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Jun 22, 2005 09:50 AM

what will make me move to Astoria

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Going to look at apartments on Saturday and looking for a lunch that will help me in my decision to move from Manhattan. Here's the criteria:

Great food

Something I can't get as good in Manhattan

Something that makes me wonder why I pay so much for food in Manhattan

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  1. Kabab Cafe. On Steinway St.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Nina W.

      I have to second that. This place is definitely innovate, not your typical confusing overspiced saturated ethnic mélange, and decently priced without following suit of stuffy city standards (a model that many failed businesses follow; Manhattan is much too close to mimic). With a limited number of tables, the owner/chef has time to go through the menu with you and get a feel of what it is you might be craving. The walls are adorned with art from locals. (My one qualm with the place is the use of a microwave). Save space for dessert. If you're into smoking, there's a hookah bar a few doors down to the south (Cairo Cafe, I think). Coffee, Mint Tea, and Sahloup (a hot milkshake-consistency beverage sprinkled with dried nuts and fruit), a few dessert options, and a tented yard in the back. Backgammon and chess. On 30th Ave on 36th and also at 32nd there are Greek outdoor cafes with a boisterous scene. Great sidewalk cafes for breezy summer nights (be prepared to be exposed to a lot of second-hand smoke though). Avenue, on 36th, has a younger crowd on a quieter street (with loud music); Athens, on 32nd, has a more rounded crowd, and a wider variety of desserts and pastries, on a louder street (with softer music). If you got the legs, skip the cafes and take Astoria Blvd toward the East River for a stroll along Shore Blvd. Not as grand as Central or quaint as Prospect, Astoria Park boasts a riverfront, as well view of two bridges (one active one quiet), in between which an ice cream truck that offers soft serve is usually parked. If you’re not the soft serve type, there’s a seafood and meze restaurant (Ditmars @ 19th) specializing in Greek cuisine influenced by the migrants that fled Turkey, specifically from Constantinople. While the food there makes me yawn, the setting is quite nice (note that smoking is permitted in the tented area outside the walls; a real rarity in NY, and a reason in itself - indicative of the somewhat culinary backwardness in light of the city’s centrifugal influence on food - to move to Astoria), and the dessert options are limited but very passable.

      However, this is an itinerary for dinner with options for dessert. As Quentin Chiappetta posted earlier, the authentic (ergo these places existed to cater to local immigrants, not as a demand for ethnic variety in dining to supply a market created by gentrification) variety (the most [discernibly] ethnically diverse neighborhood per sq. mi. in NYC) as well as proximity to Manhattan is what makes Astoria quite a unique neighborhood in New York City.

      1. re: gatronaut

        Kind of a stretch, but plenty related still.... NY Times Dining Out yesterday includes a small piece on a Queens food guide, "Eating Like Queens" by Suzanne Parker.

      2. re: Nina W.

        Kabob Cafe is great.
        And Ali is one of a kind.

        1. re: Ray

          Kabab is overrated, overpriced, and Ali hustles you with warm, plastic water when you ask him for a glass of water and then kisses up to you so you'll forget. Queens ain't manhattan. but there's great food, much better than ali's, all over the place

          Kabab Cafe
          25-12 Steinway St, Queens, NY 11103

      3. stop in the trade fair at 30th and 31st. i think that's the corner.
        stop by any greengrocer and marvel at the ridiculously low prices.

        to tell you the truth, most of the restaurants in Astoria are in my mind just fine. nothing mind-blowing, but I LOVE living there. most of the people I've encountered in Astoria are just lovely. my neighborhood deli guy gave me my feta for free the other day for no reason at all.

        3 Replies
        1. re: melon

          I agree with you. I also think that if you go into a place with the sort of expectations set in the original post, you're setting the place up for failure. It's not one lunch special that makes me love Astoria but a bunch of foods and restaurants and various other stores and things.

          I do agree about Trade Fair. There's one on Ditmars and about 36th Street (I think) also. I love that place.

          Whenever I bring friends from Manhattan to Astoria that know basically nothing about it, I just walk them up and down Ditmars by the subway for a few blocks. They love it. The insane number of bakeries, the discount stores where you can find anything, Top Tomato with its ridiculously cheap produce and 24-hours (so you can buy yucca at 4am), the abundance of great pizza, the Greek stuff, the atmosphere that's just a little out of time with the rest of the city. And yet so close to Manhattan.

          1. re: marrin

            i'll third trade fair. the trade fair off of the 30th avenue stop at 29th street is by far the best (it's like a million ethnic groceries packed into one grocery store) but the trade fair on 36th is good too.

            also go walk by astoria park and/or the socrates sculpture garden. no food there but it's something.

            generally, though, just take a walk down 30th avenue or broadway any time of day (you should try late night too if you're thinking of moving to the neighborhood) and see if you like the feel of the place. i've lived in astoria almost 5 years and still like it. i like the variety and unpretentiousness of the people as well.

          2. re: melon

            Trade Fair's at 30th & 30th. If you cook anything Middle Eastern or Indian, that's the place to go.

          3. I really love the chorizo arepas at the columbian place with the yellow awning on 34th Ave and 33rd St. I also thought Ghandi on 30th Ave and 36th St was a pretty good neighborhood Indian place. There is also a little crepe place on Broadway and 33rd St (on a corner) that was fun for a cheap dinner. Of course, everyone has their favorite greek place. The groceries are super cheap out there. Check out the veg & fruit stands on 30th Ave and 32nd St. Both had amazing deals. The Trade Fair is fun. Lots of international food.

            The caveat is I moved to Brooklyn a little over a year ago - but I really miss Astoria some days! :)

            1. souvlaki guys at 34ave and steinway (baby gap corner) the best souvlakis.

              1. a
                Astoria Lurker

                If you have time for dinner and can get reservations check out Trattoria L'Incontro (Ditmars & 31st), I don't think they serve lunch though. According to Zagat, L'Incontro is "Reason enough to move to Astoria" =)

                As far as lunch places go I can't think of anything earth shattering, but I have to agree with the poster who said to just walk around and see the neighborhood, stop in a bakery or 2 and sample their pastries, grab some souvlaki at one of the carts on Steinway or some tacos at Viva El Mariachi (33rd & Broadway). It is just such an incredibly diverse neighborhood.

                If you are up for a drink, definitely check out the Beer Garden (23rd ave, just west of 31st street). Have a kielbasa, a pitcher of Hoegarten and relax.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Astoria Lurker

                  Beer Garden is on 24th Ave.
                  The incredible abundance of back garden al fresco dining is a terrific reason to move to astoria. It seems like every place has one. My girlfriend and I have been checking out Fatty's on Ditmars and Crescent, and sipping great Mojitos out back.