Artery-Clogging Brunch Deliciousness in Astoria – Queens Comfort

Queens Comfort – 40-09 30th Avenue, Astoria, New York

This place can be considered your home away from home. With mismatched coffee mugs, family pictures hanging on the wall and childhood trophies scattered throughout, Queens Comfort is a piece of your home transported to Astoria (in fact, it’s a piece of everyone’s home – they encourage you to submit family photos for display).

Interior of Queens Comfort

Interior of Queens Comfort

Consistently packed, Queens Comfort is a hot spot for weekend brunch. And by packed, I mean mobbed. Wait times easily span an hour+ depending on the number of friends you’re with. Word to the wise – get there early and only pick those friends you really want to have an awesome brunch with.

The menu is an artery-clogging journey from loaded tater tots to chicken and waffles to chicken and bacon enchiladas. Every last bit of it is incredible.

Banana Bread Donut with Chocolate Chips

Chocolate Chip Banana Cake Donut

Fresh donuts are a weekend staple. Coated in sugar, the warm chocolate chip banana cake donut had a subtle banana flavor and plenty of chocolatey goodness inside. 

Captain Crunch French Toast Balls

Captain Crunch French Toast Balls

Remember those French toast sticks from your childhood? The Captain Crunch French Toast Balls taste exactly like them. They’re served on a river of maple syrup and have a piping hot doughy interior. There isn’t really much of a Captain Crunch taste so cereal lovers be forewarned.

Breakfast Burrito

Breakfast Burrito

The Breakfast Burrito is my favorite item on the brunch menu. It’s enormous – literally the size of an entire plate – and filled with scrambled eggs, Esposito breakfast sausage, tots and topped with lots of cheddar cheese, scallions and spicy mayo. Order this, and you won’t be eating for the rest of the day.

Fried Green Tomato Benedict

Fried Green Tomato Benedict

The Fried Green Tomato Benedict is a twist on your classic egg benedict. Poached egg, a fried tomato, hollandaise and remoulade sit atop buttery buttermilk biscuits.

Egg McRuffin

Eggs Mc’Ruffin

The Eggs Mc’Ruffin is a breakfast sandwich on steroids. Bechamel, smoked bacon, cheddar and fontina cheese are sandwiched on a gigantic royal crown English muffin and served with a side of tots.

Holy crap this place is good. Check them out for brunch and you won’t be disappointed. Just be sure to get there early or you’ll spend the day salivating over these pictures instead of clogging your arteries with home-cooked comfort food.

Queens Comfort on Urbanspoon

Happy New Year! Some of my Favorite Spots in 2013

Happy New Year! 2013 was a year filled with lots of delicious memories. Below are some of my favorites from the past 12 months.

If you check out any of these let me know what you think!

Food filled 2013

Brunch at Feast

Feast – 102 Third Avenue, Manhattan, New York

With my aunt visiting from out of town, I was on the prowl for a solid brunch spot around Union Square. Many Yelp reviews later, I stumbled upon Feast.

Feast Restaurant

Feast Restaurant

Feast is a bright, open air spot with communal seating. The themes here are clearly simplicity, wood and nature, with single light bulbs dangling from a wooden plank ceiling and simple wildflowers adorning the center of each table. Very clean and sharp looking design.

Brunch is a set price at $24 a pop, which includes a drink, a trio of shareable appetizers, and entree.

Beery Mary at Feast Restaurant

Beery Mary

My advice, go crazy with the Beery Mary – a Bloody Mary with beer instead of vodka.

Brunch Shares at Feast Restaurant

Brunch Shares

Brunch Shares at Feast Restaurant

Brunch Shares

Croissants, chocolate croissants, muffins, fresh squeezed juice, and a yogurt parfait with fresh fruit and granola kicked off our meal. Everything was delicious, especially the parfait, but the croissants were my favorite here. Their buttery, flaky crust had a perfect crunch to them.

Lemon Souffle Pancake at Feast Restaurant

Lemon Souffle Pancake

Interior of Lemon Souffle Pancake

Interior of Lemon Souffle Pancake

The Lemon Soufflé Pancake caught my eye on the menu. It requires a 20-25 minute wait, but it’s well worth it. I’d never seen anything like it. Out came an enormous pancake that had risen into a fluffy, sweet brunch treat. It tasted just like a pancake but was extremely light and airy. The mixed berry sauce and powdered sugar it was doused in certainly helped its cause.

Wild Mushrooms, Scrambled Eggs, Puff Pastry, Chives at Feast Restaurant

Wild Mushrooms, Scrambled Eggs, Puff Pastry, Chives

Scrambled eggs in a pastry shell with mushrooms delivered the savory part of the meal. Served on a crispy bed of spinach, the pastry dough flaked away with each movement of the fork to reveal a scrambled egg-filled interior. Great presentation.

The Verdict

What a meal! I thought the $24/person price tag was a little steep for brunch, but Feast delivered. Every part of the meal was outstanding – from the ambiance to the service to the food. Your $24 includes a lot of food and by the end we were ready to roll out of there. Feast is definitely going on my list of brunch spots to hit up when my family is in town.

Feast on Urbanspoon

Blue Smoke Barbecue

Blue Smoke – 116 East 27th Street, Manhattan, New York

Credited as the founder of New York City’s barbecue movement, Blue Smoke is a combination of hardcore barbecue and culinary artfulness. I’d previously been to Jazz Standard, Blue Smoke’s basement-level jazz club serving up delicious barbecue and soulful sounds. On this trip, I gave the upstairs restaurant a try and left a happy man.

Creekstone Farms Texas Beef Brisket

Creekstone Farms Texas Beef Brisket

The menu at Blue Smoke takes you along a barbecue-filled path – with ribs, brisket, pulled pork, smoked chicken and sausage populating the menu.

Creekstone Farms Texas Beef Brisket

Creekstone Farms Texas Beef Brisket

The beef brisket comes with your choice of lean or marbled meat, and mashed potatoes topped with crispy onions. Word of advice, go with the marbled brisket. The ring of fat adds a huge burst of flavor. This brisket was out of this world amazing. It literally dissolved in my mouth, no chewing necessary. Incredible flavor. The only downside was the portion size. I would have preferred some more meat for the $20 price. 

Pulled Pork Sandwich

Pulled Pork Sandwich

The pulled pork sandwich was also good, although it didn’t come close to the brisket. It definitely is better than the pulled pork at Blue Smoke’s outlet shop at Citi Field. There was a solid amount of meat here and it was doused in a vinegar barbecue sauce.

Sweet Potato Wedge Fries with Maple Dip

Sweet Potato Wedge Fries with Maple Dip

The sweet potato wedges with maple dip were enormous. We literally must have had two full potatoes cut up on our plate. They had a generous sprinkling of course salt on the skin. The maple dip appeared to be mayo-based and had a hint of maple flavor. I had thought the dip would be straight up maple syrup and would have preferred that instead.

Toothpicks and Wet-Naps at the End of the Meal

Toothpicks and Wet-Naps at the End of the Meal

The best way to close out a meal? With toothpicks and Wet-Naps. Blue Smoke graciously brought these out with our check and it was a really nice touch.

The Verdict

Blue Smoke has my vote for some of the best beef brisket around. Melt in your mouth deliciousness is what I’m talking about. Prices may be a little expensive for what you get, but that’s one of the only downfalls here. I’d definitely go back for some great barbecue around Madison Square Park. 

Blue Smoke on Urbanspoon

Breakfast at Penelope Cafe

Penelope Cafe – 159 Lexington Avenue, Manhattan, New York 

I’ve been wanting to give Penelope a try for a long time. Unfortunately, it’s a weekend hot spot for brunch crowds, resulting in long lines. Luckily, I was able to give it a try last week on a Wednesday when crowds were lighter (so I thought).

Inside of Penelope

Crowds at Penelope

Even on a weekday, Penelope was packed. Hailey and I were fortunate to snag one of the few remaining tables. Walking in, it almost feels like you’ve been transported to New England. Penelope gives off a warm, inviting and cozy feel, welcoming you into its small dining room. 

The service at the beginning was poor, to say the least. I overheard that the restaurant had its staff holiday party the night before and our servers must have been nursing some serious hangovers. However, they quickly made up for it and immediately got things on track – excellent service following an early stumble.

I’m a huge fan of breakfast sandwiches so from the menu, Hailey and I split the Penny Egg Sandwich and Andrey’s Egg Sandwich.

Penny Egg Sandwich at Penelope

Penny Egg Sandwich

The Penny Egg Sandwich is made of scrambled eggs with American cheese and pesto on either an English muffin or fresh baked croissant. This was my favorite dish. Get the English muffin. They were so soft and fluffy and were the exact opposite of the crispy, crunchy bread I was expecting. The pesto dominated the flavor of this sandwich and it felt like a light alternative to the heavier omelette or French toast options on the menu.

Andrey’s Egg Sandwich at Penelope

Andrey’s Egg Sandwich

Andrey’s Egg Sandwich consists of scrambled eggs with cheddar cheese and peppers, topped with grilled chorizo and sundried tomato pesto on an English muffin or freshly baked croissant. For the Mexican omelette lovers, this is your breakfast sandwich. I wasn’t a huge fan of having peppers in my eggs (so why did I order this?) but the chorizo was tasty, although not as spicy as I expected it to be.

The Verdict

Penelope was a solid breakfast spot to hit up on a weekday. However, I don’t see what the enormous lines are for during the weekend brunch hour. The food was good, but I think the tiny interior and limited seating is what contributes to the enormous weekend lines. If you’re going to go, get there early. However, with lots of breakfast and brunch options throughout New York City, I’m going to keep exploring instead of visiting Penelope again. 

Penelope on Urbanspoon

Country Music and Burgers at Joe’s Pub

Joe’s Pub – 425 Lafayette Street, Manhattan, New York 

Joe’s Pub is home to one of my favorite events in New York City, the CMA Songwriters Series. These concerts occur about twice a year and feature some of the top country music songwriters, in an intimate setting, playing their hit songs. If you even vaguely like country music, these shows are seriously awesome and you should go check them out. 

Joe's Pub CMA Songwriter Series

CMA Songwriter Series

The venue has communal seating, lit only by candlelight, giving off a dark and sultry atmosphere. And, while I don’t expect a music venue to have great food, Joe’s has a surprisingly tasty menu

Joe's Burger

Joe’s Burger

My favorite menu item, Joe’s Pub burger, comes standard with a burger lover’s trio – cheese, bacon and caramelized onions. Instant heaven. This burger is enormous. Joe’s Pub doesn’t shy away from toppings, as melted American cheese envelopes the burger, oozing down the sides and onto the plate. Gobs of caramelized onions and a healthy serving of bacon top the cheese and beef combo.

Joe's Burger Interior

Joe’s Burger

At first bite you realize how tender and juicy the beef is. The bacon adds a hint of salt as the cooked to order meat dissolves in your mouth. The buns are nothing short of a challenge. They are enormous and put up quite a struggle for those trying to consume all vertical layers of bread, onion, bacon, burger and cheese in one bite.

The fries don’t disappoint either. These thin and crispy potato sticks are doused in salt, perfect to keep you ordering more beer.

The Verdict

I love country music and that’s more than enough to keep me coming back again and again to Joe’s Pub. Seriously, the shows are awesome and you should check them out. A major plus is the delicious food. Joe’s Burger is my go-to meal every time I’m here and it always lives up to my hopes and dreams. Don’t think this place stops at your typical bar food either. The kitchen puts out dishes such as grilled branzino, orecchiette and flat iron steak as well. Great food at a great concert venue, check. 

Joe's Pub on Urbanspoon

Popover Cafe Closing

There was sad news yesterday from West Side Rag for all food lovers in New York City. The famous Upper West Side neighborhood mainstay, Popover Cafe, announced that its closing its doors on January 5th.

This is terrible news, especially for brunch lovers. Popover Cafe is one of my favorite Upper West Side spots. Delicious popovers served with strawberry butter, eggs benedict in a popover, and more. The list goes on and on of all the delicious things on their menu.

Popover Cafe Closing

Sign Announcing Closing

Just like that, a 30+ year neighborhood gem is gone. Hurry to Popover Cafe before January 5th. I know I’ll be more than happy to wait in line for one of those delicious, buttery, crunchy popovers.

Melt Shop

Restaurant: Melt Shop – 601 Lexington Avenue & 55 West 26th Street, Manhattan, New York

Depending on who you ask, the best grilled cheese in New York City can be found in a number of restaurants across the five boroughs. I mean, who isn’t a fan of melted cheese in between two pieces of bread slathered with butter?

Searching for that mind-blowing grilled cheese, the other day my Dad and I gave Melt Shop a try to see if lived up to the hype I’d heard about.

Tater Tots Melt Shop

Tater Tots

I ordered:

  • Truffle Melt: havarti, arugula, and cracked black pepper drizzled with truffle oil on toasty sourdough bread
  • Tater Tots

I’d heard so much about the tater tots I had to order them. They were a little cold, but overall, not bad. I liked the sprinkling of cheese on top of them that helped make these fried potatoes a little more interesting. I easily ate through the majority of these, and quickly.

Truffle Melt Grilled Cheese Melt Shop

Truffle Melt Grilled Cheese

I then moved on to the Truffle Melt. Havarti, arugula, and cracked black pepper is drizzled with truffle oil, all on toasty sourdough bread. The Truffle Melt grilled cheese was delicious. The proportion of cheese to bread was just right and the sourdough gave this sandwich a nice taste that normal white bread would have left empty. The stretchy havarti cheese was fully melted throughout and I could clearly taste the truffle oil. Best part, the arugula made me feel like I was actually getting some ‘greens’ in my sandwich so I felt better about all that cheese and butter-soaked bread.

Truffle Melt Grilled Cheese Melt Shop Close up

Truffle Melt Grilled Cheese

Melt Shop was the perfect stop for a weekend lunch. The Lexington Avenue location was empty on a Saturday afternoon since it mainly caters to the workweek lunch rush. My Dad and I had plenty of room to kick back, relax and enjoy some delicious grilled cheeses. Next time I’m in the area and craving something inexpensive, unhealthy and completely satisfying, you better better believe I’ll be paying Melt Shop another visit.

Melt Shop on Urbanspoon

A Restaurant Dedicated to the Community

Restaurant: GP’s Gathering Spot – 190 Main Street, East Haven, Connecticut

Restaurants are in the money making business. Yes, the owners, managers and chefs that help run them love food and bringing a smile to diner’s faces, but in the end, if the place doesn’t make money you’re out of luck.

One restaurant, GP’s GatherIng Spot in East Haven, CT, seems to buck this trend. After an email exchange with the co-owners, Frank and Monique, I felt compelled to tell you about all the great philanthropic work they’re doing through their restaurant.

GP's Gathering Spot Dream Picture

Just Dream

GP’s Gathering Spot ensures that a portion of its proceeds goes back to the local community as well as to its staff. The owners are driven to support the dreams and aspirations of its employees, whether that be in the restaurant industry or not.

Some great work the restaurant has already done includes:

  • Awarding two scholarships to East Haven children to attend local day camps
  • Providing a financial donation to a local mother so she could give her son a birthday party
  • Donating money to local, national and international causes, such as Modest Needs Foundation and the Peace Corps
  • Awarding a netbook to an East Haven middle school/high school student

GP’s isn’t stopping there. The owners are looking into other resources that will support the local community, including turning part of the restaurant into a culinary arts school for disadvantaged youth.

So, yes there are tons of restaurants you can eat at. However, GP’s stresses that it’s in the restaurant business not for the money, but for a love of culinary arts and the fact that they love helping people make their dreams come true.

I’m rarely, if ever, in East Haven. However, next time I am you better believe I’ll be stopping by GP’s Gathering Spot to say “hi” to Frank and Monique and help them continue to support the local community.

G.P.'s Gathering Spot on Urbanspoon

Meat Topped with Meat, The Truffle Royale

Restaurant: Umami Burger – 432 6th Avenue, Manhattan, New York

Umami Burger opened up a few months ago in New York City and while I haven’t been brave enough to stand in a three hour line to try it, I did check out an Umami location in Hollywood when Hailey and I were recently out in California. I figure my lack of a California audience makes a post about that location meaningless, so take this for what it’s worth when looking at the New York City location.

Umami Burger Menu and Hailey

A Burger or a Mustache?

I was pumped to try these burgers after hearing so much about this place. We went to town, ordering:

  • Truffle Royalebeef patty topped with braised short rib, roasted garlic aioli, and house truffle cheese
  • Umami Burger: shitake mushrooms, caramelized onions, roasted tomato, parmesean crisp, umami ketchup
  • Tempura Onion Rings
  • Truffle Fries
Umami Burger Truffle Royale

Truffle Royale

I’d heard these burgers were supposed to be legendary, and while I’m not sure my life was changed, it was a damn good burger. How can you lose when you take a burger and top it with more meat? The house-ground, hand formed patty was juicy, tasty and exploding with flavor. The short ribs on top were equally as good and all that melted together to deliver a punch to my taste buds. The burger is sandwiched in between a soft, slightly sweet Portuguese bun.

Umami Burger Inside of Truffle Royale

A Look Inside

After eating a burger like this, sides are almost an afterthought. After all, you go to Umami Burger for the burgers. However, the Tempura Onion Rings were a favorite for me. The rings were large and were lightly fried, fluffy and crisp. 

Umami Burger Tempura Onion Rings

Tempura Onion Rings

The Truffle Fries were good, but next time I think they’re worth skipping. The sauce was tasty but in the end, all it does is make the fries soggy.

Umami Burger Truffle Fries

Truffle Fries

The Verdict

Is the food worth a three hour wait? I don’t think anything is worth a three hour wait. However, Umami Burger boosts enormous flavor and delivers. Aside from a well formed and flavored patty, toppings are king here, with everything ranging from Shiitake mushrooms to green chiles to avocado. At $10-$15 for a burger the prices aren’t insane and worth it for what you get. I’m a big fan of 5 Napkin Burger and I’d put Umami Burger right on par with them, if not a little ahead because of their larger variety of burgers. As soon as the hype around the New York City location dies down, I’ll definitely be paying them a visit. 

Umami Burger on Urbanspoon