In the past decade, as the Rockaways have recovered from Hurricane Sandy, a swell of new businesses has begun to offer even more reasons to hop on the A train (or NYC ferry) for a visit. Here, a look at some must-visit spots on the narrow Queens peninsula.
Rockaway Beach Surf Club
Surfers Brandon d’Leo and Bradach Walsh opened this bar and restaurant in 2012 to cater to a crowd of artists, surfers, and musicians, and it has been a mainstay ever since, in particular helping lead volunteer relief efforts following Sandy. “We’re a cultural event space disguised as a bar,” d’Leo says of the eclectic spot, which has hosted everything from film screenings to a Tommy Hilfiger pop-up.
This airy spot opened last September, serving fare inspired by the South of France—bouillabaisse, moules frites—and hosting live music on the rooftop terrace during summer weekends. “There are many parallels between Marseille and the Rockaways,” says partner James Mallios, who grew up in Queens. “Both are near the water, have a rustic, at times gritty character, and are a multicultural blend of ethnicities.”
“This is the kind of place where the whole neighborhood comes over twice a day,” says co-owner Brian Leary, who spent his childhood summers in the Rockaways. Opened in March 2020, his order-at-the-counter spot offers casual bites such as fish and chips, which diners enjoy at picnic tables and Adirondack chairs on the inviting patio and lawn.
Once a mobile boutique, this shop, which sells women’s clothing, candles, jewelry, and more, opened a brick-and-mortar on Rockaway Beach Boulevard a couple of years ago. “We’re super-inclusive,” says owner Katie Long. “Anyone can come in and find something. It’s a real community here.”
Avoid the Day Bookstore & Café
Last year, husband-and-wife duo Jianna and Jason Heuer, who met 15 years ago while working in book publishing, opened this shop, which also hosts readings and community activities. “While still a part of New York City, Rockaway feels like a small town,” says Jianna, “and every small town needs a bookstore-café.”
The Rockaway Hotel
“We wanted to create a hotel that celebrates the vibrant spirit of the Rockaways, the beach, and New York City as a whole,” managing partner Jon Krasner says of this hip boutique property, which opened last fall. The rooftop bar yields glimmering views of the city skyline and the ocean, while Margie’s, the ground-floor restaurant, is perfect for watching neighborhood characters head to and from the beach.