BY TAMMY SCILEPPI
Have you been yearning for a night out on the town? Bring a friend or a date and enjoy great gourmet cuisine and amazing views of the Manhattan skyline – framed by Gantry State Park – at Long Island City’s huge waterfront brasserie, American Brass, located at the corner of Center Boulevard and 49th Avenue.
Why not start your memorable evening off with East Coast oysters and a toast… champagne or Chablis, anyone? And for your main entrée, treat your taste buds to the Atlantic salmon with wild mushrooms and cauliflower then top that scrumptious meal off with a few espresso martinis!
As reported in The New York Times, this popular restaurant re-opened for outdoor dining (for 84 guests) during the summer, and offers an enticing, revamped menu, courtesy of newly appointed Bâtard (in TriBeCa) alum Kevin McGinley as Executive Chef, as well as chef de cuisine Chris Lewnes, a LIC resident who ran the kitchen at Augustine in Manhattan (now closed).
Both chefs are masters at balancing brilliant creativity with beautifully crafted, palette-pleasing recipes.
And the reviews have been extremely positive. Diners have been raving about the ambiance and quality New American brasserie fare, made with local New York ingredients, as well as raw bar, craft cocktails, and a hyper-local beer list including the restaurant’s own LIC Beer Project collaboration brew, American Brass Pale Ale.
“Spot on. So happy this place survived Covid. Chilled corn soup was incredible as was the heirloom tomato salad and branzino. Cocktails were really good, too,” one patron from Valley Stream said. “We sat outside but the interior is gorgeous. Whoever designed this place is super talented. High end everything. Raw bar was delicious too. Crab and kumamoto oysters were delicious. Can’t wait to come back for more!”
“When I heard of the opportunity to revitalize the old Riverview Restaurant and bring a new concept to the neighborhood, I jumped at the chance,” restaurateur and American Brass owner Robert Briskin, who is co-owner of under-the-Pepsi-sign sister restaurant Maiella, told QNS.
“From the ashes and rubble of the old restaurant came our new restaurant, American Brass. We spent two years building it from scratch and agonizing over every detail. Molly Elizabeth designed the space to be open, airy, light and bright. We used a lot of brass accents as a play on our Brasserie-inspired name. One of the selling points on the location was its unique city view and outdoor cafe.”
American Brass’ journey began in 2018, when Briskin signed a lease at an expansive 6,000-square-foot space behind LIC’s gantry cranes. He said American Brass instantly became one of the largest concepts in the neighborhood — second only to Maiella.
“As an owner of Maiella, we had the honor of not only servicing the community, but also introducing out-of-towners to it,” he added.
Together, the hospitality group occupies a cumulative 14,000 square feet of prime East River real estate, reinforcing the growing notion of LIC as a food destination with a burgeoning restaurant scene.
Sadly, numerous businesses here in Queens and across NYC have been affected by the pandemic, but American Brass has had an exceptionally rocky and dramatic journey — with super-bad timing — having opened just before the citywide shutdown, according to Briskin.
As he tells it, after two years of hard work, dedicated planning, renovations, and numerous challenges that come with opening a restaurant, the $7 million concept finally received its liquor license on Friday, March 13 — only 3 days before the city government issued closure of dine-in service.
Luckily, a PPP loan helped the struggling restaurant stay afloat this past spring for sustained takeout and delivery service throughout the shutdown.
The chef is fundamental to winning a restaurant’s Michelin stars (a single Michelin star is a rare achievement, while a multiple-star rating is very rare). Winning this recognition is no easy task and it’s the life goal of many professional chefs, like McGinley, who previously worked at Bâtard, where his menu received a Michelin Star, and at Gotham Bar and Grill in Greenwich Village (recipient of a Michelin Star and six 3-star reviews from The New York Times; currently closed for business).
“During the shutdown period we were lucky to add Chef Kevin and Chef Chris to our team. These two gentlemen have completely revitalized our menu and brought it to the next culinary level,” Briskin noted.
Chef Kevin, who hails from the Philly area and moved to NYC in 2010, had lived in Brooklyn in north Greenpoint for 8 years and has recently relocated to Cobble Hill. He was eager to share a bit of his backstory and talk about his experience working at American Brass.
“I initially wanted to pursue Jazz guitar here in NYC. But after working in restaurants to support myself and realizing that I had a serious passion and could make a living, I decided to switch and pursue cooking full time,” he recalled.
McGinley said he’s “beyond excited” to be working at the restaurant. “The setting, the ambience, the vibe and the ability to cook more approachable and inclusive food, is something that I’ve wanted for quite some time now,” he added.
Come by and sample both chefs’ tasty cuisine featured on the restaurant’s diverse menu. Chef Kevin’s includes: chilled corn soup with ratatouille; peekytoe crab and sauce romesco; sourdough focaccia with whipped ricotta and rosemary sea salt; roasted branzino with confit tomatoes; smoked eggplant and kalamata olives.
Talking about choosing locally sourced ingredients, he noted: “It’s very important to us that we take advantage of the farms that come to us every week. We are at Union Square Greenmarket four days a week to source the best the season and farms have to offer. Summer is the best time to be cooking! “
McGinley, who likes to grill at home and occasionally makes pasta dishes for his family, said he loves cooking because it gives him “an opportunity to share in an intimate way” how much he cares. “Cooking with intention is the ultimate form of caring for someone because it provides something that is not only nourishing but a true act of kindness. Chefs do it because they would never do anything else but cook for a living. It’s in our blood.”
“As a longtime resident of Long Island City, I have a deep fondness and appreciation of this unique neighborhood,” Briskin shared. “And I would like to invite everyone to come and experience American Brass for one of the best meals you will ever have!”
Another happy patron, Ben from Brooklyn, agreed: “Besides the food the other very important part of dining for me… service!! Our waiter was Chris. Because of him and how knowledgeable he was … he made this one of my best dining experiences! I had the steak frites. Also had bunch of oysters … all delicious. Watermelon and passion fruit mojitos… Rock!! Overall a very good experience with a beautiful view of the skyline…
“Their setup makes you forget you are dining out during the COVID times!”
American Brass is open for outdoor dining 7 days per week and offers delicious meals for takeout & delivery. For hours, reservations, and a complete menu with prices, visit: www.americanbrasslic.com.