For Long Island City, the transformation from underserved 'hood to serious food-and-drink destination has been percolating for the past several years. Dutch Kills led the charge, coaxing booze aficionados to a barren stretch of Jackson Avenue for sultry jazz and impeccable classic cocktails. Then came M. Wells, which transformed a disused diner into one of the city's most exhilarating eateries. Alewife represents the next crucial piece of the puzzle: a craft-beer destination that can go toe-to-toe with the most pedigreed suds haunts in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Sure, there's an Anywhere, USA vibe to the generic-looking gastropub, and we could do without the poppy soundtrack and truffle oil on our fries. But while the out-of-towners behind the bar—a team of hops zealots with ties to Alewife Baltimore and the cultish Lord Hobo in Cambridge, Massachusetts—may not get every detail right, they come through where it counts. The beers are phenomenal, and their enthusiasm for sharing them is exactly what's needed to gain the craft-beer movement some new converts.
DRINK THIS: You'd be hard-pressed to find a dud among the 28 draft lines, which dispense a well-balanced selection of domestic all-stars (High & Mighty, Two Brothers), Old World classics (Mahr's) and hard-to-find European imports (De Ranke XX Bitter, Guineu Riner). Among the latter, committed beer hunters will notice an exciting (and largely unpronounceable) cast of Scandinavian breweries—the up-and-coming region is well represented, with recent hits including a refreshing Nøgne-Ø Saison from Norway and a funky, flowery Oppigrds Well-Hopped Lager from Sweden. Friendly servers can help steer the uninitiated through the unfamiliar terrain. If you're at a loss, a good move is to start with a sampler of four four-ounce pours—themes include IPAs ($10) and Belgians ($12)—then order a pint of your favorite.
GOOD FOR: Great beer with plenty of elbow room. Sadly, the off-the-beaten-path locale doesn't translate to lower prices, so expect to shell out $8 to $10 for most brews.
THE CLINCHER: In addition to quality beer, Alewife also helps to round out LIC's still-developing culinary landscape. Despite some overzealous touches, the kitchen shows promise, delivering fine (if overpriced) gastropub fare to match the suds. There's a formidable burger ($15), built with gooey Dorset cheddar and a meaty blend of dry-aged short rib and brisket; unfortunately, it's too big and orb-shaped to cook evenly. Still, the grub balances out the brews nicely, and late-night pizzas (11pm–2am) and weekend brunch service (Sat, Sun 11am–4pm) give Alewife anytime appeal. And it's tough to find fault with the stout float ($6), featuring two scoops of house-made ice cream drenched in silky, nitro-poured suds.