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, chef Andrew Field 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 (including Time Out Live weekend gigs from the likes of Old Gray and Mykki Blanco), this summertime sibling to the recently displaced Brooklyn Night Bazaar is offering top-flight beach snacks at Bay 9 and Bay 6 through Labor Day, such as Salted Crack Caramel scoops from Ample Hills Creamery and chicken shawarma from Samesa.
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 (vodka lemonade, strawberry margarita) 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 Martin’s potato buns, snappy, all-beef Meat Hook franks with zippy kraut and cold pineapple-coconut 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 (the Go-Go’s, the Buggles) 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 18 fillings, like chicken and avocado or mushrooms with tofu. Top off your snack with a cocada, a thick and creamy milk shake made with freshly grated coconut and cinnamon.
With a name like Connolly’s, you’d expect the booze of choice at the dark-wood bar to be Guinness. But the draw of this by-the-surf Irish pub is, of all things, a piña colada. Tucked beneath an old Victorian beach house, the beloved basement tavern lures off-duty lifeguards, neighborhood firemen and fresh-from-the-swell surfers with its coladas and vodka-spiked frozen pink lemonades. The potent icy drinks come discreetly in Styrofoam cups—easy to sneak onto the beach—with a boozy floater for a buck extra, but the friendly bartenders are known to pour the added shots with a smile and an “on the house.”
Joining cool-kid spots like Tacoway Beach and Rippers, the Rockaway's first wine bar brings a bougie element to the 'hood's food scene. The brainchild of local surfer Rashida Jackson and artist Patrick Flibotte, the 28-seat shoreside drinkery showcases seasonal vino from hang-ten regions around the world. Along with the 13-bottle wine list, eight beers are available at the oak-and-steel bar: Sixpoint Crisp Lager and Lagunitas IPA on draft, Duval and Allagash White in bottles. Out back is a 1,200-square-foot garden fitted with beach rocks and wooden picnic tables.