You’ve signed up for ReachNow car-sharing service and used one of their BMWs or MINIs to run some errands and take a much-needed day trip. Now use one to explore a hard-to-reach Brooklyn neighborhood in depth.
Red Hook is a great place to start.
Named Roode Hoek by Dutch settlers in 1636, it was named for its red clay soil and the hook-like shape of its peninsula jutting out into New York Bay. It has loads of interesting history as a bustling port neighborhood. So before heading out, you might want to check out Elia Kazan’s On the Waterfront or Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge, both of which are set in Red Hook.
Unlike some other neighborhoods like Park Slope or Williamsburg, street parking in Red Hook is relatively plentiful. You might have to branch out from main drags like Van Brunt, especially on weekends, but nothing gives you a sense of a place like exploring it above ground. (Plus, you’ll only be paying the discounted $.30/min parking rate.)
Like other neighborhoods, Red Hook has its secrets (some a little more nefarious than others). You could easily spend a day exploring and still not hit everything.
Let’s begin with Red Hook’s public pool because CITY POOLS ARE NOW OPEN for the season! The pool in Red Hook is arguably one of the city’s best. For one thing, it is enormous – meaning you most likely will not be shut out on sweltering days. (Make sure you check out the lengthy list of rules before you go though.) Your ReachNow BMW or MINI will have plenty of space for your towels and a change of clothes.
More importantly, on weekends it is across the street from the Red Hook Vendors, a group of food trucks serving traditional dishes from various Latin countries. They sprouted up 30 years ago around the soccer field there and have exploded in popularity since. After a DOH crackdown on their DIY operations, the number of vendors has dwindled, but it’s still one of the city’s best spots for great Latin food.
If being so close to the bay makes you hanker for seafood, there’s Brooklyn Crab or Red Hook Lobster Pound. At the Lobster Pound, you can also order a live Maine lobster to bring home for dinner at the end of your day.
On the weekends, some brunch choices are Fort Defiance or The Good Fork. The former has a solid menu for any meal of the day and is known for its cocktails (just be sure to not drink and drive). The latter skews more toward fine dining but is really special and known especially for their homemade dumplings.
One last food option is Hometown BBQ, which many say is now the city’s best BBQ.
For bars and music in bars, you can’t beat Sunny’s. You just can’t.
Regardless of where you eat, there are two must-hits for dessert. One is Steve’s Authentic Key Lime Pies, where you can not only get a great key lime pie but can also get The Swingle, a frozen, chocolate covered key lime pie on a stick. Perfect for summer. If (for some odd reason) key lime pie is not your thing, check out Baked, a famous sweets spot that’s been on Van Brunt since 2005.
With your belly full, it’s time to fill your soul with some of Red Hook’s cultural offerings. While wandering along the waterfront, you can stop by the Waterfront Museum and Showboat Barge for a tour or performance. Pioneer Works is a non-profit cultural center that, among other things, offers Second Sundays, “a monthly series of open studios, live music, and site-specific interventions” on the second Sunday of every month.
If you really want to fill your soul and get some good work in, there’s a youth-led urban farm and food justice non-profit called Added Value where you can volunteer on Friday and Saturday mornings. It’s always open just for a visit and has a farm stand on Saturdays.
Lastly, who doesn’t love (indoor!) mini-golf?
Honestly, you probably don’t even need this list. Just pick a day, reserve your ReachNow car, get out to Red Hook, and start wandering around. No matter what you do, it’s easy to have a great day out there.