Skip the arduous trip to this beach this summer and hit Brooklyn Crab instead. Business is now in full swing at this tropical-themed (but not tacky) restaurant and bar in the historic waterfront neighborhood of Red Hook, Brooklyn, which offers the best of the seashore without the hassles of the Long Island Expressway. It’s an ideal place for a gathering with friends, since there are four bars on three different levels to explore. You’re welcomed right away into an open-walled ground floor bar, where blenders hum pleasantly as they mix up various frozen cocktails and the strains of breezy music put you in a relaxed frame of mind. Overturned peach baskets hang overhead, creating a rustic motif, while a game-filled patio to the side is filled with beanbag-tossing locals enjoying the day.
This alone would be enough for a great time, but things get even more intense when you head to “Reed Park,” Brooklyn Crab’s amazing backyard. There, a large tented area protects a half-dozen picnic tables from the sun’s rays, while another bar and restaurant serves draft beer, succulent crab rolls, and freshly-shucked oysters. Commandeer a table with your mates, then challenge each other to a shuffleboard match. (Loser buys the first dozen Blue Points.) Then try your hand at a game of mini-golf. That’s right, a New York City restaurant has its own nine-hole outdoor golf course, complete with windmill, lighthouse, and skeeball-style jump. It’s absolutely free, and it’s fantastic. Just grab a putter from the bin and a ball from the bucket and remember the mantra: drive for show, putt for dough. A thoughtful touch: little platforms at every other hole where you can rest your drink while you line up your shot.
Once you’ve holed the 9th and done your victory dance, recycle your oyster shells and head upstairs to check out the rest of the space. The second level features a massive outdoor sun deck and bar, where breezes off the harbor keep the heat in check (sunscreen’s still a must). Head up one more flight to the third floor and you’re in coastal heaven. Cozy wooden booths line the space, and open walls provide stunning views of New York Harbor. The Staten Island Ferry zips by every few minutes, along with the occasional cruise ship, and you can even see the Statue of Liberty if you turn your head far enough to the right.
Your snacks and games downstairs were just an appetizer. Now it’s time for serious food and silly drinks, so grab a booth facing the water. The bites here are as good as you remember from summer vacations of the past, and maybe a little better. Maryland blue crabs are available by the dozen and served with corn and coleslaw. (Amateur pickers should locate the helpful little guide for how to extract the best bits of meat.) Fried Atlantic cod comes in a big basket with–what else?–a big pile of steak fries. And for those who don’t dig seafood, there’s a pulled pork sandwich on the menu would make a true southerner proud. As for the drinks, go with your irie vibe and get something tropical. The piña coladas and margaritas draw raves, but consider a house cocktail like the namesake crab cooler, which combines lemon, lime, or watermelon-lime-aid with your choice of spirit. Then again, half the room is already going with the beach town classic—an ice-cold bottle of Corona with a wedge of lime.
As you crack your crab claws, sip your drinks, share some laughs, and watch the sun set over the harbor, you’ll be glad you gave the beach a miss for one weekend. Instead, you’ve found almost everything that’s good about it right across the East River, without spending a moment stuck in traffic.