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Date Night: LIC Market

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Baby octopus with olives, cucumbers, and grape tomatoes; photos: Garrett Ziegler

The barnyard aesthetic reigns at LIC Market. To wit: Re-purposed wood. Twigs, eggs, and little birds artfully stuck in bell jars. Stones. Mismatched bistro and folding chairs tucked against a communal table supported by A-brackets. It's a bright, pleasing effect, twee without being corny or terribly affected. In fact, with its emphasis on seasonality and the DIY decor, this New American restaurant feels as if a bit of Brooklyn has been plopped into the center of Long Island City.

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A word on expectations: they were high. We brunched here a few months back on our way to nearby P.S. 1, and we'd quickly fallen in love. The bread plate! The slab bacon with cabbage! When we noticed the new dinner service, 5:30 to 10:00 pm on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, we hopped an E train back to the neighborhood. From 5:30 to 7, there's a a buy-a-food-item, get-a-drink-half-off happy hour. Plates run on the in-between side: too big for appetizers, too small for dinner portions. A pair of gentlemen ordered two for the table, a man and a woman ordered three; we ordered four.

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Risotto with apples, red onion and blue cheese

Beneath the moist white mounds of risotto ($13) ran a golden rivulet of butter. Neither of us grew up eating risotto, yet we both felt a twinge of nostalgia, probably due to the playlist in the restaurant, which veers toward the Decemberists and the Rushmore soundtrack. Cubes of Golden Delicious apples and slivers of red onion gave the rice texture, while the dollops of Maytag blue cheese gave the dish its goodness. Swirling them about created veins of tangy coolness within the warm creaminess.

As they are wont to be, the brisket sliders ($12) were adorable sandwiches of meat on minibuns, in this case, slow-cooked brisket on brioche. Red cabbage slaw offset the beef's dryness. They were best after sitting at the table for a few minutes, such that everything dripped together.

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Beef brisket sliders with red cabbage

The baby octopus ($13; top) had been cooked, then cooked again, then cooked once more for good measure. It rested on a nice mix of cucumber, Kalamata olives, and grape tomatoes and olive oil. Although we could still see the newly formed tentacles, over-zealous searing eradicated the cephalopod's delicacy, creating crisp where there should have been chew.

While we're on the subject, one more criticism. Shelves up front put the market in "LIC Market." We desperately wanted to take the strawberry and black pepper jam or bitter lemon marmalade home, but the light layer of dust on the jars put us off. Waitstaff/owner(s), if you're reading this, please add dusting to the sidework.

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Spaghetti with corn, jalapeno, and onions

Also: please don't ever take the spaghetti ($11) off the menu. Simply put, we didn't want to stop eating it. Tossed with red onion, zucchini, roasted corn, and jalapeno, the pasta left an oily, tasty ring around our lips. And the vegetables' freshness had us wondering whether the restaurant wasn't hiding a garden somewhere. Pasta primavera at its finest.

'Tis the end of the school year. So, in that spirit, we'd assign the risotto an A, the sliders a B, the octopus a C+, and the spaghetti an A+, for an overall 3.4 FPA (flavor point average). A few glasses of wine, a few dishes, and you might feel up for a walk around Gantry Plaza State Park or the graffiti mecca that is 5 Pointz, both 100% Queens. LIC Market is best for: a date with interborough connotations.

LIC Market

21-52 44th Drive, Long Island City NY (map)
718-361-0013
licmarket.com

About the authors: Jessica Allen and Garrett Ziegler have been eating out together since 2002 and writing We Heart New York since 2006.

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