Warm-Up Special: Five Hearty Dishes in Astoria
The Arctic isn't through with us yet. With significant snowfall predicted for this Thursday night, it may be wise to continue packing on layers of protective winter blubber. Fortunately, multiethnic Astoria boasts warming, fatty foods from every corner of the globe to prepare you for a long hibernation.
Spaetzle at Koliba, 31-11 23rd Avenue, Astoria, 718-626-0430 After snowshoeing down 23rd Avenue, stop in this Czechoslovakian restaurant decked out with ski lodge décor. (It looks just like the Great Northern Hotel from Twin Peaks.) Goulash, schnitzel, and pirogies are all good bets, but the potato spaetzle with sheep cheese and bacon tastes like an especially decadent Eastern European riff on macaroni and cheese, and it's the fastest path to a food coma. Pair with a pint of Staropramen beer and drift away.
Tonkotsu ramen at Hinomaru, 33-18 Ditmars Boulevard, Astoria, 718-777-0228 In sub-freezing temperatures, healthy-ish miso ramen just won't do. So it's a good thing Hinomaru's offerings span the islands of Japan, including the richest variation on the noodle soup, Hakata's tonkotsu ramen. The broth requires simmering pork bones over long periods of time -- sometimes up to two to three days -- to yield a velvety, creamy base that is meant just for dipping noodles into. It is almost impossible not to sip in perilous quantities. Hinomaru's version comes pretty close to the real deal, without Ippudo's outrageous wait times.
Moussaka at Bahari Estiatorio, 31-14 Broadway, Astoria, 718-204-8968 With so many excellent Greek eateries in Astoria, you have plenty of solid options for moussaka. But Bahari Estiatorio, with its open kitchen and convivial family gatherings, has a cozily rustic feel minus the waits one encounters at Taverna Kyclades (where you should really be getting seafood, anyway). In such a homey setting, it feels right to order the generous, warming slab of meat, eggplant, potato, and béchamel, the perfect savory-sweet casserole for a frigid night.
Lobster poutine at Bistro 33, 19-33 Ditmars Boulevard, Astoria, 718-721-1933 The menu at Bistro 33 shifts with the seasons but maintains a French flair; stop by before March, when renovations will close it down for a few weeks. Right now, its variety of comforting small plates and entrees includes classics like escargots and mussels. But the lobster poutine is the star, taking a Quebecois standard to the next level of indulgence with fries topped with lobster, cheese curds, and bacon jus.
Grilled cheese at Queens Kickshaw, 40-17 Broadway, Astoria, 718-777-0913 Sure, you can make grilled cheese at home, but you probably won't do so with as much creative flourish as Queens Kickshaw chef Youngsun Lee. You have several options: the foolproof cheddar and mozzarella paired with tomato soup; the more unusual combination of gouda, black beans, guava jam, and jalapeños -- which makes for an addictive sweet-spicy-rich medley of flavors -- or the sandwich that incorporates house-made kimchi served up on chocolate bread. A ridiculously extensive drink list that includes craft beers, cider, and mead should be enough to entice you to make the trip.
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