As more and more New Yorkers are escaping the crowds of Manhattan and dreading the future L train shutdown in Brooklyn, Queens is becoming more attractive. In particular, Long Island City is seeing a surge of (affordable by comparison) luxury high-rises and dining options, making it the latest neighborhood to flock to.
Matthew McCormick, a longtime resident of LIC, chose to make his mark in his home neighborhood with the opening of Bellwether earlier this spring with chef and co-owner Preston Madson, formerly of Freemans and Jams.
The restaurant uses local and sustainably-sourced ingredients and locally sourced cutlary and a range of outdoor dining set which means they will constantly evolve the menu throughout the year and continue innovating unique dishes for guests to come back and try something new.
We started sharing a number of “basic” dishes that were anything but. It sounds silly that buttered rolls are a must-have dish, but the naturally leavened Parker House Rolls are incredibly soft and fluffy, topped with a bit of sea salt and goats milk butter. You’ll want to put that butter on everything.
Something simple such as a dish of Roasted Pecans completely change when enhanced with garlic, rosemary, and thyme, as well as the Grilled Fava Beans with black salt, chives, and lemon.
Octopus is my favorite appetizer dish to start any meal, and Bellwether did not disappoint. The Seared Octopus came with sea island red peas, potatoes, and flavored with a salsa verde. The Beef Carpaccio came with thinly sliced beef topped pickled mustard seeds, pea shoots, and you break off a part of a giant potato chip to eat it with.
For a great refreshing salad option that won’t bore you, try the Little Gem Lettuce with pistachios, herbs, and a creamy buttermilk dressing. Another must-have is The Avocado topped with seaweed, hemp, sesame, pepper vinegar, and you pile it on top of a giant crispy cracker.
We were able to complement all of the delicious dishes with amazing cocktails. I started with the Cool Down is a cocktail version of a green juice made with vodka, kale juice, Demerara syrup, egg white, matcha, and lemon. I must admit that I did not read all of the ingredients of this drink before I ordered it and took a sip, but it is definitely a tastier alternative to any green juice with the tangy lemon juice and frothy egg white, with the bonus of making you feel less guilty for consuming alcohol. Another refreshing (and more palatable) cocktail was the Rhumance with Matusalem rhum, cucumber, lime, and topped with prosecco.
One of their signature drinks is the Wombat, which is rye with smoked maple syrup, ginger, and lemon. The power of the rye is subdued with all of the other great flavors for a rich cocktail. Another customer favorite is the Señor Suarez with mezcal, huckleberry, agave, and lime. Though customers come for the amazing food, the drinks keep them staying throughout the night.
For the main courses it was necessary to share in order to try all of the amazing options. For a lighter option, we started with the Seared Black Bass with asparagus, tropeo onion, parsley, roasted peppers, and meyer lemon. If you’re in the mood for something more hearty, I would definitely go for the Grilled Frenched Pork Chop was incredibly tender and came with a side of locally milled polenta, sweet and sour cippolinis, and red watercress.
The Half Goffle Road Cornish Hen admittedly looked like a basic chicken dish, but it was anything but ordinary. The hen was incredibly juicy with bright flavors from the arugula, mixed radish, charred lemon, and a chermoula herb sauce.
One of their signature dishes is the Bellwether Patty Melt made with local grass-fed beef patty between soft brioche bread topped with charred red onions and house queso with a side of fries. An upgrade from your typical burger, the flavor literally drips off and gets absorbed into the fluffy brioche – and you really can’t go wrong with anything queso.
Make your way over to Long Island City for this charming spot!