RED HOOK — Brooklyn's village-by-the-bay opened its first restaurant with a waterfront view last Thursday.
Brooklyn Crab, an immense seafood shack on Reed Street in Red Hook, steams, fries, bakes and sautes no-frills seafood favorites seven days a week. It is one of New York City's only casual crab joints — some selections are served in galvanized metal buckets — and in its first weekend, hundreds of diners from all five boroughs filled the restaurant's picnic tables and barstools, owner Jamie Vipon and neighboring restaurants said.
"Our presentation — we're not Iron Chef America," Vipon, 41, said. "We got big Igloo coolers for water, picnic tables. We're not an uptight place. It's very laid back."
The restaurant sits several hundred feet from shore — industrial buildings still ring the waterfront — but Vipon and his co-owner, Matt Bohner, 42, brought the beach to Brooklyn Crab. They filled the narrow front yard with sand, built an 18-hole mini-golf course in the back, and plan to add corn-hole and bocce.
"There's not a lot of places like this," Vipon said as he stood on the restaurant's wide, wooden porch, which looks south toward Upper Bay. "It's big, but we cut it up into sections to make it more intimate."
Vipon and Bohner also added another feature to entice diners: free shuttle service to and from the nearest subway station at Carroll Street, which would otherwise be a 1.5-mile trek on foot.
"We bought a yellow bus and slapped Brooklyn Crab magnets on the side," Vipon laughed.
He and Bohner have worked in Red Hook for nearly two decades. They own a woodworking shop on Pier 41, which they use to build high-end custom interiors. The pair also owns Alma, a Zagat-rated restaurant on Columbia Street in the Waterfront District.
"We've been rooting for them since the beginning," said Ben Schneider, 44, who owns The Good Fork on Van Brunt Street in Red Hook. "Any successful restaurant is good for us because it brings more people down to the neighborhood."
Schneider expressed particular enthusiasm for Brooklyn Crab. "The waterfront's really underused," he said. "To have somewhere where you can go and sit with a beer and look out at the harbor, it's genius."
Vipon and Bohner were careful to reach out to local businesses while building Brooklyn Crab. They buy their lobster, for example, from the Red Hook Lobster Pound, a restaurant and food truck nine blocks up Van Brunt Street that imports its lobster from Maine. The pair also decided not to serve lobster rolls, the Lobster Pound's signature menu item.
"They're great, and I'm glad we could pave the way for seafood in Red Hook," Lobster Pound owner Susan Povich, 48, said. "We are on the water after all."
Brooklyn Crab is open 4 to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 4 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. It is located at 24 Reed St. in the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn. For more information, call 718-643-CRAB (2722) or visit www.brooklyncrab.com.