Admittedly I did not write much about food this year. Instead I spent it grappling with the changing neighborhood – and city – and my own culpability in that change. As someone who works in the anti-violence movement, it was also difficult to write about something as seemingly frivolous as food as the nation spins madly out of control.
But at the end of the day, food is something that brings us comfort, and sometimes even joy. Food brings us together, connects us to one another, even in divisive days. So in that spirit, I offer my annual year in review post about eating in Astoria. Happy New Year to all, and Peace.
Astoria Loves Our Food Vendors
It was an awesome year for a few of our favorite food vendors. Bolstered by local community support, as well as city-wide acclaim on the Vendy Awards stage in recent years, both the King of Falafel and Shawarma (who celebrated their 12th Astoria Anniversary this year) and King Souvlaki of Astoria rolled out shiny new food trucks.
This year it was El Rey Del Taco Truck’s turn to receive a Vendy nomination. Which leaves us all wondering which one of our food vendors is next for big time success? My money is on the Souvlaki Lady of Ditmars, who upgraded her cart this year as well!
Instant Coffee Culture
2014 will be know as the year 3rd Wave coffee shops arrived in great abundance in Astoria. A self professed coffee snob, the ones I fell for were all about the ambiance (along with good coffee of course). Bright, jovial Astoria Coffee opened closest to my apartment. And 60 Beans up on Ditmars from the local team behind Brooklyn Bagel is a beautiful, welcoming space that I can’t spend enough time in. In fact, I’m typing this up at 60 Beans right now. Here’s my view:
Ring in the New
Along with the coffee spots above, a few new places won my heart this year. Broadway’s Pye Boat Noodle was heralded as Astoria’s first serious Thai spot in a borough full of amazing ones. Bao Shoppe and Pao and Cha Cha enlivened the food scenes on Steinway Street and Astoria Boulevard, respectively.
Honoring a Few Old Favories
One of my “Old Favorites” this year was a neighborhood institution that I hadn’t been to before (for shame!). Awesome, atmospheric Cafe Triskell was hands down my favorite “find” – even though most other Astorians had found it already! Astoria legend Mundo reopened in the Paper Factory hotel, and one of my local favorites, Bear, introduced me to a mind blowing collection of Russian and Ukrainian dumpling recipes. Astoria’s Arepas Cafe surprised me with some great, boozy Venezuelan Egg Nog at the holidays.
Queen is the new… It’s just Queens
The overriding narrative about our borough this year – externally imposed on us – was that Queens is the new Brooklyn, or the new Manhattan. I spent a lot of time this year trying to refute this, and asserting that places are distinct from one another, and special because of that distinctiveness. Along the way I suggested we resist an inevitability narrative of gentrification, that we question who is trying to define us, and that we keep thinking about the changing city around us.
Change is inevitable, but so too is the creative, beautiful ingenuity of each and every one of us to figure out a greater way to love our neighborhoods, our city, and each other.