Just a hop and stones throw over the East River in Long Island City is a historic building and home of The Paper Factory Hotel and Mundo Lounge. It’s a quirky and artistic space that once was a real paper factory. Back in 1922, The Pilot Electric Manufacturing Company that was also known as the Pilot Radio Company were the proprietors. The company manufactured radios and parts for home use, eventually producing a range of communication devices and televisions during WWII. As paper production began to soar, due particularly to the newspaper industry boom that started during the war, the building housed a successful paper mill that operated as the Romo Paper Products printing company. Today, it’s a labyrinth of well-designed rooms, seating areas and brimming with eclectic artwork. It’s also a sanctuary for those who want to get away but not go very far from the tri-state area.
The rooms have high ceilings with some of the original architecture like support beams and pillars jetting up from the structure’s foundation. Each room has a unique aspect like hidden televisions and refrigerators disguised as a Marshal Amp. Even the flaws in the flooring add to the “retro” style that attracts curious visitors and guests who yearn to get away from cookie cutter and staid hotel chains.
Dimly lit, it’s sort of like meandering around a Fellini or Hitchcock movie set. There are gadgets and games like a chessboard with metal faucets and hardware as the playing pieces. Odd focal points appear throughout the lobby corridors including a flashback, crimson British Telephone booth bursting through the concrete.
A phallic tower made from hundreds of books adds an intellectual whimsy to the décor. “We also have several amazing spaces on property for conferences, private parties and weddings,” said Manager Luis Fernandez. He steered us around the maze as guests filtered into the lobby. “It’s very easy to get here and we get a lot of guests from the tri-state area. The R train is directly across the street and there is ample parking. The weekends specifically attract a metropolitan crowd,” he added.
One of my favorite spots on the premises is Mundo. The lounge is alluring and puts the fun in funky. The bar rests under a menagerie of colorful lanterns — it reminds me of something you might encounter in Seville, Morocco or Casa Blanca.
Their seasonal cocktails apparently are popular with locals and guests alike. On this visit we tried the Winter Rosemary (above) made with vodka, St. Germain, lemon, grapefruit, and garnished with a sprig of rosemary. Tasty. For whiskey drinkers, you may want to try their Blueberry Fashion — bourbon, muddled blueberries, brown sugar and bitters.
The menu is diverse with a selection of starters, house plates and sides — predominantly inspired by a Mediterranean diet and cuisine. I recommend you start with their Red Sonja: Red lentils, bulgur wheat, scallion, spices and served on Bibb lettuce with a wedge of lemon. It’s the perfect dish for vegetarians and vegans as well as hunter-gatherers.
Both my dinner guest and I agreed that The Scallops were flavorful with a perfectly balanced combination of ingredients — Pan seared scallops, fresh corn polenta, gnocchi, glazed carrots and a touch of crispy Parmesan. Awesome! You may want to try one of the pasta dishes. On this occasion, I ordered the Maltagliati. While tasty and prepared with beef ragu, the kitchen delivered pappardelle with cherry tomatoes. It was a hybrid of two of their signature dishes. The chef was evidently off on this evening and left the minions to rule the roost.
I simply tasted the dish in the spirit of the menu misspellings and peculiar hodgepodge and unconventionalism that permeates throughout the property.
In the end, it was all worth floating across the river.
The Paper Factory Hotel
37-06 36th St,
Long Island City, NY