Astoria, Food and Drink
Sep 05, 2014

On the Topic of Astoria’s (Lack of) Food Diversity

Chicken Kaprow at Pye Boat Noodle, one of Astoria’s newcomers raising the bar on Thai food in the neighborhood. We received a thought-provoking comment from a thoughtful Astorian aptly called, (…)

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Chicken Kaprow at Pye Boat Noodle, one of Astoria’s newcomers raising the bar on Thai food in the neighborhood.

We received a thought-provoking comment from a thoughtful Astorian aptly called, “Astorian.” It was on a post called “Caffe Bene Coming to Astoria – Neighborhood Friend or Foe?” with the statement “I feel that Astoria’s food scene is not that diverse.” This is an assertion I respectfully disagree with, and here’s why.

First, here’s more of that comment, for context:

I hadn’t been down Steinway in awhile, so when I saw a brand new Caffe Bene across from Blink Fitness, my heart started to flutter. I grew up in Korea so having Caffe Bene in Astoria is like a piece of home in a neighborhood in dire need of a facelift when it comes to restaurants and cafes.

I feel that Astoria’s food scene is not that diverse and I often go to other surrounding neighborhoods to try something new (I’m referring to you Williamsburg). However, when I crave something gourmet in Astoria I usually stop by the Kickshaw. Kinship cafe also opened up on Steinway and its definitely better than Starbucks, but not better than Kickshaw’s coffee imo.

We, too, love the food at The Queens Kickshaw—it is interesting and delicious, and we love that they try new things, plus their cider program is unique. The coffee is excellent, too, and was one of the first places in Astoria that brought the “third wave” approach—that’s treating coffee as an artisanal foodstuff instead of the commodity crop it is usually considered (commodity crops grown in the US include corn, soy, wheat, rice, and cotton). So, with Kickshaw along with places like 60 Beans, OK Cafe, Caffino, Kinship, and Astoria Coffee, you hardly need to leave Astoria anymore for good coffee (unless you’re heading to Sweetleaf in LIC—iced rocket fuel FTW).

But Astoria has had a coffee tradition for some time, relating more to the “old country”—Greek frappes, Turkish (or Egyptian, or Greek) style coffee, and Italian espressos, all of which are still prepared at places like Artopolis, Zenon Taverna, and La Guli. Add your mild bakery coffee, Starbucks, and Dunkin, there there’s a lot of coffee diversity here in town.

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Photo by Anne Noyes Saini

I believe there is food diversity in Astoria. I’m grateful to have been given the chance to think on this, and compiled a list of food cultures you can find in Astoria right now (restaurants, street food, and shops):

  • Afghan
  • Australian
  • Brazilian
  • Bosnian
  • Chinese (albeit subpar for the most part)
  • Colombian
  • Croatian
  • Cuban
  • Cypriot (not to be confused with Greek)
  • Czech
  • Ecuadorian
  • Egyptian
  • French (including Breton)
  • German
  • Greek
  • Indian
  • Italian
  • Jamaican
  • Japanese (ramen and sushi)
  • Korean
  • Lebanese
  • Maltese
  • Mexican
  • Moroccan
  • New American
  • Pakistani
  • Palestinian
  • Peruvian
  • Russian
  • Serbian
  • Sicilian
  • Slovak
  • Spanish
  • Thai
  • Turkish
  • Venezuelan
  • Yemeni
  • Ukrainian
  • Vietnamese

There may be some I am missing, too (WHA readers, please feel free to fill in the blanks); and I haven’t forgotten the scads of pizza and burgers all over Astoria. The total of these cuisines are from 6 of the 7 continents. Things that are missing are Ethiopian and sub-saharan African food, Nordic food, and Central Asian food (Kazakh, Georgian, Uzbek, etc).

We could also do with good regional Chinese food (Dongbei for me, please), Malaysian food, more Korean food, better Vietnamese food (there’s only one pho spot in town, which apparently microwaves the noodles) and Burmese food. I would say that quality Asian (east and south) is more on the lacking side. Highlights for me include Pye Boat Noodle, Hinomaru, and Family Market for Japanese products.

frappe-zorbas-astoria-queens

Another point made was that foreign drinks are not common in Astoria. I invite you to check out what we have, though. Here are some of my favorites:

  • Bubble Tea (Taiwan) from Tea n’ Milk or Tapioca Story
  • Chicha (Venezuelan) at Arepas Cafe
  • Frappe (Greece) at Zorba’s
  • Horchata (Mexico) at Los Portales
  • Iced matcha (Japanese) at The Queens Kickshaw
  • Mango Lassi (Indian) at Seva
  • Thai Iced Tea (Thailand) at Pye Boat Noodle
  • Sangria (Spain) at La Rioja
  • Sorrel Drink (Jamaican/West Indian) at Melting Pot

Astoria really has a lot of choices when it comes to food, with many opportunities to try something new. Astorians, we welcome your take on this—how do you see Astoria’s food scene? Diverse? Bland? Too much of any one thing? Not enough of another? We welcome your comments and tweets on the topic!

About Meg Cotner

Meg Cotner was trained as a harpsichordist and now works as a freelance writer and editor. She is the author of "Food Lovers' Guide to Queens," and is a skilled and avid home cook, baker, and preserver.

24 Comments

megc

Give Bear a try – Chef Natasha Pogrebinsky makes Russian and Ukranian food there. It’s on 31st Ave near 14th Street.

Reply
greetings&salutations

no diversity in food here? THERE’S NOTHING BUT FOOD HERE. and a couple of pretty killer gay bars. and that’s it. couldn’t believe waltz astoria closed. there’s no alt culture here, no small independently owned galleries, used bookshops, exciting music, standup or literary events to speak of, it’s a sea of nothingness. all creative life seems to have found its way to brooklyn, and there it stays. you can eat yourself into a daze of multinational food, some of it good, some of it lousy, a very little of it totally great (though yes, those places exist) but stay in that daze, because there are no artistic or intellectual happenings – or just plain damn offbeat fun – to be had. thank god for the subway.

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Threemoons

What, is the complainer unhappy that there aren’t enough places that charge $8 for a pourover? Offended that there are still actual Central and South American restaurants actually run by natives of those countries (and don’t sell fancified crap like tofu tacos or artisenal mezcal)?

And as far as Scandinavian food in NYC in general…the ONLY places where I’ve had the real, actual deal is at the consulates of Nordic/Scandinavian nations. Even Scandinavia House in Midtown has fancified overpriced stuff.

My only REAL gripe: No old-skool Jewish deli. with Fred-Flintstone sized slabs of corned beef and pastrami hanging out in a case, next to enough wax-wrapped loaves of seeded onion rye and challah to feed an army.

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John

We don’t have Scandinavian, Haitian and Argentinian food. Would be nice to have couple of those.

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Justin Foley

First, I’m surprised at the omission of Coffeed in Astoria’s coffee culture. Their commitment to good coffee (they roast their own, right here in Astoria/LIC) and the neighborhood (sourcing via Brooklyn Grange and at least 10% of revenue going to donations) deserves mention.

Astoria’s ridiculously diverse in terms of the food we have, and it’s improved considerably over the past 10 years. The post doesn’t mention this, but consider also that we have a pretty good diversity of quality food that also spans different price ranges. If, for example, you were on the corner of Broadway and 38th street and wanted good Mexican, you are a 10 minute walk from at least 5 different price options – the 30th Ave taco truck (real cheap), Tacos Mexicos (cheap), de Mole (reasonable), Pachanga Paterson (kinda pricey) or Maizal (pricey). They’re all very good.

The original comment is frankly confusing. If she’s looking for lack of quality diversity in Astoria, complain about the architecture.

= Justin

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dunnypop

Has anyone tried Nuevo Jardin De China? It’s spanish chinese food.
Wonder if it’s as good as the place up in Upper West Side.

I need to try it.

Reply
Zora

Lana, many of the cuisines on the list above are almost entirely vegetarian. Indian, Greek, Moroccan, Turkish, Mexican. Get an arepa packed with avocado and spicy-sweet salsa. Go to the Kabab Cafe (and don’t worry about the name)–Ali will hook you up with a vegan meal that will expand your mind.

As a most-of-the-time vegetarian myself, I totally understand that it is of course mentally easier to go to a resto you know is all-veg, and not have to pick through the menu. But the diversity of food in this neighborhood is a vegetarian’s friend.

Back to the original comment: I think what tweaked me about this person saying Astoria doesn’t have diverse or “foreign” food was that people who say things like that are almost always the people who seem to, strangely, want more cool coffee bars with tattooed baristas and more twee bistros with kale salads. There’s nothing wrong with those things (I like kale salad), but there was also nothing wrong with Astoria before we had them. And I will be exceedingly bitter if one more of those twee bistros means the Moroccan sandwich joint, say, goes under.

Reply
Lana

Astoria needs vegetarian and vegan restaurants.
There are so many health food stores in Astoria.
The market for healthy whole foods based meals is there.

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Demetrius

I hear you Lana! Super eager to see what Astoria’s first all veg*n spot will offer, and where it will be. Meanwhile, excited to learn more from WHA about what other vegan options are “hiding out” in the area!!!

Reply
Chelle

Has this person even set foot in Astoria? I don’t even think there exists a neighborhood in New York with more food diversity than Astoria, except for the East Village. And in terms of diversity of people nowhere else comes close.

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Anthony

Cronin & Phelan’s for the win! Their Irish curry is phenomenal. Dip some salt and vinegar fries into it, or pour some over the bangers and mash. SALIVATING.

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Stephanie

We don’t have Filipino or Polish, the full range of Caribbean food you find in Brooklyn or other parts of Queens, or Puerto Rican/Dominican. Other than that, we’re pretty darn diverse!

I think the quote is a bit telling in the fact that the poster considers Williamsburg their go-to spot for “diversity”; in my thought, this doesn’t mean ethnic so much as the little hipster-type places (aka the Queens Kickshaw). There are many people who dismiss the small, ethnic restaurants because they either feel uncomfortable in them (for a variety of reasons) or the places aren’t cool spots. Also, if the poster is centered around Steinway and Broadway, there are fewer places to eat in that nexus than in many other parts of Astoria, so it seems like there’s a lack of diversity. Often, it seems easier to take the subway to another neighborhood than to walk or wait for a bus to go to a far-flung part of the same neighborhood–I’ve certainly been guilty of that in the time I’ve been living here and when I lived in Park Slope.

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megc

We’ve had at least a couple of Filipino restaurants in Astoria, but they’ve closed. There is Puerto Rican, actually – Don Coqui. And Mi Candela. A little research pulled up Antojitos Cibaeno, which served Dominican food, and is now closed.

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Jenn

does mi candela even serve food anymore? It never looked busy and it has looked like just a karaoke joint for a while now. there is no menu posted outside either.

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dunnypop

I lived in Williamsburg for 4 years. It’s not diverse in food options at all. They do have ‘exciting’ and ‘new’ restaurants and there places are trendier, but you are paying a premium as well. I think on average you’re paying $25 (without drinks) in Williamsburg for a good meal while in Astoria, I think you’re paying around $15+ (without drinks) for a good meal.

The food options in Astoria are much more diverse. The asian food options are a bit better in Astoria and obviously the european food options are better. I think the new american style food is better in Williamsburg.

Reply

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