Of all the city's young people havens, Astoria is, admittedly, the least cool. No, there aren’t any late night hot spots with novelty taco trucks or rustic rooftops with hunky Australian bartenders. The rent is actually, pretty affordable and many of the inhabitants are new parents rather than skinny creative types.
Still, like Western Brooklyn, Astoria is a mere hop, skip, and stone’s throw away from Manhattan–and the neighborhood I've affectionately called home for the last three years.
Not only does it boast a repertoire of restaurants that are fully capable of satisfying the snobbiest foodies; Astoria also manages to sprout indie boutique storefronts (like Lockwood and Loveday 31) alongside the mom-and-pop shops of yesteryear. Spend a day exploring it to get a sampling of a more nostalgic New York.
Astoria is known as a Greek enclave. But, it's rapidly blossoming into a Modern American food mecca chock-full of quaint gastropubs, kitschy retro-themed diners, and artisanal sandwich shops. I've tried nearly every hangout in my 'hood, and while picking a favorite is no easy task, here are my top three recommendations that are well worth the schlep to Queens.
- Brooklyn Bagel: you know that game, “So, you’re trapped on a desert island for the rest of your life and can only eat one thing…”?
- Queens Comfort: BYOB brunch or dinner? Yes, please.
- Il Bambino: for the most LEGIT pan inis.
And, if you share my life's mission of finding your cannoli soulmate, then you absolutely need to stop by Gian Piero's. Their classic Italian pastries and cookies rival those of the Bronx or Brooklyn. I ain't kiddin'.
Kaufman Astoria Studios, where television shows ranging from the beloved Sesame Street to the smash hit Orange is the New Black are filmed, isn't the neighborhood's only claim to fame. Actor Christopher Walken and the bakery responsible for the colossal four tiered cake in My Big Fat Greek Wedding also call Astoria home. Opa!
And, though many transplants flock to Astoria, it manages to uphold an old school neighborhood New York-ness. Familiar faces mark my walks home from the subway and my go-to cashier at the local grocery store has intermittently shared his entire life story to me. Experience this homeyness by taking a visit and peeping these spots:
- The Museum of Moving Image
- Bohemian Hall Beer Garden: traditional Czech beer and grub. Perfect for a crisp Fall day.
- Sweet Afton: for a late night craft cocktail or two.
The N, Q, and R subway lines all run to Astoria. It takes about 25 minutes to get to any Astoria destination from midtown.
Check out the movie A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, which takes place in Astoria. Despite it's indie success and all-star cast, the movie didn't get much attention. However, its portrayal of New York City in the late 1980s is a gritty, but important reminder of the city's history.
Have a reliable recommendation or sweet spot to share? Go crazy in the comments section below!