Covering the range of and nearby Steinway between 28th Ave and Astoria Blvd in Astoria, I broke fast with the following accounts, some being preceded by water, tea, or juice - at most, some fruit.
SOPHIA'S - east bank of 36th St, north of 30th Ave
Friday, October 7th, 12:00am - $3
This Moroccan delicatessen with a limited menu and restricted seating serves up some exceptional food. Two plump falafel (daintily spiced when pinched off and eaten separately) cooked in a deep-fryer, mashed in the bottom in a whole-wheat pita pocket that was falling apart by the final few bites, smashed in and topped with two tongfuls each of tomato and onion, one of green olives, a few squirts of tahineh, and a deep fried seeded and slivered jalapeno (the last component a substitute after requesting hot sauce). (Side note: whole poached goats head served here.)
KEBAB CAFE - west bank of Steinway, south of 25th Ave
Sunday, October 9th, 7:30pm - $5
Four coarsely ground mini falafel cooked in a blackened skillet with 'old oil', in each half of a white pita pocket which is grilled, then spattered with a dash of weak tahineh, stuffed with lettuce, tomato, and skinned sour apple, studded with the four chickpea nuggets each, and topped with a wad of hummus and a very mild hot sauce. Alone, the falafel were coarse seemed and processed too little in a mixer or done by hand, and also lacked an emphasis on spicing.
AL-OMDA - south bank of 28th Ave, west of 34th St.
Monday, October 10th, 6:45pm - $5
Tucked away from any major commercial veins. Five falafel with a crunchy crust and a mushy greasy bright green interior cooked in 'fresh' oil. A pleasant mild afterburn, lamentably without definitive and accentuating spicing. Ordered to go, and then changed my decision, and settled myself amongst patrons (middle-aged men dining alone or in pairs) smoking without hesitation. Falafel was promptly plated, and served on a sparse mat of lettuce, and two very thin and too white pita, with a too chewy consistency, served alongside in a basket. Tahineh extra, on the side. (Side note: interesting menu featuring duck, rabbit, and capon. Fish specials on Mondays and Fridays.)
PITA PALACE - Steinway at 25th Ave (NE corner)
Wednesday, October 12th, 8:15pm - $3.50
Three falafel (overhead menu reads six - the three were plenty), scooped out of a bucket, cooked in the --fryer, smashed on one of those wide thin white flour pita pockets that rip apart so easily and are layered one on top of the other, dressed in two ounces of decent tahineh, topped with a relish - consisting of iceberg, tomatoes, cucumbers, and parsley - and finished with two more ounces of tahineh, plus four tablespoons of mild hot sauce (seemed it might have been made in house, despite all too apparent shortcuts, such as Western Beef reconstituted lemon juice) before being rolled up and wrapped in wax paper and foil. The falafel alone was a bit of a greaseball, which my stomach picked up on while walking it off, and was too salty and on the plain side. Although bearing the color of mellow green indicating some parsley, the grease and salt overpowered the herbaciousness as well as any seasoning. Sufficiently hard and crisp exterior.
KEBAB GI - west bank of Steinway, south of 28th Ave.
Thursday, October 13th, 7pm - $3.50
A well-rounded sandwich. The sole employee of this halal grill and pizza joint was stretching dough for pizza when I walked in, and had to go to the kitchen in the back to prepare the falafel. He returned to his pizza, and went back to the kitchen to retrieve three flat discs, setting them aside while tossing a large flat round pita pocket in the oven next to the pizza, then splitting the pita open and laying them on top of one another backs down, before smearing with a tablespoon of hummus and smashing the falafel on. A handful of romaine, a handful of tomato, and a handful of a gorgeous looking onion relish with long slivered white onions specked with parsley, topped with a few squirts of tahineh and, at my request, hot sauce, which came out of a tube in paste form (It's been the most honest and effective hot sauce to date). After being wrapped in wax paper, the falafel was hard to distinguish, because it had crumbled, and was more on the dry than the oily side with apparent spicing, lacking any distinctiveness though. Pita a bit on the chewy side.
EL-RAWSHEH west bank of Steinway, bt. 25th + 28th Aves.
Friday, October 21st, 7pm - $3
A possible mainstay. This falafel patty with a sufficiently crisp exterior and satisfyingly crumbly yet moist interior was adequately spiced. After three moldfuls, out of a metal bowl, were dunked into a deep-fryer, they were mashed on one of those tear-apart pitas, which are nested one in the other. The mashed falafel, of a moist yet crumbly cornbread-like consistency, were then topped with a tongful each of light crispy pickled cucumber slices, pickled turnip batonettes, sliced tomatoes, minced curly parsley, and romaine lettuce; then drizzled with a moderately decent tahineh, and maybe a teaspoons worth of hot sauce (at my request); a very honest paste with a few seeds, seemingly vinegar-free, the too often present vinegar base which ruins a gradually extinguished burn of a smoldering ember, with acidic intrusion. The rest of the kitchen was banging out mouthwatering looking Ramadan specials as well... whole baked goat stuffed with rice, whole (fresh) fried fish to order; the desserts looked top notch too (especially the ekmek kataifi).
EL-MANARA, east bank of Steinway, north of 28th Ave
Tuesday, October 25th, 7pm - $3
The neighborhood standard, this seemingly 'fast food' joint in the front of middle eastern grocery store is a cut above many a fast food joint I've been to. Charcoal-grilled meats, and sandwiches wrapped and then pressed to heat the bread through, a warmth that carries through. The falafel are pressed with an old fashioned scoop-form from a bowl of the mixture, which was plenty fresh as previous attempts to score one led to the discovery of a sell out. Cooked in the deep-fryer to a dark tan, three disks are placed on the inside of two leaves of that tear-apart pita, scant handfuls of iceberg, slice tomatoes, spiced onions, pickled baby cucumbers, some pleasant tahineh, and a ketchup-like hot sauce (the first I was offered). Although spiced more deftly than any hamburger I've had out of a commercial kitchen, the taste threw me into a gustatory lapse I was eating one. Twelve dollar all-you-can-eat Ramadan buffet. Affiliated with Beirut Layali across the street, at which falafel was eightysixed three times I tried to score there.
EASTERN NIGHTS, east bank of Steinway, bt. 25th + 28th Aves.
Wednesday, October 26th, 7pm - $4
A let down. To their credit, they seemed swamped, what with the prime time fast breaking and all. The tables were all set with dates, and a small pickle variety. Pastries were being pulled hot from the oven. And the menu is really quite extensive, the rear dining area dense with argile smoke in a tented setting. If you're feeling racy, go for the tongue and testicles platter. As for the falafel, placing the order was confusing alone. Granted, this place does dining-in exclusively, it seems. As most spots where I could get a clear view of the activity in the kitchen were central, and standing there would have blocked traffic, I got to see little of how my sandwich was being made. The patties I saw were in a metal bowl, quite pliable, and formed by hand before being dropped in a deep-fryer. The pita, of the tear-apart variety, seemed fresh enough. Lamentably, the patties were placed on the outside of one side, rolled up with a minimal amount of salad (cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce), and without any noticeable tahineh/hot sauce. This made the sandwich chewier than should have been (more layer of padding causing more resistance). The patties were pleasantly spiced initially, but too soft, and progressively grew saltier, eventually to cover most seasoning. Also, the sandwich was wrapped directly in foil, whereas most places that use foil place some sort of paper product between the foil and sandwich. As a result, too many bites were accompanied by metallic hints, a major put-off. Adding insult to injury, I had to point out to the waitress that the sandwich was priced at four dollars in the menu, after she claimed it cost six.
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