By Beth J. Harpaz, Travel Editor
In the last 40 years, Brooklyn has evolved from a joke to the 'hood to a brand. Today, neighborhoods all over the borough are flourishing. The working-class industrial neighborhood of Red Hook has been part of that transformation, with shopping, restaurants and waterfront parks drawing a steady stream of visitors.
One of Red Hook's most popular eateries is Brooklyn Crab. Its open-air, three-story building offers a friendly, funky bar at street level; picnic tables with colorful umbrellas up one flight; and a roof deck with a view of the Statue of Liberty. The backyard has a minigolf course.
Brooklyn Crab's menu is straightforward, but the quality and flavors stand up to any New England seafood shack. Try raw oysters, creamy chowder, fried scallops (huge and sweet), crab bites (fritter balls served with Cajun aioli), and of course, divine crab rolls — fresh meat with a little mayo and lemon on a toasted bun. Do not fear the whole crabs: waiters gladly provide advice on getting meat out of the shell. For dessert, try the key lime tart, or walk a few blocks to the bakery that makes them, Steve's.
Getting to Red Hook is an adventure for New Yorkers and out-of-towners alike. Tamara Vipond, whose husband and a friend co-own Brooklyn Crab, says they get a lot of calls asking, "How do I get there?" Options include the F subway train to Smith-Ninth Streets and then the B61 bus, or a water taxi from Manhattan, free on weekends through Labor Day. The ferry brings shoppers to an Ikea two blocks away — it's not unusual for diners to show up laden with Ikea boxes and bags — and to the Fairway supermarket located in a massive brick warehouse across from Brooklyn Crab. If you have a car, Red Hook is the rare New York City neighborhood with decent street parking. Vipond can also recommend local cab companies.
Brooklyn Crab opened in June 2012, just five months before Superstorm Sandy hit, flooding much of Red Hook and knocking out power for weeks. Luckily the restaurant suffered little damage, and helped feed locals and volunteers while the neighborhood recovered. Today, Vipond says, business is back, "with 100 bikes parked out front" on nice days.
Other eateries worth visiting in resurgent Red Hook include the slightly upscale Good Fork, Fort Defiance, known for great cocktails, and if you prefer lobster rolls over crab, Red Hook Lobster Pound. For Statue of Liberty views, check out Louis Valentino Jr. Park & Pier, or head to Fairway's rear patio and parking lot.