In case you missed the news earlier this year, Lonely Planet has declared Queens, New York the number one destination on its ‘Best in the US 2015’ list. No, it’s not a joke. The borough north of Brooklyn has been getting some much-deserved attention lately, and it doesn’t look like that will be changing anytime soon. In fact, Queens will soon be home to the newest offspring of the extremely popular foodie haven, Smorgasburg. Hungry hipsters will officially start heading north beginning July 11.
In the meantime, there are plenty of places for the dedicated foodie to visit in the next ‘It’ borough. One neighborhood in particular is home to a growing number of deliciously diverse restaurants: Astoria, Queens. Long known as the place for authentic Greek cuisine, Astoria has diversified its culinary offerings in the last several years with options ranging from French to Korean and everything in between. James Beard award-winning chefs and seasoned restaurateurs have taken notice and are beginning to set up shop as the spotlight begins to shine brighter on this burgeoning borough.
For the foodie looking to explore where to go and what to eat, here are five spots worth checking out during your next visit to Astoria:
A well known favorite among residents in Astoria, Vesta is a fairly small Italian restaurant located on a quiet street corner away from the more popular areas of the neighborhood. While not as old as other Astoria establishments, Vesta has quickly become a staple due to its quality food, great wines and intimate yet friendly vibe. With an ever-changing menu inspired by Italy and the local greenmarket, Vesta prides itself on serving the community seemingly simple yet incredibly delicious food. They also have a dessert specialty known as the Baby Jesus Cake, which is worth the visit alone.
Even the name of this hip hot spot evokes a high level of coolness. Queens Kickshaw, another small restaurant tucked away in an unassuming part of Astoria, happens to be home to all the things you love: coffee, beer and grilled cheese. From innovative menu items like gouda grilled cheese with black bean hummus, guava jam and pickled jalapeños to homey staples like mozzarella and cheddar grilled cheese served alongside tomato soup, Queens Kickshaw is great at giving you a blend of the familiar and the experimental, all of which tastes amazing.
Craving Cajun food in New York City and not sure where to go? Head to Sugarfreak, located on Astoria’s popular 30th Avenue. The uniquely named restaurant pays homage to its New Orleans roots with an array of Louisiana dishes, including gumbo, po’boys and crawfish étouffée. Sugarfreak is also a popular brunch destination due to its hard-to-resist menu items such as the jambalaya with eggs and the bananas foster french toast. As you may be able to guess, Sugarfreak is not healthy, but it sure is good.
The King of Falafel and Shawarma
Though not a restaurant (yet), The King of Falafel and Shawarma food truck is a must for anyone who loves Middle Eastern cuisine. Parked on Broadway between 29th and 30th Streets in Astoria, this popular spot serves up the basics — falafel, shawarma, kefta and kebabs, though the taste is anything but basic. Offerings range from homemade soups to the ‘Big Daddy’ — chicken over rice and salad with a beef kebab. If you’re still not won over, head to their food truck and try a sample of their addictive falafel. It will have you opening your wallet and ordering more in no time.
I would be remiss if I did not mention this popular Greek staple. Taverna Kyclades is one of the best Greek restaurants in both Astoria and New York City. Known for its fresh seafood and warm atmosphere, this restaurant feels like home — whether you’re from Greece or not. Though Taverna Kyclades can have long wait times (the restaurant does not accept reservations), the experience is always worth it, and you leave feeling as though you have just come from a Greek island. The restaurant recently expanded into the East Village, but for the real deal, I say head to the original Ditmars location.
In Astoria, you can travel the world without ever leaving the neighborhood. That’s the beauty of this diverse, growing pocket of Queens, New York. Just remember to bring your appetite and curiosity and leave all foodie preconceptions at home.