When people think of New York in the summer, the infamous Hamptons comes to mind for most. However, New York City has its own little beach town that’s been under New Yorker’s noses for too long, and this summer it’s coming in hot on the culinary scene. Located in the Queens borough, across the bay from Coney Island is the neighborhood, Rockaway Beach. Once known as the “Irish Riviera” because of the large Irish American population in the area, this summer destination traces its roots back to 1897 and was known as “New York’s Playground” in the early 1900s.
Despite its popularity back in the day, Rockaway beach has gotten little recognition in the past decade compared to the beach towns of Long Island—making it an ideal location for day-trippers who desire a more laid-back location. Ironically, due to the growing population of “Brooklynites”, Rockaway beach is seeing a new type of crowd and an expansion of trendy restaurants to cater to them. Similarly to neighborhoods in Brooklyn, Rockaway Beach has been popularized as a hidden gem for its local fare and characterized by a surf community culture.
Many New York City restaurants have capitalized on this emerging location and opened up summer locations in Rockaway Beach. These establishments found a creative way to increase summer revenue and expand their brand recognition by being featured in trusted, trendy, and convenient locations such as Riis Park Beach Bazaar which sits beachfront in the center of town. Through social media platforms like TripAdvisor, these establishments promote their similar brands, which align with the culture of the neighborhood—drawing in potential out-of-town customers to the spot.
Here’s a list of a few eateries that have successfully expanded to Rockaway Beach, and are bringing trendy changes to the beach business scene for summer.
Regularly ranked as the No. 1 ice cream shop in New York City, if not the world, Ample Hills Creamery has locations in New York, New Jersey, Florida, California, and a recurring spot at the Riis Park Bathhouse. Founded in the spring of 2011 by married couple and Brooklynites, Brian Smith and Jackie Cuscuna have formulated their ice cream to be the freshest on the scene. They put love and care into their products and their business, fitting right into the authentic community in the Rockaways.
While new to the Rockaway beach scene, People’s Pops is no stranger to the New York City culinary scene. Handmaid in Brooklyn from fruit found at NYC greenmarkets, People’s Pops is the definition of a successful local business. People’s pops are popsicles for everyone—serving up Poptails, such as the Dainty Girl with a watermelon mint pop, sparkling water, mint and lime garnish.
CARNAL—a union of Kentucky slow cooking and New York eclecticism delivered with the precision of a Michelin starred restaurant. Started by two passionate, experienced chefs, Aaron Saurer, and James Zamory, made a name for themselves with Carnal as a shining star of the Saturday and Sunday food event, Smorgasburg. New to Riis Beach, Aaron and James have opened a location of Carnal to supply the summer crowds with a new kind of BBQ.
4. Pizza Moto
Pizza Moto has its roots in moving locations, serving bubbly, char-kissed pizza for 8 years out of their home-made welded steel arch mobile wood-fired ovens. Now they are building their first brick and mortar store in Brooklyn that features ‘moto’s signature Neapolitan style pizza as well as a full menu of small and large plates defined by a new American palate with international influences – all designed to showcase the reborn oven at the center of their work. In the meantime, they are returning to Riis Park this summer to bring their delicious pies to the beach.
Another newbie to the Rockaway Beach scene, Palenque is a “made in Brooklyn” authentic Colombian restaurant that has found its way to Riis Park this summer. They are dedicated to providing delicious gourmet Colombian fusions, ‘homestyle’ cooking, prepared from the finest ecofriendly organic ingredients and made with love. Committed to the quality of their food as well as their community, Palenque chose to be involved in by feeding those in need serving 200 free arepas daily during the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. As a community greatly affected by Sandy, Palenque and Rockaway Beach seem to be a match made in heaven.
Caracas Arepa Bar has been serving Venezuelan arepas in the East Village and Williamsburg for over ten years. They gained recognition as the local neighborhood arepa spot for regulars, but now have an evening wait at the door almost every night. The owners brought the Caracas experience to Rockaway Beach, fitting right as a loyal member of the Rockaway community. Open for the summer only, beach-goers can stop by the Caracas stand and grab an arepa to go or stay for frozen drinks and good music.
Traditional and inexpensive Mexican fare can be hard to find in New York City, but Oaxaca Taqueria has successfully maintained its integrity and quality while expanding to locations all over New York City. Inspired by the flavors and ingredients of Oaxaca, their food is made fresh from scratch every day. This summer, they’re expanding their Rockaway presence by converting the Oaxaca truck into a retrofitted cargo container with a cantina inside where you can find Mexican frozen cocktails.
The Red Hook Lobster Pound brings sensational lobster rolls and seafood straight from the Maine coast to locations in New York City and Washington DC. They know how to celebrate summer the East Coast way—with seafood, seafood, and more seafood. Red Hook Lobster has a food truck parked at Rockefeller Center all summer long and hosts a special Friday Night Sunset Lobster Jam at Riis. With soulful Reggae tunes and a $30 lobster dinner, as well as a full clam bar, Red Hook Lobster draws in loyal customers to this fun event!
Summer in New York City is one of the most enjoyable times of the year—and day trips to spots like Rockaway Beach are at their peak. Expanding your restaurant with summer locations can create a valuable increase in revenue and brand recognition but it also implies significant risks and means forking out a lot of cash. Creating a summer location is just one way to increase your summer revenue—and it may not be right for you. The matter of the fact is that when the temperature hits 80 degrees Fahrenheit, New York City restaurants start buzzing with customers that come from near and far. The influx of customers in the summer may mean that you need to bring on seasonal staff to compensate for the crowds.
That being said, it’s important to consider how seasonal employees can impact your bottom line. Bikelane’s HIRE can help facilitate your summer hiring process, by offering an effective and cost-efficient way to find the best candidates for your restaurant. Training is also a vital aspect of the onboarding process—and especially when bringing on seasonal hires in the midst of the summer haste. Check out the Bikelane HR Toolkit for tools and solutions that help you reduce risk, be compliant, and likely save you money this summer.