Bar-Hopping in Queens
Dutch Kills Bar in LIC has been infamously described by using phrases like off-the-beaten-path, speakeasy, and for the love of god, mixologist. It has a reputation for making patrons feel like they are a part of some elite members-only club, a marketing ploy that reels in customers by creating delusions of grandeur. This place makes ordinary consumers feel cool and sophisticated simply by selling them fine vodka served by a guy wearing suspenders. I too fell victim of its coolness for several reasons. Despite the pretentious air that flows through the bar, my experience was neither unpleasant nor disingenuous. Settled into a barren strip of Jackson Avenue, Dutch Kills doesn’t draw an overwhelming crowd, thus it serves as a place of quiet conversation during happy hours. The impeccable service is surprisingly down-to-earth and courteous. The old fashioned oak booths aligned on both sides, each with its own menu nailed to the wall, are reminiscent of a typical watering hole from years gone by. There is an antique phone, cash register and other knickknacks that hang there as if they were never touched by the present time. Conjuring up images from another era is easy as you watch the bartender romancing your drink rather than mixing it. Clad in suspenders, a button-up shirt and trousers, he cleverly maneuvers his way around the bar, skillfully preparing your cocktail as he squeezes juice directly from the orange rind and breaks ice with a metal spoon right into his own hands. I tried a Sunset Park with peach infused liquor, though slightly bitter it was a refreshing break from the hot summer evening. The cocktails here are as interesting to drink as they are to watch being made. The polite service and constantly amusing scene will make me come back. Live music weekly.
Dutch Kills Bar 27-24 Jackson Avenue Long Island City, NY 11101-2918 (718) 383-2724
I’ve been hearing rave reviews about Sweet Afton ever since they opened. As a general rule, any bar that offers outdoor seating and caters to the hipster crowd is often overflowing with praise, whether it’s warranted or not. I was in no hurry to try this place because I figured it would be exactly what I imagined it to be; a bunch of young scenesters sipping over priced microbrews and eating overpriced novelty foods (such as fried pickles) while referencing some obscure facts about the neighborhood or their record collection they bought for 50¢ at some garage sale upstate… Oh wait, that was me. But… am I wrong? Though a pleasant place to have a drink, Sweet Afton presents a typical hipster scene in a typical hipster setting, a sight that is becoming more popular in the neighborhood as the early onset of gentrification sets in. Sweet Afton has a substantial range of draft beers to choose from for an average price of about $6, including Guinness, Red Wagon IPA, Abita Amber, Palm, Chimay Triple, Kelso Nut Brown Lager and Ommegang Witte. They also have a surprise beer of the month and a few traditional cocktails and some house specials.
Aside from the great choice of drinks, I was excited to try the food, apparently it was voted the best bar food in Astoria. I ordered the grilled cheese, toasted on pullman bread (a fancy word for regular white bread) made with gruyere cheese and caramelized onions and served with pickles and whole grain mustard. The sandwich was tasty, but I could have ordered the same sandwich at the nearby diner made with artificial Kraft slices with a side of fries and it would have tasted just as good, for a fraction of the price. Next on my plate, fried pickles. I had eaten fried pickles once before, they didn’t do much for me. Personally, I’m not a fan of the fried pickle, but diners who favor the sour delicacy will find Sweet Afton’s pickles to be on the top of the pickle pedestal. A spicy crunchy pickle is nestled in the middle of a warm and fluffy outer breading. For just a few bucks ,you will receive an entire basket of these little critters. Aside from my harsh depiction of the place, overall I did enjoy the ambiance at Sweet Afton, although I was there before the after work crowd sauntered into the bar. It can get pretty noisy during the evening hours as they are often crowded. The service was extremely warm and friendly and is enough reason to make a return visit to try their overpriced burger. Sweet Afton has beers on tap and outdoor seating for summer drinking.
Sweet Afton 30-09 34th St Astoria, NY 718-777-2570
Club 21 Bar and Lounge (30-09 21st street & 30th Ave 11102) is the “other beer garden”. Located on a street mostly barren of nightlife, Club 21 comes alive on the weekends. This Czech watering hole offers native draft beers like Krusovice, Radeberger and Weihenstephan, bottled beers, wine and traditional cocktails. The interior is a rustic atmosphere with hardwood floors, exposed brick walls and candle light. It’s comfortable and homey while the service is outstanding. The enclosed back patio is charming in its own right- with a wooden deck and walls displaying the daily drink specials. The extensive well-priced menu is a mix of home-cooked starters and entrees hailing from the owners’ homeland. It is a superb alternative to the commonly deep-fried-doused-in-grease conventional bar food. The potato pancakes with herbs are great for sharing, the grilled kielbasa is juicy and crisp, and the chicken entree topped with cheese and peaches may be a bit unusual and partially canned- but flavorful nonetheless. There is also beef goulash, pork schnitzel and cheeseburgers for the carnivores with hearty appetites. This is a great place to go with friends any night of the week. Every evening touts different drink/food specials and Thursdays there is live music.
Monday – Domestic Beer $2
Tuesday – Well Drinks $2
Wednesday – Chicken Wings $2
Thursday – All Margarita Flavors $3
Friday – Sangria Special $3
Saturday – Sangria Special $3
Sunday – Blow Job Drinks $3
Winegasm (31-86 37th St 718-932-3331) is a classy low-key eatery that brings the heart of Europe to central Astoria. The rustic wooden decor is simple yet elegant, just like the vibe of the restaurant. There is nothing flashy about Winegasm. With wines hailing from France, Italy, Argentina, Russia, Spain and California, it leans more on the side of sophistication rather than snobbery. Service is friendly and the staff is knowledgeable. The unique selection of wines ranges in price as does the rest of the menu. The food is a European fusion of creativity. If you’re looking for small plates to accompany your drinks, Winegasm offers a variety of Socas- tapas friendly cousin from France. There is a delectable choice of cheeses, meats, savory bacon wrapped prunes, warm olives, arugula and feta and chablis shrimp. There are hearty panino and salads for light meals. For more substantial fare, try one of the main courses like skirt steak with cheese, sauteed chicken or pan seared salmon. The crab-cakes are rich and full of taste– and small enough to leave just enough room for the deliciously warm cheese cake. The wine-by-the-glass selection is reasonable, but you’re better off ordering by the bottle- as the selection is much larger. Winegasm also offers brunch specials. The citrus infused pancakes with caramelized apples and berries will send you into a pancake-asm. Choose from the buttery crusted quiche lorraine or florentine with a baby green salad or smoked salmon on multi-grain toast. There are also the conventional egg dishes, socas or croque madame or monsieur- Frances traditional breakfast sandwiches. Winegasm is definitely worth the trip for low key sophisticated fare in a friendly environment. Happy hours run from Tuesday-Saturday 5-7 and wine tasting on Thursday evenings 7-9- Around the World in Seven WinesRead Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
RIP– Closing soon…
Lucky Mojo(5-14 51st Ave btwn Vernon blvd & 5th Long Island City 718-786-7427 delivery available
Finally a restaurant that offers the best of both worlds. Lucky Mojo Brings high brow and low brow together in LIC…how appropriate. It’s easy to find good sushi in the city- but finding good bbq proves to be a challenge. This rustic two story eatery serves bbq ribs, fries, catfish, chili, pulled pork, chicken, burgers and that’s just the downstairs area. Upstairs- there is a full sushi bar offering a variety of fresh sashimi, rolls, and tempura. The food here is good but slightly inconsistent. Although there is a variety of tasty fare hailing from the southern region, they are missing the quintessential pan cornbread that goes with every plate of ribs. The blackened catfish has just the right amount of spice that doesn’t over power the taste. The ribs didn’t fall of the bone, but they are tender and juicy enough to come back for more. There is a variety of traditional side dishes, but the best are collared greens and mashed potatoes. The creamed corn is a bit chewy and the baked beans with rice are bland and fall short of that southern taste. There is outdoor seating on the rooftop deck. If you enjoy sports- every other booth has its own tv mounted on the wall so you can keep track of the score while you scarf down your brisket. The service is friendly but a bit too robust- reminiscent of that super chain called…Fridays. The pastoral wooden interior resembles that of a shanty town diner somewhere in the deep south. Walls are adorned with old concert posters and eclectic artwork. The porch beams are stamped with hundreds of colorful bottle caps. Prices are reasonable and the selection is like no other in the area. Look for their hard-hat specials, 2 for 1 drink happy hour 3-5. The live blues and soul music on Saturday nights is a great addition to the southern-esque atmosphere.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 3 so far )
Cafe Bar 32-90 36th St 718-204-5273
Walking into the Cafe Bar feels like walking into a time warp. The atmosphere is kind of like the set of the classic Brady Bunch, on acid. The mismatched 70’s inspired furniture, stained glass windows, comfy couches and beaded doorway make patrons feel right at home- if home was a cozy beatnik cafe. The full bar offers a multitude of beers, liquors and wines while the food menu offers a transatlantic mix of hearty inexpensive meals. For brunch choose from a variety crepes or a delicious apple and brie omelette. Still hungry? Try the falafel dish, European cheese plates, Mediterranean dips, a Thai dish or the chicken burger. You can have a bite of almost any food genre at Cafe Bar without sacrificing the taste. The cutting edge cafe provides tasty meals at affordable prices. If you just want to relax, Cafe Bar has Wi-Fi and a plethora of coffee and tea drinks and fruit smoothies to sip while you surf. In general the service is amicable, but it’s a good thing that the couches are so comfy- during rush hours, wait service can be spacey, making you wait too long for food only to return to your table to let you know they are out of the dish you ordered. Albeit, staff is consistently friendly. Check out Mondays for live music and Wednesdays for DJ spins. This cafe is definitely worth the trip to LIC.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
LIC Bar (45-58 vernon Blvd) is sure to please just about everyone. From the comfortable surroundings to the up-beat crowd to the down-to-earth bartenders, it’s all around a great place to go, rain or shine. It resembles an old fashioned watering hole with slightly southern features. The exposed brick and rustic wooden tables fit right in with the classic motown music and the throw-back picture booth. Although there is no juke box, this place feels more like a juke joint than a regular pub or bar. There is a patio out back with BBQ and live music in the warmer months. If you’re looking to throw your own private soiree, there is a back room adjacent to the patio. Whatever the occasion may be this place draws a great crowd with reasonably priced draft beer and hard liquor.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )
1221 Astoria Blvd
Astoria, NY 11102 (718) 204-8313 The long, dark and desolate walk towards the end of Astoria boulevard has a light at the end of it: It’s called, Hell Gate Social. The stealthily located bar is just past the library and right before the river. Passers-by shouldn’t be fooled by lack of signage or windowless front. Nor should they be intimidated by the large steel door. Once you step inside this classy lounge, you won’t want to leave. Hell Gate is dimly lit with art work adorning the red walls. Furnishings include comfy black leather couches or a streamline bar, whichever you prefer. The drinks are strong and very reasonably priced. $7 gets you a delicious signature Hell Gate Lemonade, stiff and sour. The bar tenders are friendly and clientele laid back. In cooler months, it’s best to hit this super sleek place after hours, when the crowd trickles in. Fridays are punk rock night and Sundays offer B-movies and local shorts around 8:30pm. In the summer, the outdoor garden welcomes the crowd with starry nights and various films screenings. Be sure to call in ahead of time for on-the-fly events like live bands or burlesque. The bar is named after the area of the East River that is famous for its rough currents; tossing boats into waters and never returning them to land. But don’t worry, the only currents in this place are the wave of the friendly bartenders and the contemporary atmosphere.
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