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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

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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

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

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

Say It Ain’t So, Junko!

Restaurant: Junko – 33-02 Broadway, Astoria, Queens, NY

I was devastated the other day when, walking past my favorite sushi restaurant in Astoria, I saw a bright orange “C” pasted to the window. That’s right, Junko, my “go to” place for sushi, is sporting a “C” health grade from New York City’s Department of Health.

Junko Sushi C Restaurant Rating
“C” Grade Hidden Down in the Bottom Corner

What did they do to receive it? As detailed by the city, violations included (critical violations in red):

  • Live roaches present in facility’s food and/or non-food areas.
  • Personal cleanliness inadequate. Outer garment soiled with possible contaminant. Effective hair restraint not worn in an area where food is prepared.
  • Tobacco use, eating, or drinking from open container in food preparation, food storage or dishwashing area observed.
  • Cold food item held above 41º F (smoked fish and reduced oxygen packaged foods above 38 ºF) except during necessary preparation.
  • Facility not vermin proof. Harborage or conditions conducive to attracting vermin to the premises and/or allowing vermin to exist.
  • Non-food contact surface improperly constructed. Unacceptable material used. Non-food contact surface or equipment improperly maintained and/or not properly sealed, raised, spaced or movable to allow accessibility for cleaning on all sides, above and underneath the unit.

Live roaches? Personal cleanliness inadequate? Sorry. Junko but you’re out. It looks like I’m going to have to find another sushi spot.

Astoria Welcomes its Newest Pizzeria, Milkflower

Restaurant: Milkflower – 34-12 31st ave, Astoria New York 

Astoria welcomed its latest pizzeria, Milkflower, to the neighborhood last week and all I can say is WOW. With so many great choices already – Sac’s PlaceAntika, etc. – Milkflower has come and elbowed its way in to compete with the best of them. Milkflower only has a week under its belt, but is doing one hell of a job at shining bright on 31st Avenue and showcasing its own character to set it apart.

Milkflower Interior
Interior of Milkflower

Atmosphere

Milkflower has completely transformed the space it’s in with reclaimed wood and exposed brick. Light bulbs jut out from sockets in the ceiling and walls to provide just enough light. One of the tables, made of police crossing barricades, immediately drew my attention as a nice New York City touch. Additionally, Milkflower honors the previous tenant in the space, a dry cleaner, with a mural on the back wall. Everything is intricately designed and you can tell a lot of time and effort was put forth to deliver a well packaged atmosphere and interior.

Milkflower Interior Burlap Cushions
Creative burlap cushions

The highlight of the restaurant that all eyes seem to be fixated on is the enormous pizza oven situated behind an open kitchen where pizzas are prepared as quickly as they are eaten.

Milkflower Open Pizza Kitchen
Where the magic happens

Food

Milkflower’s menu isn’t online yet and I foolishly forgot to take a picture, so you’ll have to take my word for it when I say they have some incredible sounding pizzas, salads and small plates, many of which are seasonal. We decided to pig out on the following:

  • Toast Plate: Four pieces of a toasted baguette served up with (you get one of each)
    • Ramp pudding, charred onion and broccoli rabe
    • Avocado and tomato with balsamic
    • Crushed pea, ricotta and topped with lavender
    • Grated egg, fava bean and onion
  • Brussels Sprouts and Egg Pie with Truffle Oil
  • Spicy Soppressata Pie with Thyme Honey

First up, the toast plate. Each piece of toast had its own unique personality and I loved each and every one of them. There were some surprises, such as the crushed peas topped with lavender, but these were pleasant surprises. I didn’t expect to be eating flowers when I arrived at Milkflower but the lavender was refreshing and did a great job complementing the crushed peas and ricotta. The highlight was definitely the ramp pudding, charred onion and broccoli rabe. This was full of garlic and salt and I didn’t want it to end!

Milkflower Toast Plate
Toast plate

Now the main event… pizza!

Brussels sprouts pizza
Brussels sprouts and egg pizza with truffle oil

Brussels sprouts are my latest addiction (weird, right?) so when I saw a Brussels sprout pizza I just had to order it. Brussels sprout leaves are scattered across the pie topped with fresh cheese and an egg. This was delicious at night and I immediately envisioned this as the perfect daytime pie. It’s colorful, light, refreshing and would be perfect for brunching over while recapping a late night out with friends. The one question I have is how do they prevent the whole restaurant from smelling like Brussels sprouts?!

Milkflower Spicy Soppressata with Thyme Honey Pizza
Spicy soppressata with thyme honey

The spicy soppressata pizza was a perfect combination of spicy and sweet. The soppressata was definitely spicy and gave this pizza a nice kick. The edges of the meat were curled up and charred from the heat of the oven, giving off a nice burnt flavor as I made my way through this pizza. This would have been your everyday pepperoni pizza had it not been drizzled with honey. The honey contrasted with the spiciness of the soppressata, hitting your mouth with two drastically different flavors. I was in heaven and couldn’t get enough of it.

The pies at Milkflower aren’t the enormous pies you get at your regular pizza place. These pies are medium-sized and not perfectly round in shape. These irregularities give them a feeling of authenticity and fit perfectly with the seasonal toppings scattered throughout the menu. The dough is light, chewy and doesn’t weigh down the pizza, allowing the other ingredients to really shine through.

Service

It was opening week at Milkflower when I checked them out so it was very busy. However, they were all over it. The wait was about 15 minutes but I was offered the opportunity to order a beer while waiting which I gladly said yes to. The service was extremely friendly and very accommodating. The staff gladly took time to walk diners through the menu, answer any questions and just chitchat.

Value

The toast plate cost $12 and the pizzas were around $15 each. Based on the quality of ingredients and overall experience, this is a great value. The pizzas aren’t huge – we ordered two of them for two of us – but we basically had to roll out of the restaurant after consuming all this food.

The Verdict

After writing this, I wish I was heading to Milkflower tonight! This may just be my new favorite pizza place in Astoria. From start to finish, everything at this restaurant impressed me. It delivers on a unique and intriguing interior with similarly unique and intriguing pizzas to follow suit. Visit Milkflower, now. 

Milkflower on Urbanspoon

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