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Astoria – Beyond Greek Food

One of the reasons New York’s such an exciting city is that there are so many different neighborhoods worth exploring, each with their own distinct feel and attractions.  Take Astoria for example.  It’s a vibrant neighborhood, located in the northwest of Queens, with a constantly evolving food scene.  Astoria has long had a reputation for being a Greek enclave with great Greek restaurants to match.  But these days, it’s got more than its share of worthy Middle Eastern, Latin American and Northern African restaurants, too.  With the recent influx of young New Yorkers to the ‘hood, there’s a whole new crop of restaurants and bars, making it ripe for a food crawl.

But where to begin? You might consider starting with an afternoon snack at La Casa del Pan, located on 38th Street near Broadway. This Colombian bakery specializes in savory empanadas and sweet pandebonos, a divine bread creation, made with corn flour, yucca flour, cheese and eggs.  A mere $1.25 at La Casa del Pan buys you a warm, softball-sized portion of this doughy goodness.

After, take a seven- block stroll over to Sweet Afton for a pre-dinner cocktail. With its wood-paneled interior and outdoor garden, this 34th Street watering hole is a cozy, laid-back spot with some serious cocktails. The Burns’ Daiquiri with dark rum, spiced honey syrup and citrus fruits is my go-to drink this fall, but if you’re feeling like something a little stronger and not as sweet, go for their intensely briny and delicious Dirty Pickle Martini.

Come dinnertime, head to Balkh Shish Kabab House, an Afghan restaurant on 34th Street (a block from Ditmars Boulevard). The flame-grilled kebabs are a must, moist and unusually herbaceous.  But first sample a few appetizers, especially the aushack,hefty
dumplings lavished in a creamy tomato sauce as well as the borani kandu, a fried pumpkin dish that’s perfect for fall. But don’t overdo it because there’s dessert to be had at a charming spot called Queens Comfort. The menu at this Southern-influenced restaurant changes regularly, but there’s a few fixtures, like biscuits & gravy, fried chicken, & tater tots, Desserts tend to be grown up twists on childhood favorites or cheeky oddball creations, like the “Worms in the Dirt Cake”, which seems like something a four-year-old would make if given free-reign in the kitchen — if that four-year-old were a trained chef.  It’s made with gummy worms, yellow cake, chocolate frosting and Oreo crumbles. Weird? Yes. But it happens to be delicious and you can order a pink lemonade or Stumptown coffee to wash it down.

La Casa del Pan
Address: 38-02 Broadway
Phone: (718) 726-7946

Sweet Afton
Address: 30-09 34th St.
Phone: (718) 777-2570

Balk Shish Kabab House
Address: 23-10 31st St.
Phone: (718)  721-5020

Queens Comfort
Address: 40-90 30th Ave.
Phone: (718) 728-2350

RG Writer: Alex Rush

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