beach 106th St (718-474-1709, caracasarepabar.com/rockaway.php). Mon--Fri noon--8pm; Sat, Sun 11am--8pm.
This produce stand serves veggie sandwiches ($5--$7) and fresh-pressed juices and smoothies ($5). 97-01 Shore Front Pkwy at Beach 97th St (rbfarmstand.blogspot.com). Daily 8am--6pm.
Ode to the Elephants
This Thai joint, which operates another outpost in Puerto Rico, offers eats like spring rolls ($4) or curry ($11). 97-01 Shore Front Pkwy at Beach 97th St (718-474-2383, odetotheelephants.com). Daily noon--10pm.
P&H Soda Co.
Track down this cart for a soda made with all-natural syrups like hibiscus, lime and ginger. Shore Front Pkwy at Beach 96th St (pnhsodaandsyrupinc.com). Check twitter.com/PnHSODACO for hours.
Motorboat & the Big Banana
This shop serves up seafood sandwiches ($7.50--$8.50) in addition to namesake chocolate-covered frozen bananas ($3). 97-01 Shore Front Pkwy at Beach 97th St (twitter.com/boatsandbananas). Daily noon--6:30pm.
This eatery, with outdoor seating along Jamaica Bay, features a range of Thai cuisine and frequent live entertainment. 375 Beach 92nd St at Beach Channel Dr (646-455-3991, thairock.us). Mon--Wed noon--10pm; Thu--Sun noon--11pm.