Best restaurants in Long Island City: Where to eat now

The dining scene in this Queens nabe is constantly evolving—our list of the best restaurants in Long Island City includes trusty favorites and new hot spots.

The Long Island City restaurant scene has been steadily improving for years, but Quebecois chef Hugue Dufour took local dining to new heights in 2010 with M. Wells, a classic diner that moonlighted as a world-class restaurant. Sadly, it shuttered in summer 2011, but more than a year later, Dufour resurrected his eclectic menu at M. Wells Dinette in MoMA PS1, which ranks among the best restaurants in the neighborhood.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to Long Island City, Queens, New York

Manetta’s Ristorante

This terra-cotta-tiled trattoria is tended by members of the Manetta clan—the kitchen, which turns out homestyle Pan-Italian eats, is capably supervised by matriarch Filomena. Her wood-burning brick oven produces marvelous crisp-crusted pizzas with toppings like spicy cacciatorini sausage, porcini mushrooms and house-made pesto. The pasta is a triumph: Linguine with four cheeses drips with lush Gorgonzola, mozzarella, fontina and Parmesan—ideal for pre-P.S.1 carbo-loading.

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Long Island City

M. Wells Dinette

Critics' pick

Circumstances, such as natural disasters and irascible landlords, can conspire to sink even the buzziest restaurant. And long lines outside don’t always translate to a cushion against trouble. M. Wells, among the most celebrated debuts of the past few years, brought Quebecois gluttony to New York, turning a remote corner of Queens into a hot food-destination. It lost its sweet lease, though, while still going strong in 2011, serving its last veal brains in brown butter and its final foie gras French toast at the end of that summer. And for more than a year, a comeback seemed uncertain. A few weeks ago, Hugue Dufour and Sarah Obraitis, the visionary couple behind the place, finally revived it—with a little help from their old neighbor, MoMA PS1. They’ve moved from their madhouse diner digs to more sedate museum environs. Gone are the two-hour waits for a table, the manic kitchen’s short-order quarters. The menu is smaller these days, the hours more civilized, and the food—wait for it—is far more subdued. Which isn’t to say that M. Wells, even in its scaled-back incarnation, isn’t still one of the city’s most exciting places to eat. It’s a museum canteen, certainly, but unlike any other. The restaurant, open only during PS1’s hours (until 6pm), does brisk but not frenetic business at lunch. The decor pays homage to the space’s public-school roots, with a daily-changing chalkboard menu and cubbyhole desks. But instead of juice boxes and Salisbury steak, there’s grower champagne

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Long Island City

Tournesol

Critics' pick

While Tournesol has fast become a local favorite for some steak frites and magret de canard, even Manhattanites are making the trip for beautifully executed southwestern French cuisine at prices you’d be hard pressed to find across the East River. Squeeze into one of the red banquettes in the intimate one-room dining space outfitted with white tin ceilings and local artwork, and order a plate of perfectly seared scallops. If you’re feeling especially self-indulgent, split an appetizer of the obscenely good tartiflette au reblochon, a rich gratin of bacon and sliced potatoes in a melted pool of the nutty French cheese. The homemade foie gras terrine seems downright light in comparison.

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Long Island City

Waterfront Crabhouse

While its waterfront morphs into a strip of high-rises that could easily pass for Battery Park City, LIC’s old school is in session at the Waterfront Crabhouse, where the portions are huge and the fish fresh. Lodged in a landmark 1881 brick building, the joint’s bizarre decor (shoes hang from the ceiling, while the bar has a bathtub full of peanuts) won’t distract you from the signature crabs, best sampled in a lively garlic sauce, or lobster tails stuffed with juicy crabmeat. The menu casts a wide net, much of the catch finding its way into the “bouillabaisse” of shrimp, scallops, mussels, crab, among other sea creatures, served over linguini in a choice of sauces.

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Long Island City

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