With no special plans on Christmas day, I took a little trip with friends down to Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn. Walking along the shore of this once prosperous fishing community, I never would have guessed this was New York City. It felt like we traveled far beyond the city limits while, in fact, it was only a car ride away.
This historic neighborhood on a bay in southeastern Brooklyn separates the mainland from the eastern portion of Coney Island. Back in the late 19th and early 20th century, it was known as Brooklyn’s gold coast, with elegant waterfront mansions and famed seafood restaurants.
Fast food joints and controversial condo buildings now line Emmons Avenue, the main waterfront promenade. All that sadly distracts from the neighborhood’s 19th-century fishing village vibe. Still, with swans and ducks roaming around, a wooden pedestrian bridge over the bay and the ocean breeze, Sheepshead Bay is a slice of forgotten New York.
We went to have a late lunch at Liman, a family-style Turkish restaurant known for its fresh fish. I loved my red snapper but the fried livers and the Turkish salad we all shared were even more delicious.
Summer is the time to come to Sheepshead Bay – the promenade gets busy with the local Russian community parading up and down; the seafood market bustles with people buying the fresh catch; and daily boat tours go out to sea for fishing excursions. In fact, the story goes that the bay is named after sheepshead, a fish that once thrived in the bay’s waters.
Even though there’s talk of a huge drive-in Starbucks opening in the neighborhood and more condo complexes sprouting along the waterfront, Sheepshead Bay remains worth a visit for a whiff of New York nostalgia. If somebody dropped me there out of the blue and I had to guess where in the world I was, I could hardly guess: New York City. It never ceases to surprise.