Over the years, the Rockaways has emerged as one of the best New York beaches. Attracting a younger, hipper crowd, the restaurant and bar scene has followed suit, with crowded tiki bars, wallet-friendly Mexican restaurants and even an outpost of the Brooklyn Bazaar. Pack your sunscreen, beach towel and food-and-drink bucket list and head down to Queens to try the best Rockaway Beach restaurants and bars.
RECOMMENDED: Full guide to Rockaway Beach, NY
Best restaurants and bars in the Rockaways
Despite the kitschy delight of eating takeaway tacos off a knee-balanced plate at Rockaway Taco, the sit-down setup at this offshoot housed inside the Rockaway Beach Surf Club is a much-welcome upgrade. Like at that OG taco shack, the team is fueling off-duty surfers and beach-bound locals with exemplary beer-battered fish tacos and watermelon juices, but Tacoway boasts one major feature its forebear was missing: alcohol.
Along with shopping, sports (beach volleyball, Ultimate Frisbee) and live tunes, this summertime sibling to the recently displaced Brooklyn Night Bazaar is offering top-flight beach snacks at Bay 2, Bay 6, Bay 9 and Bay 14 through Labor Day, such as scoops from Ample Hills Creamery and kosher sausages from Sausage Hero.
The closest thing to tropical beach vibes might be at this bayside bar, set with an outdoor deck, tiki bar, live music and weekend DJ sets. Enjoy seafood appetizers like baked clams, crab cakes and tequila shrimp, or just settle in with a cocktail as you watch the sun set over the water.
A seven-minute walk from the beach, the expansive, 3,600-square-foot taproom—set inside an industrial garage space with picnic tables and metal barstools—attracts a scruffy group of Rockaway locals and visiting fixed-gear bikers who shoot the breeze over a chalkboard menu of six rotating taps and savor hyperlocal craft brews sans snobbery.
This funky Central-Asian restaurant creates a culinary fusion of Uzbekistanian (plov), Asian (Korean carrot salad), Russian (borscht) and Mediterranean (labne salad) fare with a little dose of live music. The interior is a refreshing contrast to the neighboring beachy venues, with exposed brick walls, Edison bulbs and a tin ceiling.
The Rockaway boardwalk is the new Bedford Avenue, if Rippers is anything to go by. Launched in 2011 by the crews behind Roberta’s and the Meat Hook, this rowdy, neon-hued snack shack attracts tattooed folks fresh off the A train. Huddle under galvanized-steel shade structures for juicy, grass-fed burgers on potato buns, snappy, all-beef franks with kraut and cold fruit smoothies. The patty-joint fare demands a bit of a wait—potatoes are cut right before frying—and lines regularly wind down to the sand, but a kitschy ’80s soundtrack and a communal beer funnel keep spirits sunny.
Surely, there’s no more cultured a substitute for a grilled-cheese sandwich than a piping-hot arepa filled with juayanes, a handmade cheese. This endearing spot, with flower-patterned, vinyl-covered tables, zaps you straight to Caracas, Venezuela. The secret is in the arepas themselves: Each patty is made from scratch daily. The pitalike pockets are stuffed with a choice of more than a dozen fillings, like chicken and avocado or mushrooms with tofu.
Beachgoers can swing by this small family-run takeout joint, just one block from the Rockaway waters. Tossed salads, lemon chicken with artichoke hearts, and baked salmon can be found on the bill of fare for a healthy alternative to the hot dogs and milkshakes.
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Ivy Bar and Grill
This Midtown West watering hole offers a full menu of bar food favorites and upgraded craft cocktails. Bartenders infuse spirits like blood orange and lavender gin, pineapple vodka and orange-jalapeno tequila in house and put them to good use in drinks like the Spicy Cucumber Margarita and Ivy Martini, which adds Triple Sec, fresh lime juice and a splash of cranberry to the pineapple vodka (both $13). Prefer beer or wine? The bar also has plenty of beers on draft and wines by the glass and bottle. Hungry patrons will find plenty of tempting options on the food menu. Appetizers like chicken lettuce wraps ($16), grilled flatbread with prosciutto, brie, pesto and arugula ($14) and piping hot kale and artichoke dip ($13) will get you started. Move on to lobster and grilled corn tacos ($17), barbecue pulled pork sliders ($13) or a burger topped with onion rings, applewood-smoked bacon, cheddar cheese and blue cheese dressing ($18).
Venue says: “Knockdown Mule Mondays, Taco Tuesday- Tacos & Margarita $21, & Whiskey Wednesday- rotation of whiskey cocktails. Happy Hour daily 4p-7p”