It’s no secret that New York City is a microcosmic Pangaea of cultures colliding, colluding, and collaborating to create one of the most culturally rich cities in the world. But did you know that out of the five boroughs that comprise the beloved Big Apple, Queens is the most ethnically diverse? Astoria, Queens – located a mere hop across the East River from Manhattan – is just a small sliver showcasing its borough’s diversity. While it is known for being heavily Greek (and at one point containing the largest concentration of Greek people outside of Athens!), Astoria is also home to large Arabic, Hispanic, and Korean populations, to name just a few of the different ethnic groups that make up the neighborhood. Steinway Street between Broadway and Astoria Boulevard is even known as “Little Egypt” for all of the hookah lounges and Middle Eastern restaurants lining the sidewalks! Besides its diversified population, Astoria is also one of the last relatively affordable neighborhoods in close proximity to Manhattan – making it more and more desirable to new business owners and restaurateurs.
With so many different options to choose from, how does a resident (or visitor) of Astoria know where to go? BuzzTonight is here with our list of the Best of Astoria – the 2017 version of where to drink, eat, and play in what is arguably one of New York City’s most up-and-coming neighborhoods.
Best Bagel: Brooklyn Bagel (3614 30th Ave)
While New Yorkers may be the most diverse bunch of people on the planet, one thing that unites us all is our love of bagels. For the best of the best, head to Brooklyn Bagel on 30th Ave and 37th Street. While there are a few Brooklyn Bagel places in Astoria, the one on 30th is by far the best – they have the ordering process down to an art and, despite the characteristically long lines, you’ll never wait more than 10 minutes. Pop in to try their flavor of the month, or go for a standard “Everything-bagel-with-scallion-cream cheese” for an excellent start to the morning (or to treat-yo-self for facing the MTA unscathed).
Best Coffee: Gossip Coffee (3704 30th Ave)
Located conveniently close to the aforementioned Brooklyn Bagel, Gossip Coffee is this caffeine addict’s favorite place for a quick hit in the neighborhood (and quite possibly all of NYC). They have hands-down the most delicious iced latte you’ll ever drink – caramelly and smooth and known to convert even the most avid anti-iced-coffee drinkers among us. Not to mention they have great outdoor seating during the summer months, and ample space inside a cute interior where you can actually find a seat and hunker down with a good book or catch up with a friend. But please, for the love of God – if you plan on taking up a table for hours to work on your dissertation, try the Starbucks down the street and save the tables for those of us who want to just sit down and enjoy a good cappuccino.
Best Brunch: The Bonnie (29-12 23rd Ave)
While I can’t mention brunch in Astoria without giving a shout out to local favorite Queens Comfort, the long lines and cardiac-arrest-inducing fare make it a once-in-a-blue-moon occasional treat. For more traditional brunch fare, I recommend The Bonnie over by Ditmars Boulevard. The Bonnie is the place you and your boyfriend hit up at 2pm on a Sunday after a late Saturday night, the place you take your parents when they come to town and want to keep it local, and the place you suggest to your friends when they decide to *actually* make the trek out to Astoria from Bushwick for a Saturday afternoon girls brunch. They have a super chill rustic-chic atmosphere and one of the best Bloody Mary’s I’ve ever had. And if you don’t try their french toast sticks or egg sandwich with crispy potatoes on a brioche bun (and add avocado because DUH), you won’t forgive yourself.
Best Upscale Greek: Telly’s Taverna (28-13 23rd Ave)
If The Bonnie is the place you take your parents when they want to do a low-key NYC brunch close by, then Telly’s is where you take them to meet your new boyfriend for the first time. It’s a nice restaurant without being too stiff/fancy, has an assortment of families, couples, and friend groups, and everyone will feel at ease. They also have delicious appetizers for sharing (their baked feta is OMG) and a tantalizing array of authentic Greek mains for any palate. While many people will suggest celebrity-frequented Taverna Kyclades on Ditmars as the best Greek restaurant in Astoria, if you want to avoid the long wait (and crowds) Telly’s is a much quieter, equally-tasty alternative.
Best Casual Greek: Zorba’s (29-05 23rd Ave)
Zorba’s is the tiny hole-in-the-wall restaurant that you pass on your way home from a late happy hour or evening concert, whose inviting blue awning reminds you that you’re starving and that bar nuts are definitely not a meal. With its delicious, relatively healthy (depending on what you order) Greek wraps, salads, pita, and mains at excellent prices, I recommend getting a pita wrap to go and enjoying it in all of its glorious mess from the comfort of your own living room.
Best Indian: Seva (30-07 34th St)
I can’t speak to the dine-in experience at Seva as I’ve only ever ordered take out, but their prix-fixe option (appetizer, entree, and dessert for $15) never fails to disappoint. Throw in an order of garlic naan and you have enough food for two people. Top it off with their speedy delivery (and the fact that their samosas are out-of-this-world) and you’ve got yourself a regular takeout joint on those nights you don’t feel like putting actual pants on.
Best Pizza: Sac’s Place (2541 Broadway)
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If there’s another thing New Yorkers can all agree on, it’s that pizza is its own food group and that there’s nothing better than a New York City slice. But ask 10 New Yorkers where their favorite pizza place is, and you’ll get 10 different answers. While some in Astoria will argue that Rizzo’s Sicilian-style squares or a slice at Polito’s is the neighborhood’s best, the real best place for a NY slice in Astoria is family-run Sac’s Place on Broadway. Dine-in and be served by the family’s old-school patriarch, who is quick to tell you about his seasonal heirloom tomato salad using fresh produce imported directly from local farms, or enjoy a slice to go from the attached walk-in outpost next door.
Best Bar: The LetLove Inn (27-20 23rd Ave)
Besides having the best name, The LetLove Inn is a local corner bar serving delicious and creative hand-crafted cocktails. With its dark interior dimly illuminated by candlelight and furnished with old-fashioned wooden tables, The LetLove Inn is dark and sexy with a pliable energy that makes it great for a date, an after work drink, or the bar you close down after a fun night out. Fun fact: the “neighborhood cat” is known to pop in and out of the bar to say hello, and while the bar does not serve food, the bartenders have been known to bring in pastries to share, so keep your eyes peeled and play nice with your mixologist.
Best Bakery: Artopolis (23-18 31st St)
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Said “pastries to share” at The Let Love Inn include the famed Greek honey cookie, the melomakarona, from nearby Artopolis bakery. Fully staffed by some of Astoria’s resident Greeks, Artopolis’ pastries are fresh and authentic. Walk in and choose from an array of Greek favorites such as sesame rings, short bread cookies, butter cookies, and baklava; or make your way over to their display case featuring elaborately decorated, too-pretty-to-eat pastries. I know it’s bold, but I’m going to say it anyways: the melomakarona from Artopolis are even better than the ones in Athens.
Best Food Truck: Habiba Halal (Corner of Broadway and Steinway)
Every New Yorker needs a reliable late-night food truck for those times when even the bodega is closed as you make your way home from an evening of mischief and mayhem. Or hell, maybe you just want a really delicious, really cheap meal with questionable origins and enough food for an army (or at least for one person for a couple of days). If you live in Astoria, look no further than the Habiba Halal food truck. The reliable red truck has been parking itself on the corner of Broadway and Steinway every night for years – long enough to cause a mini panic-attack when one night on my walk home from the train I saw it was no longer parked on the corner. Thankfully, it returned the next day to serve up hot, fresh, and delicious lamb and chicken over rice, among other halal favorites. And though I’m not quite sure what it is – extra white sauce, please.
Best Date Night Place: Milkflower (34-12 31st Ave)
Milkflower is an adorably cute date spot with pretty lights, a great wine selection, and delicious Neapolitan-style pizza. It’s relatively inexpensive but atmospheric enough to look like you’re trying (but not too hard). Their pizzas are incredibly unique and incredibly tasty. Try one of their most popular pies – The Van Dammer (brussels sprouts, mozzarella, egg, black pepepr, and truffle oil) and you won’t be disappointed.
Best Deli: Sal, Kris, and Charlie’s (33-12 23rd Ave)
If some generic director were to make a generic film about NYC showing off generic “New York things” to set the scene, Sal, Kris, and Charlie’s would be featured as the classic NY-style deli. Despite its rather hackneyed attributes, this small hole-in-the-wall deli is often packed – usually with NYPD and construction workers, two groups about whom it’s safe to say know a thing or two about delis. If you want to walk in hungry and leave with a sandwich the size of your head, order “The Bomb” – a combination of 5 meats and 3 cheeses, plus toppings and dressing. This is the sandwich you should pack on an airplane in the event that you end up in some twisted real-life version of The Mountain Between Us. You could weather out even the longest of winter storms with “The Bomb” by your side.
Best Place to Work it All Off: ILoveKickboxing.com-Astoria (32-43 Steinway St)
If you don’t want to end up on My 600 Pound Life after indulging in all of the above, your best chance at survival (or at least making it to that summer bod) is by checking out local kickboxing studio, ILoveKickboxing.com-Astoria. A franchise fitness studio with various outposts nationwide, ILoveKickboxing is a workout that is sure to get your heart-rate up as you work through a series of HIIT exercise and bag rounds. With its special DJ nights, group barbecues, super friendly fitness instructors, and a myriad of ways to get involved with local charities, ILoveKickboxing is a great place to have fun, sweat it out, and do good unto others as you do good unto your body. As admittedly-basic instructor Tas Shantanu is known to say during class, “You gotta earn those Pumpkin Spice Lattes!” (and all the other food on this list).