Growing up in New York, beach food to us invariably meant sweaty, foil-wrapped sandwiches lugged in coolers from home, or if we were lucky, Nathan’s fries and hot dogs from their outpost on Coney Island. That was about it. And while waterside dining options have essentially remained status quo around Coney, the same certainly can’t be said of Rockaway Beach, a once sleepy strip in far-flung Queens, which — due to a spate of seriously cut above concessions — has quickly become a top summer destination. So leave those sand-gritted sandwiches at home, and check out some of our favorite vendors (both knew and old) that have set up shop on the Rockaways.
Caracas: Also boasting branches in the East Village and Williamsburg, this popular, Venezuelan eatery specializes in grilled cornmeal flatbreads, stuffed with everything from salty cheese, to sweet plantains, avocado, black beans, chicken, spicy shredded beef or juicy, and roasted pork. Be sure to pair your savory corn pocket with a side of crunchy, homemade Taro Chips, served with a creamy cilantro sauce for dipping, and an ice cold Michelada, rimmed with cane sugar and sea salt. Legit, no?
Breezy BBQ: This brand new vendor is actually the first to serve barbecue; sort of surprising, considering how intrinsically connected grilled and smoked eats are with the beach. The concise menu currently includes three sandwiches (Pulled Pork, Smoked Brisket and Grilled Green Tomato), and an assortment of $3 sides (a pretty good deal!), including Collard Greens with Chorizo, Cucumber Salad, Twice-Baked Beans and Breezy Apple Slaw.
Uma’s: With a popular brick-and-mortar restaurant already on Rockaway Boulevard, we were especially excited for the debut of this Uzbeki stand, which brings an authentic taste of the neighborhood to the boardwalk. Check out Central Asian favorites like Beef Samsa (baked, meat-stuffed pastries), Silk Road Salad, comprised of tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, feta and herbs, and the dessert known as Chak-Chak; crispy fried dough drizzled with honey.
Bolivian Llama Party: Don’t expect furry, spitting mammals in residence at the Rockaways branch of this well-liked Smorgasburg vendor. Sure, the llama is Bolivia’s national animal, but the stand actually focuses on the country’s favorite foodstuffs, such as Saltenas; Amaretto-Flavored Pastries wrapped around stewed beef, chicken, and quinoa, and the Sandwich De Chola, filled to bursting with pulled pork, Chuquisaca bacon, bacon aioli, salsa criolla, housemade cheese, pickled carrots and chiles, and hibiscus-infused red onions.
Lobster Joint: What’s summer without an awesome Lobster Roll? The beachside outpost of this seafood-centric shack serves succulent chunks of crustacean three ways; piled on the classic hot dog bun (paired with chips and a pickle), as fun-to-eat Sliders (order three for $12), or in a refreshing, chilled Gazpacho, ceremoniously topped with a perfectly pink lobster claw.
Citysticks: Once you’re done stuffing yourself silly on Arepas, Lobster Rolls, and sticky, Smoked Meat Sandwiches, your bikini bod will be begging for a considerably lighter dessert. That’s where this all-natural Popsicle purveyor comes in,using fresh fruit, whole spices and natural sugar in their inventive, frozen sweets, in flavors such as Black Grape Kiwi, Plum Anise, Mandarin Tamarind and Cucumber Lemonade.