It will never cease to amaze us that you can swipe your Metrocard in the middle of crowded, stinking Manhattan, and just one hour later, emerge in a breezy beach town, but that’s the Rockaways for you. A popular summer destination since the 1830s, certain parts of the Rockaway peninsula have earned the dubious title of “the hipster Hamptons” in recent years for the increasing presence of young bohemians and fancy foods. The area was devastated by Hurricane Sandy in 2012, but has been steadily working its way back and seems to be attracting just as many weekend warriors as ever. Here are five new or newly reopened places in the Rockaways to eat, drink and chill this summer.
Named for the amusement park that once stood on the spot before it was razed to build condos in the ’80s, Playland Motel is ground zero for the Williamsburg-ification of the Rockaways, with co-founders hailing from Club Output, El Almacen and Rosarito’s Fish Shack. In addition to twelve TV-less rooms — each of which was designed by a different artist — there’s a healthy bar scene complete with fake beach, inflatable pool and cornhole game. Food this year will be handled by Bolivian Llama Party, which has both meat and veggie versions of the salteña, a tasty savory pastry. 97-20 Rockaway Beach Blvd.; 347-954-9063; playlandmotel.com
Rockaway Beach Surf Club
Almost a year after it was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy, the Rockaway Bech Surf Club reopened with a full bar and a packed calendar of events. Serving up concoctions like dark and stormies and watermelon-jalapeño margaritas, it’s one of few places in the Rockaways where you can legally drink liquor outdoors. For post-surf hunger pangs, there’s a BBQ truck run by the Urban Rustic crew that serves up pulled pork, grilled watermelon, and sweet potato fries seven days a week. It also functions as a community art space and was a major hub of hurricane relief efforts. 302 Beach 87th St.; rockawaybeachsurfclub.com
Sample the underrated cuisine of Uzbekistan at this pleasantly appointed new sit-down restaurant run by the eponymous Uma and her amiable surfer husband, Conrad. Containing some elements you may recognize from Turkish and Russian food, Uma’s offerings include hearty meat kabobs as well as lighter vegetarian fare like bright red borscht and flavorful salads. The manti — steamed dumplings filled with meat or squash and topped with a yogurt sauce — are said to be especially good. 92-07 Rockaway Beach Blvd.; 718-318-9100; umasrestaurant.tumblr.com
After being badly damaged in the hurricane, this beloved local restaurant/music venue had an uncertain future. But after much hard work, owner Robert Kaskel was able to reopen the place with a limited menu in October of 2013, and the full menu has since been restored. In addition to spring rolls and curries concocted by head chef Karog Prom (Kaskel’s sister-in-law), the place offers live music on weekends, 24 draft beers and an outdoor seating area overlooking the water. It also houses a jet ski rental place. 375 Beach 92nd St.; 718-945-5111; thairock.us
How would you like to sleep out on the water? Check out Truck-a-Float, a creative new “installation” moored at Marina 59. Constructed from recycled truck parts, each floating room has a sleeping platform with full-size cot, fan, mosquito netting, folding table, and cooler. Think of it as an adventure! 59-14 Beach Channel Dr.; truck-a-float.tumblr.com