We’d wanted to try the Queens Kickshaw ever since we learned of its opening in Astoria a few weeks ago, for the simple reason that we are powerless to resist the promise of an establishment that specializes in grilled cheese sandwiches. So yesterday, we finally took the world’s slowest R train to the Steinway stop.
What we found, wedged in among Broadway’s insurance offices, nail salons, and pharmacies, was a comely study in reclaimed wood and laid-back élan that made us feel like we’d wandered off the street and into Northern California. It’s a place that allows you to observe the outside world from a comfortable distance, as both its capacious front window and population of laptop surfers attest.
As promised, the menu is almost entirely comprised of variations on hot bread and melted dairy. And while the restaurant’s claim that it traffics in “fancy” grilled cheese sandwiches initially made us wary — can we please stop treating unassuming American classics as if they’re the protagonist of She’s All That? — we were impressed with the inventiveness of the various combinations, and also by the fact that not a single one of them included bacon.
After a few minutes of indecision, we settled, with the help of the amiable counter staff, on the $9 manchego and ricotta sandwich, which also involves minted eggplant, pickled raisins, and multigrain bread. A few minutes later it arrived at our window seat, accompanied by utensils wrapped in a dish towel. We appreciated the restaurant’s effort to reduce the waste created by paper napkins, and also its foresight in anticipating how much work it would take to mop up the butter that ended up on our fingers and face.
Because this was one intensely buttery sandwich: The bread wasn’t so much spread with butter as paved with it. This meant it was delicious and griddled to the golden-brown Platonic ideal, and also pretty greasy. And that’s one reason why the minted eggplant was such a smart ingredient: Nightshade and herb provided a refreshing response to the lipids’ woozy call.
Together with the whole-grain bread, they created a sandwich that was almost weirdly wholesome, though that may just be self-delusion speaking. The pickled raisins, incidentally, were delegated to a side salad, and while they perked up the greens, we would have preferred them in the sandwich, where they would have definitely complemented the salty, creamy manchego.
But even without them, it was a pretty terrific sandwich, fancy, plain, or otherwise, and made our anemic R train ride worthwhile. As an added bonus, the restaurant provides free seltzer refills, a sterling token of hospitality and an effervescent antidote to all of that wonderful, diabolical cheese.
The Queens Kickshaw
40-17 Broadway, Queens
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 12, 2011