Frequent travelers might think they know everything about what’s hot and what’s not in New York City; they most certainly don’t need to hear from me about the exclusive restaurants uptown and the sexy clubs downtown. These spots have been written about, and copied and pasted about, for years. But for the more adventurous travelers looking to find something less discovered in the Big Apple, I recently traveled outside the lines for a different kind of NYC trip.
My boyfriend and I took off from Dallas and spent a few days in Queens to discover just what this underrated borough has to offer. We had both traveled to New York many times and were looking for a different experience outside of Chelsea and the Upper East Side. I knew NYC was much more than the clear-cut tourist path I had tread before, so we threw out our usual map. I'm so glad we did.
Situated right on Vernon Boulevard (which would turn out to be my favorite area for foodie finds), the Wyndham Garden Hotel (44-29 Ninth Street) is central to the best that Queens, has to offer while still giving you easy access to Manhattan (take the N,Q, or F trains). The staff was very friendly and knows about the best gay bars and clubs in both boroughs. The rooms are casual, comfortable, and feature stunning views of Manhattan and the Queensborough Bridge. Sure, it wasn’t the Ritz Carlton, but it satisfied all of my needs as a picky gay man without robbing my 30-something budget from anything else that I wanted to splurge on during my trip.
If you are anything like me, the best part of any vacation is finding secret culinary finds. There would be no spinach salads with the dressing on the side on this trip, so we started walking and looking for a restaurant that looked promising. After just a couple blocks, we found the quant but stylish L.I.C. Market (21-52 44th Drive). This farm-to-table concept had an easy menu that focused on elevating the classic dishes we all love.
L.I.C. Market features an ever-changing menu showcasing seasonal vegetables and classic dishes. The pulled-pork sandwich, their artisan take on the Cuban, had the perfect profile of slow-cooked pork and sweet and tangy fixings. But the best part of our lunch was the array of vegetable side dishes we ordered. The broccolini with bacon and fig, the shredded Brussels sprouts with roasted tomatoes, and the braised green lentils were so delicious and decadent that they could have been a meal by themselves. And coming from a Texan who loves his beef, that is saying something.
In the evening, we stumbled upon Woodbines Craft Kitchen (47-10 Vernon Boulevard), a local restaurant serving authentic pub food with a modern flare. Within minutes, we were invited to a table of friendly strangers for a complimentary whiskey tasting. We might have been the only gay couple at the table, but we might have not. The scene in the Long Island City neighborhood of Queens is a hippie-chic, come-as-you-may style that will have you asking yourself, “gay or hipster?” The good news is, it doesn’t really matter.
Located just next to Woodbines Craft Kitchen, Spokesman Cycles (49-04 Vernon Boulevard) is a full-service bike shop that offers rentals for just $7 an hour. Vernon is only a block away from the riverfront, which is full of bike trails, parks, and sprawling views of Manhattan. And it is a far cry from the crowded streets and bike trails located in Manhattan. The city felt like our own, and we were quickly transformed into two kids, with the city acting as our playground.