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The Rockaway Hotel

If you just want the short version, this is a rave review.

The long version begins with us arriving for a staycation, being greeted by friendly, welcoming staff at the front door of The Rockaway Hotel, the brand new place on Beach 108th Street and Rockaway Beach Boulevard. A minute later, you’re struck by the sleek lobby and the feeling you’ve just left Rockaway but you haven’t; you’ve stepped into an alternate Rockaway universe, Rockaway, at its best. It’s Rockaway potential, realized.

And then you get another nice greeting from people, all with blue masks, working in the lobby and at the front desk.

The details start to reveal themselves. There’s a book on a table by Patti Smith who famously made Rockaway her home; a Ramones album cover is featured on a shelf just by the entrance to the outdoor pool area. But before you step outside, you have to pause to admire the white oak woodwork that gives the place a beachy but sophisticated vibe. It covers the ceiling and runs outside and overhangs the outdoor bar and dining area which is in a courtyard of sorts, with a pool as the centerpiece.

Two steps from the lobby and you’re away at some place in California or Vegas. But you can’t be, because there are so many familiar faces. On this crisp day, a couple of people are in the heated pool. Some people sit on the far side in cabanas with big cushions. Tables on the near side are mostly full with people having late day lunch and drinks.

Decorative wire fencing with green vines surrounds the yard and you can peek through to see reminders like Happy Jack’s and Coastal Frozen Yogurt that you’re still in Rockaway.

There are eight of us in the group and we’re staying the night. We’ll get to the rooms later, right now, we want to get a table warmed by the sun shining from the west. We get drinks and appetizers and 2020 doesn’t seem so bad. We’re instantly in vacation mode and having a great time.

People all around seem…happy. And the other Rockaway people here? They look happy and proud. It seems, they feel a part of this. And why not? Even if it’s only hope they’ve invested, it seems to have paid off. It’s a place that makes Rockaway better. And everyone is feeling it.

Our afternoon sit down turned into early dinner. No one’s ever going to trust my food reviews but I’ll just say my NY strip steak from the dinner menu was top notch and the others raved about lobster rolls and fish sandwiches from the all-day menu. Oh, and the Hemingway seafood platter was superb and worthy of The Old Man and The Sea. The servers were pleasant, attentive and quick. None of the items were cheap but I’ll say this about cost: Things seem a lot less expensive when they’re worth it.

The oceanside rooms have balconies so you can step out and look down on the pool area and out to the Atlantic. The bayside rooms offer views of Jamaica Bay and the City skyline. The rooms are smallish but well-appointed and the beds are the kind you wish you could take home. I think the rooms were pretty much soundproof because I didn’t hear a thing from outside all night long. Although a few beers and my advanced age may have contributed to the bliss. In any case, you’re not staying at The Rockaway Hotel to stay inside your room.

The rooftop has an indoor bar with a skylight above. There are two outdoor areas on the roof, ocean and bayside, both with seating and both offering spectacular views. The ocean side outdoor space is big enough to host small events like lectures, yoga, or maybe a small band could set up there, when the pandemic is a memory.

The catering hall on the second floor is called The Harbor Room and we got a peek at the place that will soon host weddings and the like. Adjoining it is a smaller room, The McGuire Room, an homage to the McGuires of basketball fame who also used to run a bar at this location many decades ago.

The Rockaway Hotel has a couple of “pardon our appearance” signs out but there’s no pardoning needed —they’re just aiming for perfection. A full, ground floor indoor restaurant, Margie’s, is still under construction and a spa and coffee shop will be coming along soon.

There’s concern about how the place will do in the cold winter months but the professionalism and care on display suggests they’re ready for the challenge. For now, this is the place to forget your concerns and worries. You don’t have to go far to get far away. Go for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Or treat yourself to a stay.

So the long version made short: Big thumbs up to The Rockaway Hotel.

 By Kevin Boyle 

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