A three-year tide of openings has bolstered Long Island City’s restaurant and bar scene with favorites like recently Michelin-starred Casa Enrique, the farm-to-table Crescent Grill, Woodbines — sister bar and casual eatery to Williamsburg’s Kent Ale House — and Court Square’s Dutch Kills Centraal. They joined LIC’s bedrock of mom-and-pop restaurants, cafés and bars that have stood the test of time through good cooking and unique atmosphere: Manducatis, Tournesol, Manetta’s, Water’s Edge, Sweetleaf, LIC Bar. The list is long, and you can bet we’ve missed someone’s favorite.
Last year, the Queens neighborhood added Hibino, a Japanese restaurant that makes its own tofu and specializes in obanzai (Kyoto small plates); Jora, which brings traditional Peruvian cuisine and noted pisco sours; the much-anticipated Mu Ramen, the new home of chef Joshua Smookler (Per Se) and his wife Heidy’s former pop-up noodle bar; Station LIC, a subway station-themed casual American bar and restaurant; and Il Falco, a classic Italian trattoria led by chef Segundo Tinishanay, who cooked for presidents Obama and Clinton at Il Mulino.
The final opening of the year was BLVD , a smart wine bar by the East River, steps from the Pepsi-Cola sign. “We really are getting spoiled for choice for great places to eat,” says co-owner Rob Bralow. “The growth in this area is amazing. The neighborhood is becoming a combination of young executives and marketing types who work in Manhattan, but who don’t want to be in the city all the time.”
Just off Northern Boulevard, Mundo’s opening in November marked the return of a much-loved neighborhood name. The original Queens location closed in 2012 after seven years because the owners took a break. When it came time to reopen, they didn’t consider any other neighborhood and moved into the newly opened Paper Factory Hotel.
“I’ve lived here since 1998, and the neighborhood is only growing,” says managing partner Guillermo Lucerofabbi. “But, also, our clientele stretches from Brooklyn to the Upper East Side because it’s easier to get here than Downtown.”
There’s a sexy magic to this dinner-only spot, with low lights glinting off the kaleidoscopic fixtures and bottles. But there’s also a pillar studded with classic books; the atmosphere is that heady mix of possibility and knowledge that permeates Istanbul. Downstairs, the restaurant gives way to a club that features live Latin music, playing anything from bossa nova to flamenco on various nights. “We want to create that old-fashioned style dinner and cabaret,” says Lucerofabbi. “A lot of our customers were musicians and would say, ‘We live here, we eat here, why do we have to go to Brooklyn to earn a living?’”