Photo courtesy of Brooklyn Crab
Nothing says summer in the Northeast like sitting by the water with fresh seafood and a cold drink. Lobster rolls, oysters, and steamers on the coast probably conjure up images of weekends in the Hamptons, Cape Cod, or Maine, but there are some hidden gems right here in New York City that will make you feel like you’re on a summer getaway — and you don’t even have to battle that weekend traffic. Here are four spots to check out while summer is still in full swing.
Red Hook, Brooklyn
Opened in 2012, Brooklyn Crab feels like a true beachside escape. In fact, it bills itself as “one of the best places to feel like you’re out of the city without actually leaving.” A wooden building with a surf vibe houses three floors of dining, bars, lawn games like corn hole, and a beer garden.
“The layout, aesthetic, and general vibe of Brooklyn Crab are all very distinct. I’d say that 90% of our visitors feel completely transported to a waterfront restaurant outside of New York City,” said Victor Castillo, the restaurant’s director of operations. “Our bottom level welcomes you with four large palm trees and a 9-hole mini-golf course, followed by our second-floor patio overlooking the harbor or our third-floor dining room with a view of Lady Liberty.”
Brooklyn Crab is the brainchild of Red Hook natives with backgrounds in carpentry and fishing — so they combined forces and built a seafood restaurant from the ground up on an empty lot, Castillo said. Menu items include clam chowder, Maine Blue Crabs and fish and chips. The seafood is sourced from various vendors – including Blue Crabs from “a guy who drives down to Maine” — and comes from the Atlantic and Pacific coasts as well as the Gulf of Mexico.
Since COVID, Castillo said many patrons are New Yorkers looking for a unique local summer experience. The season starts with an oyster festival in May and continues on through Oktoberfest in the fall. Brooklyn Crab stays open through the winter.
North River Lobster Company
Pier 81, Midtown West, Manhattan
Get out on the water with an open-air lobster cruise that departs from West 41st Street and 12th Avenue, right near Hudson Yards. Cruises depart six days a week at multiple times a day and include seafood along with a leisurely cruise along the Hudson River — a great escape from the summertime heat in the concrete jungle. Season passes are also available.
“Summer in NYC is unlike any other time, and at North River Lobster Company, it’s our busiest season. When the city gets warm and lively, our floating lobster shack becomes a top spot. People enjoy our delicious menu items while cruising by famous sights along the water – a real taste of summer in the city,” a spokesperson said.
Described as a “floating lobster shack,” North River Lobster Company was started “to blend the timeless appeal of a classic Maine seafood shack with the vibrant energy of New York City,” according to the spokesperson.
“We wanted to create a space where locals and visitors could come together to enjoy fresh seafood in a lively atmosphere. By setting our restaurant on a boat, we added an exciting and unexpected element to the dining experience.”
Menu items include five different lobster rolls, including the Lower East Side Roll with cream cheese, shrimp dishes, raw oysters, and other seafood bites. The oysters and clams come from Blue Island Oyster Co. in Long Island.
Red Hook Lobster Pound
Red Hook, Brooklyn
Heading back over to Red Hook, this seafood spot aims to bring the coast of Maine to the shores of the East River. Red Hook Lobster Pound (which hosts a weekly summer Lobster boil at Rockaway Beach) was inspired by coastal New England.
“Red Hook Lobster Pound was born at a kitchen table in Red Hook, Brooklyn, in the midst of the recession” by husband and wife team Ralph Gorham and Susan Povich in 2008. “The two were devouring the fresh lobsters they’d just brought back from a friend in Portland, Maine. As they basked in the lobsterphoria, Ralph proposed a crazy idea … ‘Let’s open up a Lobster Pound!’” Povich said.
Povich describes Red Hook as “a waterside community reminiscent of New England, with open sky and numerous waterfront parks,” and says it’s the perfect summer “getaway” for New Yorkers as it’s only a couple blocks from the ferry. Staying true to its inspiration, Red Hook Lobster Pound sells Maine lobster, mussels, haddock, and beer. The founders also felt the vibe of Red Hook fit the bill for what they wanted to build.
“This section of Brooklyn is reminiscent of the lobstering communities of Maine for a variety of reasons. Aside from being on the waterfront, it’s inhabited by fiercely independent do-it-yourselfers who’ve developed a supportive community being cut off from the rest of Brooklyn by the BQE,” said Povich.
The restaurant serves lobster rolls, full boils, fish and chips, calamari from Rhode Island, and clams from Long Island. Aside from the Red Hook brick-and-mortar location, there’s also a food truck and a Smorgasburg stand.
Similar to what other restaurants are seeing, Povich said her customer base has included more New Yorkers since COVID, and she embraces that summer camaraderie in the city.
“Summer in NYC is a multi-cultural explosion of sound, colors, smells and delicious food,” she said. “The streetlife is exceptional and everyone lives outside. The sunsets in Red Hook are exceptional along with the outdoor music and revelry.”
Nick’s Lobster House
Mill Basin, Brooklyn
Out near Sheepshead Bay on the posh Mill Basin waterfront, is a neighborhood staple that’s been around since 1955 — a true local haunt.
“Our customers are mostly New Yorkers. Our venue is not accessible by train nor is it in a very popular tourist location. Mill Basin is local, and many locals have been coming here for decades,” a spokesperson said.
But don’t let “local” conjure too quaint an image. The “outdoor deck on the water in south Brooklyn (faces) the mansions of millionaire row in Mill Basin. Nothing hits better than eating lobster and seafood on the water, facing the local yachts of this area,” said a spokesperson.
Inside, the dining room features wall-to-wall glass windows overlooking the water. Along with the glamor of the neighborhood, comes the local charm of decades-old family-owned business.
Founded by “Big Nick,” a fisherman in the ‘50s, the restaurant started out as a simple lobster shack out of Nick’s boat, according to the website. “In the mid-70s, his children decided it would be a good idea to add a full-fledged fish market to service the surrounding neighborhoods’ growing need for quality seafood. They also opened up a small side kitchen and fish market where they could fry sole and shrimp for hungry customers who weren’t in the mood for steamed lobsters.”
Today, it’s a full-scale restaurant with a menu of both casual classic seafood fare and upscale entrees as well as a raw bar and sushi. And the seafood is sourced from some of the best areas in the world to get it. The shellfish is locally sourced from Long Island and lobster comes from Nova Scotia; salmon is from the Faroe Islands; branzino comes from Greece; crab is from Alaska, and octopus comes from Portugal.