NYCGuide

The Best Restaurants In Long Island City

Sichuan, Peruvian, Afghan, and more great food in LIC.
The Best Restaurants In Long Island City image

photo credit: Emily Schindler

In the past few years, shiny towers have been popping up in this part of Queens like they're building a new SimCity, and new restaurants have mushroomed in their shadows. You'll find hot pot and mapo tofu in the next-generation Chinatown emerging here. But you'll also find biryani and birria tacos, fancy supermarket sushi, and Afghan kebabs. By the time you get to the end of this list, three more new spots will have opened up—so consider our guide a starting point for the LIC restaurants to prioritize.

THE SPOTS

photo credit: Alex Staniloff

Korean

Long Island City

$$$$Perfect For:Unique Dining ExperienceFine DiningKeeping It Kind Of HealthySpecial Occasions
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Little Banchan Shop is to banchan lovers what Graceland is to Elvis fans. And Meju, an eight-person chef's counter hidden inside this neighborhood pantry, is kind of like the Jungle Room. If you already make your own kimchi, you’ll geek out over the $185 tasting menu here, with each course highlighting a different Korean ferment. Otherwise, be warned: Dinner may feel like an initiation ritual, and the chef's enthusiasm for microbes is infectious. If dishes like buttery amberjack with gochujang, or Miyazaki beef topped with small-batch ssamjang don't convert you, your first taste of 128-year-old soy sauce will.


photo credit: Emily Schindler

$$$$Perfect For:Casual Weeknight Dinner

From the people behind impossible-to-reserve restaurants Dhamaka and Semma, Adda is a more accessible neighborhood spot in LIC, and it checks a large number of boxes on our Ideal Restaurant Checklist. The short menu is good enough to travel for—with everything from goat brains to delicious curries and a sparkling biryani—and nearly everything costs less than $30. The only real catch is that it’s stuck between a busy stretch of Queens Boulevard and a big overpass, so it's a better choice for a casual weeknight dinner than anything fancy.


Casa Enrique is a Queens institution, and their crunchy fish tacos, spicy ceviche, and rich mole de Piaxtla are essential eating whenever you're in the mood for unfussy Mexican dishes. They also have seasonal watermelon margaritas, which you can drink around a big bar while watching soccer on TV. For a casual date night, sit at one of the white cafe tables in the spacious dining room. It’s a simple and timeless LIC spot that’s become one of our favorite places to eat over the years, and we don’t see that—or anything else about it—changing anytime soon.


Located in a strip mall on Queens Boulevard at the far eastern edge of Long Island City, Rinclón Melania is a fantastic choice for a casual lunch or dinner. The menu consists of Ecuadorian classics, and everything from the steak to the salchipapas is comforting and well-executed. But the ceviche is the biggest reason to come here. It’s perfectly tangy, with a substantial amount of fish that tastes like it just hopped in a cab and arrived here straight from the dock. Sit on a comfy banquette, and eat some with a side of tostones.


This food truck started in LIC, before word spread about their tender, sopping wet birria, and they expanded into the other boroughs. The original truck is parked right by the waterfront near Gantry Plaza Park. The tacos, mulitas, and consomme at Chinelos all taste deliciously cilantro-forward, with a more herbaceous stew than the adobo-heavy one you find at spots like Birria-Landia. It’s also a good deal: You can get three huge birria tacos for about $14.


There are several Asian groceries in LIC, but Japanese market Mogmog is our favorite because of their kitchen, which turns out incredible maki and rainbow chirashi bowls, hot food specials, and giant shaved ices. If you don't mind eating sushi out of a pre-packaged plastic container on their outdoor cafe tables, you can have a lunch that rivals many upscale sushiyas.


Full of hanging lanterns and wooden lattices, Hupo is a welcoming restaurant with the most extensive Sichuan menu of any Chinese spot in the neighborhood. You’ll find things like cumin lamb, mala dry pots, and mapo tofu topped with a handful of ground Sichuan peppercorn. Stop by with a date or a group for casual dinner and drinks—there’s a full bar, and with two dinings rooms, it’s easy to get a table.


We’ve taken way too many dates to Takumen, but it’s just too easy to impress people with this cool, izakaya-inspired restaurant that looks like a Japanese cottage and has rotating art exhibits that might include doodles of disembodied butts. The wings with Thai green curry, miso, or soy garlic are the best thing on the menu, but they also serve fun fusion obanzai, ramen, and rice bowls. It's more of a cafe during the day, but can get pretty crowded during dinner time, so come with someone you’re hoping to share your personal space with.


Sami’s Astoria location is one of our favorite Afghan restaurants, and we support the spread of their kebab gospel as far as it will go. For now, that’s just this second, smaller location in LIC. The lamb and beef kofta skewers, borani banjan, and tangy leek aushak are just as good as at the original spot, but there’s a lot less room for groups in this slender space, and most people come in for takeout. There are a few tables, and if you do eat in, you’ll get to enjoy some fresh naan right out of the oven.


Nai Brother does one thing, and does it well: sliced meat in hot broth. Everything about this casual Sichuan soup spot is so simple, a robot could run the place. And one kind of does. A human will take your order, but your big bowl of soup will arrive on top of a flashing robot that glides around the tables. The pungent, pickley broths are organized by heat level, and there are some super mild options like sun-dried tomato. That makes Nai Brothers a good choice for a group dinner where you don't need to leave your spice-sensitive friends behind.


In an area that lacks a real brunch scene, the colorful ceviches and fruit-flavored pisco sours at Jora are an ideal way to kick off a boozy afternoon in Hunters Point. This Peruvian restaurant gets packed on weekends—they don't take reservations, but you won’t have to wait more than ten minutes for a table. Get a hightop in the back bar area, where there's a livelier crowd, and follow your ceviche with an order of lomo saltado. Or, if you must have eggs at brunch, get the aji de gallina: the creamy chicken stew comes with a quail egg on top.


R40 is for meat lovers. That is, two lovers who really like to eat meat. The Argentinian BBQ restaurant is one of the best options in LIC for a special date or celebratory dinner, in what feels like a fancy getaway house upstate. An obvious choice would be the $105 parrillada platter for two, but that might leave you too full to try all of the other non-grilled dishes. The crab empanadas, focaccia, and seasonal vegetable dishes, like zucchini carpaccio, are worth making room for too.


Every neighborhood should have a solid hot pot spot. In LIC, Da Long Yi fills that need. Located in a big, bright space on top of a mall, the second NYC outpost of this international chain has beautifully carved interiors, right out of an Anthropologie catalog. With a sauce bar and a regular bar, it's perfect for a slightly dressed up evening. The prices are a little higher than some other hot pot places around town, but you get a lot of food. At $66, the value combo for two easily ends up being enough food for three.


You'll find Go Nonna tucked away a little farther from the 7 train, in a quieter pocket of LIC. The deeply comforting Italian-via-Argentina cooking is well worth the walk—don't miss the chicken parm and the textbook-perfect tiramisu. The excellent fresh pastas are also a great post-brewery, IPA-absorbing option after hitting nearby Fifth Hammer.


Sapps serves sushi, ramen, and other casual Japanese food in what looks like a millennial-coded tap room. We'd usually steer clear of sushi establishments with rolls named “Pico De Salmon,” but the food here is surprisingly good, and you’ll feel like you’re back at your college town’s best student bar, floating from table to table as though you know everyone in the room. Sapps is open until 11pm on Fridays and Saturdays, with an extensive alcohol collection and matcha churros on hand. Come by on karaoke night for the full experience.


Tournesol has been open for a couple of decades, but it would take us a couple more to tire of coming here. This dark bistro serves dishes like duck liver terrine and moules frites at relatively affordable prices—compared to much of the other fancy French food around town. You’ll get your white tablecloths and fine wine, but it’s totally unstuffy, with a lively crowd of regulars spilling out onto the outdoor tables. We especially like the croquettes and escargots, both of which are under $15.


Cyclo looks like the sort of cozy kitchen in which Goldilocks would make herself at home. It even has a white picket fence outside. This Vietnamese restaurant serves phở, not porridge, but we wouldn’t be above breaking in to eat here. It’s one of the only Vietnamese spots in the neighborhood, and for a quick, go-to lunch, their shimmering beef phở and big bánh mì are just right.

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