As the days get warmer and the crocuses and daffodils pop their colorful heads out of the ground, there’s no better time to get out and enjoy a part of the city you may have overlooked.
Red Hook has been a popular spot for foodies and Brooklynites looking for bargains at just reopened post-Superstorm Sandy Fairway Market for years.
Still, other New Yorkers have visited the area to hit up the Swedish housewares behemoth IKEA. But between those two stores and various hole-in-the-wall eateries there is an historic neighborhood with something for everyone.
Visiting Red Hook can feel like a blast from the past. It has a quaint, almost beach town feel, with cobblestone streets leading to New York harbor and nautical accents on buildings. There are antique stores with their wares falling out onto the sidewalks and cafes and wine sellers. There are galleries galore, including the popular Brooklyn Waterfront Artists Coalition (Bwac.org).
It’s also an underdeveloped area, with only the Red Hook NYCHA Houses clocking in above six stories. The seafaring vibe has largely remained, to residents’ delight.
At the western edge of the neighborhood, on Ferris Street and Coffey Street, is Valentino Pier, a popular spot for fishing, laying in the grass and even launching canoes and kayaks. The tiny park boasts one of the best views around. Staten Island, the Statue of Liberty, New Jersey and lower Manhattan can all be seen from the pier. Various ferries go by, as well as tug boats, giant shipping container boats and even the Queen Mary 2 cruise ship, which docks just a few slips away.
The economic anchor of the neighborhood is the Fairway Market (480-500 Van Brunt St.), located in the old Red Hook Stores warehouse building. Superstorm Sandy destroyed the market, and after renovations, it re-opened March 1. Even if you’re not there for groceries, grab a snack and head to the outdoor area, complete with more water views.
Another community gem is the Added Value Farm, located in the shadow of IKEA at 580 Columbia St. This 3-acre urban farm was founded in 2000 and has been supplying produce to the neighborhood and area restaurants for years. When Sandy hit, the farm took on nearly three feet of water.
Red Hook is known for its restaurants. From the infamous Red Hook Lobster Pound (284 Van Brunt St., Redhooklobster.com) to the longtime neighborhood favorite The Good Fork, (391 Van Brunt St., Goodfork.com) it’s a foodies dream. At the pound, pick up a lobster roll or a live lobster to cook at home. At the Fork, don’t miss the “steak and eggs” Korean style, served with kimchi fried rice.
Fort Defiance, (365 Van Brunt St., Fortdefiancebrooklyn.com), a cocktail bar that serves food all day, including such delights as deviled eggs and shrimp and grits. Last summer’s big opener was Brooklyn Crab, (24 Reed St., Brooklyncrab.com), which is known for its hourlong waits. Go now before the season truly picks up and you might not have that problem.
And if you’re in the area any day but Sunday and are hankering for an authentic Brooklyn hero, head to Defonte’s, (379 Columbia St., Defontesinbrooklyn.com). Don’t skip the fried eggplant, and get there by 4 p.m.
How to get there
The closest subway stop (F/G at Carroll Street) is 20-minutes from the main drag of Van Brunt Street. Catch the B57 on Court Street or the B61 on Atlantic Avenue to get there.