New York Beach Bars: Go Visit While You Still Can.
“Watching the summer close is like watching a good kid die for no apparent reason.”
—Darnell Lamont Walker
And on the other hand…
By all these lovely tokens, September days are here,
With summer’s best of weather and autumn’s best of cheer.
—Helen Hunt Jackson
I’m going to go ahead and side with Ms. Jackson on this one. Summer’s ending soon, yes. Labor day’s past and the winds are blowing chillier. Still, though, it’s technically summer until the autumnal equinox, which falls on September 22 this year, at 4:02 p.m. Then, boom. Burn your seersucker or whatever.
But until then, Enjoy! Get out there and soak it up. The weather’s lovely, humidity’s in check, and the water’s just about as warm as it’s going to get. Hit the beach, and while you’re at it, may I recommend some fine New York beach bars?
My favorite these days is Ruby’s Bar & Grill, on the boardwalk in Coney Island. The oldest bar there, opened in 1934. They’ve got it all—a great jukebox, good old Coney Island grill food, a mixed crowd of loyal regulars and tourists—and a true beach vibe with indoor/outdoor seating and a wide open view of the boardwalk, beach and ocean beyond. At certain times, when the vibe is just right, it feels like you’re at a weird old bar in the Keys, the loose beach vibe complimented by the old crowd of sun-browned regulars soaking it up out front. Go. Get thee to Ruby’s this year before it’s too late. Ruby’s will be in my upcoming book Bars, Taverns and Dives New Yorkers Love, published by Rizzoli. You can preorder the book here, and get prints of Ruby’s here.
Two of my favorite New York beach bars aren’t even technically on the beach, but pretty close. Tacoway Beach and the Wharf, both in the Rockaways in Queens. Tacoway is really an offshoot of the wonderfully divey Rockaway Beach Surf Club. It’s essentially a taco truck and a little tiki-type bar out on the Surf Club’s sizable side patio. Its happy crowd, tasty grub, and bouncy beach music add up to the perfect stop before or after the beach, just a couple blocks south.
Another excellent option sits on the north side (the bay side) of the Rockaways, the Wharf, where boats pull right up to the docks all day, and in the evening you can kick it at the bar or a dockside table and watch the sun set over the Jamaica Bay and the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge to your west. It’s Queensie as hell, especially compared to the hipster/yupster vibe of Tacoway, and that’s great. Lean into it. Firemen, cops, sanitation workers, teachers, you, fried food, and the sunset. A damn delight.
To be on the beach at the Rockaways, you can’t beat Rippers, a beer-and-burger joint right there on the boardwalk between 87th and 90th Streets. Get a cold one and a snack, grab a seat at the picnic tables outside, and take it all in: the boardwalk pedestrian traffic, the sun, and that therapeutic ocean breeze. Is it the negative ions that make me feel so good? I do not know, and I do not care. Being at the beach is good medicine, that’s what I know, and Rippers is a fine New York beach bar.
Over in Manhattan there’s another of the finest New York beach bars that isn’t on the beach either, but has the vibe: The Rusty Knot in the far West Village. The manager described it to me as “your uncle’s lake house in the ’80s.” It has a kitschy-chic nautical theme going for it, a ton of caramel-colored paneling, floor tiles the colors of reeds and seaweed and (are you sitting down?) A FREE JUKE BOX. They also throw a generous two-for-one happy hour and boast a giant picture window facing west, giving everyone in the place a beautiful view of the sunset over the Hudson. With a place this good, you almost don’t need a beach. The Knot keeps the beachy feeling going all winter long, and like Ruby’s, the Rusty Knot will be in my bar book, and you can order prints of it here.
Now get out there and enjoy some New York beach bars, before the chill moves in to stay. Summer is short, and its end is nigh upon us, friends. Gather ye rosebuds while ye may. Carpe diem.