This spring, spend a day in Long Island City, a neighborhood as rich in history as it is in great brunch spots.
A historic hub
Before the LIRR connected to Penn Station, LIC was the end of the line. Commuters awaiting ferries to Manhattan met at Tony Miller’s Hotel on Borden Avenue (now the fabulously kitschy Waterfront Crabhouse). Teddy Roosevelt drank there, as did architect Stanford White and actress Lillian Russell. By 1910, with expanded LIRR service and the opening of the Queensboro Bridge, LIC fell into decline. Ferries stopped running, and Prohibition turned Miller’s Hotel into a phonograph factory. LIC remained a quiet, industrial neighborhood until the late ’70s, when artists flocked to the area’s lofts. In the ’90s, new waterfront high-rises attracted young professionals and their families. Today, LIC it has reclaimed its status as a hub of vibrant people, culture and art.
10:30 a.m.: Eat
You can’t find a bad brunch on Vernon Boulevard, with El Ay Si, Cranky’s, Dorian Cafe, and Tournesol. We like 4-month-old Alobar (www.alobarnyc.com) for its superb bloody mary and its duck confit Sloppy Joe with smoked ricotta (pictured).
After brunch, head to Gantry Plaza State Park, a 10-acre waterfront walk with spectacular views of Manhattan. In addition to contemporary art Mecca MoMA PS1, LIC is home to three sculpture parks: The Noguchi Museum, Sculpture Center and the Socrates Sculpture Park.
Across the street from PS1 is 5Pointz Aerosol Art Center, a 5-story warehouse covered in legal graffiti. Visit between May 12 and 20 for the LIC Arts Open (www.licartsopen.org), when hundreds of artists open their studios to the public.
3 p.m.: Drink
LIC has the kind of relaxed neighborhood bars that will make you think seriously about moving, or at least staying for another beer. In fair weather, grab an outdoor seat at Dominie’s Hoek (www.dominieshoek.com) or LIC Bar (www.licbar.com). Sweet Leaf (www.sweetleaflic.com) has a good selection of coffee and tea, which you can enjoy while playing DJ in their record room. Sage General Store (www.sagegeneralstore.com) has great baked goods; try the bacon brownie.
4 p.m.: Laugh
Wind down with open-mic stand-up at The Creek and Cave (www.creeklic.com), one of the area’s two comedy clubs. Free shows start at 4 p.m. on both Saturdays and Sundays.