Even for me, this past weekend was a sprawling, gratuitous, glorious celebration of Queens food. I’ve jotted down the itinerary here, in the hopes of inspiring Queens food weekends for all.
Friday, August 2
After work, we headed to Arepas Grill, a brand new venture by the team at Arepas Cafe, Astoria’s source for traditional Venezuelan fare. Arepas Grill has quickly climbed the list of my favorite Astoria eateries. They have expanded their menu since opening on July 20th, and promise even more changes ahead. I scarfed an Arepa Catira, a crispy cornmeal pocket stuffed full of shredded chicken and cheddar cheese and ended the meal with a delicious Quesillo, a rich cream caramel flan.
Saturday, August 3
We started the day with a late breakfast at COFFEED, the coffee shop with a conscience located in Northern Boulevard’s broad-shouldered Standard Motor Products Building. COFFEED uses locally and ethically sourced ingredients (including bounty from the Brooklyn Grange on their roof) and gives a percentage of food and drink sales to local charities. We enjoyed their fresh, eminently affordable egg and cheese breakfast sandwich and a cappuccino which may just be my favorite hot coffee drink in Queens.
For an early afternoon snack, I decided to check out Astoria’s newest Milk Tea joint, Ice Breaker Milk Tea which just opened on Broadway, near Crescent. I had a great Taro Milk Tea with Tapioca, and would definitely recommend giving this new spot a try and welcoming them to the neighborhood.
The sun pushed through the clouds early Saturday afternoon, and with it, the dawning impulse to drink beer outdoors. We headed over to Anable Basin Sailing Bar and Grill, a somewhat random, remote spot on the LIC waterfront with one hell of a view. I was charmed by this space, which basically consists of a shed that serves food and booze, and a row of picnic tables along the water. We pounded a couple of beers and happily took it all in.
Our next stop was the LIC Flea, a wonderful addition to Queens’ outdoor eating scene, to pick up one of our favorite dishes of summer, Hong Kong Street Cart’s light, refreshing Lemongrass Chicken, served over spring greens with buckwheat soba noodles, cashews and a citrus dressing.
We then headed back to Astoria to check out 5 Napkin Burger’s recently revamped Happy Hour, which goes from 4 to 7 daily, and offers appetizer size portions of some of their best dishes, along with beer and house wine, at a mere $4 for each item. We snacked on their their renowned veggie sliders, and I downed a Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy, a fruit beer from Wisconsin that has has become a staple on taps around Astoria this summer.
The evening ended out back in the recently opened courtyard of the Museum of the Moving Image where we watched the sun set and listened to Colombian Rumba Flamenco music performed by Gimagua as a part of the Rural Route Film Festival. It was great to see one of my favorites, Astor Bake Shop, serving food that night at the film festival (other festival partners included COFFEED, the Brooklyn Grange and the Strand Smokehouse).
Sunday, August 4
We started Sunday at Leli’s Bakery on 30th Avenue. This Maltese Bakery is one of my favorite relatively recent arrivals in Astoria, which serves a vast variety of exceptional pastries (including traditional Maltese pastries) and homemade breads. Knowing there was a full day of eating ahead, I opted for a light breakfast including a buttery croissant and tasty cappuccino, made with Irving Farms Coffee beans.
Our next stop was Citi Field, to watch the Mets get pummeled by the Kansas City Royals. I blame myself, because I ordered the Blue Smoke Chipotle Chicken Wings. I’ve eaten my way through Citi Field before, but these smoky wings are a new all time favorite. For a minute I wondered if the Mets would have won if I’d ordered traditional New York fare like Nathan’s franks, but quickly debunked the superstitious notion because the wings were just that good. In the interest of full disclosure, we also ate Carvel soft serve (chocolate and vanilla twist) out of a little Mets cap cup and it was awesome.
Already in the neighborhood, the lure of the city’s best Chinese food compelled us to hop the 7 one station to downtown Flushing. Our first stop was Tianjin Dumpling House, located in the bustling basement of the Golden Shopping Mall where we split an order of the Lamb and Green Squash Dumplings with a skin so delicate that it seems a miracle it manages to contain the juicy lamb within. We then stopped over to White Bear to pick up a few orders of their outstanding (#6) Wontons in Hot Oil to go. Our last stop, also to go, was Iris Tea & Bakery for Japanese Crispy Cream Puffs (best eaten cold) and light as air Lemon Cream Bread with a sweet custard filling.
Back in Astoria, we feasted on our wontons and sweets and watched the sun set over an absolutely perfect weekend of Queens eating.