Throughout all of its long history, Long Island City (formerly Dutch Kills) has been a transportation hub. From its days as a key point between Queens road networks in the 19th century, to the construction of the Queensboro Bridge connecting Manhattan in the early 1900s, the area is known for its centralized location and manufacturing and industrial influences.
As rezoning laws and development projects have come into play over the last 20 years or so, the area has rapidly expanded. And for every corporation that decides to gobble up territory, there have been many wonderful local businesses and public spaces that have emerged as well.
LIC has kept up with its past—it’s only a short subway ride away from most New York neighborhoods, and businesses and revitalization efforts have utilized its industrial architecture to a tee. We recommend getting to know this neighborhood asap, so here are our picks for what to do—foodie, cultural and just plain fun!
1. Big aLICe Brewing: 8-08 43rd Rd.
Photograph by Max Krueger, Courtesy of Big aLICe Brewing
Move over Brooklyn, LIC is undoubtedly the new hot spot for craft microbreweries. Thanks to its aforementioned industrial space, LIC boasts plenty of room to house giant vats for fermenting and other brewing equipment, making it the perfect place to set up shop for beer-making. To beat the crowds at the better-known Fifth Hammer Brewing down the road, and try unique beer flavors like jalapeno and lemongrass, head over to Big aLICe. Though a tad off the beaten path, the small but comfortable space is the perfect spot to curl up with a flight and chat with the friendly bartenders about the newest brews.
2. Gantry Plaza State Park: 4-09 47th Rd.
You may have seen the giant red Pepsi Cola sign in Instagrams, or from across the river in Manhattan, but never knew where it was. Well, that is Gantry Plaza State Park in Long Island City, my friend. Full of gorgeous green grass, plenty of stone benches and lounge chairs, and arguably the best under-the-radar views of Manhattan. The new Queens ferry line has a stop in the park, so you can get there from the east side of Manhattan, Astoria or Roosevelt Island. Or you can just hop on the ferry and ride yourself back around, taking in the spectacular views of the Manhattan skyline and LIC (they serve drinks and snacks on board!). In the summer, float along the East River a different way with kayaking from the LIC Community Boathouse.
3. Book Culture LIC: 26-09 Jackson Ave.
Book Culture has long been a staple in different Manhattan neighborhoods, and now it provides a cozy refuge in LIC as well. Located smack between the Court Square and Queens Plaza subway stations, this new spot boasts all of the latest releases, author events and book signings, as well as a roaring kids floor with tons of cuddly stuffed animals. Plus, beautiful high ceilings with beams = all the more books that can fit.
4. Casa Enrique: 5-48 49th Ave.
Casa Enrique keeps things simple with its Mexican cuisine—there are no frills or out-there experimentations, but what they do, they do well. The best, some may argue. The menu consists of classics like guacamole, ceviche, and a variety of enchiladas and tacos—but its the fresh and seasonal ingredients that really pack a punch. Chef Cosme Aquilar is determined to feed New Yorkers home-cooked meals from his childhood in Chiapas, Mexico, and it’s paid off—the eatery has been Michelin-starred for three years (and at that, is very affordable).
5. MoMA PS1: 22-25 Jackson Ave.
MoMA PS1 is like the cool, hip younger sister of the more well-known MoMA in midtown Manhattan. As an “exhibition space,” rather than a “collecting institution,” MoMA PS1 showcases experimental and contemporary art, usually utilizing interactive elements like sound, video, light and more. It was originally founded in LIC by an organization wanting to host exhibits in abandoned and underutilized spaces across the city. Its VW Sunday Sessions allow visitors to experience and participate in live art, and throughout the summer its popular Warm Up Series hosts live electronic music concerts, taking place within some type of artistic installation.
6. Transmitter Brewing: 53-02 11th St.
Photograph Courtesy of Transmitter Brewing
Another brewery, also on the smaller side, Transmitter specializes in farmhouse ales, with a focus on French and Belgian style beers and barrel aged sours. Their tasting area is undoubtedly different—it’s hidden under the Pulaski Bridge and there are no flight options, nothing on draft, just bottles—but they pride themselves on their artisanally crafted beer, which is apparent with each sip. Also check out their unique CSB program, in which (like a CSA) community members can pay a set amount and pick up beer samples each month to enjoy.
7. Tuk Tuk: 49-06 Vernon Blvd.
Named after the three-wheeled taxis that ride through Bangkok, Thailand, Tuk Tuk is the perfect spot for authentic Thai cuisine in LIC. It offers classics like Pad Thai and Tom Yum Soup, as well as more traditional Thai street food dishes like Mee-Kiew-Hang (a Bangkok style meal with egg noodles, roast pork and Bok Choy with lime vinaigrette and ground peanuts) and Kaw-Moo-Dang, which can be found on every street in Bangkok (including roast pork and crispy pork belly served over rice with five-spice peanut gravy, boiled egg, cucumber and scallion).
8. The Gutter LIC: 10-22 46th Ave.
Local beers, arcade games AND a bowling alley? The Gutter is the perfect weekend night out, all in one spot—and allows you to feel like a kid again, but with the adult privilege of drinks and a bar atmosphere. Plus the soundtrack (throwbacks and classic rock) makes the best background noise. There’s a location in Williamsburg as well, but the LIC spot is less than two years old and, being a solid walk from public transport, tends to get less crowded. If any of the above-mentioned breweries are too packed, The Gutter will likely be serving some of the same brews on tap.
9. Matted LIC: 46-36 Vernon Blvd.
Part art gallery, part framing service, part gift shop, Matted is a must-stop if you’re shopping in LIC. Art shows rotate throughout the year, so you can stop in to browse unique pieces from local artists and photographers (in custom frames of course) or pick up a quirky gift for a friend from the wide selection of one-of-a-kind items, hand-selected from shop owner Donna Drimer.
10. Tamashii Ramen: 47-36 Vernon Blvd.
There are a few Tamashii Ramen locations in Queens, and you shouldn’t miss out if you’re in LIC for the day. The menu is expansive and Tamashii is known for its broth, which is made fresh daily with a whole chicken and five different vegetables, simmered for 14 hours. Seafood and medicinal herbs are added to balance the flavor and offer nutritional elements. Popular bowls include the Miso Ramen (soybean-flavored ramen), the Shio Ramen (made with mineral salt), and Shoyu Ramen (made with soy sauce). For spice, try the Tan-Tan Men, a hot sesame flavored ramen.