Long Island City has a lot of very good food that you should be eating. Along with some of the best Mexican, ramen, BBQ, and burgers that you can find anywhere in the city, LIC also has a bunch of quality neighborhood spots worth knowing about. So whether you live here and are looking for a new weekend brunch place, work in a big LIC office building and are looking to mix it up at lunchtime, or you’re going to be in the area for the first time and have no idea where to eat dinner, this guide has you covered. Here is our list of the best spots to eat in Long Island City.
This is our favorite Mexican restaurant in New York City. You won’t find elaborate decor or pistachios in the guacamole here - Casa Enrique serves things like ridiculously good steak tacos and chile relleno. The days of this place flying under the radar are long gone, so while you may still see soccer on a projector in the bar area, you’ll probably also see mothers teaching their kids the proper pronunciation of “Michelin” and “Oaxaca.”
Even if you aren’t a barbecue aficionado, and your first thought when you hear people refer to “the bark” on a brisket is to wonder what a brisket tree looks like, you should still make a trip to John Brown Smokehouse for some high-quality BBQ. Their burnt ends, which are also referred to as Kansas City caviar, may be the best bite of BBQ in the whole city. They tend to sell out by early evening, so consider coming during the day, when you can also sit in the backyard, drink beers at picnic tables, and listen to live music. If you don’t like day-drinking or you have a job that frowns on leaving midday to get BBQ in Queens, then come any time, and get the lamb sausage and rib tips if the burnt ends are scratched off the menu.
Debating the best ramen in New York may not ruin first dates as often as arguments about pizza or bagels, but it’s still a topic with many passionate viewpoints. If you’re in the camp that’d take Mu Ramen over Ippudo or Ivan Ramen any day, we’re not going to call you crazy. The ramen here tends to be a little less fatty than at other spots, so you get a ton of flavor without feeling terrible. This place doesn’t take reservations and only has about 20 seats, so make yourself comfortable once you’re finally seated and try some of the very good small plates, like the okonomiyaki.
It would take us a long time to get tired of coming to Tournesol. This dark French bistro serves good and highly affordable dishes, like duck liver terrine and mussels with french fries. The French wait staff is very friendly and professional, making jokes and keeping wine glasses full while informing you about ingredients and preparations. We’re fans of the goat cheese croquettes and escargots, both of which are under $10. Whether for a full meal or some wine and small plates, this is one of our favorite spots in Long Island City.
The food at M. Wells Steakhouse is what we imagine Rockefeller and Carnegie ate when they got together for working dinners. While chit-chatting about taking over the world and secretly plotting to destroy each other, they probably ate things like bone marrow escargots and the $4.50 porterhouse for two ($150 nowadays at M Wells). The space, which is a former auto-body repair shop, is a large dark room with a few metal garage doors and an open kitchen with a wood-burning grill. The food here is expensive and decadent, so expect salads to come buried in melted cheese, and wagyu and venison drenched in butter and jus. There are certainly better high-end food options around the city, but if you want to feel like a robber baron while eating in a cool space in Queens, this is the spot.
This small cafeteria is located within MoMA PS1, a huge modern art museum on Jackson Avenue, and in order to get inside, you need to walk through the museum’s entrance, a big, spookily barren courtyard out front, and then down a couple hallways within the Museum. It’s run by the same people behind M. Wells Steakhouse, an expensive steakhouse a few blocks away, which serves things like bone-marrow escargot. Here, the menu rotates weekly, but you can expect a couple salads and heavy soups. They do close at 6pm, so keep it in mind for an afternoon drink and snack (like tartare or a terrine) more than for a full meal. The dinette is laid out like a classroom, with chalkboards, school tables and chairs, so if you ever daydreamed about drinking a beer at your desk in social studies class, this is your chance.
Long Island City needed a beer garden where you could challenge friends to drinking games that you haven’t played since sophomore year. A place where you could lock arms at 2pm on a Saturday and sing songs that are unintelligible to everyone else at the bar. That’s what Bierocracy is for. This big Eastern European beer hall has lots of communal tables filled with groups watching sports on projector screens, and serves bar snacks like buffalo wings and giant pretzels, as well as heavy mains like pork schnitzel and sausage platters. The bacon cheeseburger with crispy onions is good, but know that you’ll almost certainly wind up with melted cheese and aioli on multiple articles of clothing. Bierocracy is on Jackson Ave a block from the 7 and G trains, so keep it in mind if you’re looking for an alternative to Radegast, Spritzenhaus, or Houston Hall.
The vast majority of quality eating and drinking in this neighborhood can be found in Hunter’s Point and further south (closer to Brooklyn). Gordo’s Cantina, on the other hand, is up at the Queensboro Bridge. Keep this small spot on your radar if you’re looking for some good chunky guacamole, carnitas tacos, and house margaritas. This would also be a good place to coat your stomach before cocktails at nearby Dutch Kills.
If we could read French, Cafe Henri would be a great spot to hang out for a few hours with today’s copy of Le Monde while snacking on an omelette or a crepe. This is a casual French bistro from the same people behind Casa Enrique, and it serves food from 8am-1130pm everyday. We can’t read French and wouldn’t know where to get a copy of Le Monde, so we tend to come here for a casual afternoon snack with friends. Share the escargots and soft bread or the mussels and fries, and some glasses of wine.
Every neighborhood should have restaurants like Diner in Williamsburg, Westville in the East Village, and LIC Market in Long Island City - utility spots where you can reliably get high-quality, uncomplicated food. LIC Market serves things like hearty salads and vegetable sides, stews in the winter, and of course, a solid burger. Make sure to buy a bottle of the housemade hot sauce on your way out.
You could call The Green Street a Korean BBQ spot, but you wouldn’t be painting a very full picture. Sure, you can have meats and vegetables grilled on your table in front of you here, but you can also come at 9am for a protein shake or paleo zucchini frittata, or stop by for a bibimbap with beets and falafel at lunch. They do everything pretty well, so use The Green Street for health-focused all-day Mediterranean or for low-key Korean BBQ.
If you’re looking for a classic burger in Long Island City - no praline bacon or spicy aioli - then Corner Bistro is your move. This location and the West Village original look almost identical, and very little differs between the two menus as well. Your order should be the famous bistro burger, which is also similarly massive and greasy at both locations. The LIC spot does have a couple more options for sides, like fried pickles and buffalo wings.
Woodbines is a relatively dark neighborhood pub, but it’s not the kind where bathroom walls are decorated with scribbled phone numbers. They serve good cocktails and you could definitely come here with a date. But we actually like Woodbines best with a group, when you can share a bunch of interesting bar food, like the lamb nachos with guacamole. They also have an extensive craft beer menu - just cut your friend off before he writes your number and, “Call for a good time,” on the bathroom wall.
There are coffee shops in Long Island City with more prominent locations - Sweetleaf, Toby’s Estate, the big chains - but 51st Bakery & Cafe is a popular neighborhood hang despite its small space on a side street. In the morning, people sit at a communal table and seats along the walls while eating avocado toast on Balthazar bread. Lunch options, which rotate daily, include things like chickpea smash or roast chicken, available as salads or on baguettes.
Every neighborhood needs a classic 24-hour diner, and this is that for LIC. Court Square Diner has been in the same location just off Jackson Avenue for over 70 years, and is typically full of people who seem to be regulars. People who probably have a favorite counter seat or booth and can just walk in and say, “I’ll have the usual.” The massive menu has all of the classics, from a bowl of cereal to a turkey club to baked meatloaf. The staff is very friendly, and we get the sense that they treat everyone like regulars. Even if your “usual” is a 4am order of the pancakes or chicken parm. Or both.
The Inkan serves big portions of Latin American food in two separate spaces on the same street corner - a small dining room and a separate bar area with TVs. Peruvian dishes occupy a large portion of the menu, so expect plenty of seafood and ceviche, but focus your attention on their specialty, the roast chicken. A half chicken ($7.50) and some plantains should make for a great meal. This is also one of the few spots in the city where you can get a solid pisco sour, best enjoyed during nice weather in the restaurant’s enclosed backyard.
Hibino is a casual sushi spot about a block from the 7 and G trains, so it’s a convenient option for a quick dinner or takeout on your way home. They serve solid affordable sushi plates, like a 15-piece sashimi platter for $21, and also make their own tofu in-house.
Jackson’s serves mostly southern American food in a casual corner space on the same block as the Vernon-Jackson 7 station. You can get fried chicken and waffles, and some other comfort foods, like bacon mac n cheese. Happy hour drinks and snacks are popular here, especially when they have live music. It’s also a good weekend brunch option.