Looking for a fresh way to explore the Brooklyn waterfront? Try a ferry. In front of $2.75, you can explore ports of call that offer a plethora of cultural and culinary adventures. Island hopping from Manhattan can start at the Pier 11-Wall Street landing stage, where the salty air is invigorating and anticipation rises as ships with names like Ferry Godmother, City Fishy and McShiny come in to take you.
NYC Ferry launched in 2017 and has since expanded its reach. Former Mayor Bill de Blasio championed the city-subsidized service, operated by Hornblower, a private company based in San Francisco, as a way for metro-starved neighborhoods to have a convenient transit option. Tourists can also benefit from this. Snack bars, moderately clean bathrooms, and an upper deck with epic, breezy views of the Brooklyn Bridge and glittering shorelines are part of the ride.
Six daily routes connect all five boroughs. A Governors Island shuttle will operate on the weekend through September 11, a spokeswoman for NYC Ferry said. Ships have capacities from 150 to 350, relatively small as the Staten Island Ferry can fit thousands. The longest line on balmy days is for Rockaway, Queens (tip: go before noon). Of the 25 landings, eight are in Brooklyn; green point is temporarily closed due to repairs. Dumbo/Fulton Ferry has its charms, including sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline, waterfront parks, the ancient Jane’s Carousel and bargemusic, a moored ship with chamber music concerts. The Brooklyn Navy Yard, North Williamsburg, South Williamsburg and Brooklyn Army Terminal/Sunset Park are more for commuters than tourists.
Three stops that are nice for separate day trips are Pier 6, Red Hook and Bay Ridge in Brooklyn Bridge Park, all along the South Brooklyn route. Don’t forget to bring sunscreen.
Brooklyn Bridge Park Pier 6
On a recent sweltering day, a merciful canopy of trees shaded the path through Brooklyn Bridge Park, just off the landing at Pier 6 in Brooklyn Heights, adjacent to Cobble Hill. Families and groups of friends can easily picnic for hours on pesticide-free lawns and take advantage of sandy volleyball courts and playgrounds with two-story slides and cooling water jets. For those who venture out, there is much more to see.
Meander through Brooklyn Heights and marvel at the beautiful mishmash of Federal, Greek Revival, and Italianate architecture. Columbia Place, Joralemon, Pierrepont, Clinton, Pineapple, Orange, Cranberry and Middagh Streets evoke another era when WH Auden, Benjamin Britten, Carson McCullers, Truman Capote, WEB Du Bois, Arthur Miller and Walt Whitman strolled the leafy sidewalks .
You can console yourself that you can never afford to buy a place there with drinks with it the Long Island Bar (110 Atlantic Avenue), a polished, retro spot with ample sidewalk seating. A co-owner, Toby Cecchini, ignited the cosmopolitan craze in the 1980s and here combines a cheeky frozen version. There’s nothing crazy about its spicy, powerful kick. The frozen piña colada is more luscious, like a soft serve ice cream with three types of rum. The food also makes a strong impact, from a pot of smoked trout with a lavish trout roe lid ($15) to a satisfying, old-school double cheeseburger tangy with pickles and paired with battered fries ($20).
From there, inspect Atlantic Avenue, a commercial artery of enticing shops: Salter House (119 Atlantic Avenue), for example, has coffee, tea, and composite household items; Sahadis (187 Atlantic Avenue) is a Middle Eastern food store that has anchored the neighborhood since 1948.
There are plenty of eateries near the waterfront, such as the Italian-ish Restaurant (Columbia Street 127). Unwind with a mezcal negroni ($15) and hot chicken Milanese ($27) in the sprawling backyard. Try a bar stool before boarding the ferry at Pier 6 pilot, a carefully restored wooden schooner docked on the north side of the pier. You might catch a tantalizing sunset while enjoying a drink and a half dozen expertly shelled oysters ($19 to $24), making this weekend pleasure trip depart at 9:30 PM until the last boat leaves.
If Red Hook weren’t so tricky to get to on the subway, the small-town magic could be engulfed by an influx of people clamoring to feed on its good energy. NYC Ferry seems to be a suitable solution, allowing visitors to flood this Brooklyn pocket’s independent businesses and then go back where they came from (21:21 is currently the last ferry on the weekend).
Within a few blocks of the landing is Pioneer Works, a contemporary arts center located at 135 Imlay Street, while the main building is undergoing renovation. The beloved is also on the water Sunny’s Bar (253 Conover Street), a roadside diner with frequent live music, and Strong rope brewery, a cavernous taproom whose outdoor tables offer views of the Statue of Liberty. There is no food in either place; for ballast, buy a thin crust pizza with fresh, creative ingredients ($18 to $21) nearby Corner (Ferris Street 117).
At the Van Bruntstraat is record store (360 Van Brunt Street), specializing in vinyl and used books you’ve always wanted to read. Antique dealers, art galleries, clothing stores, wine shops, and restaurants occupy many of the other storefronts.
St. John Frizell’s Fort Defiance recently hosted a welcome return, reopening at a new corner (347 Van Brunt Street). The appealing cocktail and food menu invites ad hoc pairings such as an absinthe-tinged Sazerac ($15) with a bowl of crispy chickpeas ($3), crunchy creamy cod and potato croquettes ($8) and a chicory Caesar salad engulfed in Grana Padano cheese ($16).
For those who prefer to eat and drink outside in warm weather or for Covid reasons, Fort Defiance has pleasant sidewalk seating. Grindhaus, another neighborhood staple, offers a peaceful backyard. Chef Kevin Speltz’s mushroom tempura with fish sauce vinaigrette ($19) and coconut-infused purple potato dumplings ($17) are amazing. Duck leg confit, crisp up against any Parisian one, was spread atop a wafer saturated with sweet chili and brown butter ($27), a brilliant combination.
The ferry to Bay Ridge is an exhilarating journey, cutting through the waves of the East River, past Governors Island and focused on the majesty of the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge. It’s the last stop on the South Brooklyn route, so everyone should get off. Walk across the pier, surrounded by fishermen patiently fishing, and head south to idyllic Narrows Botanical Gardensblooming with rose bushes and a menagerie of birds loud enough to drown out the traffic on the Belt Parkway.
This southwestern corner of Brooklyn is a melting pot, largely populated over the past century by Norwegian, Syrian, Italian, Irish and Greek immigrants. Main thoroughfares like Third Avenue and Fifth Avenue have so much diversity of street life and languages that they feel like multicultural bazaars.
“There are Latinx and Fujianese influxes in addition to the existing Palestinian, Egyptian and Yemeni populations,” said Dan Hetteix, the progressive podcast’s producer. Radio Free Bay Ridge† “Bay Ridge is the experimental testing ground for so many culinary artists, bringing an amazing new vibrancy to the neighborhood. We have some of the cheapest and best food in all of Brooklyn.”
That’s a big claim, but it’s hard to deny after tasting the Mexican food at Yucusiama (484 77th Street), which opened in a small storefront last year. Homemade corn tortillas are almost as light as pancakes and wrapped in a quesadilla packed with grilled chicken, raw onion and melted Oaxaca cheese ($8). Tortas, one of the world’s most underrated sandwiches, is made on fluffy buns brushed with beans and mayonnaise. There are several fillings to choose from (all $9); the suadero (thinly sliced beef flank) layered with avocado, green cactus pads, jalapeños, and stretchy cheese is cause for a return trip.
Also destination-worthy: the slow-roasted shredded lamb fahsah ($19.95) and mushy, blistered flatbread slices with Yemen Cafe, which has recently moved to larger digs, at 7317 Fifth Avenue (there is also a branch in Cobble Hill). Portions are family sized, accompanied by salad and peppery, deeply flavored broth.
Italian restaurants haven’t disappeared from Bay Ridge; Spicy (7214 Third Avenue) is among the best. Unassuming in appearance, the cuisine turns out to be world-class fresh pasta for tender beef lasagna ($15) and threaded pappardelle with honey-braised short rib ribs ($18), great for swining for yourself if you want to gain five pounds.
Food may be the most attractive magnet, but artists also come close, said Mr Hetteix. Galleries have appeared including: underland (457 77th Street, Unit 1) and Position4 (414 78th Street), in a former medical office.
Mapping the wonders of Bay Ridge is considerably easier than when the explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano sailed these waters nearly 500 years ago, as long as you don’t miss the last ferry at 9pm