A Day in Red Hook

It is hard to think that it was more than 3 years ago that the corner of Van Dyke and Ferris streets in Red Hook were completely under water. Today, there are hardly any remnants of the destruction brought on by Hurricane Sandy. Even if there ware, you wouldn’t even bat an eye as this is possibly the coolest, most fertile part of Brooklyn anyone will walk through. Forget that the subway is SO FAR away. This nabe is a national treasure.
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Valentino Pier

A morning stroll to the Red Hook piers is an experience, marked with both less (of the congestion) and more (of cultural history). The piers here are known for being the backdrop to one of the most famous films of all time: “On the Waterfront.” You take the time to imagine yourself walking in the footsteps of Marlon Brando.

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Brooklyn Slate Company

The beauty of Red Hook is the originality. Hidden gems are everywhere, like the one at 305 Van Brunt Street. Manhattan may have Williams Sonoma, but Red Hook has Brooklyn Slate Company. The home décor store specializes in personalized items like cheese cutlery, cheese plates and tote bags. An engraved cheese board with your initials sounds like a fun item to own. Other selections include soapstone pencils, cheese paper, cheese bags, cheese journals. Not to mention, of course, that there are plenty of cheeses and jams to choose from. But the hit here is the store’s ambiance… the vibe is so cool, you have to check it out.

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Defonte’s Sandwich Shop

The morning shopping spree has your belly screaming. Luckily, possibly the most famous sandwich shop in the city is right here. Defonte’s Sandwich Shop is an old-school Brooklyn haunt. The sandwiches are beyond delectable. Three meatball hero is the biggest seller among the regulars — mainly the dockworkers and industrial types — but possibly the best thing here is the shrimp parmesan hero. Lunch could get busy so brace yourself for the lines.

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Brooklyn Waterfront Artist Coalition

You can’t go anywhere in Brooklyn without running into something art-related. And a waterfront town like Red Hook isn’t immune to the trend. The Brooklyn Waterfront Artist Coalition is housed in a 19th century brick warehouse, right on the water. Inside the warehouse is a wonderland of paintings, photographs and sculptures from local artists. The gallery is large enough to accommodate installation art pieces, while spotlighting a clay sculpture contest. The carefully-curated exhibits are rotated every few months.

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Fairway Market Red Hook

Even though there are numerous specialty food stores in the area, you can’t resist a trip to Fairway Market. After its renovation from Hurricane Sandy, the supermarket is larger and more diverse than ever. There’s pretty much every type of food imaginable under the roof of this former waterfront warehouse. There’s a gigantic olive and pickle bar to go with its massive fromagerie (cheese shop). There’s even a gluten-free section of the food emporium. A café on premises is in place for those who can’t wait to get back home to cook and enjoy the fare, plus of course outdoor seating that offers magnificent views of the Statue of Liberty.

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Home/Made

The brisk breeze from the water has you craving some hot coffee and food. One of the best breakfast and brunch spots in Red Hook is right here… Fort Defiance, but today you opt for its close second, the nearby Home/Made. They carry simple fare like a cheddar biscuit egg sandwich but also selections like the Dutch pancakes and out of this world huevos rancheros. There’s also a long list of breakfast sandwiches that will satisfy your every appetite.

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Kempton & Co.

Another hidden gem is just a few storefronts away, at Kempton & Co. The small accessory hub offers customized Brooklyn-made bags, pouches, colognes, perfumes, scarves, hats, beanie hats, and even pet accessories. The items here could be a bit pricey, but the quality and style are second-to-none. Even just a trip to see some of local fashion being produced is a marvel.

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Water Front Museum

Now to walk off those carbs. Take a trip back to the waterfront, or more specifically to the Water Front Museum. The floating museum covers the storied history of the Red Hook waterfront and terminals. There are exhibits honoring the “On the Waterfront” film and you can take a tour of the Lehigh Valley No. 79. The barge represents the only surviving all-wooden example for the Hudson River Railroad Barge that was active from 1860 to 1960 — which is also known as the Lighterage Age. The museum flies under the radar compared to other specialty museums in the city, but the experience may be the most enduring.

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Red Hook Winery

And now back to shop hopping! A trip to Red Hook Winery is mandatory, on a weekly basis. Yes, there’s a winery in Red Hook, with wine not exactly comparable to the Napa Valley’s, but pretty good. You can even get a tour of the wine production process —something of a throwback with a long line of wooden barrels. There are also continuous tastings throughout the day and cheese plates are offered alongside the wines. The rustic décor and service make the experience unparalleled in the city.

A Night in Red Hook

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Red Hook Lobster Pound

Your fridge may now be filled with fresh groceries, but you can’t resist a visit to one of the plentiful Red Hook restaurants. The area’s most famous is undoubtedly the Red Hook Lobster Pound. You won’t have any complaints indulging in one of the eatery’s famed lobster rolls. There are many varied lobster rolls to choose from, from the Connecticut Lobster Roll (paprika, scallions) or the BLT Lobster Roll (bacon, Chipotle mayo) or the Surf N’ Turf Roll (prime rib, lobster). The selections don’t stop there, as you could delve into a fried oyster roll or a crab cake sandwich.

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Sunny's Bar

Since you’re now in the mood for some live music, take a trip to Sunny’s Bar. Part craft, part dive, the bar opens into a large back room that features live music up to five nights a week. The best night for a local to come out and play may be Wednesdays, the day Sunny’s features Bluegrass bands. The cozy surroundings are reminiscent of an old New York carriage house, crossed with a Western saloon with bountiful knick-knack décor. On occasion, Sunny’s hosts special events, like the “Bar Bones” exhibit, which displays a collection of sculptures inspired from the bar’s own history (the bar has been open under different identities since 1890.)

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Brooklyn Ice House

There’s nothing like ice cold beer to help digest those two lobster rolls. Hence, Brooklyn Ice House. The watering hole is part BBQ joint and part sports bar with an impressive choice of craft beers (not to mention the classic choices of Budweiser and Miller Lite). But the cozy digs make this spot a popular choice on the weekend nights, and the outdoor patio spacious enough to stretch your legs and relax. If you have room, don’t miss out on ordering their Frito pie, quite possibly the best in the Northeast.

Words by Arte Vincent

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JENNIFER RHODES
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