Quickly changing from industrial to residential the neighborhood has seen a variety of excellent restaurants spring up in recent years to meet the culinary demands of the growing population. Several laid-back eateries offer outdoor seating, perfect for a summer lunch in the shade and for cooling down after dancing away a Saturday afternoon at the ultra-hip Warm Up party in PS1's courtyard. Here are some popular neighborhood spots favored by Long Island City locals, all good for refueling after feasting your eyes (and ears) at PS 1's contemporary art exhibits.
The Creek & CaveThe Creek & Cave is a chill Mexican grill with a full bar, poolroom, and spacious outdoor patio and lounge. Their kitchen dishes out tasty Tex-Mex, with made-to-order tacos and burritos and plenty of vegetarian options, like the delicious tofu and grilled spinach burrito ($8.50). For a light snack, I recommend the flautas—grilled chicken and cheddar-jack cheese wrapped in a golden flour tortilla and served with a side of sour cream ($4.95).
Happy hour is from 3 to 7 p.m., and the drink menu includes a long list of Mexican beers and killer margaritas made with fresh orange, pineapple, and pomegranate juice. This is the place to come after PS1's Warm Up, when the restaurant hosts an after-party with live music and free PBRs for anyone still wearing their entry bracelet.
- The Creek & Cave, 10-93 Jackson Ave, Long Island City, NY, 718-706-8783, Average Meal: $10-$12, Tue-Thu 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; Fri 11 a.m.-midnight; Sat 3 p.m.-midnight; Sun 3-10 p.m.
Sage American KitchenSage is an excellent little takeout joint with just a few small tables outside under a shaded awning. The place gets very busy with the weekday lunchtime crowd, but it's well worth the wait for their tasty sandwiches, fresh salads, and selection of hot entrees. Menu highlights include the free-range lemon-herb chicken, served with lemon orzo, kalamata olives, and feta cheese ($9.95); the oven-roasted salmon with spicy corn salsa ($10.50); and an assortment of homemade savory tarts ($4.95 each). I had the mouthwatering Texas cowboy steak sandwich ($6.50), served on flat bread with caramelized onions, watercress, and a healthy dose of tasty chipotle mayo.
In summer, beat the heat with Sage's signature homemade raspberry lemonade ($3) or a fat-free frozen Cha-Cha-Cino coffee shake ($3.75).
- Sage American Kitchen 26-21 Jackson Ave, Long Island City, NY, 718-361-0707, Average Meal: $7-$10, Mon-Fri 8 a.m.-4 p.m.
La VueltaLa Vuelta serves authentic Latin American specialties in a cozy, romantic setting. The restaurant's exposed brick walls are covered with artwork by local Long Island City artists, and there's seating in a beautiful backyard garden. For starters, try the coconut breaded shrimp with green tomatillo sauce ($6.95), or share the picadillo platter, an assortment of tapas that include tamarind chorizo, chicken chicharron, delicious empanadas, and fried calamari ($25). For the main course, choose from an array of fresh meat and seafood dishes, such as Argentine skirt steak ($14.75) or the mouthwatering plank-roasted tilapia with pepper escabeche and roasted beets ($16).
Top off your meal with a Caipirinha, a strong drink made from Brazilian sugarcane rum and fresh lime juice ($6). Homemade mojitos and red sangria are also available, by the pitcher or the glass.
- La Vuelta 10-43 44th Dr, Long Island City, NY, 718-361-1858, Average Meal: $12-$18. Mon-Fri 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; Sat, Sun 5-10 p.m.
Lounge 47Lounge 47 is a stylish local hangout with a creative menu of internationally influenced dishes and bar food. For lighter fare, try the wasabi deviled eggs ($3) or share the rip & dip, an assortment of yummy spreads made from chickpeas, smoked eggplant, feta cheese, scallions, and cucumber yogurt served with spiced olives and grilled flat bread ($10). Their herbed lamb sandwich makes a perfect choice for lunch; it's served on rustic bread with roasted peppers, eggplant, and a side of cucumber yogurt sauce ($9.50).
The restaurant's zenlike pebble garden is an ideal spot to sip a cool drink on a summer afternoon, with happy hour from 3 to 7 p.m. Try the bar's signature Long Island City Iced Tea ($9), a peach-flavored twist on the traditional favorite, or a tall glass of Alan's Hard Lemonade, made with fresh lemonade, absolute citron, fresh lime juice and sour mix ($9).
- Lounge 47, 47-10 Vernon Blvd, Long Island City, NY, 718-937-2044, Average Meal: $8-$12, Sun-Thu noon-1 a.m.; Fri, Sat noon-2 a.m.
Court Square DinerThe Court Square Diner has been around for 63 years, serving traditional diner fare at very affordable prices. Open 24/7 and located just steps from the Court Square #7 subway station, it's a great place to stop for a quick bite--the service is prompt and friendly. Their enormous triple-decker sandwiches are an excellent choice for lunch ($7.75-$8.95). The kitchen also makes an exceptional gyro sandwich with a side of flavorful tzatziki sauce ($4.95).
Kids under 10 eat for $5.95 and all children's meals come with ice cream or jello for dessert.
- Court Square Diner, 45-30 23rd St, Long Island City, NY, 718-392-1222, Average Meal: $6-$9. Open 24/7