We've been in Astoria for exactly a year and have sampled many of the local options. Here's what we've tried:
Kebab Cafe: Absolutely incredible, though those who are squeamish about offal may find the menu off-putting. The chef, Ali, has a commanding and gregarious presence, and is very confident in his cooking. Standout dishes include the mixed plate of hummus and baba ghanoush, sweetbreads with capers, and lamb cheeks. Pricier than what you might expect for the neighborhood, but worth it.
Arepas Cafe: I'm constantly craving arepas, and these satisfy me every time. I like the pelua (beef with cheddar cheese), guayanesa tropical (fried plantains with guayanés cheese and avocado), and mami (roasted pork with avocado and white cheese). Their garlic–cilantro condiment is addictive. Also great yucca fries.
Poodam's Thai Cuisine: I love the sweet and sour larb (though I have not eaten larb elsewhere, so I'm not sure how this stacks up in terms of authenticity). Also good are the chive dumplings; duck basil; papaya salad.
Seva: We really liked this place when we first moved to the neighborhood—we once had a catfish entree that still stands out in my mind. But on our third or fourth visit, we noticed a decline in quality. We haven't been back to the restaurant since December or so, but I still occasionally call for delivery. You can order an appetizer, entree, and dessert for a total of $11 or $12 (I like the gulab jamun) and stretch everything across two or three meals. The delivery is fine, but I wouldn't point anyone seeking great Indian food toward Seva. Can anyone report on a recent meal there?
Brick Cafe: Pretty lame. Fresh toast tasted like Wonder Bread. Creme Brulee had a rubbery surface that almost resisted penetration by my spoon, and its consistency was lumpy. A pasta dish was topped with what appeared to be store-bought ragú. There are far better places to patronize in Astoria.
Mundo Cafe: Scattered menu. People rave about those red sonja, which I don't get. I had Ottoman dumplings which tasted OK at first, but eventually the seasoning was too potent. My boyfriend took about two bites of the crabmeat burger and could not go on.
Cedar's Meat House: Had a beef kebab pita with pickles and turnips for only $3. Worth checking out.
Various taco vendors: I don't understand why there's so much fuss over the El Rey del Taco truck—I'd say it's on par with Viva el Mariachi (which I happen to like more because their tacos come with guacamole). I also like Viva's tamales. A couple months ago we finally tried a Latin grocer, El Jarochito, down the street from our building (on 29th, close to 30th Ave., next door to a barbershop). Great tacos there as well. On my first visit I noticed a "sweet tamale" on their menu, so I ordered one. It contained an almost alarmingly unnaturally fuschia-colored and hard-to-identify filling—maybe a sweet bean paste? Also raisins. Probably wouldn't order that again, but we do love their chorizo tacos. According to my boyfriend, they also do a mean huitlacoche quesadilla.
Sal, Kris, and Charlie's: Finally ventured up to this deli last week. I had a simple sandwich of genoa salami, cheddar cheese, onions, and mustard, while my boyfriend got the famous "Bomb." We both got two meals out of these sandwiches, a good deal considering they cost $6 or $7. I recommend taking your order and a soda to Hoyt Playground and watching the kids shoot hoops while you eat.
Taverna Kyclades: Good, would like to go back and try more. Had the grilled calamari, while my aunt had the delicious saganaki (though I can't imagine eating that entire brick of fried cheese on my own).
I know I have more to report on, but I'm drawing a blank now. Back later!
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