If you’re not familiar with all that Queens has to offer, Long Island City is a great place to start. Easily accessible from Manhattan and Brooklyn, the city’s largest borough is unpretentious and authentic with a wealth of interesting neighborhoods to discover. Lately, LIC has been steadily building its reputation as a destination for dining and entertainment, attracting an off-beat and in-the-know crowd of locals and tourists. This guide highlights a few favorites worth checking out on your next visit.
There are a number of chain hotel options in and around Long Island City, but assuming you’re looking for something with a little more personality than a Hilton, two boutique spots rise to the top. The Boro Hotel features an outpost of The Strand bookstore in the lobby, serves up excellent thin-crust pizza reminiscent of NYC classic Patsy’s at Beebe’s, and offers a rooftop bar with views of the Manhattan skyline. Bonus: it’s also pet friendly. Nearby, The Modernist differentiates itself with a focus on showcasing works by local artists—their on-site gallery can accommodate 70 guests for receptions or performances, and they also offer rooftop terraces with iconic views.
Just across the East River, between Queens and Manhattan, is the recently opened Graduate Hotel at the Cornell Tech Campus on Roosevelt Island. Designed by internationally renowned firm Snøhetta, the hotel combines bright, modern spaces with a unique location. A quick trip from LIC on the East River Ferry or subway, Roosevelt Island is one of NYC’s hidden gems offering multiple parks and landmarks, like the Louis Kahn-designed Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park, a 19th Century lighthouse, and the remnants of a former smallpox hospital and insane asylum.
The arts scene in Queens is contemporary and thriving, offering an alternative to more traditional galleries and museums in Manhattan and Brooklyn. MoMA PS1 is the main attraction, a vibrant cultural space that hosts performance sessions, a popular summer music series called the Warm-Up, and a rotating exhibition schedule of thought-provoking and boundary-pushing contemporary art. On the other side of Court Square is the Sculpture Center, founded by artists in 1928 and continuing the legacy today to serve as a nexus for exhibitions, commissions and scholarship within the contemporary sculpture community. On a nice day, we strongly recommend taking your morning coffee and bagel over to Gantry Plaza State Park to stroll the waterfront and take in the sights, including the scenic piers and the Pepsi-Cola sign.
Queens is a foodie destination, a true melting pot offering an exciting fusion of cuisines from the global communities that define its neighborhoods. These are just a few LIC standouts, but a stroll down Vernon Blvd provides strong options for whatever you might be craving. Attracting crowds since 2012, Michelin-star rated Casa Enrique is a must-stop for un-fussy Mexican staples like enchiladas de pollo, chile relleno and one of the best mole poblanos in the city—come early and expect a wait, but it’s well worth it. Another longtime favorite with a loyal following is John Brown BBQ, the first Kansas City BBQ joint in NYC and still the best purveyor of burnt ends, served up the old-fashioned way on papered lunch trays and red-checked tablecloths. A newer spot by the water, American Brass was named in Architectural Digest’s “Outdoor Restaurants Across the Globe with Spectacular Views” feature in 2020, and the classic American fare measures up to the stunning location, a great spot for a date or leisurely al fresco lunch.
The bars in LIC are a bit more low key than you’ll find elsewhere in the city—a casual scene focused on local ingredients and craft brews, beloved by regulars and welcoming to guests. For exciting cocktails, you’ll want to check out Dutch Kills, named best bar in the city in 2021. Featuring hand-cut ice and a seasonal rotation of one-of-a-kind beverages, this former speakeasy moved out onto the streets during the pandemic and now serves to-go cocktails (as long as NYC laws allow) and a shop-able array of barware for the home. If you’re looking for a reliable day-to-night spot, Sweet Leaf Coffee & Cocktail is your best bet. Founded by Queens native and coffee fanatic Rich Nieto in 2008, Sweet Leaf now has four locations, but this is the only one that transitions to a bar in the evenings. The Rockaway Brewing Company boasts the distinction of being the first brewery in Queens, and offers beers to-go in growlers and cans, delivery orders, and taproom hours daily. Their draft list ranges from an easy drinking American Pilsner to something called the “Hawiian Pizza Hazy IPA,” so you’re sure to find a beer for everyone in your party.
Use this guide to help forge your trip to LIC, and take in all the spoils that this city has to offer. Be on the look for out for more Run Down City Guides, and tell them all CYTIES sent you.