Red Hook

Jen and I have been taking the long ride on the B61, every so often, to trek down to Red Hook. We both love that area. A Brooklyn-waterfront neighborhood, Red Hook was known for freighter shipping until the industry went into decline. Its shipping inspired Elia Kazan’s classic film On the Waterfront.

Red Hook is, to put it simply, a neighborhood in uneasy transition. Ikea and Fairway are both planning mega-developments in the area, and a number of high-rises and conversions are planned to bring in a wealthier residential base.

But Red Hook is currently known for great restaurants, a wonderful bakery, and a charming-but-funky bookstore. We’ve been to all of these places. We went to 360 when I still lived in Park Slope, and Valentine’s Day 2005 featured Baked’s chile-accented spicy brownies. We’ve been to Freebird a couple of times, and I never fail to walk away with something cool.

We’d actually probably seriously consider living down there, except for the fact that it’s pretty much out of the way of reliable transportation. The B61 is fine, as are a couple of other buses, but it’s a real schlep past the public housing projects, to get there from the F train. Also, the neighborhood isn’t really convenient yet for grocery shopping (although I do think it gets Fresh Direct). It’s really a place that rewards car ownership. If you’re Jen, working late and walking home from the train at 10pm, it would be nice to have your hubby there in a waiting car.

Leopard bagBut our favorite Red Hook spot is LeNell’s, a charming boutique devoted to well-curated wines and spirits. I don’t remember how I heard of LeNell’s, but we’ve now been there a few times. LeNell is a southern gal, who relocated to New York to open this shop. She told us it’s exactly the kind of place she always wanted to shop in but never could.

LeNell specializes in whiskeys, but her selections of gins and bitters are quite impressive as well.

She offers regular wine tastings, bourbon classes, and cocktail lessons. She had David Wondrich in recently, and Gary Regan is scheduled for this month.

LeNell runs a great place, and she and her staff are supereasy to talk to, so I know we’ll be back. I just wish we could go daily.