A day in Long Island City
Despite the recent influx of glitzy condo buildings, this Queens 'hood is still a small, close-knit community, thanks to its quirky blend of urban quaintness and locally focused commercial development. Snag a window seat at Sweetleaf (10-93 Jackson Ave at 11th St; 917-832-6726, sweetleaflic.com), a small caf located right on the Queens side of the Pulaski Bridge. Fortify yourself for the day ahead with a homemade goat cheese, pepper and pear scone ($3.25) and the aptly titled iced Rocket Fuel ($3.75), a potent potable combining coffee, chicory and maple syrup.
Jackson Avenue's formidable stretch of cultural institutions is anchored by MoMA PS1 (22-25 Jackson Ave at 46th Ave; 718-784-2084, momaps1.org; suggested admission $10), which opened in the neighborhood in the 1970s. Cross the street to check out graffiti mecca 5Pointz (45-46 Davis St at Jackson Ave; 317-219-2685, 5ptz.com), where you may be able to catch taggers at work as they tweak the constantly evolving exhibition. Visit it while you still can—rumors predict the landmark's demise at the hands of real-estate developers. Farther up the block, you'll find SculptureCenter (44-19 Purves St at Jackson Ave; 718-361-1750, sculpture-center.org; suggested donation $5), a former trolley-repair shop with a peaceful back courtyard.
Wander back down Jackson Avenue and grab a table at The Creek and the Cave (10-93 Jackson Ave at 11th St; 718-706-8783, creeklic.com) to chow down on inexpensive, fresh Mexican fare. During its weekend brunch (Sat, Sun 1--4pm), choose from specials like a hearty breakfast burrito ($9.95). The venue also hosts comedy shows every night, and you never know who will show up: Community star Donald Glover dropped by for a set in April.
Hang a right onto 49th Avenue, which intersects with Vernon Boulevard, the area's busiest shopping thoroughfare. Start at fLorEsta (51-02 Vernon Blvd at 51st Ave; 917-612-4446, florestanyc.com) to gawk at beautiful custom bouquets (from $25) featuring unexpected blooms like rich purple artichokes. Then, check out Just Things (47-28 Vernon Blvd at 47th Rd, 917-558-4869), a neighborhood staple and a hoarder's paradise, whose shelves are stocked with vintage glassware ($6--$15) and used books (from $1). Just down the block, Ethereal Boutique (47-38 Vernon Blvd between 47th Rd and 48th Ave; 718-482-8884, etherealnyc.com) offers upscale accessories (like an adjustable filigree ring by local label A Girl of Yesterday; $25) in an ultra-femme setting, with crystal chandeliers and a giant Audrey Hepburn poster on the exposed brick wall.
Stroll down 47th Road toward the waterfront—use the large condo buildings that have popped up along the shore as your guide. Your destination is Gantry Plaza State Park (48th Ave at the East River, 718-786-6385), so named for the reclaimed massive gantries—which were used to unload railroad cars from barges—that are located throughout the green space. It's also near one of the neighborhood's most iconic markers: the giant Pepsi-Cola sign. Take a load off on one of the hammocks or wooden chaise lounges that are located throughout the park.
Your break will help you gear up for the 10- to 15-minute walk to LIC Market (21-52 44th Dr at 23rd St; 718-361-0013, licmarket.com). The space features whitewashed exposed- brick walls and a menu that incorporates produce from the Farm at Miller's Crossing in Hudson, New York. Start with the pleasantly bitter endive salad with grana padano cheese ($7), and then sample chef Alex Schindler's spicy spaghetti, with roasted corn and jalapeos ($11).
Toast to your Long Island City adventures at local favorite Dutch Kills (27-24 Jackson Ave between Dutch Kills and Queens Sts; 718-383-2724, dutchkillsbar.com), a spacious, wood-paneled bar. Settle into a booth and try an inventive cocktail—we like the El Diablo, a spicy blend of tequila plata, ginger syrup, lime and soda water ($11), or the Don Lockwood, a mix of bourbon, Scotch, maple syrup and chocolate bitters ($11).
Why I love Long Island City
Juan Carlo Bermudez
"This area is about peace, relaxing and having the same quality as Manhattan, but at Queens prices. There are many beautiful restaurants. Testaccio (47-30 Vernon Blvd between 47th Rd and 48th Ave; 718-937-2900) and Manducatis Rustica (46-33 Vernon Blvd between 47th Ave and 46th Rd; 718-937-1312) are both amazing."
"Dutch Kills is one of my favorite places. [It has] the cocktails you couldn't find before in Queens—you'd have to go to Williamsburg or Manhattan."