BBQ Chicken in Astoria- best and worst- Choo Choo, Samba and Chicken Festival (Pollos a la Brasa)

Posted on October 10, 2008. Filed under: Astoria, BBQ, Cheap Dining, Mexican/South American |

WORST–The word buffet can either be positive or negative. Unfortunately I discovered the negative. After passing Choo Choo Chicken (718-932-6060 22-49 31st St Astoria- formerly Chirping Chicken) a few times while descending the Ditmars platform, I became curious for three reasons- they serve bbq chicken and crepes and sell $10 t-shirts stating “I love Juicy Birds”. Investigating the place a little further- seems they have several good reviews, so I dove head first with enthusiasm into- what should have been a juicy bird. The taste of the chicken was satisfactory, but the preparation was mediocre and dry. The bbq and sweet sauce were the bird’s saving graces- adding flavor and moisture to what was stale and parched. Get this bird some grease before it dies of dehydration! The sides- fries and lemon potatoes were also sub-par. They claim to bake the sides (served in a buffet-like fashion) fresh- daily- it seems they are in-fact baked daily- but just once- early in the morning and left to sit all day… evening … and night until they fill your styrofoam tray. The chicken was ok- edible. The food collision they call crepes, however were barely identifiable- as if they were in a bad accident and had to be scooped up and put back together in an emergency to save the restaurant from itself. The crepes are the catch, but don’t get sucked in. They were doughy, and had the consistency similar to that of chewing a tire. A tire stuffed with pineapple and ham (jerk crepe) and strawberries and chocolate . How could such a tasty and fun idea go so drastically wrong? At least prices are cheap, they offer delivery and are open late.

BETTER– Samba Grill (29-17 23rd Ave) 718-777-9477) The sparse decor doesn’t do this Brazilian Grill restaurant any favors. The buffet is served Rodizio style- all you can eat meat. The menu serves an extensive variety of unique tastes. However, a few of them leave room for improvement. There is a medley of different choices for chicken, pork, beef and sides served hot and cold. Unfortunately, many of the choices are mediocre and somewhat pricey for the lack of freshness -$4.99-$7.99 per pound. The price is seemingly reasonable, but meats and potatoes actually weigh quite a bit and before you realize, a full meal will go up to about $10 or more. Depending on when and you go and what you get- the food can range from good to gross. One mistake is offering french and yucca fries in the buffet. Fries get stale and soggy if left uneaten for more than an hour. The spare ribs and grilled chicken are definitely edible, but second-rate, as are the beans and rice. The salpicao-Brazilian cold chicken salad is sweet and savory, with raisins, carrots, and fresh white chicken meat, but this is not a dish they consistently carry. The meat and cheese patties are hot and tasty. With a substantial filling that melts in your mouth enveloped in a rich buttery and crispy crust for just $1.50.  These pastries are a pre-made delight and heavy enough for a light meal. Good to stop here for the buffet if you are super hungry and in a rush, the sit down meals offer slightly fresher cuisine.

BEST— Chicken Festival (Pollos a la Brasa) (718-728-9696 29-19 Ditmars blvd) This is some of the best rotisserie chicken in Astoria. The food is fresh, hot, juicy and cheap. A 1/4 rotisserie chicken and a side of crispy yucca fries will rob your pockets of a mere $6. A hearty meal for these economically challenged times. The barren walls and sterile interior offer an extreme lack of character and ambiance. If you’re concerned about the dining experience, you’re better off getting take-out- great for a picnic in Astoria Park or a meal at home on your couch. Chicken Festival also offers pasta and lo mein entrees, but sticking to what they do best- simple and succulent chicken is the smartest choice. Delivery now available through “the pick-up kings” at 718-898-7747, open noon-9pm catering for special occasions available comidas espciales para toda ocasion.


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3 Responses to “BBQ Chicken in Astoria- best and worst- Choo Choo, Samba and Chicken Festival (Pollos a la Brasa)”

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I visit choo choo’s twice a week…one time for the smore crepe and the other for a cheeseburger, hands down the best i had outside manhatten…chicken i have not tried. Try there burger out…I would like to give the chicken a shot, but prefer my chicken boneless….I do agree with the samba grill review and have not tried chicken festical

Thanks for reading, Suzy. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy Samba Grill- but for the extensive variety and cost I thought the caliber of the food could be improved. There are many buffets that don’t charge by the pound and are fresher. They do indeed have some very tasty food, but it can be inconsistent.

Hi..I do agree with your reviews about Choo Choo Chicken and Pollos a la Brasa but Samba Grill I think you were pretty harsh on. I have eaten there a number of times and each time I have had a great meal. Yes the fries should be fresh all the time. I tend to stay away from them altogether, unless I see them come out onto the buffet then I can’t resist, and they are good. I had never had a meal I wasn’t satisfied with and the range was about $8-$10. Great price when you consider what you are getting – skirt steak, top sirloin, beef ribs, etc. as opposed to chicken at the other places. So one could expect to pay less for JUST chicken. I recommend them and hope they stay in my area.

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