DUTCH KILLS — When the new bar and restaurant Dutch Kills Centraal opened its doors at the corner of 39th Avenue and 29th Street after almost a year of construction, the surrounding community was more than ready.
"The neighbors were so excited — the whole place filled up," manager Richele Benway said about the opening two weeks ago. "I stepped outside and there were people walking home from the train, stopping and screaming, 'It's open!'"
Owner Dominic Stiller, a local engineer and president of the Dutch Kills Civic Association, said he wants to fill a void in a quiet, industrial stretch of Long Island City.
Home to a bevy of hotels and warehouses, the area was rezoned in 2008 to allow for new residential development. But even with the change, the neighborhood has been slow to attract eating and drinking options, according to Benway, who's lived in the neighborhood for six years.
"There was nowhere to go," she said.
Stiller initially planned to name the eatery the Windmill Tap and Grill, but decided that Centraal — the Dutch spelling of the word "central" — was truer to his vision for the space.
"It was always intended to be the central meeting point of Dutch Kills," he said. "Really just to make that central place for people to go."
The building had been a neighborhood pub until the 1980s, and Stiller kept the original floor and bar. He added other design elements to create a family-friendly atmosphere, like a diaper changing station in the bathroom, and he plans to install a bike corral outside.
Centraal has no TVs, and a large communal table runs down the middle of the space in an effort to encourage conversations between strangers — a tactic that seems to be working so far, Benway said.
"I'm seeing people leave together, have a conversation and then come back in and thank us for being here, because they’ve lived here for a long time and they just found a neighbor that lived a block away," she said.
"Conversation gets struck up, kids run around and people drink really good beer," Stiller added.
The restaurant offers a full bar, including six craft beers on tap and more in bottles. The food menu veers towards American comfort dishes, with an emphasis on seasonal and locally sourced ingredients.
"We're sourcing from the green market [and] Brooklyn Grange," Benway said. "Really wonderful, fresh items."
Centraal's menu will expand in the coming weeks, but currently includes house-made fried pickles, macaroni and cheese, kale with sweet and spicy pumpkin seeds and a burger.
The restaurant is currently opening for dinner, and plans to expand to brunch and lunch in the future, Stiller said.