Astoria is well known for its Greek restaurants, and deservedly so: As recently as the 1990s, nearly half of the neighborhood’s population was Greek or of Greek descent, and dozens of Greek eateries are still operating today. But today in Astoria you can sit down to meals from countries as diverse as Cuba and the Czech Republic, India and Australia, as well as from various regions of the United States including Puerto Rico and Louisiana. Below is just a sampling of the flavorful world of options available in the neighborhood.
29-19 24th Avenue (between 29th Street and Astoria Boulevard)
Bohemian Hall’ & Park. Image: MrShah2012/Wikimedia
Bohemian Hall’s beer garden. Image: Jim.henderson/Wikimedia
Here is your chance to quaff pilsner and eat goulash in a building that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Bohemian Citizens’ Benevolent Society of Astoria opened the hall in 1910, and it is the city’s oldest remaining beer hall. You need not be a Czech or a Slovak—the two nationalities that formed the society—to sate your appetite or your thirst outdoors at one of the beer garden’s benches or inside the wood-paneled building. Indulge in Middle European specialties such as grilled klobasa (similar to kielbasa), smazak (fried cheese), or bryndzové halušky (a type of potato pasta served with cheese made from sheep’s milk); wash it down with a Moravian wine or a Czech beer. And if you think you do not like dumplings, that’s because you have never tried knedlik.
33-09 36th Avenue (between 33rd and 34th Streets)
Chela & Garnacha outside. Image: Aka K./Yelp
Chela & Garnacha began as a food truck; its authentic Mexican food proved so popular, the family behind the business expanded to this casual storefront restaurant. You can order tried-and-true guac and chips, cheese quesadillas, and chicken tacos, but try some of the other dishes too. Volcanes—charred corn tortillas with grilled mushrooms and onions, carne asada, melted cheese, and sliced avocado—are sure to please. So are tortas, hearty sandwiches filled with the likes of round steak marinated in beer and spicy pasilla sauce and served with avocado, lettuce, tomato, onion, crispy cheese, and jalapeños. For a true taste of Mexico, treat yourself to the spicy tamarindo margarita.
28-13 31st Street (between 30th and 31st Streets)
Image: courtesy of Don Coqui
A spacious, sleekly decorated restaurant and bar with sidewalk seating in warm weather, Don Coqui brings the flavors of Puerto Rico to Astoria. Plantain-lovers will find it tough to choose between piononos (plantains stuffed with beef or cheese) and montaditos (green plantains topped with pork, shrimp, or steak); other options include ceviche, coconut shrimp, and lobster mac-and-cheese given a Latin American twist with roasted red-pepper corn and manchego. Entrées include pernil (garlicky slow-roasted pork) served with pigeon-pea rice, mofongo (garlic-infused mashed plantains topped with pork, shrimp, or steak), and braised oxtail. Homemade flan or tres leches is practically an obligatory way to end your meal.
31-01 34th Avenue (at 31st Street)
El Boqueron Restaurant. Image: Anthony D./Foursquare
El Boqueron is best known for its tapas, which range from anchovies in sherry vinegar to stuffed mushrooms, cod croquettes to tripe slow-cooked Madrid-style in a meat-and-tomato broth. The restaurant serves a number of Spanish entrées too, including ternera con setas silvestres (veal with wild mushrooms), bacalao a la vizcaina (a Basque-style stew made with salted cod), and several varieties of paella, among them a vegetarian option. If you are feeling a bit sluggish after your meal, opt for a Spanish coffee: The caffeine, whipped cream, and chocolate curls will reinvigorate you, but the shot of coffee liqueur should still enable you to sleep easy that night.
33-18 28th Avenue (between 33rd and 34th Streets)
Starting your meal with pão de queijo is almost mandatory. Image: Alex Thomson/Flickr
Brazilian cuisine is a medley of Native American, African, and European influences, as Favela Grill’s menu makes abundantly clear. That means just about everyone, regardless of culinary peccadillos, will be able to satisfy his or her appetites here. Starting with pão de queijo, a traditional cheese bread, is a must, though you probably will not want to miss out on the Brazilian-style beef jerky topped with sautéed onions and accompanied by manioc fried or the caldo verde, a potato soup made with smoked sausage and collard greens, either. Standout entrées include a fish stew made with tomatoes and coconut milk and served with pirão, a porridge-like puree of pan drippings thickened with manioc flour; grilled pork chop and sausage topped with fried eggs and served with bean puree, rice, and collard greens; and the fun-to-say costela bam-bam, a huge slow-roasted prime rib served with fried manioc.
33-18 Ditmars Boulevard (between 33rd and 35th Streets)
Image: courtesy of HinoMaru
Every region of Japan has its own style of ramen, according to HinoMaru. Tokyo favors shoyu style, with a chicken, pork, and fish broth generously flavored with soy sauce; Hakata prefers a creamy pork broth; Sapparo-style broth features more than 30 ingredients, including three varieties of miso. HinoMaru offers these options and more, including a vegetable broth, along with a suite of toppings to choose from. The friendly staff will help you select the perfect beer to pair with your ramen.
31-05 30th Avenue (between 31st and 32nd Streets)
The interior of Namaste is serene—taupe walls, café au lait leather seating—but menu includes plenty of fiery Indian dishes, as well as less-spicy options for those with meeker palates. Start your meal with tomato soup infused with coconut cream and saffron, tandoori mushrooms marinated in spices tempered with sour cream, or crispy cauliflower toasted in garlic, ginger, and tomato sauce. Then proceed to the numerous biryanis, curries, masalas, and vindaloos. Vegetarian entrées include vegan daal saag (lentils cooked with spinach and spices) and mutter paneer (cubes of Indian farmer cheese cooked in a creamy almond sauce with peas). Spice-loving carnivores should try the goat or lamb jai puri lal maas, which Namaste warns is among its hottest dishes; a sweeter option is the salmon cooked in fresh coconut milk with mustard seeds.
40-11 30th Avenue (between Steinway and 41st Streets)
Fish and chips with Guinness-battered cod and a side of mushy peas. Lamb stew with baby potatoes, pearl onions, carrots, and celery in a sauce infused with Harp lager. Cottage pie, homemade Scotch eggs, bubble-and-squeak dumplings. And let’s not forget weekend brunch, where options include French toast dipped in Bailey’s Irish Cream and a classic Irish fry-up, complete with black and white puddings, sausage, bacon, and brown bread. Passage Irish Bar & Kitchen will make you understand why Irish (and British) ex-pats speak so longingly of their local pubs back home. It helps that Passage looks like the Irish pub of your imagination, with brick walls, a wood-planked ceiling, and a lustrous wood bar, behind which is one of the city’s largest assortment of Irish whiskeys as well as more than two dozen beers on tap.
36-06 30th Avenue (between 36th and 37th Streets)
Image: courtesy of Pink Nori
Although the cuisine of Japan is already represented by HinoMaru Ramen, it would be a shame not to include a sushi restaurant on our list. In addition to classic sushi and sashimi, Pink Nori serves up numerous specialty rolls, including the appropriately named Godzilla, a bonanza of fish, crabmeat, avocado, and scallions wrapped in rice, then fried and accompanied by sweet miso, spicy aioli, and eel sauce. A variety of teriyaki, tempura, and udon options are on the menu too, as well as a few other cooked entrées such as shrimp sautéed with mango and roasted duck in a red-wine balsamic sauce.
33-16 30th Avenue (between 33rd and 34th Streets)
Image: courtesy of Pochana
Thai cuisine is much more than chicken satay and pad Thai, and Pochana’s husband-and wife chefs, who both hail from Bangkok, use their menu to prove it. Included are family recipes such as Uncle New’s Crab Curry, featuring a house-made yellow curry sauce, coconut milk, and pineapple to balance the pepper and onion, and wok-fried clams with basil and roasted-chili paste. Start things off with squid legs fried with garlic and pepper and topped with a chili sauce; tofu fries enlivened with coriander, peanuts, and the house sweet chili sauce; or spicy tom yum shrimp soup, flavored with chili, mushrooms, lemongrass, and lime juice. Leave room for Thai coconut ice cream, served as you might find in the street markets of Bangkok, in a hot dog roll with coconut sticky rice and crushed peanuts.
37-10 31st Avenue (between 37th and 38th Streets)
At Sabor de Cuba it is easy to make an entire meal of its starters, which include ham croquettes, macitas de cerdo (crispy cubes of pork served with spicy mojo sauce), concha rellena (baked stuffed clams with garlicky sofrito sauce), avocado gazpacho, and of course the classic Cuban sandwich, grilled with serrano ham and Swiss cheese and served with yuca fries. But then you would be missing out on entrées such as ropa vieja, one of Cuba’s national dishes, shredded beef slow-cooked in a tomato-based sauce and served with arroz moro; chicken stuffed with chorizo and sweet plantains served over baby potatoes with green-pea sauce; and grilled salmon with cassava puree and asparagus in a roasted-red-pepper sauce. And that is just for dinner. Sunday brunch might be even more enticing, with dishes such as mashed green plantains with salami, eggs, and fried cheese and a Cuban interpretation of eggs Benedict that features cornbread, pernil, and sofrito sauce. Regardless of whether you visit for brunch or dinner (or lunch, for that matter), you can’t go wrong by starting with a passion fruit mojito or ending with a cortadito, a combination of espresso and warm milk served with a rock-candy stirrer.
30-13 Broadway (between 30th and 31st Streets)
Inside Sanfords. Image: courtesy of Sanfords
Before becoming one of several New American eateries in Astoria, Sanfords was a diner, and its fare is a sophisticated interpretation of classic diner grub. For instance, in addition to the usual breakfast options—made with organic eggs—Sanfords offers such variations as a chorizo egg wrap with avocado and a sandwich made with ciabatta, eggs, applewood bacon, Gruyère, truffle oil, and black truffle butter. Bluepoint oysters, duck carnitas tacos, beet salad with Greek yogurt, and risotto balls stuffed with sun-dried tomatoes, asparagus, mushrooms, and mozzarella are among the eclectic range of dinner starters. The equally wide-ranging selection of entrées includes linguini with mozzarella-stuffed meatballs in a cilantro cream sauce, organic filet mignon with a choice of sauces, and sesame-crusted yellowfin tuna served with shaved brussels sprouts, enoki mushrooms, peppers, and carrots in a ginger-soy sauce. Unlike your typical diner, Sanfords has a sommelier and an impressive list of wines, whiskies, and beers. Like a typical diner, however, it offers some killer desserts—Reese’s Peanut Butter Pie, anyone?
25-27 Broadway (between Crescent and 29th Streets)
Fresh from the tap at the Strand Smokehouse. Image: Ingrid Richter/Flickr
The Strand Smokehouse carries on the proud Texas tradition of serving up smoked meat, and plenty of it. The pork shoulder for its pulled-pork sandwiches and the beef brisket are slow-smoked daily for 14 hours; ribs, roasted chicken, smoked salmon, and kielbasa are other options, with classic sides including mac-and-cheese, coleslaw, baked beans, and cornbread. Of course, there is also a solid selection of draft and canned beers, bourbons, whiskies, and ryes to accompany the meal, though the daring might opt for a margarita with habanero pineapple puree.
37-11 30th Avenue (between 37th and 38th Streets)
Louisiana-style Creole cuisine makes up the menu of Sugar Freak, whose funky interior—patchwork curtains separating booths, mismatched vintage light fixtures, antique plates decorating the brick walls—captures the anything-goes ambience of New Orleans. There is outdoor seating as well, so that in summer you can dine amid NOLA-like heat and humidity if you like. A selection of po’boys, including fried oyster, barbecued chicken, and blackened catfish with étouffée, are on offer, as are jambalaya, fried chicken (regular and spicy) accompanied by potato salad, coleslaw, and a biscuit, chicken and waffles, and gumbo. You have a choice of mac-and-cheese dishes, including sweet-corn-and-bacon and crawfish options, and sides include collard greens (cooked with ham hocks and bacon, of course), cornbread, and grilled corn on the cob. While choosing a standout dish is difficult, the seafood boil is a strong contender: You can select your seafood, with options that include lobster, crab legs, shrimp, and mussels, as well as your spice level, flavoring, and add-ons such as corn and smoked sausage. And you definitely will want to save room for beignets with bananas Foster dipping sauce for dessert. The seafood boil, fried chicken, and mac-and-cheese are available for weekend brunch too, as are the likes of chocolate-cake and red-velvet pancakes, cheesy grits, and hush puppies.
35-12 Ditmars Avenue (between 35th and 36th Streets)
If your knowledge of Australian cuisine is limited to “Put another shrimp on the barbie,” the Thirsty Koala will be a revelation. The house-made sauces and rubs, for instance, include ingredients such as wattleseed, Tasmanian pepperberries, and bush tomatoes, ingredients indigenous to Down Under. Among the appetizers, mini beef pies served with shoestring fries and house-made pickles show off the British influence on Australian food, while halloumi fries seasoned with lemon, clover honey, sesame seeds, and mint pay tribute to a Cypriot sensibility. There is much to please vegetarians, vegans, and the gluten-intolerant, such as the Akudjura Earth Chili Bowl, featuring portobello mushrooms, carrots, edamame, black beans, bush tomatoes, celery, peppers, house-made chili spice, and walnuts. If you want to skip the main meal and go straight to dessert, we understand, thanks to options such as lamington (yellow cake with fresh strawberry preserves dipped in chocolate and coated with coconut), salted caramel slices, and pavlova. In addition to beers and ciders, the Thirsty Koala has a solid list of Australian and New Zealand wines.
21-02 30th Avenue (at 21st Street)
If every other restaurant in Astoria is Greek, every third or fourth seems to be Italian. Vesta stands out in part because not only did the founders grow up in the area, but they also hired another Astoria local to head its kitchen, commissioned a neighborhood firm to craft its woodwork and upholstery, and feature works by local artists on the restaurant walls. And of course, there is the food, much of which relies on seasonal, local produce. A perfect marriage of the sweet and the savory, the Tuscan kale salad includes pickled strawberries, red onion, ricotta salata, and pepitas; tuna tartare is served with an anchovy fennel aioli. Among the thin-crust pizza options is salsiccia, with house-made pork sausage, cherry tomatoes, smoked mozzarella, and provolone; the vegan giardino is topped with tomato sauce, Swiss chard, eggplant, cherry tomatoes, salsa verde, and a roasted-garlic emulsion. Main dishes include wild boar lasagna and a risotto with roasted shrimp, charred corn, and chili oil. Vesta offers weekend brunch as well; the carbonara mac-and-cheese, made with a three-cheese béchamel, caramelized onions, bacon, and focaccia bread crumbs and served with a poached egg, is all the reason you need to get out of bed on a Sunday morning.