Swedish couple on their way to the LES, Brooklyn and Queens, pls help!
Hi all! we are a couple going to NYC in late may. Well be staying at the Thompson LES and during this visit to NY we would like to explore the areas outside Manhattan. We will be renting bikes and plan to ride through Brooklyn Queens and other areas of interest. We would be very happy if you pls could recommend restaurants in those areas. We are looking for Steakhouses, Mexican, New American as well as microbrewerys and other cool places. We would like to spend around 100USD for dinner and around 50USD for breakfast/lunch.
Of course we would love your recommendations for the LES area as well.
Thanx so much for your kindness and is there anything really special we could easily ride 5-10 miles or so.
Thanks again :)
Jacob and Susan
No specific recommendations from me - it has been a while since I lived in NYC - but as a native New Yorker I would like to suggest that you do what New Yorkers do and use the subway to get around. New York City is large geographically and the subway will get you where you need to go a lot faster than a bicycle, with no need to find a secure spot to park a bike once you get to your chowish destination.
Now about the food. You can find anything in New York City but unless things have changed in the past ten years there is not a lot of good Mexican. (There are folks from all over in NYC but not a lot of Mexicans compared to other countries.) One thing not on your list that I would highly recommend is NYC's vibrant Chinese food scene. Head on out to Flushing, Queens and you can eat very very well and stay well within your budget.
I have to agree with you, PinchOfSalt. Although biking around the outer boroughs might seem like a fun way to get around, this couple will see a lot more if they use the subway because they will have a lot more time to see it. Maybe a day or two of biking would be OK, but I believe they will be missing out on a lot by biking everywhere.
It sounds to me like bicycling, and seeing the outer boroughs from that vantage point (it really is a great way to see the city) is part of the pleasure of your trip. As Swedes, you're probably more skilled and experienced at bicycling than most Americans. And increasingly, more and more New Yorkers use their bikes to get around, too. But cars and trucks, particularly in the outer boroughs, do not respect bicyclists much (or even see them sometimes), and it's true that certain areas can be downright dangerous, even if you stick to the sometimes nebulous bike lanes. So, do be careful.
Also, while I totally agree that Chinese in Flushing must be on the list, and the variety is endless there, I would point out that having spent some time in Scandinavia, I craved Mexican food after a time, and found nothing in the Scandinavian captials even resembling the flavors I desired. So, unless you've traveled to Mexico, (or Calif., or Texas, and those states have their own specific strands of Mexican), a lunch at Torterilla Nixtamal, or any decent taqueria in Queens could possibly be revelatory!
For Brooklyn & Queens you need to post on the Outer Boroughs board. Your request is also a little vague in terms of neighborhoods--where in Brooklyn? Where in Queens? Williamsburg, Caroll Gardens, Ft Green, etc?
Can you clarify your budget? Is it $100 TOTAL including tax and tip and wine/drinks/beer for the 2 of you for dinner? It will be challenging to do a good steakhouse if so.
I think a bike would be stressful as a tourist here unless you have a lot of urban riding experience already and know the city well. Bikes get stolen or stripped for parts in broad daylight in busy places here. As PinchOfSalt mentions, parking and locking can be an issue (there aren't many bike racks around the city). There are also some very dangerous intersections esp in Brooklyn where multiple bikers have died--check Gothamist.
What do you plan to wear to your meals? What will you do with the helmet when you arrive? What if the weather is bad? All things to consider....
As per the previous posters advice, I would limit the bicycling to areas that are bike friendly. Maybe plan a few bike rides and select or ask about restaurants in those areas.
I haven't ridden a bike in many years and never in NYC, but I might consider Central Park and maybe Riverside Park in Manhattan, Prospect Park, Brooklyn Botanical Gardens and maybe Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn, and maybe Forest Park in Queens. More experienced or serious bikers may be able to provide some advice.
I have not ridden a bike for many, many years but I think that there are a lot of possibilities for you if you choose to get around Brooklyn this way. In fact, I think it's a very good way to get to many of the best areas in Brooklyn from the LES of Manhattan, as you get to see things that the underground portions of the subway will have you miss and that, by walking, you wouldnt have the range.
That being said, I do agree with kathryn that there are logistical issues involved and that some areas are not good for bikes nor will you be dressed for some of the places that you might read about and want to go to. However, I'd recommend biking over both the Williamsburg and the Brooklyn Bridges to areas in Brooklyn, but not the Manhattan Bridge as it leads right into Flatbush Ave and a tough stretch to bike. The Brooklyn Bridge gets you into Dumbo, Brooklyn Heights, the new Brooklyn Bridge Park, Atlantic Ave, Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, Red Hook and even (if you're energetic) Park Slope. And all without any danger. Unfortunately for car drivers like myself, these areas are fully equipped with bike lanes. You'll need to look at the hundreds of threads on the Outer Borough board to see where to eat in these neighborhoods, but the non-food site seeing includes great old churches (Tiffany windows, Underground Railroad site, etc.), great views of the Manhattan skyline & Statue of Liberty, great old neighborhood brownstones, some remaining ethnic enclaves & some very interesting new developments. Crossing by the Williamsburg Bridge gets you into Williamsburg in an immediate area that's not totally bike friendly but is a minute's ride to streets in the area that are. Again, lots to see, do and eat/drink (Brooklyn Brewery) in Williamsburg, land of millions of 20 & 30-somethings, especially on nice spring weekends. Lots of "cool places" (or so they tell me... I'm too old to be cool).
If you're into very long bike rides, you can even continue to Prospect Park, ride thru the park and then go on as far as you wish on Ocean Parkway, which goes all the way to Coney Island (& Brighton Beach)... totally bike friendly but a long ride. An all day adventure.
Good luck. Have fun.
Im assuming that as swedes John and Susan are comfortable riding bikes in a city - its easy to follow the bike lanes across the mannattan or brooklyn or Williamsburg bridge into brooklyn. Once there, there are many bike lanes to follow to areas like Brooklyn Heights, Carroll Gardens Red Hook, Park Slope or Willaimsburg, or around the harbor on the bikeway down to the Verazzano bridge and onward. Id recommend getting a map and following these routes, which have become numerous and well marked rather than contending with commercial traffilc on the major streets.
During a weekend, the central american vendors will be operating in the Red Hook ballfields, the Good Fork is a good stop for brunch, and Steves Key Lime Pie is a fun stop in that area.
For more mexican and central american, Fifth Ave in Sunset Park might be of interest
There are a lot of interesting alternatives in the areas that would be bike accessible, no reason to be discouraging!!
For Mexican, we like Ricos Tacos at 5th Avenue and 46th Street in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Not a fancy place, but very tasty tacos and more authentic than most places in NYC. As others have mentioned, Sunset Park also has many Chinese restaurants. Its fun to walk around the Asian food markets and maybe grab some dumplings or hand-pulled noodles. Flushing, Queens has the best Chinese food, though. There are many threads about places in Flushing.
Based on your descriptions of what you are interested in, you might also want to look into biking to Williamsburg, Brooklyn. You might be interested in Brooklyn Brewery, Marlow & Sons, Diner or the Wythe Hotel. Have a great trip!
The Brooklyn Beer still does their major production and bottling in Utica, NY (as well as, I assume a large facility in Sweden). While they have expanded their facilities in Brooklyn, I think that you will find that this location will meet your concept of a small brewery.
I recommend Libertador for steak and other grilled meats on Henry St. in Carrol Gardens, Brooklyn.. great Argentinean. John Brown Smokehouse in Long Island City, Queens for delicious BBQ (go early before they run out of choice cuts). For Mexican, hit up a taco truck for a quick bite, try "Tacos El Vagabundo" in Sunnyside, Queens, Queens Blvd. & 41th St.
Don't be worried about biking through the city!! The best way to sightsee in urban areas is by bike!! In NYC there's plenty of bike lanes and paths available for exploration. Enjoy!
Great u mentioned BBQ i havent had that i NYC only in Texas. and the taco trucks sounds great. also argentinian sounds lovely.
yeah the bike thing did draw a bit too much attention :) been biking in NYC several times before and it worked out very well. in many ways easier city to ride in than in Stockholm where we live.
If you are coming in May, perhaps the Citi Bike system will be up and running as that's the new launch time. That would make biking quite easy and eliminate the security issues that others have noted. I suggest you ride over the Brooklyn Bridge and go through Dumbo and Vinegar Hill. Perhap Gouvernor in Dumbo will have reopened by then. Vinegar Hill House would be another option. If the new pizza place by Patsy Grimaldi has opened, you should try it. Just don't go to the one called Grimaldi's.
The head south into Brooklyn Heights. Jack the Horse is a nice New American spot. There is no real microbrewery in the area but on Atlantic Avenue, you will find Pete's Ale House which has one of the best selections of beer in the area. Close by is the Chip Shop which is a British style chippy, Colonie (New American) and Hibino (Japanese).
You should also go through the Brooklyn Bridge park. There is an outdoor cafe that should be open. Can't vouch for the food, but the view is great. There are also some food carts down there. Spectacular view for biking by the water.
If you head further south along the Columbia waterfront, you will find Pok Pok (thai), Alma (fancy mexican), Calexico (unfancy mexican) and some others.
That should take up the better part of a day.
ETA - If you make it that far south and want steak, head east to Court Street and check out Prime Meats. That will fit your budget even if the limit is $100 for both of you as long as you are not big drinkers.
Glad you're not dissuaded from riding a bike in NYC. The outer boroughs have lots of bike lanes w/ more going in. You can take the Williamsburg, Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges into Brooklyn, the Pulaski to get between Brooklyn and Queens and you can even ride all the way to Coney Island for Nathan's hot dogs and pizza at Totonnos. While the Bronx is a hike from the LES, you can still ride over the Willis and 3rd Ave. bridges to get there and ride to Arthur Ave. for Italian.
In Bklyn, look up Pork Slope, The Good Fork, The Castello Plan, St. Anselm, Colonie, Dumont, Traif, Diner, Pies & Thighs, and Tacos Matamoros. I'm not much of a beer drinker, but I did enjoy hanging out at Radegast Hall in Bklyn.
In Queens, look up Salt & Fat (bacon fat popcorn!), and Bohemian Hall & Beer Garden. If you're in the mood for different styles of Chinese, you can ride to Flushing to get your appetite up, then slowly trundle back.
If you have a smartphone, I would recommend the app Ride The City. You can plug in where you want to go and it will tell you different routes to get there via bike lanes if it is possible.
Official NYC Bicycle map:
I suggest you stick to routes on the map as they keep you away from the worst of the traffic problems and dangers. Most bicycle shops in the city have free copies of the map.
The number 7 train runs from Manhattan through Queens. In Queens it is elevated above roof height so you can get a nice view of Queens, assuming you want to view Queens of course. The 7 train stops at various locations like Roosevelt avenue, you can search chowhound for ideas on where to go. Or post on the outer borough message board. Search on "7 train" or Roosevelt ave. You can walk under the tracks back toward Manhattan which might be of interest in the sense that the elevated tracks are about 100 years old.
I think that Queens, which is an enormous borough, is very poorly served by bike lanes. This would be especially true in the areas you might most like to dine, such as Flushing. In a lot of these areas, there are elevated trains, which can create a death trap of crisscrossing lanes, and cars darting in and out. I think that Queens, both because of its size as well as because of the dearth of bike lanes, is best explored by public transportation. Brooklyn is quite another matter...
Totally agreed. As someone who bikes around NYC a lot, I would say that biking in queens is not for the inexperienced. If you want to bike and eat, do brooklyn. If you want to experience one of the world's most ethnically diverse food boroughs, use public transportation and do queens. Not that there isn't plenty of good food (and nice bike riding) to be had in brooklyn. And given the kind of places you mention in your original post, Brooklyn might better serve you anyway. A Williamsburg, Bushwick, Bed Stuy bike tour will get you new american, steakhouse (luger's) and microbrewery places galore. (not sure about the microbrewery thing.) However, those hip neighborhoods are also the most like the LES, where you will be staying. For something different on a bike, do carroll gardens (old italian) and then the bike path down to coney island.
Please note that I haven't done this since Hurricane Sandy so many of the places may be closed.
I don't like dealing with crazy cars and buses so I try to bike on the safest roads possible which sometimes means getting to things in a roundabout way. I've done this route a few times. I live in Park Slope so that's where my trip starts. If you're in Park Slope there are many things that may interest you such as Beer Table, Talde, Ladybird Bakery. I bike in Prospect Park exiting to link with Ocean Parkway. Then I go on Ocean Parkway (dedicated bike path), stopping at Georgian Bread on Neptune for khachapuri (humongous cheese bread). Georgian Bread is a few blocks left of Ocean Parkway. You can continue exploring Brighton Beach Ave where there are many interesting markets and restaurants along the elevated subway line. Personally I just lock up my bike to a pole and walk around that area on foot as traffic can be a bit gnarly.
After my snack, I head back on Ocean Parkway and bike to the boardwalk at Coney Island, exploring the area a bit. You've got the famous Nathan's hot dog place, Totonno's for pizza -- though I have a feeling that both may be closed right now. I the continue on the boardwalk heading east until it ends. I then head north on one of the streets til I hit Emmons where I make a right. You'll be in the neighborhood of Sheepshead Bay. There's Randazzos for clams if you're inclined. I keep heading East on Emmons until it links up to the Belt Parkway.
The Belt is a freeway but there's a bike lane to the right of it. I ride long the Belt, passing by Plum Beach, Brooklyn Marine Park til I hit Flatbush Ave. On Flatbush is a bike path as well. I make a right on Flatbush and ride until I hit Marine Parkway Bridge. Go over the Bridge (you'll now be in Queens) then head over to Rockaway Beach Boulevard (no bike lane but very easy to ride as it's very quiet), passing through the residential neighborhood of Belle Harbour until I hit the Boardwalk.
You'll now be in the Rockaway Beach area. There's been a change in Rockaway Beach over the last few years. Establishments such as Rockaway Taco, Caracas Arepa Bar and Blue Bottle Coffee has opened up.
Biking is a great way to see Brooklyn (less so for Queens). In the above mentioned bike route you get to see neighborhoods that would have you thinking that you've left NYC. Also it's a good amount of biking so you have a better excuse to eat all that food. Unless you're hearty bikers (I am not), I would recommend doing the route one way but taking the A train back at Rockaway Beach. The first time I did this route it was a round trip ordeal -- unfortunately I was "traumatized" by the experience that it took me a good few months to get on the bike again!
re: Miss Needle
Blue Bottle was only there in 2011, they weren't there in 2012. Not sure if Caracas is coming back after Sandy destroyed the boardwalk. Rockaway Taco is still around because their main location wasn't on the boardwalk; their 2nd auxiliary one on the boardwalk may be gone.
In Coney Island, Totonno's still is closed, I think Nathan's is too, sadly.
Randazzo's Clam Bar did reopen in late Dec 2012.
I live in Rockaway Beach, and the goal of the parks department is to have all 3 of the food concession areas (86th, 97th, 105th) open this summer. The boardwalk will NOT be fixed/open, but in the concession areas, they are building (right now, literally 24/7) skirts of boardwalk, along with normal beach access at each of these locations. Whether or not every food vendor comes back remains to be seen, but the buildings will be operational. The food scene on the Rockaway boardwalk has made great strides in the past 3 years, and I really hope they can all find a way to make it back and survive a makeshift summer. Rockaway will need people to come to the beach this summer and support these great businesses.
I'm a fairly inexperienced and rather timid cyclist, but at the instigation of my bike-advocating spouse, I've done a fair amount of riding around Brooklyn and Manhattan (not Queens). I've found it not too scary (with exceptions, e.g., no matter how early you set out, there is no good time to ride in Manhattan Chinatown) and a great way to see the city. In fact, I bike more here than I did in my former midwestern suburb.
Stick to bike routes as much as possible, and you will be fine. More than fine: you will have a great trip and come away with a unique NYC experience.
A few thoughts on possible destinations and eating possibilities:
- Do ride through the new Brooklyn Bridge park. It's beautiful, has a well-marked bike path, and will give you spectacular views of lower Manhattan. Stop to admire the old warehouses in DUMBO. If you need an energy boost, duck into Jacques Torres on Water St. for some chocolate.
- For Mexican, check out 5th Ave in the Sunset Park neighborhood, as others have recommended. The blocks right around the park ("Sunset Park" refers to an actual park as well as the surrounding neighborhood) have many small food stores and restaurants, as well as sidewalk carts selling tamales and aguas frescas (fruit juice drinks). Pick up some tamales ("oaxaquenos" have a spicy chicken filling and come wrapped in a banana leaf; "elote" feature sweet corn; all are delicious) and some watermelon agua fresca, walk your bikes to the top of the park (which is on a steep hill), and have yourself a picnic while taking in the view and the overall park scene. You'll love it! (FYI, the neighborhood, though now largely Latino, was once a Scandinavian outpost.)
- The Ditmas Park neighborhood in Brooklyn features beautiful Victorian houses; it's easy to combine this with a ride in Prospect Park. Exit the park by the Parade Grounds, then on the other side of the Parade Grounds, pick up E. 16th/Buckingham or one of the other named streets (Marlborough, Rugby, Argyle, etc.) and gawk at the big houses. (I mainly jog rather than bike through this neighborhood, so my directions are a little vague . . . you can check a cycling map, though.) If you're getting hungry, the avenues that cut through the neighborhood have lots a small food stores and restaurants. You might be able to find some good West Indian eats on Church Ave, though I don't have any specific recommendations.
- The Red Hook neighborhood has already been mentioned. Like DUMBO, it features Civil War-era warehouses and great waterfront views, but it's much more laid back. There are some nice eateries along Van Brunt that I think would fall in the category of "New American," and by all means, follow the signs to Steve's Key Lime Pies and get yourself a frozen, chocolate-covered key lime tart on a stick. You don't get more American (or more delicious) than that! And/or get a lobster roll at the cafe hidden in the back of the Fairway Market, and eat it at one of the picnic tables behind the store while taking in the harbor view. Red Hook, by the way, was hit very hard by Hurricane Sandy, and the businesses in the area will really benefit from your patronage. (One word of warning: some of the most atmospheric streets in the neighborhood are paved with cobblestones, so be prepared for a bumpy ride.) Oh, and there's even a big, blue Ikea looming over Beard St!
Have a wonderful trip, and please do report back.
You must not be as timid as I because 5th Ave Sunset Park freaks me out with all the buses and double-parked cars. I generally ride down 5th Ave until I hit the beginning of Sunset Park and head over to 7th Ave where it's not as busy.
The Brooklyn Bridge Park area is a great suggestion. I haven't been there, but have good things about Pok Pok.
re: Miss Needle
Hahaha - yeah, even though it ostensibly has a bike lane, 5th Ave is not the best for riding. I guess that since we live right on it, I've grown somewhat accustomed and it doesn't freak me out so much anymore. (The first time I biked it I remember asking my spouse-to-be if Brooklynites always celebrated Memorial Day by double parking in the bike lane.)
Trying an alternate avenue if the traffic on 5th is too scary is a great suggestion, except you need to be on 5th to get past Green-Wood cemetery, and by the time you pass it, you're practically at Sunset Park anyhow.
(To the original posters -- if you look at a map, you'll see that this part of Brooklyn has numbered avenues that run parallel to one another. Some are quieter and more residential, some are busier and more commercial, and which is which varies somewhat from neighborhood to neighborhood. What that means is you have a variety of riding options . . . just be aware that many streets dead-end at the massive Green-Wood cemetery. The cemetery, btw, is worth seeing in its own right. I don't think you can bike it, though; you can't even run there, as the guards always remind me if I jog anywhere close to the entrance.)
The boroughs are the place to be, but there are still some great parts of lower and upper manhattan that have great finds. My suggestions:
Sri Lankan - Araliya in Jamaica Queens
Eastern European - Moldova Restaurant in Midwood Brooklyn
Yemeni/Middle Eastern - Bab Al Yemen in Bay Ridge Brooklyn
Spanish (Spain) - Sevilla in the West Village (Manhattan) - if you like seafood, the mussels in garlic sauce are out of this world
Uzbeki/Turki - Cafe Kaskar in Brighton Beach Brooklyn.
I also have a NYC Ethnic food blog at http://www.newyorkethnicfood.com/
Best of Luck!
Marlow and Sons
Nom Wah (Chinese)
Vinegar HIll House!! (American)
Casa Enrique (Mexican)
Manducatis (Italian American)
Miles End (Quebecois)
You could spend a day biking to Astoria exploring several different parts of the world through the cuisines represented here, as well as bars, lounges, beer gardens, a new brewery, shops, and get a nice waterfront bike ride around Astoria Park:
Greece: Taverna Kyclades, 26 Corner Taverna, Artopolis (bakery)
Middle East: Steinway Street
Brazil: Malagueta, Favela
American: William Hallet, Queens Kickshaw, Locale, Butcher Bar
Spanish: Olivo, Boqueron
Peru: Tu Casa
Venezuela: Arepas Cafe
Italian/Pizza: Tufino, Il Bambino
Australian: Thirsty Koala
Bohemian Beer Hall (the oldest/bestest)
Studio Square (newer, pricier)
The Standard (BBQ with communal tables, and plans to have an outdoor seating area accessible in warmer weather)
You're also right next to LIC, which is an easy ride over the Pulaski Bridge from Brooklyn. Tons more restaurants, bars, cafes, and of course PS1 in that area.
Check out the We Heart Astoria blog...
Regardless of where you choose to go, I hope you both have a great time. And be sure to report back on your hits/misses! :)
A great list, and advertisement for Astoria, but just a few quibbles.
In so far as "beer gardens," where you list The Standard, perhaps you mean The Strand? I would almost put it under American, rather than Beer Garden, especially since they've hired former John Brown's Smokehouse chef as their chef de cuisine and the focus is just as much on cocktails and bourbon as on beer.
Also, I would hesitate to recommend Seva's mediocre Indian food. Certainly there is better Indian food in NYC than Seva! Not that there's anything terribly wrong with it, but I would think that tourists from Europe would find many things more compelling in Astoria than it's blah Indian food.
To the Japanese list, I would add Linn, but again there's much better stuff in Manhattan.
But, a fun list overall.
I wanted to weigh in as an avid cyclist and foodie since lots of people on the thread are not really cyclists. ;-)
Brooklyn and Manhattan are both totally awesome for cycling itineraries -- lots of bike lanes, lots of beautiful neighborhoods, and lots of areas that are packed with goodies and close to each other. I have bike-chowhounded in Queens but in many ways I would steer you toward the 7 train there, for a variety of reasons -- Queens is very spread out, many of the bike routes are not as scintillating as you will find in other parts of the city, while the 7 train is a stunning ride and a very "New York" experience. The exception would be LIC which is really gorgeous and could be tacked onto a Williamsburg/Greenpoint biking itinerary and put you at PS 1 for contemporary art and a bite at M Wells.
As far as food itineraries go, I would reserve a fair amount of time for Williamsburg, maybe on the weekend so you can check out Smorgasburg. I would spend at least an afternoon, snacking, trying great beer bars and then reserve maybe a dinner for one of Williamsburg's deservedly great "fancier" restaurants.
Someone else mentioned Red Hook -- same deal, what a gorgeous bike ride, a truly unusual area that's packed with hounding finds. Maybe plan an excursion around brunch?
I have mixed feelings toward steering the Swedes towards Mexican in either Sunset Park or Queens. While there are finds to be had here it's definitely not where my mind goes first for out of town visitors as representative of NY's best food. Sunset Park is not a destination for biking, IMO, both because it's industrial and not in a memorable/historical way like Red Hook and not terribly easy or fun to bike through.
Steakhouse: Peter Luger (Brooklyn), La Pequena Colombia (Queens)
Mexican: Tacos Nuevo Mexico (Brooklyn)
Beer: Beer Table (Brooklyn)