The Casual Observer

The Lazer Speaks

 I didn’t really pay that much attention to what’s been happening in the neighborhood, especially during the pandemic when the tendency was to stay inside. But with the advent of summer on the horizon, and the pandemic receding, and masks coming down around town at the recommendation of health officials, I started to notice some changes around the neighborhood. Maybe you have noticed too?

First off, 116th street has gone through a mini renaissance of sorts. Mike McMahon did a beautiful job on the outside of Rogers and added a beer garden in the back and a side party room. What a wonderful addition to what’s already an institution in Rockaway. And did you notice that Rogoff’s is gone? Sadly too, the Thank You café by Maribel of Caracas fame, but the storefront is going through a metamorphosis, and it looks like something beautiful will emerge when finished. Also true of the old PJ Curran’s which never recovered from Hurricane Sandy. Now the storefront has been completely redone, and I hear good things are coming there. Add that to the Chef’s Table at one end and the awesome Claudette’s at the other end and it suddenly looks like 116th is coming together. And City MD fills in at the old bank site on the corner, and the newest condos are now for sale at the beach, and it begins to look less rundown.

And how wonderful is it to see Liz Hanna beautifying the area with new planters all around with small trees and flowers. It shows that one person can make a difference. And speaking about making a difference, what about the new restaurant Rocco’s! As Stanley Tucci likes to say, Oh My God, the food is so good. What a great investment by that team, transforming the backyard into a great place for a summer meal.

And if you want to hear live music uptown, the Harbor Light has started a music series in the main bar area. And whoever is doing the cooking there now has got it down pat. Of course, the downtown scene continues to thrive with RBQ’s and Whit’s serving unbelievably great food but also supplying awesome venues for local bands to get back out there and play for everyone. And did you know that Thai Rock is booking music again? Robert is celebrating his ten-year anniversary this year operating Thai Rock. Restaurants are a notoriously hard businesses to keep going, and we have been blessed with some very creative, entrepreneurial restaurateurs. And Robert ranks right up there with the best of them. Congratulations to him and Metta for bringing Thai food and jazz to Rockaway successfully.

And The Rockaway Hotel is really the shining jewel, with a killer rooftop, great restaurants, terrific staff, a pool scene, and oh yeah, a hotel too! Hats off to the investors in this enterprise for having the courage and perseverance to see this venture through. We are all the beneficiaries of their vision.

Not so clear yet is the boardwalk scene at the concessions. For the last several years, the concessions have been so cool with innovative food and outdoor music. With new management getting their footing and the city trying to figure out what they will allow, our fingers are crossed that these venues find their stride this summer. We know that the Caracas team will do a great job, and it’s great that they are back.

Well, like I said, I am only casually observing these changes, but what I see is all good. I hope everyone has a great, safe, memorable summer!!

By Lou Pastina


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