Fuel for climbers awaits in Long Island City
On a recent weeknight in Long Island City, John Brown Smokehouse was packed with a loud and rowdy crowd. High energy aside, the clientele had something else in common: a pair of brightly colored climbing shoes clipped to nearly every patron’s bag.
This has become a common sight in this part of western Queens, home to New York City’s two largest indoor rock climbing facilities: The Cliffs at LIC, located in a former warehouse on 44th Drive, and Brooklyn Boulders Queensbridge, on the first floor of a residential building just north of Queensborough Plaza. Rock climbers flock to these facilities from all over New York and, in doing so, are discovering the hidden gems of Long Island City’s small but growing food and drink scene.
For the unacquainted, winter is the perfect time to try out indoor rock climbing—and the delicious food options nearby. Here’s how to enjoy Long Island City’s restaurants, bars and cafés as the climbers do:
NUTRITION FOR REACHING NEW HEIGHTS
A sport of contrast, rock climbing mixes both strength and cardio; short, intensive bursts of energy and rugged endurance. It equally requires brawn and mental focus. All of this is exacerbated by climbing’s use of virtually every muscle group in the body, including the ones that rarely get such intensive use, such as the forearms.
Therefore, the nutritional needs of a climber differ from, say, a kickboxer or gym rat. According to Julia Delves, a nutritionist focused on the needs of climbers, climbing’s strength requirements mean “there are higher protein needs for muscle repair and recovery.” While it is also a full-body cardio workout, it is not quite as intensive as long-distance running, so, “Climbers won’t deplete their energy stores as quickly as someone ... training for a marathon, and don’t need to eat a diet quite as high in carbohydrates.”
In other words, climbing’s energy and nutritional requirements are more on par with weightlifting than running.
PREPARE FOR ASCENT
A proper fuel-up is essential for a successful session on the wall. Start out your day—or, at least, the climbing portion of it—with a light meal of carbohydrates (for more immediate fuel) and a high-quality source of protein and fat, plus caffeine for improved focus.
Great for grab-and-go, right across the street from The Cliffs is The Mill coffee company, a small café and bakery that serves artisanal coffee and unique baked goods, like spinach-ricotta and cottage cheese croissants, and passion fruit doughnuts sourced from Dough.
The Mill Coffee
44–61 11th St., Long Island City
For an enlightened fuel-up pre-workout, head to Communitea, a Long Island City staple for over a decade. A large and hearty vegetarian dish, the Buddha Bowl does not disappoint, serving up a mix of grains, nuts, avocado and seasonal greens (leaf lovers can also order it as a salad). Pro tip: portions are generous, so hoard half of your meal for a mid-climb snack. Pair your bowl with an Irving Farm roast, or a tea (it’s called Communitea after all). The English Breakfast tea and the Lavender Festival—an organic black with hints of lavender and rose petals—are both mixed in-house.
11–18 46th Rd., Long Island City
LIC Market is often described—erroneously, according to chef and owner Alex Schindler—as “farm-to-table” because of its emphasis on high-quality and often-local ingredients. For a light, healthy pre-climb meal, go for the steel-cut Irish oatmeal or Greek yogurt with house-made granola and honey. For something on the savory side, opt for the Spanish-style tortilla. A Spanish potato omelet flanked by greens and a baguette, it’s full of the right proteins, carbohydrates and fats. And of course, no pit stop would be complete without trying LIC Market’s Georgio’s Coffee Roasters–sourced coffee.
21–52 44th Dr., Long Island City
Toby’s Estate Coffee fans can find their foothold at LIC Corner Café, a purveyor of healthy sandwiches and indulgent pastries. Sandwich options rotate regularly, but if you’re lucky enough to grab it, the herbed chicken salad on ciabatta bread is the hot ticket. Served with greens and tomatoes, it’s a good mix of highquality protein, fat and carbs.
LIC Corner Café
21–03 45th Rd., Long Island City
You can walk to BKB from Birch Coffee in exactly one minute (or less, depending on how brisk your pace is). Recently opened, it’s the first and only Queens location the popular chain has put on the map. Offering the standard mix of café pastries, the hook is indubitably the coffee (theirs is small-batch roasted in-house). Add some almond milk to the popular chai latte or cold brew for an extra kick of protein.
40–37 23rd St., Long Island City
RECOVERY MEALS TO RAVE OVER
After a few hours of belaying, bumping and edging up walls, you’ll likely be famished and thirsty. According to Delves, the best postclimb recovery meal is “higher in protein and simple carbohydrates to repair muscle tissues and refill energy stores.”
The most popular post-climbing meal in the area is at John Brown Smokehouse, which bills itself as a “no-frills Kansas City–style barbecue.” This restaurant goes out of its way to cater to climbers, even extending opening hours for dinner service at the request of the Cliffs. What’s hot? Their flavorful burnt ends (made entirely of brisket deckel, the fatty, delicious part) and the tender pulled pork. Served up alongside some protein-rich collard greens or vitamin-filled coleslaw, both mains make for a delicious recovery aid.
John Brown Smokehouse
10–43 44th Dr., Long Island City
Stop by The Baroness Bar + Kitchen for refreshments a battle-weary Napoleon would approve of. You’ll find a wide selection of draft beers and decadent burgers named after classic Hollywood starlets. While “healthy” and “burger” are two words that don’t often mix, you can feel good about a post-workout indulgence with the Pat LaFrieda–sourced meat in your sandwich, delivered fresh everyday.
The Baroness Bar + Kitchen
4126 Crescent St., Long Island City
There’s nothing like an adult beverage to celebrate a successful climbing session, and whether you’re a beer enthusiast, wino or something in between, you’ll find many options near both climbing gyms. Hit the spot with a local beer on draft at Local NYC, a popular bar tucked inside a hostel. Or check out Rockaway Brewing Company, Big Alice Brewing or Transmitter Brewing for your rehydrating needs.
1302 44th Ave., Long Island City
Rockaway Brewing Company
46–01 5th St., Long Island City;
Big Alice Brewing
8–08 43rd Rd., Long Island City
53–02 11th St., Ste. A, Long Island City
WHY CLIMBING IS ON THE RISE
If it seems like rock climbing’s recent popularity has come out of the blue, that’s because it sort of has.
The sport has its roots out west, where it began developing toward the end of the 19th century, but it wasn’t until a few years ago that it gained the cult following of workouts like Pure Barre or SoulCycle. There are a number of reasons for this, including new climbing gear making the sport safer for new climbers, while also allowing elite athletes to push their limits. Social media has also played a role, inspiring a new generation of climbers by bringing the exploits of a growing class of professional climbers right to their smartphones.
New York City might not seem like the most likely climbers’ mecca. And while the urban jungle does not come close to rivaling Colorado or Wyoming’s outdoor climbing landscapes, the growing number of world-class indoor facilities like The Cliffs at LIC and BKB-Queensbridge are attracting many first-time climbers. Between the two facilities, the city’s climbable wall space has nearly doubled.
Want to try out rock climbing yourself? Both gyms offer day passes, equipment rental (you’ll need climbing shoes and a safety harness) and a basic introduction from a staff member.
The Cliffs at LIC
11–11 44th Dr., Long Island City
Brooklyn Boulders Queensbridge
23–10 41st Ave., Long Island City