When I sat down with Bear chef-owner Natasha Pogrebinsky for this week’s chef interview, we talked a lot about her connection to Astoria in Queens. Her first experiences in the U.S. happened not far from where her restaurant sits, and she and her brother Alex have dug into the community with their space, getting to know the neighbors when they come in for dinner. So as an addendum to our chat, I asked her to name her five favorite restaurants in the vicinity. Here’s who she shouted out (descriptors, by the way, are mine):
Queens Kickshaw, 40-17 Broadway, Queens
Chef Youngsun Lee (who lists Annisa, EN Japanese Brasserie, Craftbar, and Momofuku Noodle Bar among his credentials) helms the kitchen at this spot, and he serves fancy grilled cheese by day and an inventive vegetarian menu by night. Queens Kickshaw also specializes in craft beer–it keeps dozens of offbeat selections on tap and in bottle–and coffee, which it gets from Counter Culture.
Agnanti, 19-06 Ditmars Boulevard, Queens
This traditional Greek restaurant has held down its corner of Astoria for more than a decade serving dishes like saganaki, kebabs, and stuffed calamari in addition to “Tastes of Constantinople,” which span pastroumali, bourek, and kafte.
Off the Hook, 28-08 34th Street, Queens
This New England-style seafood shack serves up raw bar staples, clam chowder, and lobster rolls. Order oysters by the dozen and pair them to a crisp, cold beer.
Casa Enrique, 5-48 49th Avenue, Queens
This Long Island City joint serves elevated versions of Mexican classics, pumping up tacos, guacamole, and tostadas with good ingredients and calculated technique. But what’s really unique here is that the fare is firmly rooted in Chiapas, rare in a city where Mexican offerings are most often derived from Puebla.
Linn, 29-13 Broadway, Queens
Masa alum Shigenori Tanaka runs the show at this Japanese joint, and in addition to a sizable list of sashimi, nigiri, and rolls, he turns out Japanese small plates that range from steamed monkfish liver to motsuni (stewed pork entrails).