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Food from a guy's perspective

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Astoria

Two Thumbs Down for Tacuba Cantina Mexicana

On Friday, Hailey and I decided on a little dinner and movie date night. We settled on Tacuba and, well, hindsight is 20/20. If you ever want to see what a restaurant that’s truly overwhelmed looks like, Tacuba was a perfect case study.

After grabbing a table and waiting 15 minutes for a waiter to appear, we ordered some guacamole and margaritas. An hour and a half later, we were scraping the guacamole bowl and wondering where our entrees were. In talking with our neighboring diners, they lamented that they had been waiting more than two hours for entrees. The excuse the waiter provided, the kitchen prioritizes easy dishes and harder dishes get deprioritized. Moral of the story, don’t order hard dishes to make?

We decided to cut our meal short and get out of there. Looking back at it, we paid around $50 for two margaritas and avocados. Restaurant fail. We won’t be going back.

PS – We saw Deadpool and it was awesome. Go see it. Now.

Tacuba Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Bareburger Updates Its Menu

Bareburger – 33-21 31st Avenue, Astoria, New York (and various locations)

That’s right, Bareburger is rolling out an update to its menu across all locations. I checked out the Astoria location recently and was shocked when my old favorites were no longer on the menu. (I wasn’t alone. There were lots of people asking the waiters what happened to the menu.)

The new menu is more robust than it used to be, with brand new burger combinations, sides, salads and sandwiches. I gave the Blue Elk burger a try.

Bareburger Blue Elk Burger
Blue Elk Burger

Elk, Amish blue cheese, country bacon, stout onions and tomato fig jam. How could you go wrong?

Bareburger Onion Rings
Onion Rings

Don’t worry, the onion rings and fries basket combo is still on the menu… and still just as good.

The Verdict

Bareburger changed its menu and the world didn’t end. The burgers, onion rings and fries are still just as delicious as before. I love this place and for similar Bareburger lovers, the menu refresh gives everyone a lot more options to try! 

Check out my old post on Bareburger to compare. 

The Sandwich Bar

The Sandwich Bar  33-01 Ditmars Blvd, Astoria, New York

The DItmars area of Astoria is turning into quite the food hot spot, and I’m not talking about the traditional Greek restaurants that Astoria is known for. Ditmars is being built up with an eclectic food culture spanning your traditional Greek to new American to Australian and everything in between.

One such place, The Sandwich Bar, is the perfect spot for a relaxed, low-key lunch.

The Sandwich Bar Astoria

The Sandwich Bar is a small spot with limited inside seating. However, they have a good amount of outside seating so if it’s a nice day out opt for some sun. The delicious menu consists of various appetizers, burgers, hot and cold sandwiches and salads.

Sweet Potato Tots The Sandwich Bar Astoria
Sweet Potato Tots

Sweet potato tots come out piping hot and covered in salt. They’re served with a side of spicy chipotle aioli. Delicious.

Braised Brisket, Chili Mayo, Roasted Peppers, Corn, Onions The Sandwich Bar Astoria
Braised Brisket, Chili Mayo, Roasted Peppers, Corn, Onions

The braised brisket sandwich is covered with chili mayo, chopped roasted red peppers, corn and onions. I’ve never had corn on a sandwich before but it was really good. This sandwich has lot of flavors going on, but the brisket emerged the winner. This sandwich wasn’t for clean eaters either. It was a mess to eat, but well worth it!

Braised Brisket, Chili Mayo, Roasted Peppers, Corn, Onions The Sandwich Bar Astoria
Braised Brisket, Chili Mayo, Roasted Peppers, Corn, Onions
Greek Yogurt Chicken Salad, Apple Wood Smoked Bacon, Tomato and House Sauce The Sandwich Bar Astoria
Greek Yogurt Chicken Salad, Apple Wood Smoked Bacon, Tomato and House Sauce

Yes, they also serve 1/2 salad, 1/2 sandwich options. The Greek Yogurt Chicken Salad wasn’t a favorite for Hailey. However, it was an upgraded version of a chicken salad sandwich, with large pieces of chicken breast used instead of your usual mixture of chopped chicken mixed with lots of mayo.

The Verdict

I don’t know if I’d consider these to be gourmet sandwiches, but The Sandwich Bar is trying to play in that space. I don’t think they’ve quite made it to that level, but the sandwich I had was really good and unique – I’ve never had a sandwich with corn on it before. I’d head back to The Sandwich Bar in a heartbeat if I’m looking for a relaxed, low-key lunch spot. 

The Sandwich Bar on Urbanspoon

Grilled Cheese Waffle at Ovelia

Ovelia has recently stepped up its game in the brunch arena. I’m a huge fan of their stuffed French toast, but they now have a grilled cheese waffle. Check this thing out.

Ovelia Grilled Cheese Waffle

That’s right. A grilled cheese waffle filled with cheddar, mozzarella, kefalograviera and manouri cheeses, fresh dill, scallions, and sauteed kale is served with marinara sauce.

Ovelia Grilled Cheese Waffle

Flo Lounge Restaurant

Flo Lounge – 37-20 30th Avenue, Astoria, New York

Flo Lounge Restaurant balances the best of both worlds – relaxing, casual daytime ambiance, and a late-night DJ-fueled dinner/drinks atmosphere. I checked them out over the weekend and they delivered a solid (and cheap!) brunch deal.

At $15 for coffee, a drink and your pick from a number of outstanding brunch options, Flo puts up a good argument for a weekend brunch stop. They have ample outdoor seating for those warm upcoming summer days along with a spacious modern indoor space.

Southwestern Benedict at Flo Cafe Astoria 2
Southwestern Benedict

The Southwestern Benedict is just one of the great choices off the brunch menu. Pulled pork is served on toasted biscuits topped with poached eggs and a heavy helping of cheddar cheese and spicy chipotle hollandaise.

Southwestern Benedict at Flo Cafe Astoria
Southwestern Benedict
Teriyaki Terror Bill Apter at Flo Cafe Astoria
Teriyaki Terror Bill Apter

The Teriyaki Terror Bill Apter himself chowed down on a grilled chicken teriyaki salad. That’s soba noodles, seasonal vegetables, field greens and sesame ginger dressing with thick strips of grilled chicken breast.

The Verdict

Flo is a solid prix fixe brunch option on 30th Avenue in Astoria. If you’re really looking to take advantage of the weekend, they also offer a $10 all-you-can-drink option as an add-on. Lots of great menu options, a spacious, modern atmosphere and service to please – Flo gets my vote!

Flo Lounge Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Bartolino’s Fine Italian Pizza

Recently, Astoria has gone through a pizza revolution. With spots such as Milkflower and Antika opening up, pizza is front and center. One of the newest pizza spots in this traditionally Greek mecca is an extension of Bartolino’s Italian Ristorante.

Situated right next door to the already existing Bartolino’s restaurant, Bartolino’s Fine Italian Pizza is a small place with seating for about twenty. It steers away from the “old world” feel of Bartolino’s next door and has a modern, updated feel to it with rich, dark wood contrasting against the traditional Bartolino’s red.

Bartolino's Alla Norcina Pizza

We ordered the Alla Norcina pizza – tomato, mozzarella, mushrooms and spicy sausage. Our eyes were bigger than our stomachs and the large was WAY too much food.

Bartolino's Alla Norcina Pizza

Bartolino’s loaded up the pizza with toppings. There was a lot more sausage and mushrooms than I expected. However, they didn’t overdo it with the cheese – there was just enough to cover the tomato sauce and help bind all the toppings to the pizza.

Bartolino's Alla Norcina Pizza

This pizza had a delicious crunch to it, despite a heaping of toppings. The bottom was covered in tasty cornmeal that helped give it that authentic pizza flavor. The sausage was surprisingly spicier than expected, but welcomed as it contrasted against the mild mozzarella cheese.

The Verdict

I’d definitely head back to Bartolino’s for the pizza. The pie we had was delicious, had a nice crunch to it and the sausage kicked it up a notch with some spice. This was definitely traditional New York pizza at its finest – thin crust, delicious toppings, simple. 

Bartolino's on Urbanspoon

All-You-Can-Eat Barbecue at The Strand in Astoria

We Heart Astoria, one of the top blogs in Astoria, will be announcing the winners of its annual Best of Astoria Awards – and it’s doing so in style. They’re partnering with The Strand Smokehouse for an all-you-can-eat, all-you-can-drink party on Thursday, March 27 from 6-9 p.m. Tickets are $35/each and they’re going fast! Buy your ticket now!

We Heart Astoria The Strand

Pink Nori – An Early Look at Astoria’s Newest Sushi Spot

I recently passed along the word that Pink Nori, Astoria’s newest sushi spot featuring New York City’s only “build your own sushi” was open. Their grand opening is scheduled for sometime in February (date TBD), but I checked them out the other night. They don’t have a website yet and just launched their Twitter account, so there isn’t a lot of information out there. However, here’s an early look at some items on Pink Nori’s menu (check out the second page here) and what we chowed down on.

Tuna and Salmon Sushi
Tuna and Salmon Sushi

We started off the meal with complimentary “new style” sushi off of Pink Nori’s menu. Tuna with vinegar tofu sauce and taro chips, and salmon with onion aioli and cherry tomato were placed in front of us. Right off the bat, Pink Nori accomplished it’s goal – taking ingredients that are not native to Japanese cuisine and integrating them into its dishes. The highlight here was the salmon with onion aioli. It basically tasted like a salmon onion dip. Delicious and unique.

Sushi Pizza
Sushi Pizza
Sushi Pizza
Sushi Pizza

Sushi Pizza was next. Another unique dish, this consisted of a homemade scallion pancake topped with guacamole and assorted fish, drizzled with three special sauces. Thick layers of fish – tuna, salmon and white fish – were layered on top of the crispy, buttery scallion pancake and covered with lots of crunchies and caviar. The pictures don’t do it justice. This dish was bursting with color. Pink Nori certainly didn’t skimp on the fish either. Each piece was thick with fish and the crispy pancake gave everything a delicious crunch. 

Pink Nori Roll
Pink Nori Roll

Definitely the most eye-opening roll of the night, the Pink Nori Roll featured seared salmon, cooked shrimp, avocado, tempura flakes and caviar, wrapped in a pink soy bean paper and served with a honey miso glaze. My mouth was in heaven. The honey miso glaze gave this roll a sweetness I’ve never experienced before with sushi. If you’re looking for a sushi taste combination you’ve never had before, order this roll.

Bird Nest Roll
Bird Nest Roll

The Bird Nest Roll was made up of fried salmon, scallions and cream cheese, topped with kani, tobiko, mayonnaise and panko crumbs, toasted and drizzled with sweet chili, eel sauce and wasabi mayo. Now that’s a mouthful of ingredients. This roll was appropriately named because it literally did look like a bird’s nest, complete with brown accents around the outer rim of the plate to mimic dirt.

Cajun Tuna Roll
Cajun Tuna Roll

The Cajun Tuna Roll was made up of crunchy spicy tuna on the inside, with Cajun pepper tuna and avocado on the outside. The cooked Cajun pepper tuna was the differentiator here. It had a mild kick to it that added to the raw spicy tuna. Basically, a spicy tuna roll on steroids.

The last roll we sampled was the Pink Alecia Roll. This consisted of crab meat, asparagus, and sun dried tomatoes, topped with smoked salmon, avocado, eel sauce and truffle oil, and lightly fried. Once again, Pink Nori didn’t disappoint. While this wasn’t my favorite out of the bunch, the sun dried tomatoes were a unique addition adding a slightly chewy consistency to the roll and a burst of concentrated flavor.

The Verdict

Move over, Junko, you and your “C” health grade rating can hit the road. Pink Nori is my new go-to sushi spot in Astoria. The food was outstanding and the service even better. The fusion of non native ingredients into Japanese cuisine (sun dried tomatoes, onion aioli, etc.) gave my palate a pleasant surprise and kept me guessing as I tasted each new dish. Hurry on over soon because once word gets out, Pink Nori is going to be a hot spot on 30th Avenue!

Pink Nori on Urbanspoon

Build Your Own Sushi – Pink Nori

Get ready, Astoria. New Yorkers love building their own salad and choosing their own froyo toppings. Now the time as come to build your own sushi roll. Finally!

Filling the need you never knew you had, Pink Nori had its soft opening yesterday in Astoria. The restaurant offers customized, made-to-order sushi rolls with everything from your typical to atypical ingredients. I’m talking potato chips, guacamole and jalapenos.

I’m all for this concept and it sounds VERY exciting. I know exactly where my next sushi craving is taking me!

Pink Nori Jesse Tang
Jesse Tang, Owner of Pink Nori. Photo Courtesy of NY Daily News.

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