As the weather heats up, one New York guarantee — along with the worsening odor of garbage — is a deluge of talk about chic outdoor spots. Queens offers plenty of opportunities to eat and drink in the open air, but with its own particular, down-to-earth sensibility. Here are our recommendations for al fresco boozing and dining in the borough, whether you’re looking for a swanky night out or a place where you can show up in a bathing suit and flip flops.
For flea market fans: Indonesian Food Bazaar, 48-01 31st Avenue, Astoria
Northwest Queens is now home to weekly fleas in Long Island City and Astoria, but for those seeking more of a challenge, seek out this occasional event hosted by the Masjid Al-Hikmah mosque. The food bazaar, held in the mosque’s parking lot, features stalls serving treats from the tropical archipelago, like satays, coconut milk-based curries, noodle soups, fish cakes, and glutinous desserts. The friendly vendors are happy to teach you about any items you’re unfamiliar with. The bazaar’s mystique lies in its schedule, which is unlisted, but it’s known to pop up on weekends during the summer months. Keep an eye on Chowhound’s Outer Borough boards to catch it this year.
For multi-taskers: Spa Castle, 131-10 Eleventh Avenue, College Point
If you’ve ever had the urge to devour bulgogi poolside, Spa Castle is for you. This multi-story College Point spot offers several ways to baste yourself in Jacuzzis and saunas, and there’s a suite of spa services (massages, facials, body scrubs) for sale as well. The in-house restaurant serves up Korean and Japanese dishes like gyoza, ramen, and galbi, as well as bubble teas you can sip while you lounge beside the rooftop pools. All visitors are given Spa Castle-branded shorts and shirts to wear on the premises, which will make you feel like you’ve joined a particularly relaxing cult.
For beach bums: Bungalow Bar, 377 Beach 92nd Street, and Connolly’s, 155 Beach 95th Street, Rockaway Beach
Rockaway Beach may turn into Williamsburg-on-the-Atlantic come July, but it’s still technically Queens. Ditch the Brooklynite crowds and hit up neighborhood joints like Bungalow Bar, which has made a heroic recovery after taking a battering from Superstorm Sandy. Or head to Connolly’s, a lifeguard favorite where you can take the sting out of your sunburn with piña coladas in Styrofoam cups. Both bars are a few blocks from the beach and boast decks with views of Jamaica Bay.
For swank seekers: Z Roof, 11-01 43rd Avenue, Long Island City
The view from atop the Z Hotel‘s 5,000 square foot lounge makes even the Queensborough Bridge look scenic. If you fix your gaze upon the sunset over Manhattan, you might be able to overlook the pricey cocktails — multiple bars mean that at least you don’t have to wait long to pay up. A menu built on the pizza oven and barbecues, which grill up burgers, makes for a slightly more laidback vibe than nearby Penthouse 808. Come for the $5 beers at happy hour Thursdays through Saturdays.
For carnivores: John Brown Smokehouse, 10-43 44th Drive, Long Island City
Some people prefer to eat light in the summer; these sorry folks deny themselves the chance to dig into slabs of brisket in the backyard of John Brown Smokehouse. The Kansas City-style barbecue at this restaurant, in an industrial corner of Long Island City, may be the best of the borough. The cornbread and burnt ends, aptly referred to as “meat candy,” are menu highlights, and lamb sausage is a tasty nod to the local Greek community. John Brown often hosts live musical acts in its garden, too.