After years of economic decline (made worse by Hurricane Sandy), the Rockaways are in the midst of a renaissance. New venues have been attracting throngs of the young and bearded this summer, and at this point publications are falling all over themselves to dub Rockaway beach the Hipster Hamptons. You can find a guide to the Rockaways at pretty much every self-respecting NYC culture guide, but how many more times do you need to read about Playland Motel? Instead, check out our recommendations for some of the Latin fare at Rockaway beach (and, yes ok, a few of the popular picks too — they’re popular for a reason).
This Peruvian puestito is a newcomer to the boardwalk at 97th street. Run by the Yrala family, transplants from Peru, this spot was inspired by the scene at Lima’s Punta Negra beach, where it’s common to find tons of stands selling fresh ceviches, cold beers, and Peru’s signature soda Inca Kola (a super sweet, bright yellow soda that a lot of people say tastes like bubble gum). La Cevicheria’s small menu consists of recipes from prominent Chef Emmanuel Piqueras, a friend of the family who also designed Panca’s menu. There are just a few items to choose from at La Cevichería, but they’re all light and refreshing — perfect for a day in the sun. Items include a ceviche clasico (just fish); a ceviche mixto (fish, shrimp and calamari); a light quinoa salad dressed in passion fruit vinaigrette; a cold potato dish called causa, which comes topped with tuna salad; chicken salad sandwiches (also a staple item sold at Peruvian beaches); and choros a la Chalaca, mussels topped with a bright salsa of tomatoes, onions and lime juice.
La Cevichería is all about repping Peruvian culture and cuisine, which, although increasingly popular in foodie circles, has yet to really catch on in the mainstream. Every post on their Facebook page is hashtagged “Proud of being Peruvian,” and a member of the Yrala family told me “Peru has been nominated for 2 consecutive years as the # 1 culinary destination in the world, and in San Pellegrino’s World’s 50 Best Restaurants List this year we have two restaurants (Astrid y Gaston and Central). So we must be proud and spread the word whenever we can.”
And if you like what La Cevichería is serving up, stay tuned for the Yrala family’s next Rockaway venture opening later this summer: a Pollo a la Brasa restaurant named Chicks To Go, which will be open year-round.
Photo via Greenpoint Star
Bolivia and Peru are neighbors on the South American continent and also on the 97th street boardwalk. Formerly known as Casa de Camba, the now much more festively-named Bolivian Llama Party sits right next to La Cevichería, creating a solid block of Andean flavor on the beach. And like La Cevichería, this is a family operation — it’s helmed by the Oropeza brothers, who wanted to bring the Bolivian foods they ate in their childhood to NYC, where Bolivian eateries are few and far between. The brothers have no formal food training, but are passionate about merging tradition with innovation, and this is reflected in a menu that serves up creative takes on Bolivian staples. You may recognize their signature chola sandwiches (stuffed with things like pork, brisket, and pickled vegetables) as well as their salteñas (meat and veggie-filled cousins of the empanada) from Smorgasburg, where their stand has been a big success. Salty, slightly spicy (especially if you add their ají amarillo hot sauce) and juicy, the salteñas are a perfect beach food: seasoned pros can eat them using just one hand. The other cool thing about Bolivian Llama Party is the Oropeza brothers’ interest in merging food culture with music and art; recently, they’ve been popping up in nightlife venues like Williamsburg’s Output, where they set up shop last month and served up snacks to rooftop party-goers.
This Mexican eatery is definitely under the radar — in fact, it doesn’t even have a Yelp page. When Guatemalan restaurateur Edgar Gomez opened it in the aftermath of Sandy, he hoped the restaurant would be part of a movement that would rebuild and reinvigorate the area. But in the year that followed, he had difficulty competing with some of the more popular spots on Rockaway beach, which is a shame because the tortas and tamales are tasty (if kind of overpriced — we can only surmise that their rising prices reflect their struggle to stay in business). Nonetheless, they have a good happy hour deal — $5 cocktails (including frozen daiquiris, mojitos and piña coladas) — and are a good spot to cool off and grab a drink if you’re trying to beat the crowds.112-16 Rockaway Beach Blvd, Rockaway Park
Photo via The Food Ledger
Of all the places on this list, Rockaway Taco has been around the longest: opened in 2008 as a stand designed to cater to the small surfing community that hung out at Rockaway beach, and now is considered a staple and a community favorite. And although it’s also the only place on this list helmed by gringuitos, it has gotten a stamp of approval on the merits of its chorizo and fish tacos, which draw crowds all summer long. Plus it sources its veggies from Edgemere farm, an urban farm also located in Far Rockaway, and we’re all for the local/fresh ingredients movement.
95-19 Rockaway Beach Blvd, Rockaway Beach, NY 11693
Image via Serious Eats
Like Rockaway Taco, Caracas — which opened its Rockaway outpost in summer of 2011 — is a pre-Sandy veteran and Rockaway favorite. Serving up the Venezuelan arepas that made them so popular in East Village and Williamsburg (get the De Pabellón), this place also really stands out for its large outdoor seating area and frozen drinks. When coupled with the DJs who often set up shop spinning boogaloo and other tropical sounds, it’s enough to make you forget you’re actually in NYC and not some quaint far away beach town.
106-01 Shore Front Pkwy, Rockaway, NY 11694
If Caracas is too crowded but you’re still hankering for some Venezuelan eats, check out Santa Salsa, a cart inspired by the “perrero” street food you can find on every corner in Venezuela. Operating out of a “pirate cart,” all summer long, Santa Salsa sets up shop on the boardwalk and doles out tricked out versions of hot dogs, hamburgers, pepitos (steak/chicken sandwiches) & vegetarian sandwiches.Beach 97th Street, Rockaway Beach
Mon to Sun 12:00 – 6:00 pm