La Flor Cafe in Woodside, Queens is one of my favorite places to go for brunch off the 7 train (see my original La Flor review). Below the bustling subway line is a quaint Mexican inspired cafe that seems to frequently reinvent itself. Flowers are painted on the window panes and tabletops are made from mosaics of broken dishes. The menu is simple, offering a handful of appetizers, tortas, salads and entrees. Brunch is served only until 2pm and you must inquire about the selection of beverages, as they are left off the menu. Just like everything else at La Flor, the Mexican pizza is a marriage of two cultures. A successful merger between the west and the south, the Mexican pizza recreates a New York staple. A traditional Italian crust is topped with Oaxacan cheese, cilantro, guacamole and tender cuts of pork. The pie is big enough to serve two, but once you take a bite you will think twice about sharing.
La Flor Cafe-53-02 Roosevelt Ave Woodside, NY 11377 (718) 426-8023
“The Revolutionary Chilean Hotdog- The Completo- You Must Try It!” The sign was all I needed to draw me into this seemingly sleepy Chilean bakery in Astoria. I just had to try this hotdog, to see if it lived up to its revolutionary claim of course. Three bites later I was convinced. The Completo is grilled to achieve a warm and crispy outer shell then topped with an overflowing array of minced avocado, tomatoes, onions, and cilantro all contained in a toasted bun. It is brought to you in its own personal hotdog holder and with a side of red sauce. Antacid sold separately. For dessert, the San Antonio Bakery also supplies a unique selection of chilean pastries and baked goods. Unusual cookies layered with crackers and caramel with a crispy meringue shell, and cakes with layers of real fruit in the middle. If you don’t feel like trying the Completo, they have a wide variety of beef, pork, chicken and fish sandwiches similar to tortas. Don’t let this gem of a bakery go unnoticed. Although the decor is plain, the place is clean and the spacious interior is comfortable for sit-in eating. The assortment of baked goods is interesting and tasty.
San Antonio Bakery 26-20 Astoria blvd 718-777-8733 & 174 Rockaway Ave Valley Stream NY 516-568-0075
Located between a pharmacy and a Greek grocer in a European-esque mini-mall, Artopolis is somewhat hidden from the eye’s view. Of course, if you’ve got a sweet tooth it’s not difficult to sniff out this place. As soon as you walk in you are surrounded by temptation of the sugary nature. Biscotti, mini cheesecakes, eclairs, tiramisu, chocolate mousse, baklava, breads and more. The presentation at Artopolis is just as satisfying as the taste. Dozens of shelves delicately stacked with colorful arrangements of Greek pastries and cookies covered in white veils. There are plenty of full size cakes and pies to choose from, but if you just want a taste they offer several mini versions of the delectable treats. Grab a seat, bring a friend and order a gourmet coffee or tea. The atmosphere is immaculate and relaxing. With no laptops in site, it is a favorable place to have an afternoon snack accompanied by quiet conversation.
Artopolis Bakery 2318 31st Street Astoria (718) 728-8484Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
I recently got word that one of my close friends is moving to Rego Park (also known to locals as Regostan). In an effort to help her feel at home in her new country, I decided to take a trip to explore the region. Two train rides and one hour later, I was pleased to find myself in a curious amalgam of Asian and Jewish cultures.
First stop- Tandoori Bukharan Bakery and Grill (Rego Park 99-04 63rd Rd 718-897-1071)
It’s hard to believe that this unassuming tiny restaurant, set off the main drag of Queens Boulevard, is home to such a vast assortment of delightful dishes. There isn’t much to talk about in terms of decor, but what you won’t be missing out on here is personality and great food. There are several different shish kabab dishes to choose from, like lamb chops, lola (ground meat), chicken, liver, salmon, the list goes on. Soups include borsch, shurpa and the popular lagman, a Chinese inspired soup with hand pulled noodles, meat and vegetables. I opted for the Pelmeni, a fine soup with handmade beef dumplings swimming in a warm broth of vegetables topped with bits of coriander. One part pho two parts pierogi married to create an intoxicating culinary collision of East Asian and Polish cuisine. Ordered alongside the main dish was a gigantic warm piece of lepeshka. Traditionally baked inside a tandoori oven, this circular loaf of chewy bread is a delicious example of how Russia met India, fell in love and produced a wonderful creation.
As I ferociously devoured my meal, the chef stops at my table and says in his thick accent- “Do you speak Russian? Do you speak English? Our food is Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Pakistan… and Jewish.”
That quite sums it up. I couldn’t have written it better myself. But hey, I tried.
Next Stop- Cheburechnaya (Rego Park 92-09 63rd Drive 718-897-9080)
I don’t hesitate to say that Cheburechnaya isn’t known for its ambiance or great service. The You Tube music videos playing on the overhead televisions and the abrupt attitude from the waitress weren’t exactly what you call characteristics of a five star eatery. Despite the lack of atmosphere, I grabbed a seat and proceeded to peruse the unlimited menu, made complete with enticing photographs of the dishes. With plates offering sizable portions of dumplings, meat kebabs, stuffed grape leaves, pilaf, beef brains, I once again found myself caught between cultures where east meets west. A full stomach called for a light snack, so a pumpkin chebureki was ordered with a splash of tarragon soda to wash it down. Much like a savory turnover, this crispy fried dough concoction stuffed with mashed pumpkin and herbs is a great compliment to any dish here. If you have a smaller appetite, you can lightly drizzle the spicy sauce over your chebureki and you practically have yourself a meal.
If there’s one thing I like more than the seasonal candy canes, holiday lights, and that dreadfully awful Christmas music blasting on Steinway Street, it’s a good hot chocolate. Every Winter I search the streets of Queens in quest for the perfect hot chocolate and here is what I found… so far
Sage General Store– Long Island City– This hot chocolate is pretty standard in taste, worth getting if you are in the area.
*Sweet Leaf – Long Island City– Known for the “best coffee in the world” they will also offer a hot drinking chocolate made from chocolate imported from Brooklyn… I haven’t tried this drink yet- as they are still waiting for the chocolate to be delivered. It sounds so good I had to post it, review pending.
Sugar & Joe– Sunnyside– Malted hot chocolate made with Valrhona cocoa powder from France. This creative drink combines rich, dark chocolate with a sweet malted taste. Definitely worth trying.. again and again.
Himalayan Teahouse-Astoria– This unique tea and dumpling house offers a Chocolate Chai Latte. The smooth essence of chocolate marries the spicy taste of chai layered with creamy foam milk. This drink is a nice alternative to the traditional hot chocolate.
Side Door– Astoria– the proprietors of Bistro33 opened a cute cafe reminiscent of an old fashioned ice cream parlor- called the Side Door. It offers free wifi, panini, ice cream and hot drinks. They also make spicy hot chocolate infused with jalepeno and topped with whipped cream that soothes the burn of the pepper.
Il Bambino– Astoria– The Nutella hot chocolate is possibly my favorite of all the hot chocolate drinks. A tall cup of steeped milk mixed with cocoa and a scoop of Nutella hazelnut spread makes a perfect combination of chocolate nutty decadence.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )
Local718 is sad to say that Sugar and Joe’s has closed . RIP
Baking out of a tiny kitchen in Sunnyside, Sugar & Joe’s is serving up sweets of all kinds. This cafe is run by a mother and daughter team with the help of their baking assistant. See what inspires Christine and her daughter Emma to make such mouth watering delights day in and day out. (For those who are too tired to bake, ask about their Holiday special orders)Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Hot chocolate is one of my favorite things to drink in the winter months. I was on a quest to find a delicious no frills, hot cup of chocolate wholesome goodness… here is what I found and here is what I think is the best cup of hot chocolate (and not so best) in Astoria. Of course I couldn’t go everywhere in the neighborhood- so feel free to tell me your best…
Martha’s Country Bakery-(36-21 Ditmars Blvd.718.545.9737) Better known for their elaborate cakes, pies, tarts, cookies, cupcakes and late-night hours- I stepped in thinking the hot cocoa would be amazing- unfortunately it was merely mediocre. Although the whipped cream (optional) and chocolate syrup swirls presentation were impressive and inviting. Though the taste reminded me of Swiss Mix…
Cafe Soleil– (Astoria Blvd & 37th St) Swiss Mix… ugh.
Chocolate Spoon– 37-03 31st Ave (718) 204-0780 I would expect so much more from an bakery with this name…but it was a yet another disappointing package of Swiss Mix, double ugh. They did however have an unusual and super tasty Yuca Cake which was savory and sweet all at once.
Starbucks (everywhere USA)- OK I know what you are thinking, but the hot cocoa here is actually quite good.
Viva El Mariachi Restaurant– (33-11 Broadway, 718-545-4039) They make their hot cocoa with boiled milk and Abuelita in a paper cup placed in a porcelain saucer. Delicious!
La Guli Bakery– (29-15 Ditmars Blvd 718-728-5612) This Bakery reigns supreme over most pastry making posts in the hood. The hot cocoa was made with real milk and little sweetened chocolate drops. Mmmmmm soooo good- like everything else in that place.
Looking to get out of Astoria for a good cup of hot chocolate of coffee? May I suggest La Colombe Torrefaction (319 Church St 212-343-1515) in Tribeca. The hot cocoa is made with milk and unsweetened cocoa. The coffee here tastes rich and deep- worth the trip. The service is outstanding but there are no bathrooms, so it’s best not to linger.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 4 so far )
These days cupcakes are all the rage. No matter how bad the economy gets, people always have some spare change to invest in a buttery cup of sugary goodness. Sugar & Joes (718-472-1070 42-20 Greenpoint ave, Sunnyside 11104) is a little cafe that offers locals top notch baked goods. Straight from the mixing bowl to your table, this ultra cute cafe provides a staple sweet that, thanks to Magnolia Bakery, was brought back by popular demand. Well, Magnolia’s got nothing on these guys. The moist creamy texture of the cake is topped with flavorful icings that aren’t just fluff. The dark chocolate peanut-butter cupcake consists of a tender chocolate cake covered in thick dark chocolate and smooth peanut-butter icing. If that doesn’t suit your fancy, try the lemon cupcake, a vanilla cake smothered in fluffy lemony icing with lots of sweetness and a slight taste of creamcheese. Looking to have breakfast on the weekend? Stop by for a coffee drink- stay for the gourmet waffles, pancakes, or muffins. If you’re not a cupcake fan- this little bakery also has ice-cream, pastelles, turtle candies, jelly beans, licorice, and cookies. They have an assortment of milkshakes, teas, and specialty coffee drinks. Service is friendly but still working out some kinks when the place gets busy. Nonetheless, it’s still a place that is worth the trip and great for kids. Inquire within about special orders.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 6 so far )
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