QCulture: Queens Is The Life Of The Party

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Papazzio Italian Restaurant is among the most popular
nightlife destinations in Long Island City and
Bayside, respectively. (see below).
PHOTO BY JOE MARVILLI

BY JOE MARVILLI
Staff Writer

When many people think of New York City’s nightlife, their first thoughts may go to hotspots in Manhattan or Brooklyn. While both of those boroughs have plenty to see and do, Queens’ nightlife scene can stand up with the best of them.

Across the Borough, there are strips filled with bars, clubs and other fun activities to take part in once the sun goes down. Whether you want a drink, want to dance, want to smoke or more, you will likely find what you are looking for in a small business in one of these areas.

Bell Boulevard is one of the best examples of a corridor that anyone can wander down and find something he or she would like. The options for food and drinks are diverse, with no two shops looking alike. Walk into Papazzio Italian Restaurant and enjoy a romantic evening, especially with jazz and blues music every Thursday and Saturday. Move down half a block to Beer Belly’s for 50 different drafts on tap, wings, DJs and live music. Bourbon Street, another bar that serves food, holds Vintage Thursdays, where DJ Tommy Nappi spins the best of 80s and 90s alternative and freestyle. Brian Dempsey’s American Ale House has drink specials most of the week, a free buffet on Fridays and concerts on Fridays and Saturdays.

“It comes down to the diversity of the businesses. Bell Boulevard has a little bit of everything,” Lyle Sclair, executive director of the Bayside BID, said. “They’d need to come back more than once because there are too many places. We really run the gamut of programming.”

Katch Brewery in Astoria has everything from a diverse food and drink menu to heavily-attended events like Tuesday Trivia.

Katch Brewery in Astoria has everything from a diverse food and drink menu to heavily-attended events like Tuesday Trivia. PHOTO BY JACKIE STRAWBRIDGE.

Another bustling business strip is 30th Avenue in Astoria. While this avenue has been filled with restaurants and bars for many years, the influx of a young crowd in recent years has made the district even more vibrant. Stop by MexiBBQ to get your fill of food, with specials like all-you-can-eat ribs on Tuesdays and all-night Happy Hour on Wednesdays. Visit Sweet Afton for a low-key night with quality drinks and live bluegrass and jazz every Monday. Go to Era Café and enjoy some hookah on its roof. Swing by Katch nearby on Newtown Ave. and take part in trivia on Tuesdays, Ladies Night on Thursdays and an extended happy hour on Fridays.

From 30th Avenue, you are only a quick subway ride away from another nightlife corridor, Queens Boulevard in Sunnyside. One of the most popular venues is Sidetracks Restaurant and Lounge, which has a high-end atmosphere while keeping prices at a reasonable level. For a more rustic setting, head to The Courtyard Bar, which has 24 beers on tap, a covered outdoor patio and live music four days a week. If you want to dance, there is Allure Club and Lounge. Both its Main Room and the smaller Pulse Lounge have state-of-the-art audio and light systems, as well as a full bar and kitchen.

Besides those examples, Sunnyside has one of the largest concentrations of Irish pubs in the City, and a huge number of cultural food options.

“Queens Blvd and Sunnyside has an enormous variety of eateries featuring cuisine from around the world – Mexico, Romania, Japan, Nepal, Thailand, Turkey, Lebanon and Italy, just to name a few,” Rachel Thieme, executive director of the Sunnyside Shines BID, said.

The center of Queens has plenty to offer for those looking for some nightlife fun as well. Austin Street in Forest Hills is not only a neighborhood with tons of options, but it is very accessible.

“Forest Hills is an upscale neighborhood with many choices of restaurants and bars and movies to choose from. We are easily accessible by subway, LIRR, bus and car. We have had many new places open in the last year that are attracting people from all over Queens and beyond,” Leslie Brown, the Forest Hills Chamber of Commerce president, said.

The street is home to a high-end pool hall, The Billiard Company, where you can enjoy fancy cocktails, varied bar food, hookah and ping-pong as well. If you walk a block down from there, you will find yourself near Exo Café, a recent addition to Forest Hills. Besides its seven TVs that show all your favorite sports teams, the lounge also has karaoke every Tuesday night. Another new member of Austin Street is Pride Lounge NYC, the first LGBT bar in Forest Hills.

If you want to go out on Sunday night, but need something relaxing before returning to work on Monday, go to Banter Irish Bar and Kitchen. Located just off Austin Street, this pub has a traditional acoustic Irish set every Sunday from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Heading further south, Jamaica Avenue and nearby blocks have a few options for nightlife. There is ESEX Lounge, a cozy space with soft lighting, ample seating, a fully-stocked bar and hookah aplenty. If you head to ESEX on Thursdays, you get a chance to hit the dance floor for free all night. Arena Lounge on 130th Street is equally enticing, with 11 private event spaces and a live broadcast on its website after 11 p.m.

LIC Bar is among the most popular nightlife destinations in Long Island City and Bayside, respectively.  PHOTO BY JOE MARVILLI.

LIC Bar is among the most popular nightlife destinations in Long Island City and Bayside, respectively.
PHOTO BY JOE MARVILLI.

Although it is not as well-known for its nightlife as Long Island City or Jamaica, Howard Beach has a couple of great spots that are worth checking out, particularly on Cross Bay Boulevard. Vetro Restaurant and Lounge is right on the water, offering a fine dining experience like no other. Head to its rooftop lounge for live music and DJ sets all week. For something more casual, there is CJ’s Bar and Lounge. This locale offers food and drink specials nearly every day.

One nightlife option that has grown more popular in recent years is hookah, a single or multi-stemmed pipe for vaporizing and smoking flavored tobacco. For those who want to explore hookah lounges in Queens, the first stop should be Steinway in Astoria. Particularly between 30th and 28th Avenues, there are dozens of options for hookah fans. Many of these venues incorporate food, alcohol or music for attendees to enjoy as well.

Reach Joe Marvilli at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 125, jmarvilli@queenstribune.com, or @JoeMarvilli.