By Bill Parry
Dominic Stiller wears many hats in the Dutch Kills section of Long Island City.
A civil engineer by trade, Stiller is president of DSENY Building Services and has served as president of the Dutch Kills Civic Association for the last year. He is now also a restaurateur after opening Dutch Kills Centraal last fall.
“I moved to Dutch Kills in 2008 and in the two years I spent renovating the building that serves as both home and headquarters for my company. I realized there was no good place to eat or drink around here,” Stiller said.
The industrial stretch of LIC, just north of Queensboro Plaza, was rezoned in 2008 to allow for more residential development. Some 15 hotels have been built or are under construction, but restaurants and bars have been slow to fill the void.
Stiller saw an opportunity when he found a building in 2011, just blocks away from his home and office. The building, at 38-40 29th St., turned out to have quite a history. In the 1940s it was home to Victor’s Bar & Grill, one of actor Jackie Gleason’s favorite hangouts. Next it became Scotty’s, where a young Roseanne Barr once performed stand-up. Finally, it was Just a Pub before closing down and falling into disrepair in the ’80s.
During an extended renovation, Stiller kept the original floor and bar, and people would always stop in to get updates on when it might open.
“I knew everyone was looking forward to a place where everyone could meet, a sort of community living room — a place where neighbors could meet neighbors as well as eat and drink,” Stiller said.
He decided to use the Dutch word for Central — Centraal — because “I want it to be the central meeting point in the neighborhood, the central place for people to go.”
The restaurant features a long Viking table where strangers are encouraged to strike up conversation. The food is American comfort food with many seasonal and local ingredients sourced from The Brooklyn Grange, the 2-acre rooftop farm atop the Standard Motor Parts Building, at 38-17 Northern Blvd. The full bar offers up to six craft beers on tap with many more in bottles.
Dutch Kills Centraal also extended its menu and hours after adding chef Matt Lundquist to the kitchen after he spent five years at Manhattan’s Waterfront Ale House.
“Lunchtime is starting to really pick up,” Stiller said. “It’s already feeling like a more neighborly feel around here.”
When he took over as president of the Dutch Kills Civic Association in January 2013, one of the first things Stiller did was plant 19 trees, part of his mission to make the neighborhood more livable and walkable. He thinks the next step is getting Citi Bikes to that part of LIC.
“We think Citi Bikes will make it more walkable because more bikes mean people are driving less,” he said.
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4538.