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May 19, 2008 08:01 AM

Upscale restaurants of Queens

So I was thinking... we must have a few upscale restaurants in Queens worthy of their Manhattan counterparts. I am not an expert in the pricey and upscale dining, but only because our wallet doesn't allow us to indulge. However, I would like to know a few as a backup for those special occasions when you feel like money is of no concern (ok, which is never..) Well, I thought of three, which happen to have quality food and elegant ambiance. Please add some of your nominations.

1. Water's Edge (LIC)
2. Peter Lugars Steakhouse (Great Neck)
3. Piccola Venezia (Astoria)

It's pretty sad how many upscale restaurants I know. :( Help!

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  1. Caffe on the Green (Bay Terrace)

    2 Replies
    1. re: ajs42548

      I thought about that one, but isn't it more of a Catering Hall? The space is great, but considering its size I wasn't sure if it's adequate for a satisfactory gourmet experience. Am I being assumptive?

      1. re: Inthemood

        While there are many affairs there, it's mostly a restaurant. You need a reservation on weekends if not during the week.

    2. I think you're looking for something like Eleven Madison Park or Gramercy Tavern to which a counterpart in Queens is tough if not impossible to find. So the problem isn't necessarily not knowing the upscale restaurants, there are just so few. For whatever reason (and I could think of many) we just don't have those types of restaurants in Queens.

      But along these lines I would suggest DB Wine Bar for thoughtful and well-prepared new/modern American with some Italian, French and Spanish accents. The atmosphere is much like what you would find in Manhattan or Brooklyn and they take their food seriously. It's a standout in the neighborhood. The prices aren't break the bank either (dinner for 2, including a few drinks is about $125 all in).

      3 Replies
      1. re: pellegrino31

        I know that everyone is wild about DB and it's pretty much in my neighborhood, but I am going to be the only one to complain (just a little). The tables are way to close to one another and the noise level is a little annoying on the weekend. If the space was slightly bigger, perhaps I would visit the place more often. I don't know what has become of me, but I don't care for elbowing others and some people have peculiar habits of listening in on other people's conversations. And don't let me get started on Dee's, something about the construction makes the place just painfully loud. At times it feels like a gigantic cafeteria, that's why we hardly ever go there, although perhaps it'll change when we decide to start a family.

        How about My Kitchen, still haven't been there. But it does have an outdoor garden. Wait, we were discussing upscale restaurants in Queens...

        So I guess except for Water's Edge there are none. By the way, I am really not all that keen on PV decor, it's a little tacky. Park Side looks a little better but their menu is a little boring. Would Park Side qualify as a semi-upscale restaurant? I guess I want Carroll Gardens/Manhattan restaurants.

        1. re: Inthemood

          Interesting comments on DB. I never felt like I was cramped or worried about being too close to other people's tables, but then again many restaurants in NYC are like that (except at the higher echelons where they can afford to have a bigger space but less tables) so I guess I just accept it. I've been to a bunch of Carroll Gardens restaurants and can't think of one that has a lot of space and no cramped seating. Even some of their higher end restaurants like the Grocery is tiny.

          I also don't really notice the sound at DB - I think it's a fun level of noise without being too hectic. Most other FH restaurants have a really boring atmosphere. At least at DB the crowd is modern and interested in good food.

          1. re: pellegrino31

            Actually only recently we dined at Taverna Kyclades which we love for its' fantastic seafood and lemony potatoes, however the space!!! We sat right next to a couple of guys who were more interested in listening to our conversation rather than making one with each other. And yes, we touched elbows. As far as our conversation went, well...I had to kind of yell things out to be heard. I guess I don't mind so much, but my parents...never in a million years. Uvarara has a perfect atmosphere for me, interesting decor and interesting food.

            I do agree with you about FH and the boring atmosphere. The crowd is interesting at DB and the decor is pretty good, Mood has good food and good atmosphere as well. I suppose I am a quite kinda gal.

      2. Great Neck is in Nassau County, so we can strike Peter Lugar's off the list. For fine dining, it's slim pickins' in Queens.

        21 Replies
        1. re: Angela Roberta

          We can just cheat a little and pretend that LI is an extension of Queens, otherwise this is going to be a depressing and self destructive thread. :)

          1. re: Inthemood

            i would put tournesol in LIC on that list. it's not upscale, like EMP, but it's still much "fancier" food than what is often found in queens.
            and oysters next door at domaine qualify as upscale to me. i never leave that place with a tab under $100, but it's always worth it. i don't know anywhere else in this part of queens to get oysters on the 1/2.....

              1. re: Yaxpac

                I've never been. I did read a few reviews which discuss the higher than comfortable noise level and a very crowded space.

                1. re: Yaxpac

                  Way overrated. The menu is as long as the QB can't make everything good.

                  1. re: Yaxpac

                    I was just there recently and I would not recommend it. Overpriced (1 person with no dessert and 1 Glass of house wine) with lunch costing me $63 total! Food is mediocre at best and simply not worth going there.

                    1. re: bohdand

                      bohdand, I am curious as to how your lunch bill came to $63. I had dinner there this past Sunday night; four adults, glasses of wine, appetizers, salads, entrees... Came to $160 plus tip. Service and food were outstanding all around and I would definitely recommend the place for a special occasion. Yes, it was a bit noisy, but I liked how lively the place was on a Sunday after 9:00pm.

                      Trattoria L'Incontro
                      21-76 31st St, Queens, NY 11105

                  2. re: tracyk

                    Tournesol is pretty good, wouldn't say that it's that upscale but it is certainly tasty. I'll take Gascogne (manhat) and Jolie (Carroll G) any day over Tournesol. Although considering lack of French restaurants in Queens, Tournesol is a great choice.

                  3. re: Inthemood

                    I find it hard to believe people are moaning about the lack of "upscale" dining in Queens. If you want the "upscale" that is a dime a dozen in Manhattan then eat in Manhattan. Queens is not Manhattan and that is why I love it. I eat out in Manhattan maybe once or twice a year and I eat out in Queens about once a week, yet I never feel my dining experience is less refined and nuanced than Manhattan.

                    To name a few, places like Malagueta, Tournesol, Trattoria L'Incontro, Arcos, La Vuelta, Manducatis, Sripraphai, and De Mole certainly do not leave me wishing "if only I had the extra $$$ to spend on a really great restaurant..." Maybe they don't all have white linens (though many do), or excellent service (though many do) but they have one intangible that Manhattan and even some Brooklyn restaurants lack: soul.

                    Of course, we don't have any place like Per Se or Del Posto but I don't really see that as a problem. If I win the lottery and want a place like that, I'll sit on the subway for 20 minutes to go there.

                    1. re: Astoria Lurker

                      It does seem a rather strange complaint given the treasure trove of culinary riches that Queens offers, and that no place, not even Manhattan, can really match. But the economics, demographics, and history of Queens does mean fewer big fancy dining experiences, almost no food on wherever the gourmet culinary front lines are these days, and many more places where good to great to incredible soulful food can be had at reasonable, and sometimes unbelievable, prices.

                      In fact, upon reflection about this question, beyond the places already named the finest dining in Queens in terms of the OP's intent may just be some of the Chinese palaces in Flushing or some of the more upscale Korean places out Northern Blvd. Truly fine dining.

                      Otherwise, I agree with the Lurker. That's what the subway is for.

                      1. re: Woodside Al

                        Al and Lurker,
                        I think you guys are being kind of defensive here. The original post from IntheMood barely even qualifies as criticism of the borough, and subsequent posts aren't much worse.

                        Moreover, the complaint is apt. Heck yes, there is fantastic eating to be had in the borough, and, heck yes, it's fair to acknowledge that it also lacks spectacular "high end" restaurants. It's... the truth! Especially if recent reviews of The Water's Edge are true--way downhill from its peak, even if the view is nice.

                        That said, I think there is something about your pushback which I do sympathize with. Inthemood seems to be wishing for Queens to be something that it isn't, and there is the strong sense that you can't have it all, and we wish Inthemood would just accept this. Piccola V is an awesome special occasion restaurant, IMO--actually underrated by some 'Hounds. But of course, many of the so-called "upscale" restaurants in the borough are lacking when compared to their Manhattan counterparts (IMO, it's absurd to implicitly compare a wonderful but entirely casual bistro like Tournesol to the best French restaurants in Manhattan). So, yeah, you just head to Manhattan. And you realize that with all of the value (culinary and otherwise) one gets from living in Queens, there is an upside: you can actually afford an expensive dinner out in Manhattan on occasion!

                        1. re: MarcInSunnysideGardens

                          Geez you folks make it seem like living in Queens = poverty

                          1. re: MarcInSunnysideGardens

                            I got defensive due to the "this is going to be a depressing and self destructive thread" comment. I don't find the dining scene in Queens to be anywhere near depressing and I don't think I am in the minority.

                            1. re: Astoria Lurker

                              It's the old argument of decor and service over food. For me, no contest. Food wins over all. Every time no matter what.

                              1. re: NYJewboy

                                Lurker, I agree "depressing" is a comment I disagree with as well. Perhaps IntheMood would like to take it back?

                                Maybe I'm otherwise reading too little into Inthemood's comments, but in my case it's not the argument of decor and service over food. In a wide variety of categories, Queens has more delicious restaurants than Manhattan. But there's absolutely nothing wrong with acknowledging that, of course, we don't have food like Per Se's or Babbo's or Daniel's or wherever, and if one is seeking high-end wallop, you're going to do better in Manhattan (or Brooklyn, for that matter) than Manhattan. Manhattan is OF COURSE going to be much better at high end temples like this--and while you pay for the decor and service at these places, the food is absolutely spectacular. And that's a wonderful thing about Manhattan. I see no reason to deny that. We just have many great things about Queens, too.

                                1. re: MarcInSunnysideGardens

                                  I just took Inthemood's post for what it was -- he's just looking for some upscale restaurants in Queens. I don't think he was bashing Queens restaurants at all. And I think this "depressing" comment had more to do with more of an affordability issue than the fact that it was sad that there are so few upscale restaurants in Queens.

                                  I grew up in Queens but have lived in Manhattan for a while. Queens does have some terrific restaurants. But you're right that you're not going to find something like Per Se or Daniel in Queens. Luckily, NYC has a great subway system and one need not be deprived of something like A Fan Ti or Per Se. You can have both. But I can also understand how you sometimes want something right in your hood.

                            2. re: MarcInSunnysideGardens


                              Thanks for defending me from the defenses of others, however I can't help but chuckle at last part of your post which expresses a certain level of disdain for my inquiry. Talk about constructive criticism.

                            3. re: Woodside Al

                              No one is questioning the "culinary riches that Queens offers," at least I'm not. It seems I've struck a cord with many who perhaps at one time also questioned the availability of fine dining in Queens.

                              1. re: Astoria Lurker

                                Well dear Lurker, I appreciate the passion with which you defend Queens, although frankly the "defense" is not really needed in this thread since I wasn't attacking the borough in any way. If my writing, in any way, hinted at an attack I apologize.

                                I am fully aware of the fact that Manhattan is the mecca of "posh" and "upscale." However, my question addressed Queens specifically. One of the advantages of having an upscale restaurant in Queens is the traffic, parking, space and slightly lower prices (due to slightly lower rent). I don't see why it would be so terrible/offensive to wish for a few upscale restaurants with a view of a some park or perhaps the waterfront.

                                20 minutes on the subway is possible for some who live in Astoria but not for others who live in Kew Gardens. Lucky you.

                            4. Does any one think Sapori d'Ischia would fit into this (maybe not too elegant though), but I think the food is amazing (and expensive for the neighborhood ... just like Manhattan!).

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: mepm231

                                I'm totally a fan, it's a really good place, but not in league with Manhattan's best upscale Italians. Which is fine!

                              2. Ok, instead of addressing each and every poster I am just going to state everything in the following post.

                                First of all, I am glad that everyone had such a passionate reaction, because it demonstrates true love for food and not just a desire to be part of the "in crowd" which goes after "the scene." However, some of you ended up getting a little uptight about the post and lost their sense of humor (perhaps some of you were really hungry).

                                The post was light hearted, and pretty straight forward. The "depressing" comment was a joke which should have been interpreted as such, considering the little smiling face which followed the comment. Perhaps it wasn't a "ha-ha" joke but it wasn't a serious jab at those who are such loyal residents and lovers of Queens.

                                The real intention of my post was to get some good ideas for picking an elegant restaurant for my in-laws, who are not New Yorkers. They are an older couple, set in their ways and pretty particular about their food and atmosphere. The don't like the fancy Asian restaurants, the food is too exotic for them. They don't care to for the adventurous pursuits of complex and novel flavors of different cultures. They are from Mid-West, they like their steak, their American and Italian food. They don't like crowed settings and don't care so much for the "hip" New York vibe, but they do like more upscale and quiet settings. Before you start getting into your mode of "then get your ass to Manhattan," they don't want to travel that far from Queens. Sounds like a very complicated situation, leaving me with just a few choices..

                                The above is pretty unnecessary to state, instead I asked a simple questions. I hope that some of you can stop pouting and needlessly defending Queens. I just wanted some ideas, because I was frankly in need of more than just a couple of choices.

                                And thanks to Miss Needle for being the most understanding one, and not needling me as others did. :)

                                19 Replies
                                1. re: Inthemood

                                  Seriously, though, upscale (in the best sense of the word) and quiet? In our borough? It ain't happening.

                                  1. re: Inthemood

                                    You're welcome. I think some of the defensiveness may come from the fact that a lot of Queens folks (myself included) have been the butt of jokes for years. : )

                                    Queens really is a wonderful place to live.

                                    1. re: Miss Needle

                                      Oh I understand...Most people who visit NY hardly ever think about seeing Queens. Brooklyn...yes...because it's so bohemian and romantic and featured in many movies, yeah yeah. I love Queens because it's not "trendy," it's "exclusive." :)

                                      I love old Forest Hills with the beautiful lawns and trees and elegant houses/mansions. I love Kew Gardens, because it still maintains its old charm of Dutch architecture and I love Astoria for its hustle and bustle. In fact every neighborhood has a unique character, unlike Brooklyn which has only a few interesting neighborhood and the rest is quite grimy and often dangerous.

                                      1. re: Inthemood

                                        I love those neighborhoods as well for the same reasons. When I suggested to DH that we move to Astoria instead of living in Manhattan because we can get a LOT more space, he looked like he was about to have a heart attack. Those two neighborhoods are kind of equidistant to Manhattan and a lot of the Queens eating.

                                        1. re: Miss Needle

                                          Yes, I guess to each his/her own and according to age or phase. In my early twenties I wanted to be in the city, in the middle of it all. Life seemed so exciting there.

                                          Now I love visiting the city, because it's almost like a getaway vacation. We only have to travel about 40 minutes and we are in a completely different world, the kind that is considered to be an international sensation. After an exciting day/night ends we head back to our quiet, tree lined block where we can sigh and say "We are home!" where the rooms are spacious, where we can hear the crickets in the summer and the prices of food are reasonable. It's good to have access to both worlds.

                                    2. re: Inthemood

                                      Based on this new info, I'm thinking Sapori D'ischia might just fit your bill. I shared a steak there a couple of weeks ago and it was just amazing. I think the fettucini in the cheese wheel would be entertaining. Consider taking them on Thursday opera night if you think they would like it. Trattoria L'Incontro would also be a good choice. And although a lot more casual, I think Uvarara in Middle Village has a lot to offer.

                                      And if they are from out of town, dare I suggest you take them to Brooklyn, and let them think it's still Queens? No shortage of elegant fare there and it is not very far.

                                      1. re: Val55

                                        "And if they are from out of town, dare I suggest you take them to Brooklyn, and let them think it's still Queens? No shortage of elegant fare there and it is not very far."

                                        You make a good point. As long as you're not crossing the Pulaski Bridge, who's to know where Queens ends and Brooklyn begins?

                                        1. re: Val55

                                          It's such a beautiful plan Val, but they are not huge opera buffs (unfortunately for me, any excuse to see one!) I am not sure about Trattoria L'Incontro, from what I hear it's very noisy and busy on weekends.

                                          Hmm....good idea, however I don't really think it would work. Both my husband and sister-in-law have lived in Brooklyn Heights and Carroll Gardens. Despite my love (more of family attachment kind of love) for Queens (I grew up in KG basically), my true love is Carroll Gardens (my husband feels the other way around). I wanted to live there, but the rents are frightening, so we ended up in Queens, or should I say that he ended up Queens.

                                          So you see, we are competing with the culinary mecca of "hip" Brooklyn. I don't want to take them to Brooklyn Heights, because I want to show them that Queens is cool too! So here I am, jumping on the wagon with everyone else and acknowledging my tiny insecurity about Queens. Does everyone understand now, that in my own way I am actually trying to defend Queens as well? :)

                                          This is turning into a quite dramatic thread isn't it?

                                          1. re: Inthemood

                                            I've lived in Queens my whole life, as has my husband, and I was actually a fourth generation Astorian before he moved me to the quiet suburbs of Bayside. ;) When we have guests from out of town, they love the neighborhood feel of the bars or restaurants we take them to. They always say they can find high priced, white linen service anywhere, but you can't get that local, neighborhood feeling just anyplace.

                                            1. re: irishnyc

                                              But have they seen Brooklyn Heights or Carroll Gardens? That's what I have to compete with. :( If my in-laws hadn't seen that area, they would have fallen in love with Queens. And although they say it's nice, I know they find that area of Brooklyn more charming. How can you compete with the numerous restaurants of Carroll Gardens?

                                              The funny thing is that I was trying to plan a day of activities in Queens, to show them the cool side of our domain. However there isn't that much to do in Queens, unfortunately. And the Museum of Moving Image is closed. I worry too much, that's my problem.

                                              1. re: Inthemood

                                                There are tons of things to do and see in Queens - Queens Museum of Art is wonderful with no crowds and great installations by contemporary artists, not counting the gigantic model of NYC. Then there are Noguchi museum/garden, Sculpture Museum in LIC, Socrates park, PS1 (a must), Louis Armstrong museum, Quaker house, Fort Totten just to name few. Talia Spanish Theater. Jamaica wildlife refuge - awesome birding. Forest Park and Alley Pond park have great hiking. Rockaway beach for miles and miles of white sand and Atlantic Ocean. There are other beaches in NYC, but only in Queens, you have one directly on the ocean (maybe SI has one don't know, but accessible directly by subway/mta bus is only Rockaway). If you have a car, drive to the southernmost point for the dunes teeming with wildlife and majestic waves.

                                            2. re: Inthemood

                                              Because of my fondness for sapori, I'm going to repeat my recommendation. Just go on any night besides thursday. They usually have music, but opera is only on thursday. Let me also throw at riverview in lic. It's not fabulous, but I had some nice meals there.

                                              1. re: Val55

                                                Oooh they have opera on Thursday?!! I thought you meant to go to the city! Now I must go! Is it any good?

                                                Can Sapori accommodate a party of 7? I checked the website and I really like the decor.

                                                1. re: Inthemood

                                                  Yes they can absolutely accommodate a party of seven. I've seen semi-large groups there. They have two opera singers on Thursdays and it's great fun. The singers take requests and are charming. The food is great. The fettucini in the cheese wheel is to die for, but I suggest that you share it, because it is very rich. Just so you are not surprised, it is also a grocery store, so there are freezer cases in the back. Also, they do not offer tap water, only bottled and I belive only olive oil, no butter. They don't charge much for the bottled water, so I do not have an issue with it.

                                            3. re: Val55

                                              My husband and I dined at Sapori a little while ago, based on your (and other chow members) recommendation. We loved it! Starting from their ten commandments (very cute) to their bottled water, their arugula salad, gnocci with truffle oil and their fresh pasta! Fantastic! Quite expensive, but worth the experience.

                                              Next visit is to Parkside and Joe Abbracciamento.

                                            4. re: Inthemood

                                              Inthemodd, I don't see anything wrong with wanting something more upscale in Queens, esp. in light of your situation with your in-laws. Having lived in Queens for half of my life (though currently a Manhattan resident), there were times when I wish I didn't have to trek it by subway to Manhattan just to dine somewhere more upscale. There does seem to be some "defensiveness" issue on the part of many Queens residents, which might be a result of what Miss N. wrote about Queens being the butt of many a jokes (I know--I have probably heard all of them!).

                                              Here's the thing though. Having lived in Manhattan now for over a decade, I often miss the wonderful culinary delights of Queens. I miss not being able to walk out of my house and wander into the local Indian/Chinese/Middle Eastern/ Korean/ Greek/Mexican, etc., etc. restaurants, knowning I can get a great, authentic meal at a fraction of the cost in Manhattan.

                                              The grass is always greener, as they say!

                                              1. re: gloriousfood

                                                Oh, I wholeheartedly agree with the culinary delights aspect, but not everyone is a foodie like the chowhound crowd. My in-laws, thought I love them very much, are quite plain when it comes to food (that's their only flaw). And they always start with "Oh don't worry about us, we are easy! Really!" Yeah, aha, their list of food is restricted to 3 choices, easy for some, a scientific puzzle for me.

                                              2. re: Inthemood

                                                But see, I wouldnt take your in-laws to a place like Del Posto or Eleven Madison Park either.

                                                1. re: ConOrama

                                                  And why is that? Although Eleven Madison Park will be a little too complicated for them.