Heading up to da Bronx! Eat, drink, and explore City Island.

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Perfect summer weekend weather should never be taken for granted here in NYC or anywhere for that matter. Sometimes we get so used to just staying close by in our local areas that we shun venturing outwards to explore a bit outside of our comfort zones. With miles and miles of mass transit – subways and buses – it’s very easy to check out the farther regions of each borough if so inclined. One such spot we took a day trip to this past weekend was up to City Island in the Bronx. Now, the Bronx has it’s good and bad areas just like most do no matter where you go, but City Island is kind of stuck back in time and has a New England fishing village appeal to it. Fun spots to dine at, boutique stores line it’s main street – City Island Avenue – with boat yards, marinas, and the water views are beautiful. It’s only about mile long walk and there is enough to see and do along the way to enjoy a nice weekend day there. Take the #6 local subway to the last stop on the line, Pelham Bay Park, then jump on the close by Bx29 bus to City Island Ave. I would suggest to get off at the last stop and head over to Johnny’s Famous Reef Restaurant for a deliciously greasy fried fish lunch, and then take a walk later on to explore and help burn off a few of those calories!

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Johnny’s Famous Reef Restaurant

City Island Bronx 018Classic, old school, cheap, tasty fried and steamed seafood joint. Crowded and bustling. Plenty of seating inside and outside by the water on the large patio. Cheap ass beer. $5 rum filled frozen drinks! Watch out for the seagulls!

I just can’t help myself as I love these old cheesy type spots that harken back to yesteryear. Johnny’s is a dive for sure, one big hole in the wall, and maybe even a bit low brow, but the water view you get while sitting outside on a nice day enjoying your meal is terrific. The people watching is fun too. It’s cafeteria style here, head up to the counter, order your food, and pay right on the spot. It’s cash only and sales tax is included in the price. While feasting on fried clam strips, fried shrimp, french fries, cole slaw, corn on the cob, and watermelon wash it down with a rum soaked frozen pina colada or strawberry daiquiri as the sailboats float by.

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This is one of those spots that your older relatives tell you about in stories of where they hung out with their friends, went on dates, had that first kiss, etc. When entering you can see even after all these years that it still has that retro look to it from the menu boards to the seating. Prices might have changed over the years but Johnny’s wears it’s age like a badge of honor and spits in the face of modernization. 65 years and still going strong.

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Hit up Johnny’s for a cheap, delish, and fast fried seafood meal in a non-pretentious atmosphere. Don’t expect a high end snooty dining experience. Sit outside and take in the views of the marina. Suck down a few rummy frozen pina coladas and pretend you are away on vacation as you watch the seagulls scavenge for food and act like they are auditioning for a remake of “The Birds”. Heck, my Italian grandma always said if you get pooped on it was good luck!

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There are many similar seafood joints up and down City Island Ave. Some more of a fine dining experience and some more low key and casual. I’m a big fan of the low brow! Just give me a plate of tasty food and some cold drinks at a reasonable price and I’m happy. Don’t need to be overly fancy for me. Hey, I’m just “A Regular Guy”!

Another such spot a few minutes away is Seafood City.

Seafood City

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Now, this place we just dropped in to check out for a drink and the atmosphere. Whoa! What immediately struck me were all the kids in here. It’s like the Chuck E Cheese of fried seafood! Pretty big place. Lot’s of parking. Cafeteria style. The size of an airplane hangar. Decent bathrooms. Plenty of tables to sit at and chow down inside and outside along the water. Again, a terrific water view. Battle the pigeons over french fries. A few more dollars than Johnny’s menu down the street, some video and arcade games lined up on one side, a bit nicer facility, but way too many annoying kids in here. There is a full bar with beer, cocktails, and frozen boozy drinks. You need to drink here to deal with all the kids. LOL! I know I am gonna catch some heat from the parents who read my blog so don’t take it too seriously. I feel for ya as I know it’s not all fun and games. Parents need a good place to take the kids but where they can enjoy themselves too. This is where Seafood City is a better choice than Johnny’s.

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I must say it’s kind of a fun spot to eat during a nice day overlooking a great water view. Prices are reasonable but not really as cheap as some others in the area so if you looking for a better deal head over to Johnny’s to save a few bucks on pretty much the same menu. Also, it’s cash only as many of these restaurants seem to be here. ATM on the premises if needed but they will charge a $3 fee.

We left here shortly and decided to walk all the way down the street to check out the local area. Some interesting antique shops, local watering holes, eateries, and other stores. Also, some of the residential structures lining City Island Ave remind one of the nautical New England style with their character and grace.

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As we approaced a small park area along the water we had hit the start of City Island Ave and kicked back for a bit to admire the picturesque view and check out the boats in the marina.

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We decided to then head back the other way into town to check out the shops. There aren’t an over abundance of them, but some had unique offerings. I always like to browse through some of these antique and vintage stores as you never know what gems you might unearth. Some cool things can be found here but we were just window shopping today.

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Of course, no weekend day trip would be complete without dessert. There is one ice cream spot here to grab a tasty cold treat and we made sure to visit it – Lickety Split.

Lickety Split Ice Cream

This joint is great! Small sugar cone is huge two scoops for less than $4! Fun cute spot to sit outside on a nice day. Sure, it’s basically Breyer’s Ice Cream but it’s delish and they have a decent assortment of flavors, plus shakes, soft ice cream, ices, gelato, coffee, etc.

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The actual shop is a small tiny house that looks like it’s out of a Hanna Barbera cartoon or Alice in Wonderland with a white picket fence around it and plenty of outside seating in the garden yard that surrounds it. The prices are super cheap compared to the city and they are very generous with the portions. Hey, they had praline and my fav, rum raisin, when we were here yesterday. We grabbed a few cones and took a spot at one of the tables to enjoy our treats. We both marveled at how it felt like we were away somewhere on vacation and it did not feel as if we were in the New York City area anymore. That is what makes for a terrific day trip!

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Our last stop on the day before heading back on the bus to the subway was the park right next door to the ice cream shop – Hawkins Park.

Hawkins Park

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It’s a nice little park to rest your feet or take a picture on one of the animal statues as there is a dolphin and seal on the grounds. A few benches, small walkway leading up to a WWI memorial plaque, the seal and dolphin sculpture, clean, relaxing. Even has a Christmas Tree centering the park with lights still on it and some decorations. As this is a green area honoring those from this town who served during the first world war it’s well kept. Take a seat on a bench and chill out with your ice cream cone from Lickety Split next door, or just relax in it’s serenity. Also, remember to be a good citizen and don’t litter.

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There is so much to see and do within a few hours of our home base of Manhattan. The subway trip there and back was pretty quick overall and it’s a wonderful way to spend a weekend afternoon. There is so much to explore and places to visit that are probably a stones throw no matter where we all live. It’s all about just picking a direction to head and setting aside the time to do it. I need to make it a point to do things like this more often. City Island in the Bronx was a quirky and fun little trip, and we’ll be visiting again soon.

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City Island – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/City_Island,_Bronx

Johnny’s World Famous Reef Restaurant – http://www.johnnysreefrestaurant.com/Johnnys_Reef/Welcome.html

Johnny's Famous Reef Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Seafood City – http://seafoodcityci.com/

Seafood City on Urbanspoon

Lickety Split Ice Cream – http://www.licketyspliticecream.biz/

Lickety Split on Urbanspoon

Hawkins Park – http://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/hawkinspark/

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34 thoughts on “Heading up to da Bronx! Eat, drink, and explore City Island.”

  1. It seems like you have some great finds here. As an outside I always had a bad impression of the Bronx (I’ve never been so it is an entirely unfair impression I’ve formed from other peoples opinions and the media).

    These seem like interesting finds and I could sit by the marina all day.

    Also as a Brit abroad I appreciate the sales tax included in the price. It’s the way we do things so it always baffles us when in the US, how much are things really going to cost?
    The Guy recently posted…London’s Premier Concert Venues – The O2 aka The Millennium DomeMy Profile

    1. Hey Guy!

      Yes, the Bronx has it’s share or bad areas, but this is one that is pretty safe especially during the day time. I like finding places like this right off our subways as many people who live in Manhattan never venture up there. It’s like a new world for some! The marina views are beautiful and I took some good pics.
      filbio310 recently posted…The Crazy Things We Stop To Stare At In NYC!My Profile

  2. City Island looks adorable! My kind of place! It definitely seems to have the appeal of days gone by with a great seaside atmosphere. The seafood eateries you have visited sound delicious, yet quaint. I love stumbling upon places like this. Have a great Labor Day weekend!
    Jessica recently posted…Friday Link Love ♥My Profile

  3. Hello Phil!!! ★ ★ ★

    What a beautiful post and great place to visit… And great photos too…. I wish iIcould go there one of these days!!! 🙂

    Just adding some urban considerations on your posts there is a phenomenon that happens in all major cities like New York, which is in fact a global city.

    Meaning the condensation of goods, services, businesses, population in a certain spot of the city .

    All at a strategic point.

    And then beyond it , everything seems a liberated zone, with much more space and with less density and accumulation.

    This place seems so bucolic & peaceful and yet it is not so far away from “The Big Apple”.

    So I think you need to chill out a little you should consider going there once again….

    Thanks Phil for this cool post; sending you hugs,

    Aquileana 🙂

    PS: thanks for your comments on my blog.
    I am flattered, I still didn´t sign in there to answer but I will do it in a while. XO
    Aquileana recently posted…Joseph Campbell: “El Héroe de las Mil Caras”: “El Viaje del Héroe” / “The Hero with a Thousand Faces”: “The Hero’s Journey”.-My Profile

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  5. Too bad you missed the City Island Nautical Museum (cityislandmuseum.org), which is open every Sat and Sun from 1 to 5 pm. Lots to see and learn, especially the specific exhibition on the history of the America’s Cup, in which City Island used to play a major role. And don’t miss the City Island Theater Group, which will present “The Laramie Project I and II” on Sept 20, 21 and 22 and “Barefoot in the Park” in November (cityislandtheatergroup.com). We aren’t just a row of restaurants! (though the fried scallops at Johnny’s Reef are the best in the city).

  6. Before you come visit my home you might want to watch “City Island” – the movie with Andy Garcia and Julianna Margolies for some background info about this small town within NYC. It’s a hoot and you will have some good laughs.

  7. City Island is great when all the tourist go home! Otherwise, it’s hell living here during the summer!

  8. Wow, I’ve never been to City Island but it all looks great. I think the next time I’m in that part of the country I may just check it out. Thanks a bunch for all the pictures.

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