Tag Archives: Vernon Boulevard

French Louisiana 1682

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photos by Bradley Hawks


What do you do when an outrageously popular national doughnut chain opens across the street from your N’awlins-inspired café? Do you keep selling powdered-sugar-dusted beignets and steaming mugs of java? Or do you incorporate the arsenal of skills you know best to rename and rebrand the café into a full-service restaurant? That is precisely what owners Mina and Jimi did at Cranky’s, the popular café in Long Island City.

Now harboring the moniker “1682 French Louisiana,” the new incarnation boasts all of the old favorites, alongside a full menu of classic New Orleans and traditional French dishes. As the website explains, “The restaurant style came naturally as both Mina, a Paris native, and Jimi, a film aficionado, have had a long-term love affair with the beautiful, unique flavors of French- and Cajun-style food. They describe the French Quarter in New Orleans as walking into a movie, a place that is unlike anywhere else. It is that atmosphere that welcomes you as you enter 1682 French Louisiana. Leave New York City at the doorstep and enter New Orleans.”

Dinner service begins with a complimentary basket of peeled sweet potato skins that have been deep fried. They make an irresistibly addictive snack, especially with the herbed aioli served on the side.

Actually, many of the dishes served on the side or as small plates were some of the stars of the show at this little Louisiana kitchen. Take, for instance, the cornmeal-crusted fried chicken. The distinctively southern coating of crispy cornmeal served the perfect crunch for the juicy legs and thighs. But the slab of jalapeño cornbread hugging its side was literally dripping with melting butter, and disappeared quicker than Paula Dean can apologize.

When it comes to macaroni and cheese, few versions rival my own grandma’s quite as seriously. A luxurious béchamel coats traditional elbows of macaroni, which are then buried under a generous bubbling blend of three melted cheeses flowing over the edge of the dish. Nothing makes me feel like a kid again like a warm strand of cheddar stretching from the plate to my fork.

Cajun hush puppies arrive with a kiss of honey. Salads come topped with roasted beets or grass-fed angus beef. And come before 11 a.m. if you want to taste those beignets. Weekend brunch harbors a handful of unique additions, including croques monsieur and madame, eggs benedict, and pancakes with bananas foster or blueberry ricotta mascarpone. From po’ boys and olive-kissed muffaletta to Creole-style barbecue, seafood and chorizo gumbo, and a classic coq au vin, the menu holds a little something for everybody.

“I really felt we had to rebrand to let people know that we truly are a full restaurant now,” smiles Mina as a group of twenty enter from a nearby film studio, and she rushes to push tables together. “In this business, you have to be ready for anything.”

1682 French Louisiana
48-19 Vernon Boulevard, Long Island City
Open daily from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m.



MTA town hall to address 7 train shutdowns

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Angy Altamirano

The Long Island City community plans to express its rage at the MTA for the lack of local subway service.

A town hall meeting for locals to decry the last three weekends of No. 7 train suspensions is scheduled for Thursday to go over the details of the service disruption, expected to last for 19 more weekends.

Local elected officials, who asked the MTA to set the meeting up, and MTA NYC Transit President Carmen Bianco are expected to hear feedback from community members.

“I really thought the community should have the same access and same right to get the briefing and be able to ask their own questions,” Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer said. “I want the folks to be able to share with the MTA how they feel about this and why it is so harmful to their business and everyday lives.”

Senator Michael Gianaris said the MTA does not realize Long Island City has become a destination. The community has attempted to be more reasonable with the agency, but without success.

“It’s nice to have a dialogue, but a dialogue without action is not that helpful,” Gianaris said. “I hope this time is different. We’re going to keep their feet to the fire.”

Through July 21, there will be 13 weekend suspensions. Those dates are finalized, the MTA said, but there are also nine tentative weekend shutdowns scheduled for August through November.

The suspensions are expected to be in effect from 11:45 p.m. Friday to 5 a.m. Monday between Times Square-42nd Street and Queensboro Plaza. On some weekends, there will also be reduced or express-only service between 74th Street-Broadway and Queensboro Plaza.

Ideas for transportation alternatives during the weekend disruptions, such as the shuttle bus from Vernon Boulevard through the Queens Midtown Tunnel into the city, will also be brought up.

Sheila Lewandowski, Long Island City resident and owner of The Chocolate Factory Theater, believes such a meeting should be done before the disruptions began. However, she hopes the MTA will take what is said at the meeting and put it to good use.

“I think it’s important that the MTA remembers that it’s a public service and that they need to hear from their customers. I don’t feel like we get much opportunities for that to happen,” Lewandowski said. “What I want is for them to be more accessible to the very people that use the system because I feel like that’s what’s going to drive better service and change.”

The town hall meeting is open to the public and will begin at 6:30 p.m. at P.S./I.S. 78 at 46-08 Fifth St.



Pols, leaders meet with MTA to begin dialogue on No. 7 train suspensions

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

File photo

After local elected officials and community leaders met with the MTA Thursday, the agency plans on making no changes to the No. 7 train suspension, but is looking to reach out to the community.

State Senator Michael Gianaris and Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer were among those who spoke with MTA officials during the closed preliminary meeting to discuss the upcoming shutdowns to the subway line. 

Between Feb. 28 and July 21, there will be 13 weekend suspensions. Those dates are finalized but the agency also plans on holding nine tentative weekend shutdowns for August through November.

Thursday’s meeting was not opened to the public but some members of the Long Island City community stood outdoors in order to show their concerns.

The MTA offered to continue the conversation with the community by coming out and holding a meeting to explain the details for the suspensions, according to Gianaris. The date of that meeting is yet to be determined.

“It’s better that they are listening to our input. But it’s only valuable if it leads to change,” Gianaris said. “We hope that the MTA will not just listen to our concern but actually do something about it. Today was the beginning of a process to test if they’re willing to do that.”

Although the MTA expressed the willingness to reach out to the community, the senator said the agency did not agree on bigger issues such as those related to improving the service or providing more substitutes.

For example, one substitute that was shot down by the agency was Gianaris’ suggestion to offer a shuttle bus from Vernon Boulevard through the Queens Midtown Tunnel into the city.  

“The limited good news is that they are engaging in a dialogue with the community on what is needed,” Gianaris said. “The not-so-great news is when we expressed what the community needs, we didn’t get that far. But the dialogue will continue.”

The MTA previously said the latest round of work is expected to modernize, improve and fortify the Flushing No. 7 line. The work will also include tunnel duct reconstruction and replacement and improvements on components damaged during Superstorm Sandy.




One door closes and another opens

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo by Bradley Hawks

When Lounge 47 closed on Vernon Boulevard, I have to admit I was extremely sad.  One of the chefs had been the owner of a bar on the street where I live, which closed last year and became a panini shop, and another contributing chef—Julie Powell—had written a book that became a movie that inspired my own career—as well as the lives of many others I know.  But that is all a part of what happens when you write about restaurants for a while.  A place that held special memories and conversations will disappear in the blink of an eye if you aren’t watching carefully.  And that is how it seemed to me with Lounge 47.  One day I was sipping a coffee with Julie Powell, discussing her career and her friendship with Joss Whedon, and the next time I drove by, a new sign read, Woodbines.

It took me a moment to be able to enter Woodbines without any previous opinion.  I know that the new owners had not personally pushed my friends out the door—it just seemed like I needed to at least grieve for a minute, anyway.  But when I did decide to stop in and see what was going on, I was instantly reminded of something I have always known.  When one door closes, another opens.

Woodbines is an absolutely fantastic addition to the Vernon Boulevard corridor in Long Island City.  Serving pub-style Irish dishes alongside American favorites, they really showcase a few plates of note—with some pretty solid drinks, as well.

The Scotch egg arrives halved, and drizzled with spicy mustard for just $5—the same price as a handful of their snacks, which also include jerk chicken, fried pickles, and miniature sausages wrapped in a flaky pastry crust that come five to an order.

Lamb nachos headline for appetizers, and the lunchtime Woodbines burger is stacked with a blanket of Irish cheddar, thick smoked bacon, and a mound of Irish slaw.  It is disastrously messy, so plan on forking up every bite that falls to the plate.

Of course they serve shepherd’s pie and lamb meatloaf (with hon

ey ginger ketchup), but their pride and joy are the fish & chips, battered an India Pale Ale. For lunch on weekdays, you can get a cheeseburger, chicken Caesar salad, or chicken sandwich for just $10 that comes with a soft drink or mug of coffee.

Be sure to check out the drink list, which features growlers and around eight different whiskey flights, 14 canned beers, and two pages of bottled beers, ciders, and cocktails like the Old Woody — Woodford Reserve with orange bitters, sugar, muddled orange and cherry, and served with a large ice cube.

But the best part is that the staff seems to be the same kind of folks I love anywhere I go.  The bartender, Daniel, runs a sketch comedy group based out of Astoria, and managed to serve me with a perfect balance of humor and sincerity.  Those are the things you can’t put a price tag on.  And since I am addicted to those little sausage rolls and scotch eggs, it looks like I may have a new favorite place to add to my list.

Woodbines Craft Kitchen
47-10 Vernon Blvd., Long Island City




LIC community voices outrage against upcoming No. 7 train suspensions

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Angy Altamirano

Long Island City residents and business owners are telling the MTA enough is enough.

The No. 7 train will soon be going through another round of suspensions causing it to not run in parts of western Queens and Manhattan for more than a dozen weekends this year, starting in the end of February, according to a notice from the MTA.

This news again upset residents, business owners and local politicians who gathered in front of the Vernon Boulevard-Jackson Avenue subway station on Friday to tell the MTA they are fed up with the constant disruptions and the lack of notice.

“Real people’s lives are affected in real ways here, this is not a game,” said Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer. “This is about human beings, they’re trying to survive and the MTA is trying to kill us. We’ve got to stop this now.”

From February through July, there will be 13 weekend suspensions. Those dates are finalized, the transit agency said. There are nine tentative weekend shutdowns scheduled for August through November.

Business owners are tired of potential financial losses, residents are sick of longer commutes and local politicians just want the MTA to finally listen to their ideas and communicate with the neighborhood.

“It outrageous and all we are asking for is the opportunity to be heard, to present some common sense ideas that we have presented to them year after year after year,” said Senator Michael Gianaris, who has suggested the MTA offer a shuttle bus from Vernon Boulevard through the Queens Midtown Tunnel into the city. “The MTA needs to listen to us once and for all.”

Rebecca Trent, LIC resident and owner of The Creek and The Cave on Jackson Avenue, said the area has grown by 500 percent and the suspension will only make business owners’ jobs harder.

“I don’t know how I’m going to survive this, I do not know and neither do many of my neighbors,” Trent said holding back tears. “What they are trying to do to this neighborhood is disgusting, we deserve better, enough is enough.”

Along with the shuttle service through the Midtown tunnel, Trent also said that in order to compensate the Long Island City community for the “irresponsible shutdowns,” the MTA should give local businesses, who will suffer, free ad space at the E and G subway stations and on the trains.

Richard Mazda, artistic director for The Secret Theatre, said he has had to put up with the disruptions to his business every single year and has faced problems during the annual LIC Arts Open festival, with artists and friends not being able to attend.

“You must have known that you were going to do this work, you have stage managed the release of this information so that we couldn’t fight you, but we will,” Mazda said to the MTA. “This is like the worst movie you have ever seen.”

The latest round of work, including continued installation of Communications-Based Train Control (CBTC), replacement of critical track panels and reconstruction inside the Steinway Tube under the East River, is expected to modernize, improve a fortify the Flushing No. 7 line, according to the MTA. The work will also include tunnel duct reconstruction and replacement and improvements on components damaged during Superstorm Sandy.

“We understand that these service disruptions are inconvenient to the customers who depend on the No. 7 train and we appreciate their patience,” said MTA NYC Transit President Carmen Bianco. “We have made every effort to schedule these project simultaneously to get as much work done as we can during these periods.”



Long Island City lights up for the holidays

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer's Office

The Long Island City community came together to welcome the holidays and make the season bright.

Over 100 residents young and old gathered with local elected officials and community leaders on Tuesday night to celebrate the holidays by lighting festive snowflakes along Vernon Boulevard.

Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer worked together with JetBlue to a secure a $5,000 grant to bring the holiday lights to the thriving neighborhood.

The holiday celebration included Christmas carols sung by students from P.S. 78, led by Gianna Cerbone-Teoli, owner of Manducatis Rustica located at 46-33 Vernon Boulevard.

The night also included readings of special Christmas stories by the fireplace of LIC BAR, located at 45-58 Vernon Boulevard, and a performance by local jazz group, The Charlie Brown Christmas Trio.



LIC’s Laughing Devil Comedy Club to stay

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photo

The laughs are here to stay in Long Island City.

In July, the owners of The Laughing Devil Comedy Club, located at 47-38 Vernon Boulevard, announced they would put the venue up for sale.

After nearly two months of searching for the perfect buyer, Steve Hofstetter, co-owner, decided to buy out his partner, Jacob Morvay.

“With my move to LA and my business partner’s new baby, selling the club made sense, but it was not my first choice,” said Hofstetter. “After we had a buyer that backed out at the last minute, our second best offer was to turn it into a bar – and I did not want to see that happen.”

Hofstetter and Morvay started the business in 2011. It became a part of the Long Island City community as it hosted various stand-up shows featuring celebrity comedians.

Along with purchasing the venue, Hofstetter said there will be some additional changes taking place at the comedy club. A wall will be put up to divide the bar and showroom, allowing comedians and patrons to hang out while a show is taking place.

The Laughing Devil will also begin showing classic movies, like “Spaceballs” and “The Big Lebowski,” on Wednesday nights and weekend afternoons.

“I will be passing on some opportunities in LA and coming back to NYC every so often to ensure that the Laughing Devil is here to stay,” said Hofstetter. “In other words, we’re back and we’re better than ever.”



LIC’s Laughing Devil Comedy Club up for sale

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo by Benjamin Fang

It looks like the laughs might be coming to an end.

The owners of The Laughing Devil Comedy Club, located at 47-38 Vernon Boulevard in Long Island City, have announced the venue will be put up for sale.

“It has been successful to date, but my business partner, Steve, moved out to [Los Angeles] for his career, and I had a baby about 11 months ago,” said Jacob Morvay, co-owner of the club. “So we both had changes in our lives that have taken a significant portion of time.”

Morvay and Steve Hofstetter started the business in 2011. It became a lovable part of the Vernon Boulevard community, hosting numerous stand-up shows featuring celebrity comedians.

The owners hope the venue will remain a comedy club since there are not many entertainment options in Long Island City.

“Our first choice is that it would stay the same — just a different owner,” said Morvay. “But there are other options for the space. “

Morvay said the club’s neighborhood is a popular one and that the property would come with a liquor license, a big draw for prospective buyers. He also touted a state-of-the-art draft beer system which includes 14 different beers and is already installed.

The owners have told other business in the area about the club being up for sale. They said reactions have been supportive, if also a bit melancholy. Morvay and Hofstetter are in talks with potential buyers of the 770-square-foot facility, which has the capacity to expand by another 100 square feet in the back.

“We’ve put a lot of time and effort [into] it,” said Morvay. “It’s definitely a labor of love that we are sad to see go, but we have decided what’s best for the business.”



Board votes down outdoor seating at Alobar

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

File photo

Alobar customers will now have to spend the summer indoors after a final vote from Community Board 2 (CB2) denied the restaurant the use of its backyard space.

The popular restaurant at 46-42 Vernon Boulevard in Hunters Point must adhere to a stipulation of its liquor license prohibiting outdoor seating.

Owner Jeff Blath met with CB2’s City Service and Public Safety Committee on June 12 to discuss opening his backyard space to customers. He said the board told him it could not make an exception for his restaurant without setting a precedent for other establishments.

“They were really clear that Alobar is an excellent addition to the neighborhood,” said Blath. “The reason was that if they say yes to Alobar, they have to say yes to everyone.”

Blath said he finds the decision “disappointing.” He previously noted the effect on his business, saying he loses dozens of customers who ask for the outdoor seating.

“It’s thousands of dollars a month and it’s enough to put people out of business,” said Bath. “It’s enough to make people lose their jobs.”

CB 2 Chair Joseph Conley previously told The Courier the board has had to deal with establishments whose backyard seating caused disturbances to neighbors and the community. He added that residents in the area have voiced their opposition to the plan.

However, Blath said he gathered nearly 500 signatures for a petition and has spoken with his neighbors that say otherwise.

Before the meeting, Blath built 11-foot-high walls to block out noise and had a sound engineer suggest other changes to make the seating area quieter. He was also trying to work with the board to cut back hours at the backyard from 10 p.m. to 6 p.m.

“I was willing to bend over backwards to make this happen,” said Blath. “When you see another place just a block away from you go out of business, it scares you. My heart is in this business. I can’t help but think what’s going to happen.”

Blath is looking to appeal the board’s decision with the State Liquor Authority.

CB2 did not respond to calls as of press time.



Long Island City, Astoria bike lanes to get makeover

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano / Graphics courtesy of DOT

Vernon Boulevard’s bike lanes are set to get a makeover this summer to provide extra safety for riders and more space for drivers.

According to a plan the Department of Transportation (DOT) presented to Community Board 2 on June 6, the two one-way bike paths on each side of Vernon Boulevard would become a two-way protected lane. The lane would have a five-foot buffer running alongside the west side of the street. The lanes would also be painted green to provide easier visibility.

“This project is intended to knit together existing sections of the greenway by providing a continuous, protected bike lane serving neighborhoods along the East River waterfront,” said DOT spokesperson Nicholas Mosquera.

The existing bike lanes were set up as part of the Queens East River Greenway in 2008, which connects the waterfront from Hallet’s Cove in Astoria to 45th Road in Hunters Point.

After hearing community concerns over the lack of parking, DOT also plans to create a protected bike path through Rainey Park in Astoria. That would free up 35 parking spaces between 34th Avenue and 33rd Road.

According to the plan, the two-way bike lane will help beginning riders feel more comfortable on the streets and bring more bicyclists to the path. The wider path would allow joggers to benefit from the space, too.

“The project, which DOT has proposed for implementation this summer, has the support of Community Board 1 and the agency continues to work with Community Board 2 on this initiative,” said Mosquera.



Outdoor seating still in question at LIC’s Alobar

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

File photo

It seems Alobar still has to overcome a few more hurdles before getting the chance to use its backyard space this summer.

The popular restaurant, located at 46-42 Vernon Boulevard in Hunters Point, has not been allowed to offer customers outdoor seating as a stipulation of its liquor license.

Alobar’s owner Jeff Blath met with Community Board 2’s City Service and Public Safety Committee on Wednesday, May 8 to discuss opening the backyard space to customers.

Blath previously told The Courier his business loses thousands of dollars when the weather is nice. He said turning down customers who request an outdoor table pushes them to other establishments.

Committee Chair Patrick O’Brien said it was a good meeting since Blath listened to recommendations and was open to working with the community board.

“He understands the concerns, and we are sensitive to any business,” said O’Brien. “We want to hear both sides of it.”

O’Brien noted that residents have strongly voiced their opposition to opening up Alobar’s backyard seating area because of the noise it would cause.

The committee neither approved nor denied the proposal, but suggested Blath work with sound engineers to see if there is something that could muffle sounds from his backyard. The committee also asked Blath to consider offering only brunch or lunch in the backyard if it ultimately gets approval.

The committee would also have to make sure Alobar can legally use the space for the intended reasons, O’Brien said. The body is scheduled to continue discussions on Alobar’s backyard at a June 12 meeting.

Blath did not respond to multiple phone calls as of press time.



LIC’s Alobar petitions for outdoor seating

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

File photo

With summer just around the corner, Alobar in Hunters Point is seeking permission to serve patrons outdoors.

The popular restaurant at 46-42 Vernon Boulevard is not allowed to offer its customers backyard seating as a stipulation of its liquor license.

Alobar’s owner Jeff Blath said when customers see his outdoor seating area, they often request a table there, but he has to turn them down. According to him, the business loses thousands of dollars when the weather is nice.

“I have to tell them no, and customers will usually respond with, ‘We’ll go somewhere else’,” he said.

Community Board 2 granted Alobar its liquor license. CB 2 Chair Joseph Conley said the board has previously had to deal with establishments whose backyard seating caused disturbances to neighbors and the community.

He cited Lounge 47 as an example. After years of neighbors’ complaints about excessive noise during late hours, the establishmen closed. It was located at 47-10 Vernon Boulevard.

“By and large, from past experience, people do not want them because they are a negative impact to the way of life,” said Conley. “It is very clear the community has spoken about this. Residents that live there are opposed to it.”

However, Blath maintains Alobar has been a good neighbor and will stay that way. His petition has gained 438 signatures from neighbors and customers.

“Now that I’ve been around, I’ve proven myself to be a good neighbor. I welcome speaking to neighbors and hearing from them,” Blath said. “I want to be able to go to the community board with a good number of people to show it’s what people want.”

Blath plans to make the case that Alobar is a quiet restaurant. There will be no speakers to play music, he has built 11-foot-high walls and set up an awning to muffle noise.

If CB 2 approves use of Alobar’s backyard space, the restaurant will stay open until 10:30 p.m. Blath considers that a reasonable time compared to some other establishments, which stay open past midnight.

“I’m asking for less than everyone else,” he said.

The next board meeting is on May 2. Conley said he welcomes Blath to come and bring his proposal.

“Based on the facts, there could be something unique,” Conley said. “Each case is looked at individually.”



The Who gifts sound system to Sandy-struck venue

| aaltman@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of TheWho.com

When an LIC music venue’s set was cut short by Sandy, it didn’t expect the sound to be turned back on by a group of rock legends.

Music icons The Who gifted the besieged LIC Bar with a brand new sound system after the Vernon Boulevard favorite was inundated by seven feet of water, wiping out its entire cache of electronic equipment.

LIC Bar, known for hosting mainly local live acts four nights a week, has previously held impromptu gigs for bigger acts like Violent Femmes and The Fleshtones and holds a major place in the music landscape of New York City.

The internationally known band heard about the venue’s plight when LIC Bar patron Robert Basch alerted members of The Who’s record label about the damage endured by the establishment during Sandy when they stopped in Brooklyn during their “Quadrophenia” tour in November.

“[Basch] had this crazy idea of ‘I’m going to approach The Who,’” said LIC Bar talent booker Gustavo Rodriguez of the gutsy guest. “He told me he was going to do it and I thought he was kidding around.”

According to Rodriguez, Basch’s original intention was to see if the group could do a surprise performance at LIC Bar. With a tight schedule of performances, the band did the next best thing, hooking the venue up with gear from Shure Microphones and Peavey Electronics, the same state-of-the-art equipment The Who uses at their shows.

“It’s definitely much appreciated,” said LIC Bar owner Brian Porter. “Who knows what could come from it. It’s a true blessing.”

Porter said it looked unlikely that the bar’s insurance would cover the nearly $75,000 in damages from the storm. The bar spent the first three weeks after Sandy cleaning up and finally reopened in late November.

“We’re up and running, thank God,” said Rodriguez. “Everything seems to be normal again. People were glad to see us open. We definitely have a following.”

Rodriguez, who is a longtime fan of The Who, said he expects the gear to arrive at LIC Bar sometime this week.

“This gesture from The Who is a godsend,” said Rodriguez.



Cuba comes to LIC with Madera

| editorial1@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Madera

A sincere passion for food is the driving force at Madera in Long Island City. Staying true to her family’s Cuban roots, owner Miriam Porto has established a significant customer base through her genuine appreciation of her culture, culinary roots and an eye for detail.  Each dish at Madera is carefully designed and created for the customer. Filled with slow cooked meats, savory tender vegetables and brilliantly flavored seafood, the menu at Madera is truly magnificent.

“Before the opening of the restaurant, I had my chef stay in the kitchen with my mother for two years, watching her cook, learning,” Porto said as she explained the history behind the cuisine.

Hailing from a creative, culinary-inspired family, Porto decided that she would open Madera and give customers the same quality she would expect in her own home.

“I do all the grocery shopping myself, up to five times a week,” she said.

We began our culinary adventure with stuffed green plantains and Cuban-style grilled shrimp. The shrimp was cooked perfectly, marinated in the chef’s secret recipe. Artfully presented, buttery, surprisingly light – a must try! The stuffed green plantains have lean meat marinated in garlic, tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, olives, raisins and capers stuffed inside a plantain shell. I enjoyed the consistency of the meat, tangy mixture of the tomato and raisins, and most importantly, the overall fusion of ingredients.

The food isn’t the only thing that stands out upon entering this Cuban eatery. The atmosphere at Madera deserves an award in itself – rich mahogany, dim lighting, a distinctive ambiance heightened by brilliant artwork. Most of the paintings that grace the walls are courtesy of Miriam’s husband. His artistry is a truly distinctive contribution to the establishment, and it is more than obvious that creativity runs in the family.

The quality is blatantly obvious in the food as we begin our entrees – the “lechon asado con mojo criollo” presents succulent, slow roasted pork with a side of dirty rice. The pork is cooked for up to seven hours and melts in your mouth – truly delicious. If you’re in the mood for beef, order the skirt steak. Tender, flavorful, grilled, presented with lemon and chimichurri sauce, which is almost too good to eat, and can be added to anything for an instant burst of flavor.

The culinary marathon came to an end with the Chilean sea bass, served on a bed of jasmine rice with sautéed vegetables. An exquisite presentation, savory, cooked to perfection – one of the most memorable renditions of the dish I’ve tried thus far.

From appetizer to entrée each dish we tried was succulent, presenting an assortment of unforgettable flavors within a charming atmosphere. The entire meal was narrated by soothing strums of guitar and harmonizing vocals, as Madera offers live music throughout the week.

Located on Vernon Boulevard in Long Island City, this establishment combines authentic cuisine with a sincere passion for food, which is obvious to each and every customer that enters their charming Cuban eatery.

Madera Cuban Grill
47-29 Vernon Boulevard
Long Island City, NY 11101
Reservations, Delivery, Take-out, Full Bar



Brooklyn Cupcake makes a new home in Long Island City

| aaltman@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of Brooklyn Cupcake

The fluorescent Pepsi sign brought Brooklyn Cupcake owner Carmen Rodriguez to Long Island City.

Years ago, when the neighborhood was still in its early days of development, she journeyed to find the iconic neon insignia and stumbled upon Long Island City, instantly forming a bond with the unique sector of the city. After catering several weddings in the area, she began exploring the possibility of opening another storefront in her new favorite neighborhood.

Brooklyn Cupcake recently announced plans to debut a second location in conjunction with Uncle Louie G’s on 48th Avenue off Vernon Boulevard, to create a one-stop dessert shop.

“There are no other bakeries [in LIC] and everyone needs a local bakery,” said Rodriguez.

Brooklyn Cupcake’s Williamsburg location, which will celebrate its second birthday this July, creates confectionary dreams like Vanilla Raspberry, Guava con Queso and Red Velvet for adoring customers. The team uses real cream cheese and whipped cream in their baking, instead of butter cream, to give their cupcakes a rich, smooth taste and texture. However it’s the fans that set this bakery apart from other sweet shops. The New York Daily News voted them the number one cupcake spot in NYC and they scored a coveted Zagat rating of 27 out of 30.

“Cupcakes are the ‘in’ thing – the logical dessert option if you’re looking to be the hit of the party, dinner whatever the occasion,” said Rodriguez. “You can show up with 12 different flavors and be sure to please almost everyone.”

The Long Island City location of Brooklyn Cupcake will also offer ice cream, milkshakes, coffee, tea and cakes.
Rodriguez says the secret to a killer cupcake is adding just a little something extra.

“It is made with love, it will always taste good,” she said.