By Suzanne Parker
Is it a trend? Is it a cuisine? New American is the moniker that is being widely bandied about, but what is it really? Perhaps it’s more of a culinary philosophy, intent on reminding us that what we eat originated on a farm, not in a factory.
Some of the loose bundle of characteristics includes ingredients that are “locally sourced” or “sustainably farmed” or, ideally, both. Servers are expected to be versed in the provenance of what they serve. Gone are the days when a question like “is the salmon farmed?” evokes a response of “I’ll ask the chef.” Now if the item’s origins aren’t proudly displayed on the menu, the waitstaff will have been coached about where the components gained their majority. Seasonality is a compass which guides the menu, and combinations navigate effortlessly between homey comfort food and luxury ingredients.
LIC Market, an exemplar of this style of dining, sprouted in a row of brownstones on 44th Drive in Long Island City about a year ago. The ambiance is post-industrial chic. The front of the long narrow spaces accommodates a small retail selection of housemade specialty items and the wine/beer bar. The rear is populated by tables made from reclaimed whitewashed boards, lovingly sanded and varnished. The walls feature changing exhibitions of the work of local artists. Glass jars containing odds and ends of dried vegetation serve as the tables’ centerpieces.
Alex Schindler, the chef/owner of LIC Market eased his way into this restaurant with breakfast and lunch service, and sales of his artisanal preserves and condiments. He only added dinner to his repertoire about two months ago. With slight adjustments, many of the lunch and dinner components of the menu are interchangeable giving the establishment a nice easygoing feel. You can sup on a multi-course meal or just as easily graze on an appetizer or two with a craft brew or a thoughtfully chosen wine.
The burgers here, which can be had at lunch or dinnertime, are large and drippingly good with cheddar and aioli, served on a caramelized onion bun. The bun, which clinches the deal, comes from the Pan D’Avignon bakery, as do all the excellent breads served here. At lunch slow-cooked pork is offered two ways. Go for the sandwich on souman (Turkish) bread with gruyere and Pommery mustard dressing over the plate with basmati rice and black beans. The pork needs the mustard to jazz it up, without which it’s too bland. That goes for the barley soup too, which while hearty and filling, needs some more zip.
As improbable as it may sound, the appetizer that really kicks you-know-what is the charred endive with white anchovies, soft-boiled egg, and superior olive oil. It’s as much a treat for the eyes as the palate, and is paradoxically light and rich at the same time.
Braised veal cheeks, we were assured, were sourced from a cruelty free farm in upstate New York. The cheeks were transformed into a hearty pot roast over lentils and sweet carrots. Very rib sticking winter fare with great sides. And speaking of sides, the oyster mushroom hash with Yukon gold potatoes, truffle oil and herbs is as elegant a hash as you’re ever going to find. Crisp little cubes of taters, like itty-bitty fries mingle with the heavenly funk of the mushies and truffle oil. They come with the burger at night, but not at lunchtime. A word to the wise — if you’re having the lunch burger, offer to pay whatever the difference is to substitute the hash for the lunchtime potato salad.
Dessert here was wonderfully homey. A berry crumble was minimally sweet, but very satisfying.
The Bottom Line
LIC Market gets high marks all around for food and service. The staff is knowledgeable and attentive. The creative menu, while concise, offers options that will please a broad spectrum of diners. They have begun hosting a Saturday night Supper Club, and will be having a two-seating New Year’s Eve Celebration with a special multi-course tasting menu. LIC Market is a great place to relax after soaking up some culture at Long Island City’s museums and galleries.
21-52 44th Drive
Long Island City, NY 11101
Price Range: Apps $8–18, Mains $14–23, Lunch $8–12
Cuisine: New American
Setting: Petite post-industrial
Service: Professional, attentive.
Hours: Mon.-Tue. 7–4; Wed.–Fri. 7–3:30, 6–10 pm; Sat.-Sun. 11–4
Reservations: Events only
Alcohol: Wine & beer
Dress: Casual to business
Credit cards: Yes
Noise level: Acceptable
Accessiblity: Two steps down at entrance, no ramp. Interior accessible.