A taproom, wine bar and rum bar have all opened in our neighborhood recently, so you won’t have to travel far to try something new on your next night out. Read on to learn more about these three spots—there’s something for everyone right here in western Queens!
ICONYC Brewing Co.
Long Island City’s local ICONYC Brewing Company opened a new taproom on May 5 at 45-13 34th Ave., not too far from their main brewing facility. Their popular original beers, “High Ryse” and “Vexed,” and some newer craft brews like the berry-flavored “Proper Burial” are on tap.
Fully owned and operated by ICONYC’s three founders and childhood friends, Sam Bosrok, Bruno Daddi and Laszlo Fodor, the new space is the perfect place to grab a beer and relax at the end of a long day.
The founders opened their brewery four years ago, fulfilling a longtime dream. Fodor remembers Bosrok, the head brewer, brewing beer in his basement in Long Island City as a kid.
“It kind of became all our passions,” Fodor recalled. “We were always talking about running a brewery someday and then once he came back from the West Coast [after attending Oregon State University], we were like, ‘Let’s do it.’ We all saved up our life savings and went into it.”
And ICONYC – a name selected to encompass the whole city – was formed.
They started out selling their brews to craft beer bars and stores throughout the boroughs. Then, last fall, they bought a small real estate office, gutted the inside to make it more open and functional, and opened the taproom. The space is simple and clean, with an industrial feel. The bar is made of wood from Westchester, cut down by Daddi’s uncle, and the metal tiles that line the back of the bar are originally from the Bronx botanical gardens.
Not long after the opening, ICONYC enjoyed a successful run with Queens Beer Week.
“All the breweries in Queens are super cool, everybody’s super welcoming,” Fodor said. “The craft beer community is known to be a very welcoming community. We all share information.”
They hope to one day open more taprooms throughout the city, but for now, they’re focused on growing their small business in Queens.
This new café by day and wine bar by night is perfectly named. When you walk into the modest space on 23-14 Ditmars Blvd. – formerly home to Waltz Astoria – you are greeted with a nice outdoor patio with strings of lights overhead. Indoors is mostly furnished with wood, with old books and plants decorating the walls, giving the space a well-worn feel. The wine bar sits toward the back, and there are plenty of seating options.
The space is used by locals who want to work from home and enjoy a quiet atmosphere with a cup of coffee and locally made pastries. Then in the evening, wine lovers gather to sample from the wide selection of reds, whites and rosés.
“I love this area, so when the space became available, we jumped on it,” said owner Paul Serelis.
Co-founder and head chef Matthew Olley also loves the location: “I know Paul really wanted to keep it in Astoria, and this is the perfect street for it. There aren’t many opportunities to go out in this neighborhood, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity.”
When they first opened the spot on Feb. 13, it was solely a wine bar, but they’ve since expanded to serving food and coffee, and most recently, brunch on weekends. Since the beginning, they’ve featured two wines, always a pinot grigio, and a Tempranillo, as their “Wine of the Month” or “Charity Wines.”
Thirty-three percent of the proceeds from these wines go to a local charity that changes monthly. In February, they benefited the local Public School 122, and for June, they’re hoping to partner with a charity for breast cancer awareness.
In addition to the wines, there are a few local beers on tap, and they’re soon coming out with some soju-based cocktails.
“I kind of want this to just be an everything spot,” Olley said. “You can get a cup of coffee, have lunch, you can bring your friends or business partner. We want this to be a hub where people can meet and grow the community more.”
Off the Hook
Off the Hook, an eclectic sea-themed raw bar and grill in Astoria on 28-08 34th St., just expanded its venue to include a rum bar on May 18. This “Rum Vault,” as co-owner Bes Levonja calls it, contains more than 70 different types of rum from all over the world.
“The rum vault was so big that it needed a home of its own,” joked Levonja, who co-owns the space with friends Dritan and Glen. All three hail from Albania, but have lived in Astoria for a long time.
The new space, which used to be a garage, is a modest size and complements the older restaurant well. It adds more seating in addition to the bar, and better access to their outdoor patio.
The decorations are nautical-themed, with nets and lobster traps hanging from the ceiling. Artwork for sale by local artists hang on the walls, and there are two giant swings hanging from the ceiling separating the main restaurant from the rum bar area. There is an overall laid-back vibe, which is exactly what they’re going for.
“The initial idea was to have a place you could go to after the beach,” Levonja said. “We were envisioning this place to be really comfy, really down-to-Earth. Basically, we designed the place with that in mind. The community finds it really exciting.”
Now with the inclusion of the rum bar, the vision is complete. While it also functions as a regular full bar, the main attraction is the variety of rum. The menu seems endless, but every rum is laid out in detail, from the country of origin to the type of flavor you can expect. Most are from the Caribbean and Latin America, but some originate from unexpected places like Wisconsin and Austria. You can even order rum flights to sample three or five different kinds of rum. They’ve just started a rum punch for the summer: a juice blend of pineapple, blackberry and lime juice, shaken with a quality rum. They’re dangerously delicious.
Looking toward the future, Levonja said simply that they’re always on the lookout for new rums to add to the collection. For now, they’re looking forward to the summer when their customers can fully enjoy the laid-back island vibe with a rum punch in hand, complete with live music on Sundays.
“Now we feel like we can breathe easier,” Levonja said.