The Ultimate Guide to Eating and Drinking at Rockaway Beach This Summer

You'll find us eating tacos and sipping frozens on the sand all summer. Here's where to go.

June 18, 2024 6:35 am
View of Rockaway Beach from the rooftop of the Rockaway Hotel
View of Rockaway Beach from the rooftop of the Rockaway Hotel
Kyle Knodell

Summer day trips are a New York necessity, a reprieve from the hot asphalt and more than occasional strange scent lingering in the air. While a weekend trip to the Hamptons is always a welcomed escape, there’s not always the time (or budget) for all of that. When a quick hit of sun, sand and waves are what you need, that’s when the Rockaways become incredibly handy to have nearby. 

Technically located in Queens, the Rockaways are located on a long barrier peninsula that stretches about seven miles long and is accessible from pretty much anywhere in the city by subway or ferry. Sure, it’s no Malibu, but Rockaway Beach is still plenty charming, if not at least incredibly quirky, with a growing list of reliably delicious places to eat, drink and chill. So, if you’re ready to hit the beach this summer, read on for our guide on where to fuel up in the Rockaways. 

Getting There

One of the most scenic methods of getting yourself to Far Rockaway is the NYC Ferry, which departs from Wall Street/Pier 11 and Brooklyn Army Terminal, usually hourly, and provides a nice breeze and stunning views of the skyline and harbor before arriving at Beach 108th Street. For those preferring to travel by train, the A runs directly to the Rockaways; simply transfer to the S shuttle at Broad Channel for access to various beach stops. Driving is another option — the Rockaways being accessible via the Belt Parkway and Cross Bay Boulevard. Though parking can be infuriating on busy summer weekends, so take that into account.

A Bungalow-style room at the Rockaway Hotel, a few blocks from Rockaway Beach
A Bungalow-style room at the Rockaway Hotel, a few blocks from Rockaway Beach
Kyle Knodell

Staycationing

When it comes to setting yourself up for a Rockaway staycation, your best bet is undoubtedly The Rockaway Hotel and Spa. Located just a few blocks from the shore, it’s a trendy boutique property with a modern, beachy vibe, several dining options, a pool and spa. The hotel’s signature restaurant, Margie’s, serves up American cuisine with a coastal twist, featuring dishes made from locally-sourced ingredients. Guests can also enjoy meals by the pool. 

Take the elevator up on weekends (Thursday through Sunday) to their rooftop bar, which offers beautiful views of the ocean and city skyline, alongside a menu of craft cocktails, local beers and light bites perfect for sunset gatherings. A long day at the beach requires a little extra TLC, which is where the spa comes in, offering massages, body treatments, facials and an infrared sauna. If you aren’t booking a spa treatment, you can still get your sweat on in the saunas by the pool. 

The Rockaway Hotel's pool house serves a light breakfast perfect for overnight travelers
The Rockaway Hotel’s pool house serves a light breakfast perfect for overnight travelers
Kyle Knodell

Breakfast by the Beach 

If you’re staying overnight, the Rockaway Hotel offers breakfast in the Pool House. Those coming to the beach early (a good idea to avoid long ferry lines) can also hit Rockaway Bagels on the north side of the island, just a block away from both the ferry stop and the Rockaway Park-Beach 116 Street stop. Grab a freshly baked bagel sandwich, stacked with ham, egg and cheese, and a coffee to start your beach day off right. 

If you’re getting off at the Beach 90 Street stop, opt for Rockaway Roasters, a coffee shop and juice bar. Besides the obvious, they have tons of bakery items to choose from, as well as acai and pitaya bowls. If you’re in a rush to get your space on the sand, you can also place a mobile order ahead of time.  

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A Lunch Break From the Waves

When you need a break from roasting on the beach, Tacoway Beach is a scene-y lunch spot operating out of a shipping container in a fenced-off yard filled with picnic tables. Open only during the summertime, we’d venture to say it’s one of the best spots in the Rockaways. Be sure to order fresh watermelon juice and their fried fish tacos, which come topped with cabbage slaw, chunky guacamole and a spicy cilantro lime salsa. They are so delicious, you’ll find yourself dreaming about them long after your beach day ends. However, be prepared for crowds on summer weekends.

On the eastern end of Rockaway Beach, Rippers is also a solid go-to for satisfying all your standard beach cravings. Their essential order is the burger, but the cheese fries are also amazing. For larger groups or for the indecisive, head to the 97th Street beach bazaar for a wider variety of options. It features a location of Red Hook Lobster Pound, where you can enjoy both cold, mayo-smeared Maine lobster rolls and Connecticut-style rolls with warm butter. Don’t forget to try the hot, crispy fries, though be ready to fend off some curious seagulls looking to steal a bite.

We were super sad when the Brooklyn and Manhattan locations of Caracas closed up shop, but lucky for us, they are still serving their excellent arepas, empanadas and iconic twisted frozen Sangria at the Beach 105 Street concessions. They typically have live music and DJs on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, so it’s a great place to hang if you want to stick around for dinner, too.

If you’re spending the day at Jacob Riis at the far southwest end of the Peninsula, take your lunch break at Pico, a sweet Mexican kitchen and cantina not too far from the shore. Their brunch fare is delicious, with their chorizo egg and cheese as a must-order, alongside a round or two of Margaritas, of course. 

The Rockaway Hotel's Margie's; a classic American restaurant with a coastal twist
Margie’s, a classic American restaurant with a coastal twist
Kyle Knodell

Dinner to wind Down

Once your time by the water comes to a close, make sure to fuel up before your journey back home. Our first recommendation is Margie’s in the Rockaway Hotel. A big, bright dining room gives modern nautical vibes, and the menu features classic American and Italian plates with some Asian-inspired flavors. Oysters are always a good idea here, and their cocktail menu is worth digging into. To close out your meal, try their elevated version of an Irish Coffee, paired with a hot skillet chocolate chip cookie. 

Just down the street, Whit’s End is also a great choice. The cozy, rustic pizzeria is renowned for its wood-fired pies and live music, and is BYOB to boot. The baked clams are to die for, and its relaxed, local vibe makes it a great place to hang after a long day at the shore, especially in their large backyard. 

For those looking for something different, it’s worth noting Brighton Beach isn’t the only place with excellent Eastern European fare. Uma’s on Beach 92nd is a lively Uzbek spot, specializing in fresh pirozhki filled with green cabbage, beef and rice, among other ingredients. Uma’s yogurt sauce has a cult following for its special tang, enhancing the flavors of dishes like the baseball-sized manti and the hot pink borscht.

Grabbing a Drink 

Looking for a cold one? For a quintessential Rockaway treat, visit the Irish surfer pub Connolly’s Bar on Beach 95th to enjoy a sweet and boozy frozen Piña Colada, topped with a maraschino cherry. When news broke that Connolly’s had been sold in 2020, panic spread among locals. Thankfully, the new owners, who also run a local surf school, preserved the original Piña Colada recipe.

An ideal after-beach date spot, Sayra’s is a lovely Black and women-owned wine bar on Beach 91st Street, offering great small plates, a large wine list and refreshing frosé. Split a bottle and some of their tapas while sitting on their shaded patio. They also have happy hour specials from 4 to 8 p.m. that includes $10 glasses of vino. Finally, we’d be remiss not to mention Bungalow Bar, a local waterfront institution on the north shore at Beach 92nd. Relax on the grassy patio or large deck overlooking Jamaica Bay, and savor some fried shrimp or fresh mussels with an alcoholic Arnold Palmer. Live music makes this place even more of a vibe.

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