Best Day Ever

A One-Day Red Hook Ramble

by Jeralyn Gerba
A good look from Red Hook. Photo: minka6 / Flickr

Fathom editorial director and Brooklyn resident Jeralyn Gerba can't get enough of this wonderfully weird nautical neighborhood. She's got a pretty ambitious day planned for you. Better start early. You can also check out a verision of this walkabout on the new Kamino app.

RED HOOK, Brooklyn – If all the neighborhoods in the borough were sisters, Brooklyn Heights would be the preppy older one, Dumbo would be the sophisticated middle child, and Red Hook would be the quirky, independent youngster with unconventional looks. Gotta love the black sheep in the family. And though Red Hook had a tough winter (thanks, hurricane Sandy!), the fiesty neighborhood picked herself up, brushed herself off, and got back into the game.

My favorite way to get around Red Hook is by bike, though there's a bus that's very accessible, a ferry that feels celebratory, and a not-so-nearby Smith-and-9th Street subway stop from which you can hike on over.

Red Hook Bus

Photo: Courtesy of Susan NYC / Flickr

Morning

All sorts of hungry people flock to the perimeters of the Red Hook Ball Fields, where dozens of food carts dish out gargantuan portions of the best Colombian, Domincan, Mexican, Guatemalan, Honduran, and Ecuadorian tacos, grilled corn, ceviche, pupusas, and plantains. Fiesta time! Hang out on the bleachers with soccer spectators and a horchata.

Nearby Added Value is a very cool non-profit that teaches young Brooklynites about sustainable development through urban farming. They also host a farmers market on Saturdays throughout the summer and early fall (June–October, 10 a.m.–3 p.m.).

Best Brooklyn souvenir ever? A BYO (build your own) set of wheels from Bamboo Bike Studio. The concept is very cool, very Brooklyn, and very much on your route to the more commercially developed part of the neighborhood.

Head towards the waterfront and see the tiny Waterfront Museum and Showboat Barge. It's like a floating circus in there! Honestly, this is kind of crazy thing that makes me fall in love with Red Hook a million times over. Talk to captain and curator David Sharps about how he bought the barge for $1 back in 1985.

Waterfront Barge

Photo: Courtesy of the Waterfront Museum and Showboat Barge

Afternoon

Saipua is a tiny wooden jewel box of a flower shop that also sells handmade soap and candles that make great souvenirs for your day in Red Hook. Erie Basin is a very special vintage shop that feels like a museum from another era. Cacao Prieto basically pumps the addictive scent of chocolate out to the street. And Baked is, well, I'm almost afraid to tell you. Let's just say it's damn delicious.

Saipua

Baked

Photo (from top): Flowers ready for arrangement, courtesy of Saipua; cookies and milk, courtesy of Baked

Double back toward the waterfront for Brooklyn Crab. I love the nautical-themed building next door and can't help photographing it every time I pass by. Head to the top deck of the bar for excellent views of the harbor. Another great view can be had from the pier by Steve's Authentic Key Lime Pies No trip to Red Hook is complete without trying a slice.

One of the best dive bars in all of New York City has been temporarily shuttered due to hurricane Sandy, but word on the street is that Sunny's is coming back full force before the end of the summer. If you hear rumblings of live bluegrass from the street, then they might — just might! — let you slide in the back for a cold beer and conversation. Here's hoping for a swift recovery. Red Hook Bait & Tackle is one part Appalachian hunting lodge, one part taxidermy theme park, one part classic dive. Rates high on the kitsch-o-meter, and the drinks are cheap and cheerful.

Evening

Top off the eve with a cleverly concocted beverage from the New Orleans-tinged Fort Defiance. A few deviled eggs at the bar really tie things together nicely. For a romantic meal on a nice night, The Good Fork has a secret garden and a menu of Korean-tinged New American dishes. Last time I was there, I ordered a corn dashi soup with oysters. Whoa.

Red Hook's The Pioneer

Photos: Courtesy of Pioneer Works

Local artist Dustin Yellin turned a huge warehouse into the exhibition space Pioneer Works (also known as The Intercourse). Find out what avant garde film screening/innovative science lab/interactive lecture series is going on at the moment. Or just take a look around the sculpture garden and plot your next return, perhaps an early morning ride in the name of Defonte's, a cult Italian sandwich shop that's most certainly worth the trek.

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