Your guide to the backstreets of Red Hook, NYC
This subway-free, waterfront neighbourhood is an inner-urban oasis in New York City. Here is our round-up of Red Hook in the backstreets of Brooklyn.
It’s hard to believe that a neighbourhood like Red Hook exists in a city like New York, which has a population of 8.5 million and is the largest urban area in the US. Red Hook is compact. It’s walkable. It has a community feel. It also has green space, a community garden and killer waterfront views towards the Statue of Liberty and Manhattan skyline, clearly visible in the distance against a blue-grey backdrop of sky.
Called Ihepetonga by the Indigenous Lenape and Roode Hoek (red point) by the Dutch after the red clay found on the peninsula, Red Hook is one of the first areas in Brooklyn to be settled. It was also the inspiration for Marlon Brando’s On the Waterfront. While the area was once a prosperous shipping port, limited public transport options mean there are pockets of the isolated enclave that still feel more like a seaside town, albeit with an indie attitude.
Although major retailers such as Ikea and Amazon have moved into the precinct, it still exudes charm. It’s dotted with dinky rowhouses and dive bars, graffiti-clad streets and industrial-era warehouses that continue to attract creatives who are reinvigorating the neighbourhood.
And right now, we’re loving exploring its higgledy-piggledy cobblestone streets lined with museums, galleries, cafes, restaurants, bars and boutiques.
Eat and drink
A Noble Pursuit
Nobletree Coffee is a vertically integrated coffee company in Red Hook with some of the best seats in the house for viewing the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor. The small-batch roastery is housed in a charming mid-19th-century industrial brick building and hosts coffee courses for budding baristas.
A fork in the road
The Good Fork Pub has long had a cult following for its Korean-style steak and eggs, fried wontons and bar snacks designed to complement beer, wine and cocktails. The Red Hook institution was recently reimagined as a more casual public house and remains a hip, happening and community-focused spot to hunker down.
Keep on truckin’
Head to the Red Hook Food Vendors Marketplace to slurp down street-style tacos, huaraches and quesadillas that are considered some of the most authentic in New York City. The food trucks converge in Red Hook Park between April and October.
Claw and order
There’s no better place to indulge your love of crustaceans than at the landmark Lobster Pound.
Have a stack of serviettes ready for the New England Seafood Boil, or keep it lowkey with the signature lobster rolls around rustic tables in the industrial-chic space. Seafood shack Brooklyn Crab should also be on your radar.
Dawn to dusk
A day out in Red Hook Morning
Red Hook has one of the first large-scale public housing developments of its kind, the Red Hook Houses. You can sign up to volunteer at Red Hook Farms, a youth-centred urban agriculture and food justice program designed to support the residents of the precinct.
Fossick through the sale bins at Record Shop to find new records to give a spin. The aptly named Record Shop has a solid range of jazz, rock, hip-hop, blues and gospel titles.
Address: 360 Van Brunt St, Red Hook
Sunny’s has been in the same family since 1890, during which time it’s morphed from restaurant to longshoreman’s bar to its current iteration as a waterfront saloon. Expect bluegrass jams, local eccentrics and absolute bedlam to ensue. The glorious saloon bar was saved after Cyclone Sandy. We’ll join locals in toasting to that.
You won’t need to worry about blowing out your baggage allowance when you visit hidden gem Erie Basin. But you may well blow the budget on bracelets, brooches, engagement rings or earrings. Owner Russell Whitmore has a keen eye for vintage pieces and has also launched a fine jewellery line called EB.
The Wythe Hotel is one of the best places to stay near Red Hook. It’s housed in a converted 100-year-old factory on the Brooklyn waterfront. The building was originally designed to manufacture barrels for sugar refiners and has become one of the best boutique places to stay in the Big Apple.
More to explore
Be spirited away
Van Brunt Stillhouse is a ‘farm distillery’ located in the heart of Red Hook. It sources organically grown corn, wheat and rye from a single farm in nearby Ithaca for its range of small-batch whiskeys and bourbon. Take a tour of the distillery and book in for a tasting.
What’s the hook?
Residents of Red Hook pay homage to the precinct by hanging red hooks around their homes and businesses. Walk around the neighbourhood to try and spot the red hooks, which are in keeping with the neighbourhood’s nautical theme.
Keep your eyes peeled at the Four Corners intersection for a new giant red hook sculpted by Dominican-American artist Wilfredo Morel who turns scrap metal into art.
Steal a few moments of reprieve from the hurly-burly of the Big Apple to visit Pioneer Works, which bills itself as a centre for research and experimentation in contemporary culture. This centre for performance art has an exciting program of concerts and performances in a space where alternative ways of thinking are celebrated.