At last, bistros are booming in Queens. Owned by Adnan Krilic, a Bosnian transplant who once designed European concert halls, Brick Café has the requisite brick walls, stamped-tin ceiling and lace-curtained French windows that can be flung open for breezy brunches and sultry evenings, plus a lively same-name bar next door. Krilic’s sound-man chops guarantee an intriguing jazz-inflected music mix matched by adroit acoustics. Postcollegiate artists in ironic shags and Slavic bons vivants dine on citrusy tuna carpaccio; pan-seared fish, chicken and duck; and matchstick frites that would hold their own in the Latin Quarter (not to mention the East Village).
Fernando Peña knows the way to a woman’s heart; his family’s Dominican cuisine won over girlfriend Suzanne Furboter, who then persuaded him to start a Latin-inspired restaurant with her. The result is hip Fatty’s Café, serving jalapeño turkey burgers, grilled cheese, creative takes on pressed Cuban sandwiches and one of the best mojitos around. Furboter and Peña serve as waitress and bartender, respectively, and treat each customer like family. On weekends, they offer a stellar brunch. Stick around after the kitchen closes; Fatty’s becomes a relaxed neighborhood bar.
Serious java draws caffeine fiends to this airy café, which also specializes in grilled-cheese sandwiches. While the pedigreed beans—from Tarrytown, New York’s Coffee Labs Roasters—are brewed with Hario V60 drip cones and a La Marzocco Strada espresso machine, there’s no coffee-snob tude here. Of the fancy grilled-cheese choices, the simplest riffs are best: One morning offering features soft egg folded with ricotta, a Gruyère crisp and maple hot sauce between two thick, buttery slices of brioche. But the simple pleasure of bread and melted cheese is obscured by baroque ingredients in some of the more creative options, such as a Gruyère on rye—the nutty cheese is overwhelmed by pickled and caramelized onions, plus piquant whole-grain mustard. Stick to the basics and you'll do fine.
Tuck into American classics at this 52-seat tavern from the owners of Bistro 33. The menu of hearty eats includes refined updates like cobb salad with braised pork belly and turducken with bourbon ketchup. Drinkers can perch at the oak bar and choose from an all-American list of beers, wines and bourbons.