Red Hook may be a bit out of the way, but it's a great place to explore for a day. Walk down cobblestone streets, head to the Red Hook Ballfields for delicious South American food, or just relax and enjoy the views of Lower Manhattan from the neighborhood's waterfront parks.
Van Brunt Street is one of Red Hook's main thoroughfares, and the activities listed below begin at Baked (359 Van Brunt). To get there by bus, take either the B61 or B77. The closest subway is the F at Smith and 9th, or travel by boat: The NY Water Taxi has a dock at the Fairway supermarket.
1. Start your day with a treat from Baked.
This Red Hook bakery and coffee shop has received rave reviews from everyone from Bon Appetit to the New York Times. Try one of Baked's pastries, and you'll see why. I recommend the homemade oreos, the Red Hook "red hot" cake, and, if you're feeling decadent, the melt-in-your-mouth sweet and salty brownie. This den of deliciousness offers free wi-fi and serves up savory goods, too.
Baked - 359 Van Brunt Street - (718) 222-0345
2. Enjoy the views at the Valentino Pier.
From Baked, walk south on Van Brunt until you see Coffey Street. Take a right, and after a couple of blocks, the street will dead end into the Louis Valentino, Jr. Park and Pier, a small waterfront park. Green, filled with flowers, and located directly on the river, the park offers a multitude of grassy spots perfect for reading or sunning or gazing out at the boats floating by. Pack a blanket, and enjoy a peaceful Brooklyn morning.
Louis Valentino, Jr. Park and Pier - Coffey Street & Ferris Street
3. Treat yourself to a key lime pie.
If you're a pie fan, then you won't want to miss Steve's Authentic Key Lime Pies. When you leave the Valentino Pier, just head back along Coffey, and you'll see signs pointing you towards the pie shop. Not hungry? Don't worry, the 4-inch tart, at $4, is small and perfectly shareable. And hey--according to Al Roker, these tarts are the "last genuine key lime pies in the US!"
Steve's Authentic Key Lime Pies - 204 Van Dyke Street - (888) 450-5463
4. Head to Fairway to stock your pantry.
A couple of block's from Steve's (back on Van Brunt) is Fairway Market, one of the few places in the city where you can buy a sandwich big enough to feed two people for $5.95 (I order the Cajun turkey, which is about the size of a shoebox). The 52,000 square foot supermarket offers an impressive selection of reasonably priced groceries and produce, including hard-to-find imported goods. Shop for everything from meats and cheeses to freshly-baked goods and organic food. Behind the supermarket, on the water, is a breezy dining patio with great views.
Fairway Supermarket - 480-500 Van Brunt Street - (718) 694-6868
5. Go furniture shopping at New York City's only Ikea superstore.
From Fairway, walk north on Van Brunt Street until you hit Beard, and take a right. After a 5-minute walk, you'll see New York City's first (and only) Ikea. This enormous furniture and home goods superstore offers a play area for kids, a 450-seat restaurant, and 50 inspiring room settings for your shopping pleasure.
Ikea - 1 Beard Street - (718) 246-4532
6. Need an afternoon snack? Hit the Red Hook Ballfields.
After a couple of hours spent wandering around Ikea, you may be in need of a pick-me-up. If so, head to the Red Hook Ballfields for an afternoon snack. From Ikea, head east on Halleck Street, turn right onto Columbia Street, and then turn right onto Bay Street. It's about a ten-minute walk.
The Red Hook Ballfields have in the past few years become a famous spot for scoring fresh ceviche, hot chicken tamales, corn on the cob, pupusas, and a variety of other tempting South American treats. Vendors sell their straight-off-the-grill street food from carts scattered around an outdoor baseball field.
Red Hook Ballfields - Clinton Street and Bay Street
7. Make one last shopping stop at Freebird Books.
Walk off those quesadillas and head north on Clinton Street. Take a left onto Hamilton Avenue and then a right onto Columbia Street. Walk north until you see Freebird.
This cozy gem of a used bookstore is a book lovers' dream come true. Owned by Brooklyn resident Peter Miller, Freebird offers ongoing literary events, a wide selection of reasonably priced books (both used and new), coffee, teas, wine, beer, snacks, and an outdoor patio.
Freebird Books - 123 Columbia Street - (718) 643-8484
8. End the night at Alma Restaurant.
Go south for a couple of blocks until you reach Alma. One of the best outdoor dining destinations in Brooklyn, Alma offers standard Mexican dishes like fajitas and enchiladas alongside delicious drinks and an extensive menu of house-infused tequilas. Sit on the restaurant's rooftop terrace, and you won't be sorry; the views of the Manhattan skyline are fantastic, especially once the sun goes down.
Alma Restaurant - 187 Columbia Street - (718) 643-5400