Tag: Queens

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Queens

10 Things You didn't know about queens by Ari KellenWhen asked what the “hot” borough is, most New Yorkers will tell you it’s either Manhattan or Brooklyn.  And there’s plenty of great stuff to do in both, without a doubt.  But that’s not to discredit their eastern neighbor, Queens.  In a city as unique as New York, Queens still stands out.  It might not boast the brunches of neighboring boroughs, but it’s still got a whole lot to offer, and is rich in history.  Here are some facts you might not know about Queens:

It’s really big: With 2.3 million residents, Queens has just 400,000 less people than Chicago.  If it seceded from the rest of New York, it would be the fourth largest city in the US; the country’s current fourth-largest city, Houston, is a few thousand residents behind.  

It’s actually named after a Queen: Like many places in Colonial America, Queens is named after a British monarch: Catherine of Braganza, the Portuguese wife of Charles II.  When the British took the area from the Dutch in the 1660s, the region got some new anglophile names: “Nieuw Amsterdam” became “New York” in honor of the reigning monarch’s brother, the Duke of York, while the neighboring counties were renamed “Kings” and “Queens” in honor of the reigning monarchs.

It’s the final resting place of Harry Houdini: Located a good distance from any subway line, Machpaleh Jewish cemetery is fairly nondescript.  However, it’s the site of Houdini’s grave, a popular mecca for Halloween revelers and aspiring magicians.  It’s fastidiously looked after by The Society of American Magicians and the Houdini Museum in Scranton.  

The Rockaways is New York’s premier surfing spot: Located at the very end of the A train, the Rockaways is arguably New York’s best beach.  Hurricane Sandy hit it hard, but it’s been making a major comeback, and its beach is home to some great waves.  Even without a board, it’s well worth the trip.

It’s the most diverse neighborhood in the world: New York’s always been a diverse place; when it was a remote trading post with only 400 people living there, there were 18 different languages.  But Queens brings that to a whole new level; the 2000 Census counted 138 languages spoken in the borough, yet some experts estimate that number to be around 800.  Furthermore, a lot of these languages can’t be heard anywhere else in the world.  

The food is amazing: The brunch spots in Queens might not be as well-known as Brooklyn’s or Manhattan’s, but that’s not to discredit the food scene in Queens.  The neighborhood’s ethnic diversity means that you can get a whole lot of delicious and authentic food you can’t find anywhere else in the city.

Some of the world’s best pianos are made in Astoria: Although New York was historically a center of manufacturing, that’s changed recently due to high taxes and expensive real estate.  Yet the piano company Steinway & Sons, founded in Astoria in 1853, is staying just where it is, and has been using the same factory for 100 years.  

It’s the site of a major film studio: Kaufman Astoria Studios is an historic movie studio, and home to New York’s only backlot.  Classic films and TV shows such as “Animal Crackers”, “Goodfellas” and “Sesame Street” have all been filmed there.  It’s also the home to New York’s Museum of the Moving Image, a great museum chronicling film history.

There’s an abandoned Civil War fort in Queens: In 1862, the government built a fort to watch over the ships entering and leaving New York Harbor.  Although Fort Totten Park never saw battle, it had a long history as a base and training station for the US Army.  Some of it remains a training ground for the army reserves, but the public part is a great park.   

It’s the hometown of a lot of big names: The Ramones, Simon & Garfunkel, Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Cyndi Lauper, Tony Bennett, Nicki Minaj, 50 Cent and Louis Armstrong are just a few famous musicians who come from or have lived in Queens over the years.  

Great Breweries in NYC

Great Breweries in NYC, by Ari KellenBreweries have been a part of New York City’s history since the days of New Amsterdam.  In the 19th century, German immigrants brought lager beer with them to New York, and by Prohibition there were 70 operating breweries in New York, most of them in Brooklyn.  Yet by 1976, there were zero.  But starting in the 80s and 90s, a homebrewing scene began to flourish in New York, which has since spawned numerous great breweries around the city.  Here are a couple of these, based off an article that I found online:

Threes Brewing: In addition to brewing, this place hosts art shows, concerts and community meetings.  They have a kitchen space that hosts restaurants from all over the city in two-week residencies, meaning that there’s something new every time you come.  Many of the beers here aren’t distributed beyond the brewery, so this is the best chance you have to taste them.  There are 24 different beers on taps, ranging from house-made to brews from out of state.  

Other Half Brewing Co: It’s pretty small, and can get really crowded on a weekend night (seating is limited to a single table).  But it’s not a place you want to miss; luckily, the brewery has plans to double the tasting room’s size.  This isn’t a place with any sort of “fancy” atmosphere, with a beat-up antelope head on the wall and an even more beat-up bartop that once went on tour with the Rolling Stones.  But the beer here is some of the best in New York.  If you ever decide to come out to Red Hook for some beef rib at Hometown, a couple games of Mini Golf at Brooklyn Crab or a sandwich at DeFonte’s, be sure to visit.

Singlecut Beersmiths: After falling in love with European lagers, Rich Buceta became a passionate homebrewer, quitting his job in advertising to get into brewing.  Starting out as a keg-cleaner, he’s started Singlecut, an Astoria brewery with an emphasis on fresh lagers.  The barn-like brewery regularly hosts live music, which has become a part of the brewery/bar’s culture: Buceta plays guitar, the bartenders are musicians in a band, and the bar features a top-notch record collection.

Transmitter Brewing: At this Long Island City warehouse, the brewers are constantly experimenting with brewing methods, yeast and bacteria strains and barrel aging.  The barrel collection includes casks that have held every sort of alcohol, from red wine to rum.  Since most of what they make is small-batch, beers tend to run out quickly, so visit the sampling room as soon as you can.

Bronx Brewery: This place is just a good time.  On weekend nights, it feels more like a house party than a brewery, with foosball tables, comfortable couches, a small bar and a dog-friendly backyard.  Even though they don’t have a kitchen of their own, you can order from all sorts of local restaurants, and there’s a free catered dinner on Friday nights.  

Gun Hill Brewing: Soaring ceilings and a no-nonsense atmosphere make Gun Hill a great place for novices to learn more about craft beer.  The goal here is to make great beers that don’t intimidate people.  If you’re a Yankees fan, it’s a good place to catch a game.  Across the street is a food truck with hearty Dominican fare, with Gun Hill customers getting a discount.  

Flagship Brewery: Staten Island is a place with plenty of great stuff, but it can be hard to get people out there.  Yet for those tenacious few who can get onto the ferry from downtown, Flagship Brewery is a short walk away from the landing.  Fridays and Saturdays offer live music, which on other days alternates between comedy, trivia and charity events.