After years of economic decline (made worse by Hurricane Sandy), the Rockaways have been bouncing back with a vengeance. New food & nightlife venues have been attracting throngs of the young and bearded for a couple of summers now, and lifestyle publications have been falling all over themselves to dub Rockaway beach the “Hipster Hamptons” (a term that has us a little ).
All the changes are not without their critics – some claim that the new luxury housing units and expensive restaurants have drained FEMA funds from the real issues in post-Sandy Far Rockaway. Others lament the increased law enforcement presence that is sure to come with the development, worrying that it will kill some of the free-spirited vibes out there (like all the nakedness that goes down at Jacob Riis, the pop-up nutcracker tents, and the bars that will covertly sell you take-out frozen piña coladas to drink on the beach).
But whether you love it or hate it, the Rockaways is definitely cementing itself as the go-to beach destination this summer. And on the plus side, as one of the most racially diverse neighborhoods in NYC, many of the new businesses are owned and staffed by POCs and Latinos, so there are plenty of ways to support businesses you can feel good about. As the Rockaways officially opens its shores this weekend, we’ve put together a list of the yummy Latin fare to check out.
The "Summer Shift" Pop Up Restaurant
In my opinion, this is the most exciting food development in the Rockaways this summer. Housed in Rockaway Taco’s former Beach 96th shack, and conceived by branding and design studio The MP Shift, The Summer Shift will be a pop-up space featuring a rotating crew of Latin American guest chefs, serving up everything from Peruvian pollo a la brasa to Mexican paletas to contemporary fusion cuisines. Chefs will be serving up dishes a la carte starting this weekend from 9am to 8pm, and on weekdays from 11am to 8pm. Check out the full lineup below:
May 21–Sept 7: Fany Gerson of La Newyorkina
May 22–25, 29–June 1, 5–8, 12–15: Carlos Varella, and Leyla and Ximena Yrala of Chicks to Go.
June 18–July 14: Fernando Aciar of O Cafe.
July 16–August 11: Camille Becerra of Navy
August 13–30: Felipe Donnelly and Carolina Santos Neves of Cómodo
September 1–7: Nick Morgenstern and Gerardo Gonzalez of El Rey and Morgenstern’s Finest
95-19 Rockaway Beach Blvd, Rockaway Beach, NY 11693
This Peruvian puestito is a relative newcomer to the boardwalk at 97th street. Run by the Yrala family, transplants from Peru, this spot opened last summer, and 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, but they’re all light and refreshing — including a ceviche clasico; 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.
And if you like what La Cevichería is serving up, check out the Yrala family’s other Rockaway venture: a Pollo a la Brasa restaurant named Chicks To Go. They’ll be serving up their dishes at the “Summer Shift” pop-restaurant above!
Bolivian Llama Party
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; for the last year, they’ve been popping up in nightlife venues like Williamsburg’s Output, where they set up shop serve up snacks to rooftop party-goers.
Rockaway Taco is a Rockaways OG – it opened in 2008 as a stand designed to cater to the small surfing community that hung out at Rockaway beach, and became a staple and a community favorite. So people were understandably devastated when it was announced that it would be closing this summer. Luckily, Andrew Field – the Rockaway local who has run the spot since the jump – isn’t leaving his fish taco fiends in a lurch. He’ll be opening a new joint called Tacoway Beach inside the Rockaway Beach Surf Club at nearby Beach 87th street. We assume the venue will continue to source its veggies from Edgemere farm, an urban farm also located in Far Rockaway, and at the new spot, you can wash them down with booze.
302 Beach 87th St, Far Rockaway, NY 11693
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 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