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Astoria is blessed with multiple thoroughfares brimming with restaurants, cafes, and bars, which honor the flavors brought here by the many waves of immigrants from Italy, Greece, North Africa, and Latin America. And as interest in the area surges among young people priced out of Brooklyn, shiny new spots focusing on seasonality and cutting edge ingredients are entering the market almost daily. Not that there’s anything wrong with that — for now, the old and the new coexist happily in this corner of NYC. Here are the 10 best restaurants in Astoria.
10. Pao de Queijo, 31-90 30th Street, Astoria
A casual Brazilian spot off Broadway, Pao de Queijo’s eponymous cheese bread is a treat made chewy with tapioca flour. The restaurant also turns out hand grenade-sized empanadas with fillings like chicken and cream cheese and hearts of palm, and sandwiches stacked with ingredients like a thin burger, Brazilian sausage, potato sticks, corn, lettuce, and tomato. Our favorite is the Goiana Burger, whose chunks of pineapple bring sweetness to the delicious mess. There are fresh squeezed juices and smoothies as well — go for the pineapple and mint, a bestseller.
9. Bear12-14 31st Avenue, Astoria
Roasted mushrooms, borscht, and sausage and kraut dumplings might sound like winter fare, but chef Natasha Pogrebinsky is deft at balancing seasonal ingredients, and her Slavic-influenced food works just as well in the summertime. On a recent visit, the borscht was chilled, the beet flavor delicate and refreshing; it worked well with a sangria cocktail. If you’re coming from out of town, the walk back to the train down a quiet residential block will help you work off desserts like the truffles, which tasted like brownie batter dusted with cinnamon.
8. Café Triskell 33-04 36th Avenue, Astoria
Authentic French food is hard to come by in Queens, which makes this tiny spot at the southern edge of Astoria a real gem. Chef and owner Philippe Fallait originally hails from Brittany, a region of France famed for its buckwheat crepes. Triskell’s don’t disappoint: incredibly light, they encase combinations like ham and cheese, or mushrooms and herb butter, and elevate the ingredients above their simplicity. The café’s French onion soup has been crowned best of New York, and the brioche French toast is a huge draw at brunch.
7. Rizzo’s Fine Pizza, 30-13 Steinway Street, Astoria
Open since 1959, Rizzo’s is an essential neighborhood joint that embodies Astoria hospitality — you’ll be treated like a regular on your first visit. (We were given a complimentary order of cannoli last time we went.) The restaurant’s signature pie has a cracker-thin crust that nevertheless stands up well to high-quality, traditional ingredients like fresh mozzarella, basil, and ripe plum tomato. Garlic knots, airy and light on the inside, are also a must.
6. Milkflower, 34-12 31st Avenue, Astoria
Brothers Pete and Danny Aggelatos opened this pizzeria in 2013, and it immediately assumed a spot among the borough’s best. There’s no need for Astorians to schlep to Roberta’s when they can get a pie here that balances spicy soppressata, red chili flakes, and honey, or a white pizza with pillowy ricotta and a peppery pile of arugula. Starters include blistered shishito peppers, beets with yogurt and orange zest, and meat and cheese plates ideal for big groups — and the Milkflower staff is extremely accommodating of parties.
5. Vesta Vino, 2102 30th Avenue, Astoria
Vesta is one of a triumvirate of Astoria and Sunnyside standout spots — the other two are Pachanga Patterson and Venturo Osteria — from co-owners Giuseppe Falco and Leo Sacco and executive chef Michelle Vido, to whom we owe our eternal gratitude for bringing Queens the Baby Jesus cake. The dessert is transcendent, as is a side of crispy brussels sprouts parmigiana, even if you’ve had enough of the vegetable’s recent resurgence in popularity. A pizza topped with kale, béchamel, pine nuts, and currants gives the illusion of health but is hearty enough to help you shake off a hangover, as is the “warm bankie,” eggs with asparagus, mushrooms, and truffle oil over polenta.
4. Il Bambino, 34-08 31st Avenue, Astoria
Il Bambino’s pressed sandwiches put the sad, flabby panini of Midtown lunches to shame. Here, you can try combinations like fig, prosciutto, and gorgonzola dolce on crusty bread, or crostini with goat cheese, honey, and rosemary oil. Tapas highlight fresh veggies, like baby arugula and beets; the chickpea panzanella makes for an inventive and refreshing salad.
3. Gregory’s 26 Corner Taverna, 26-02 23rd Avenue, Astoria
If you’d rather not joust with the crowds of Manhattanites who have deigned to “trek” out to Queens for Taverna Kyclades, visit Gregory’s for rustic Greek food that’s just as delicious. The old timers smoking at the front patio tables speak to this spot’s esteemed local status, and the restaurant is as cozy as can be inside, especially with a carafe of wine for your table. Like Astoria’s many tavernas, the grilled fish is stellar, but the many vegetarian-friendly appetizers — like the eggplant dip and fried green peppers stuffed with cheese — also merit attention. Grilled octopus, tender and perfectly charred, can stand up to any other cephalopod in town.
2. Taverna Kyclades, 33-07 Ditmars Boulevard, Astoria
We would be remiss not to mention this famous Astoria spot, even though we don’t want to contribute to the already-long lines that turn up every weekend. (Though the complimentary glasses of wine while you wait help.) You won’t linger over your meal at Taverna Kyclades, but you will leave happily stuffed from super fresh Greek salads and grilled fish entrees — we recommend the swordfish kebab, which never succumbs to the fish’s tendency to come out a bit dry elsewhere. Find a way to make room, too, for a side of lemon potatoes, or an order of saganaki with a sprinkle of fresh lemon juice.
1. Kabab Café, 25-12 Steinway Street, Astoria
Kabab Café, about the size of a typical NYC living room and bedecked with décor that could have been collected by an eccentric world traveler, offers a truly one-of-a-kind experience. A mezze plate, with baba ghanouj, crispy kale, and the most ethereal falafel you’ll have, might come with a side of owner Ali Al-Sayed’s thoughts on philosophy — he knows his Sartre from his sumac. Don’t ask for a menu; trust in the chef to serve soulful dishes inspired by his youth in Alexandria, Egypt. Ali is known for the magic he works with innards, and you can try everything from lamb brain to calf liver, but even simple roasted chicken reveals layers of flavor with each bite. Dishes like cauliflower, roasted and served in a pomegranate sauce, will satisfy vegetarians, as well. Situated in the heart of Steinway Street, a thoroughfare that is home to the myriad cultures of the neighborhood, this is a quintessential Astoria spot.