Sundays in Red Hook
To tourists and New Yorkers both, the neighborhood of Red Hook, Brooklyn, is considered off the beaten path, a remote industrial shipyard visited once or twice, usually for that much-needed trip to Ikea. But the underrated destination is a hub for arts and food—the perfect day trip location to escape the city’s congestion. It is also known for its stunningly clear view of the Statue of Liberty. Who wants to freeze their butt off on the ferry anyway? Although it’s a bit detached from our typical ideas of the “New York experience,” Red Hook has a lot to offer in the way of antique gems, illuminating art galleries, and seafood by the bucket-load.
Here, we’ve rounded up Red Hook’s best activities for that coveted, scenic Sunday on the pier that we all deserve.
Often considered one of the best restaurants in Red Hook, this cozy and casual American cuisine spot is a known must-try if you need some fuel before the day’s activities, or if you want to close out the day with a handcrafted drink. Opened in 2009, and sourced completely locally, Fort Defiance is quaint and homey with colorful tables and antique chairs, but the food is what will really hook you. Whether you’re visiting with a group of friends or alone, completely famished or just into an appetizer/drink situation, Fort Defiance will serve up quality and quantity that just about makes it a no-brainer.
365 Van Brunt St, Brooklyn; T. (347) 453-6672
It may come as a surprise that Red Hook is home to the city’s hottest up-and-coming artists, but photo curation is actually one of the areas in which the neighborhood thrives with Red Hook Labs being the center of it all. Founded by Jimmy Moffat, the lab is a hybrid: photography studio, gallery, school, and production company—a contemporary art hub where creatives go to discover and be discovered. If you’re just spending the day in Red Hook, though, you’ll want to prioritize the gallery for its diverse and rotating lineup of group shows that are sure to bewilder and titillate the senses.
133 Imlay St, Brooklyn; T. (718) 797-1103
“The bar on the edge of the world” is how writer Tim Sultan described the historic Sunny’s Bar (pictured above) in its ’90s prime, a time when the bar was open for only one or two days a week and its lucky patrons got to experience some of New York’s most eccentric and spontaneous live music. Today, Sunny’s is less exclusive and open six days a week, but the humble, divey character still hits you the moment you walk in. Now a Red Hook institution, the bar has a variety of small rooms with funky seating, larger-than-life bobbleheads, a storied collection of local artwork, and cheap drinks. If you’re looking for the classic dive bar you see in the movies, look no further.
253 Conover St, Brooklyn; T. (718) 625-8211
Brooklyn Crab almost feels like a vacation spot: located right on the shore, three floors of outdoor seating, buckets of fresh crab being tossed around, a mini-golf course… With its “on the boardwalk” vibe and a sea breeze that feels too good to be true considering its proximity to the city, the restaurant/bar is reason enough to make the trip out to Red Hook. Be ready to eat. Hang out with a group of friends, order the mac ’n’ cheese or the jalapeno cornbread—just the atmosphere is satiating enough.
24 Reed St, Brooklyn; T. (718) 643-2722
Whiskey on the Coast may sound like a bad country song, but it’s the reality at Widow Jane Distillery. And although we recommend partaking in their whiskey tasting/tour during the latter part of your day, it’s definitely something that you need to experience—if all persons are willing and able, of course. Owner and master distiller Daniel Prieto Preston’s industrial and magnificent whiskey haven, which shares a warehouse with his Dominican chocolate company, is a stunning space with picturesque wooden beams and floors, and the main attraction: the copper still. You’ll get to see the distilling process, which includes all aging, barreling, blending and bottling being done in-house. There’s also a spacious patio that houses chickens and a peacock—an added bonus, really.
218 Conover St, Brooklyn; T. (347) 225-0130
For tastefully curated workwear/military/vintage men’s clothing, there’s really no better spot than Wooden Sleepers. The brick-and-mortar shop, opened in 2015, turns vintage shopping into a fully immersive experience with its extensive and affordable range of men’s pieces. It’s one of those places that, after visiting once, you hope remains hidden that much longer.
395 Van Brunt St, Brooklyn; T. (718) 643-0802
WORDS Ivan Guzman