Red Hook is a gritty looking community filled with warehouses, graffiti, and railroad tracks (though its main stretch of Van Brunt is quite charming) and lacking in the bullshit hype and window dressing that make other neighborhoods of Brooklyn a trademarked brand. Resilient beyond comprehension, it has bounced back from Hurricane Sandy and a season of MTV’s Real World to demonstrate there are a few New York neighborhoods where mom-and-pop can still open their doors. And there are a number of good places to eat and drink in this neighborhood, which means you should spend a day exploring all it has to offer.
Though firmly entrenched in several locations in addition to the food truck and pop up scene, Red Hook Lobster Pound’s (284 Van Brunt Street, Brooklyn; 718-858-7650) original location is a neighborhood anchor worth seeking out. It’s also the only location you can enjoy a lobster straight from the tank. Brooklyn Crab (24 Reed Street, Brooklyn; 718-643-2722) is another claw cracking destination, though its multi-level bar scene and backyard adult amusement park mean you’ll be waiting awhile for a table. Consider skipping it if that’s the case, and head right next door to Hometown Bar-B-Que (454 Van Brunt Street, Brooklyn; 347-294-4644). Billy Durney’s brisket has a beautiful bark, and the creamy queso mac and cheese is worth making room for, too.
If you’re seeking a cozy neighborhood spot complete with killer cocktails, Fort Defiance (365 Van Brunt Street, Brooklyn; 347-453-6672) makes a mean Ramos gin fizz, and brunch specials like the Richmond — sausage links on a cheddar biscuit with scrambled eggs and sage gravy — are an amazing way to fill up before a walking tour of the neighborhood’s vendors, like Red Hook Winery (204 Van Dyke Street, Brooklyn; 347-689-2432), Widow Jane and Cacao Prieto Distillery (214 Conover Street, Brooklyn; 347-225-0130), or Steve’s Authentic Key Lime Pies (185 Van Dyke Street, Brooklyn; 718-858-5333).
Perhaps no scene equivocally showcases Red Hook’s familial roots better than its ballfields. Food trucks like El Olomega pump out Salvadoran specialties like pupusas, which you can schlep down to the water for a gander at Lady Liberty.
Before you board your water taxi home (or hail your Uber X), pop by Grindhaus (275 Van Brunt Street, Brooklyn; 718-909-2881) for dinner, where the hospitality is so warm, you’ll consider asking if you can move in. The kitchen here works hard to capture the season, so order whatever sounds most suited to the day. Have a nightcap at Sunny’s (253 Conover Street, 718-625-8211), the oldest bar on Brooklyn’s waterfront, or pop into the taxidermy-filled Red Hook Bait & Tackle (320 Van Brunt Street, 718-451-4665), where you’ll find locals chatting up one of the friendliest bartenders in town.