On the lookout for a fresh technique to scout Brooklyn’s waterfront? Try a ferry. For $2.75, you’ll be able to explore ports of call that cradle a bounty of cultural and culinary adventures. Island-hopping from Manhattan can begin on the Pier 11-Wall Street landing, where the salty air is invigorating and anticipation builds as vessels with names like Ferry Godmother, City Fishy and McShiny pull in to whisk you away.
NYC Ferry launched in 2017 and has expanded its reach ever since. Former Mayor Bill de Blasio championed the city-subsidized service, operated by Hornblower, a non-public company based in San Francisco, as a way for subway-starved neighborhoods to have a convenient transit option. Tourists can profit, too. Snack bars, fairly clean bathrooms and a top deck with epic, windswept views of the Brooklyn Bridge and glittering shorelines are a part of the ride.
Six day by day routes link all five boroughs. A Governors Island shuttle runs on weekends through Sept. 11, in keeping with a NYC Ferry spokeswoman. Vessels have a capability of 150 to 350, relatively small considering the Staten Island Ferry can fit hundreds. The longest line on balmy days is for Rockaway, Queens (tip: go before noon). Of 25 landings, eight are in Brooklyn; Greenpoint is temporarily closed owing to repairs. Dumbo/Fulton Ferry has its charms, including stunning Manhattan skyline views, waterfront parks, the century-old Jane’s Carousel and Bargemusic, a moored barge presenting chamber music live shows. The Brooklyn Navy Yard, North Williamsburg, South Williamsburg and Brooklyn Army Terminal/Sunset Park are more for commuters than sightseers.
Three stops which are fun for separate day trips are Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 6, Red Hook and Bay Ridge, all along the South Brooklyn route. Don’t forget to pack sunscreen.
Brooklyn Bridge Park Pier 6
On a recent sweltering day, a merciful cover of trees shaded the trail through Brooklyn Bridge Park, just off the landing at Pier 6 in Brooklyn Heights, bordering Cobble Hill. Families and groups of friends can easily spend hours picnicking on pesticide-free lawns and make use of sandy volleyball courts and playgrounds with two-story slides and cooling water jets. For get-up-and-go types, there’s loads more to see.
Wander through Brooklyn Heights and be astonished by the gorgeous medley of Federal, Greek-Revival and Italianate architecture. Columbia Place, Joralemon, Pierrepont, Clinton, Pineapple, Orange, Cranberry and Middagh Streets conjure one other era, when W.H. Auden, Benjamin Britten, Carson McCullers, Truman Capote, W.E.B. Du Bois, Arthur Miller and Walt Whitman strolled the leafy sidewalks.
You’ll be able to console yourself about never having the ability to afford to purchase a spot there with drinks at the Long Island Bar (110 Atlantic Avenue), a sophisticated, retro spot with ample sidewalk seating. A co-owner, Toby Cecchini, ignited the craze for Cosmopolitans within the Eighties and here blends up a cheeky frozen version. There’s nothing silly about its tangy, potent kick. The frozen piña colada is lusher, like soft-serve with three sorts of rum. The food makes a powerful impact, too, from a jar of smoked trout with a lavish lid of trout roe ($15) to a satisfying, old-fashioned double-patty cheeseburger piquant with pickles and paired with battered fries ($20).
From there, inspect Atlantic Avenue, a industrial artery of enticing shops: Salter House (119 Atlantic Avenue), for example, has coffee, tea and curated domestic goods; Sahadi’s (187 Atlantic Avenue) is a Middle Eastern food emporium that has anchored the neighborhood since 1948.
Eating options abound near the waterfront, comparable to the Italian-ish Popina (127 Columbia Street). Unwind over a mezcal negroni ($15) and hot chicken Milanese ($27) in its expansive backyard. Before reboarding the ferry at Pier 6, try for a bar stool at Pilot, a meticulously restored wood schooner docked on the north side of the pier. Perhaps you’ll catch an alluring sunset while having fun with a drink and a half-dozen expertly shucked oysters ($19 to $24), pushing this pleasure trip until the last boat departs at 9:30 p.m. on weekends.
If Red Hook wasn’t such a pain to succeed in by subway, its small-town magic may be overrun by an influx of individuals clamoring to feed on its good energy. NYC Ferry appears to be an amenable solution, allowing visitors to flood this Brooklyn pocket’s independent businesses after which return where they got here from (9:21 p.m. is currently the last ferry out on weekends).
Inside a couple of blocks of the landing is Pioneer Works, a up to date artistic center housed at 135 Imlay Street while its essential compound undergoes renovation. Also by the waterfront is the beloved Sunny’s Bar (253 Conover Street), a roadhouse with frequent live music, and Strong Rope Brewery, a cavernous tap room whose outdoor tables sport views of the Statue of Liberty. There is no such thing as a food at either place; for ballast, procure a thin-crust pizza with fresh, creative ingredients ($18 to $21) from the nearby Hoek (117 Ferris Street).
On Van Brunt Street is Record Shop (360 Van Brunt Street), specializing in vinyl and used books you mostly meant to read. Antiques merchants, art galleries, outfitters, wine shops and restaurants take up most of the other storefronts.
St. John Frizell’s Fort Defiance recently staged a welcome return, reopening on a latest corner (347 Van Brunt Street). The appealing cocktail and food menu invites ad hoc pairings like an absinthe-tinged Sazerac ($15) with a bowl of crisp chickpeas ($3), crunchy-creamy cod and potato croquettes ($8) and a chicory Caesar salad deluged with Grana Padano cheese ($16).
For individuals who prefer dining and drinking outside in warm weather or for Covid-wary reasons, Fort Defiance has nice sidewalk seating. Grindhaus, one other neighborhood staple, offers a peaceful backyard. The chef Kevin Speltz’s mushroom tempura with fish sauce vinaigrette ($19) and coconut-infused purple potato dumplings ($17) are wonderful. Duck leg confit, crisply standing as much as any Parisian specimen, was splayed atop a waffle saturated with sweet chili and brown butter ($27), a superb combination.
The ferry to Bay Ridge is an exhilarating voyage, cutting through the waves on the East River, past Governors Island and aiming for the majesty of the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge. It’s the last stop on the South Brooklyn route so everybody must disembark. Walk the pier, hemmed by anglers patiently fishing, and head south to the idyllic Narrows Botanical Gardens, flourishing with rosebushes and a menagerie of birds loud enough to drown out the Belt Parkway traffic.
This southwest corner of Brooklyn is a melting pot, largely populated during the last century by Norwegian, Syrian, Italian, Irish and Greek immigrants. Thoroughfares like Third Avenue and Fifth Avenue have a lot diversity in street life and languages they feel like multicultural bazaars.
“There are Latinx and Fujianese influxes along with the present Palestinian, Egyptian and Yemeni populations,” said Dan Hetteix, the producer of the progressive podcast Radio Free Bay Ridge. “Bay Ridge is the experimental proving ground for therefore many culinary artists, bringing amazing latest vibrancy to the neighborhood. We’ve got a few of the most cost effective and best cuisine in all of Brooklyn.”
That’s a tall claim, nevertheless it’s hard to disclaim after sampling the Mexican food at Yucusiama (484 77th Street), which opened last yr in a small storefront. Housemade corn tortillas are almost as light as crepes, wrapping a quesadilla bursting with grilled chicken, raw onion and melted Oaxacan cheese ($8). Tortas, among the many world’s most underrated sandwiches, are built on soft buns brushed with refried beans and mayonnaise. There are several fillings to pick from (all $9); the suadero (thinly sliced beef flank) layered with avocado, green pads of cactus, jalapeños and stretchy cheese, is reason for a return trip.
Also destination-worthy: the slow-roasted, shredded lamb fahsah ($19.95) and floppy, blistered discs of flatbread at Yemen Café, which recently relocated to larger digs, at 7317 Fifth Avenue (there’s also a branch in Cobble Hill). Portions are family-size, accompanied by salad and peppery, deeply flavored broth.
Italian restaurants haven’t disappeared from Bay Ridge; Piccante (7214 Third Avenue) ranks amongst one of the best. Modest in looks, the kitchen seems world-class fresh pasta for cushiony beef lasagna ($15) and pappardelle threaded with honey-braised short rib ragù ($18), advantageous to hog for yourself if you desire to gain five kilos.
Food may be probably the most compelling magnet, but artists are moving into the neighborhood, too, Mr. Hetteix said. Galleries have popped up, including Underland (457 77th Street, Unit 1) and Stand4 (414 78th Street), in a former medical office.
Charting the wonders of Bay Ridge is considerably easier than when the explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano sailed these waters nearly 500 years ago, so long as you don’t miss the last ferry at 9 p.m.