Red Hook was named by Dutch settlers for its red clay soil and the way the spit of land juts out into the East River. In 1927, H.P. Lovecraft wrote The Horror at Red Hook, a murder mystery fueled by the author’s xenophobic, racist hatred of the neighborhood and its mixed ethnicities:
Red Hook is a maze of hybrid squalor near the ancient waterfront opposite Governor’s Island, with dirty highways climbing the hill from the wharves to that higher ground where the decayed lengths of Clinton and Court Streets lead off toward the Borough Hall. Its houses are mostly of brick, dating from the first quarter to the middle of the nineteenth century, and some of the obscurer alleys and byways have that alluring antique flavour which conventional reading leads us to call “Dickensian”. The population is a hopeless tangle and enigma; Syrian, Spanish, Italian, and negro elements impinging upon one another, and fragments of Scandinavian and American belts lying not far distant. It is a babel of sound and filth, and sends out strange cries to answer the lapping of oily waves at its grimy piers and the monstrous organ litanies of the harbour whistles.
Whatever Lovecraft thought, Red Hook is hardly filthy, although it manages to maintain its pleasantly remote, industrial dockside feel, mainly because it doesn’t have a subway station and has a working port. And there is plenty of good eating to do in the neighborhood at restaurants both new and old.
Tune in tomorrow for our picks for the 10 best restaurants in Red Hook. For our purposes, we’re defining the neighborhood by its older boundaries — the entire point, bounded by the water to the west, the BQE to the east, and Atlantic Avenue to the north. That includes what is now sometimes called the Columbia Waterfront District.
If you have a nomination for the list, please let us know in the comments.