The Eleven Best Places to Eat and Drink at Rockaway Beach

There are lots of ways to work up an appetite at Rockaway Beach. Just getting there on the weekend — either driving or taking the A train — is enough to make somebody hungry — never mind the swimming, running, beach soccer, or Zen-like application of SPF 50. Even just lying on a towel on the sand for an hour or two might give you a hankering for a piña colada or a cheeseburger. Here are the eleven best places to eat and drink at Rockaway Beach, which appears on the way to a full recovery after Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

-Rippers Burgers (8601 Shore Front Parkway, Rockaway Beach)
This classic boardwalk burger joint has a beachy vibe and a menu of classics designed for seaside snacking, brought to you by Brent Young, the butcher at the Meat Hook. You’re in safe hands and you probably want the double cheeseburger (dubbed the “Hard Body”). Maybe you add avocado and jalapeño; maybe you go classic. Either way, that soft, meaty patty topped with melting American (obviously) cheese is the perfect thing to eat as you stroll down the boardwalk in the sunshine. Online fans enthusiastically tout it as one of the best burgers in America. Is it? Who cares! Lick the mustard off your fingers. This is what the weekend is all about. (Katherine Knowles)

-By the Beach (67th Street on the Surf Beach and at the Riis Park Beach Bazaar; every weekend)
If you like coconuts and possess a certain hipster spirit, By the Beach is the drink stand for you. Rockaway natives and brothers Dylan and Ryan Sirgiovanni and their childhood friend Mikey Reen ship in fresh coconuts from Thailand and super-chill them until it’s time to hit the beach. Then they shave them down, stamp a distinctive palm logo on the side, and sell them to you from their no-frills chrome cart for your drinking pleasure. Grab a straw and take one for a stroll in the sand. Can’t beat it. (Knowles)

-Caracas Arepas (106-01 Shore Front Parkway, Rockaway Beach)
Everything about the beachside outpost of East Village hangout Caracas Arepas feels right — “It’s such a pleasure to make my food in a seaside setting,” says Maribel Araujo, owner and master of the traditional Venezuelan arepa, which is stuffed with slow-cooked meats, avocado, cilantro, and melting cheese. “This food just goes naturally with beaches!” Picture this: sand between your toes, salt in the air, and in your hands, a warm, pillowy-soft arepa. Maybe you go with the La Surena, stuffed with grilled chicken and chorizo smothered in chimichurri sauce, with cooling avocado slices fanned out on top like a still life. Or perhaps you go with Araujo’s favorite, the La Mulata, an oozy treat smothered with grilled white cheese, red peppers, fried sweet plantains and black beans. Little bit of spice, little kick of lime, all made fresh today. “This is our sixth year at the beach,” says Araujo, “and I love it. I’m proud to be part of the rebuilding, part of the change, giving people jobs and skills. And when I’m eating an arepa, or maybe sitting on the boardwalk eating Tostones Mochimeros (fried green plantains topped with mojito mayo and white cheese) and I can hear the waves, it’s my favorite place.”(Knowles)

-Connolly’s piña colada (155 Cross Bay Parkway, Rockaway Beach)
There’s always a crimped look of pain on a number of the patrons’ faces at Connolly’s Pub, a perennial locals bar out in Rockaway. That look is the temporary consequence of a rapid suck-down of one of their signature drinks, a frosty, frozen piña colada pulled from the revolving machines stationed at the back of the bar. Connolly’s is a neighborhood staple, a quick jaunt from the beach housed in the basement of a Victorian-style beachfront home. The ceiling is low, the surfaces sticky from spilled drinks and hot air. It’s so dark it takes a moment for your eyes to adjust to the scene and locate the bar. The piña colada is a classic purée of ice, canned coconut product, and pineapple concentrate, chilled to slush and handed over in a Styrofoam cup with a quick Fleischmann’s rum float poured on top and a maraschino cherry dropped in. It obliterates summer fatigue and is well worth the pain of the brain freeze. (Scarlett Lindeman)

-Whit’s End (97-14 Rockaway Beach Boulevard)
At this boisterous and compact Neapolitan pizzeria, the thin-crust pies pack major flavor and sport creative toppings like charred lemon ricotta or “hillbilly bacon” paired with peaches and lemon verbena. Owner Whitney Aycock, often seen chopping wood with a large ax in the restaurant’s open kitchen, has a jovially foul mouth. There’s “Fuckin’ Bluefish Dip” and a “Fuckin’ Good Burger,” and the chef’s pork belly tacos come topped with pickled hominy and “hot shit.” Enjoy the tongue-in-cheek attitude while downing $2 Lionshead Pilsner. (Zachary Feldman)

-Playland Grill at the Playland Motel (97-20 Rockaway Beach Boulevard, Rockaway Beach)
Chef Daniel Cipriani runs the restaurant at this boutique hotel, famous for its colorful, artist-decorated rooms. His menu, overhauled this summer, takes inspiration from his time operating a Southern-inflected food truck; diners can expect plates like beer-boiled peel-and-eat shrimp and baby back ribs. And should you arrive early in the day, Playland may just have the area’s best breakfast: chicken and waffles, chorizo breakfast tacos, and something called the “Devil’s Mess,” made with scrambled eggs and tequila-lime shrimp. (Feldman)

-Tacoway Beach (302 Beach 87th Street, Rockaway Beach)
Rockaway Taco may have closed, but it’s a blessing that its co-founder Andrew Field chose to stay local for his solo venture, a pop-up inside perennial summer hangout Rockaway Beach Surf Club. Enjoy some of the city’s finest fish tacos and toast to your resourcefulness with icy plastic cups of watermelon or pineapple-mint juices. Best of all, Field keeps the tortilla jamboree going until midnight daily. (Feldman)

-Uma’s  (92-07 Rockaway Beach Blvd, Rockaway Beach)
You need not know a thing about Uzbekistan, or even how to spot it on a map, in order to appreciate the spectacular flavors at Uma’s. Just two blocks from the boardwalk, this surprisingly beach-friendly restaurant and bar cranks out dependable ethnic fare to accompany esoteric Baltic and Russian craft beers. Lagman noodles — handspun, and served with beef in chile paste — are coated in an unusual, yet inviting spice. Manti, plump and steamy meat-filled dumplings, reveal a chewy mouthful of insight into this under-explored cuisine. Leave the surfboard at the door, stay for the live music, and don’t ditch out on dessert; their chak chak, a crispy fried dough slathered in honey, is every bit as awesome as it sounds. (Brad Japhe)

-Low Tide Bar (96th Street at the Boardwalk, Rockaway Beach) 
A boisterous beacon along the Rockaway boardwalk, Low Tide is more of a beachside food court than a bona fide establishment. No shirt, no shoes, no problem. Don’t expect frills either, just an oceanside vista where you can throw back cheap, American macrobrew (ice-cold Buds are $4), refreshing shandies, and two-buck chuck. The family-style picnic seating encourages camaraderie, and beckons you to stick around for just one more round, which inevitably turns into three or four. Several food vendors share the same pavilion. Seek out the $11 Bolivian nachos: quinoa and plantain chips dressed in savory black beans and an aji cheese sauce with chopped herbs, and a dollop of crème fraîche for good measure. (Japhe)

-Lobster Joint (96th Street at the Boardwalk, Rockaway Beach)
The Lobster Joint is full of choices. Would you like your lobster in a slider, on a traditional roll, or in gazpacho form? Beyond that, all they can offer you are chips, housemade cole slaw, and pickles. But you don’t need to do many things, so long as you do one thing well. And this boardwalk food shack, open from May until September, comes correct with one stellar seafood sandwich. Saddled with tender chunks of fresh crustacean, their showcase specialty isn’t wanting for mayo. It brings tang and succulent moisture to a $16 meal stuffed within a buttered hot dog bun. Infrequent crunches of celery serve merely as textural afterthought. Pricey? Maybe. Quality? No question. (Japhe)

-Bolivian Llama Party (Beach at 98th Street, Far Rockaway; 347-291-7846 and Playland Motel 97-20 Rockaway Beach Boulevard, Rockaway Beach; 347-954-9063)
Though trekking through the hot sand of the Rockaways may tempt you to make a beeline for the nearest ice cream man, you’re better off nursing your burns with a warm salteña courtesy of Bolivian Llama Party. The oval-shaped baked dough is packed with sweet-tasting stewed chopped beef (chicken and quinoa versions are also available), with onions, spices, and pieces of hard-boiled egg floating about inside too. A house-made cheese and several spicy sauces are available as toppings, though you won’t need them to experience the full flavor. If your first inclination is to eat this delicacy like a standard empanada, check yourself before you wreck yourself, and lose all of that savory stew. Hold the salteña upright and chew out a small hole on top, then feel free to slurp down some of the juice before chomping your way to the bottom. The result? You’ll leave the beach with your stomach full and only suntan lotion covering your body. (Billy Lyons)

 

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