My dear friend Adam spends most of his time saving the lives of fellow Queens residents. As a food lover, he will occasionally find time in his busy schedule to write a review of a great neighborhood spot. Here is his take on a new Spanish restaurant in Astoria/ Long Island City:
Cafe Ole is a Spanish restaurant in Queens, the way I like it…intimate, romantic and just down right good. I can’t decide which was better…the fantastic service, the succulent paella, the decadent tapas or the sangria that went down like water. Upon arrival we were warmly greeted by two talented musicians strumming guitar. Next, my dining partner and I were led to our table past the bar for what turned out to be one of the best dinner experiences I’ve had in months. The crab and cheese stuffed mushrooms were a flavor explosion, as was the sangria that may or may not have warped my perceptions of the paella that was served next. Sangria or no sangria, the seafood lobster paella was delicious and so fresh. I haven’t experienced such service in years like I did here. In a city where customer appreciation has fallen by the wayside, Cafe Ole never misses a beat. They were always there with new utensils and pouring drinks, as necessary. Cafe Ole definitely left a positive impression on me, and I am not going to wait until next Valentine’s Day to return.
Cafe Ole 38-09 36 ave LIC 718-349-7777
-Adam Naill (guest reviewer and Astoria busybody)
La Rioja (33-05 Broadway 718.932.0101) will supply the food- but you need to bring the bottle, at least until they acquire a liquor license. Equipped with a bar, fine Spanish tapas, entrees and a small market hocking Spanish meats, cheeses and imported sweets situated in the back of the restaurant, this place is suitable for both evening diners and quick bites to-go. A region located in northern Spain, La Rioja is known for the Haro Wine Festival, but you’ll be hard pressed to find any grapes in this place. Aside from the lack of regional beverages, the food here is a cut above the average tapas. Acorn fed pigs make their way to Astoria as a pricey delicacy, Jamon Iberica de Bellota, at $20 a pop this pig must be savored slowly. La Rioja also offers Serrano Ham as an inexpensive palatable substitute. The Pulpo a la Feiro, boiled octopus doused in a paprika and olive oil is a tender mouth-watering delight for the semi-adventurous. Looking for an alternative to the standard Gazpacho? Try to the Crema de Mariscos, a savory concoction of vegetables and seafood swimming in a bowl of rich, creamy broth. And of course encouraged at every Spanish dining experience, the bacon wrapped dates are succulent morsels both sweet and savory to accompany any dish. The prices here are reasonable and the service is friendly and warm.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
El Boqueron Tapas Bar and Restaurant (Astoria 31-01 34th Ave at 31st St 718-956-0107) The service is outstanding in this little corner restaurant offering traditional Spanish plates- but the food is less impressive.This place draws the diner in with christmas lights adorning a colorful awning and the word “tapas” plastered on it. Well-made traditional Spanish food is a rarity in Queens. El Boqueron’s festive appeal and ambience just screams “eat me!” to passersby. Peering into the large windows at the jovial diners stuffing their faces and downing sangria entices patrons to join in the fun. The attractive oak bar marries the small ceramic tiled table-tops into Spanish inspired decor. Sporting pricey entrees and two full pages of hot and cold tapas (most of them running around $9) , one would think the splurge is has got to be worth the hefty dent it will make in your wallet. I thought otherwise. Not to be mistaken- the food is genuinely tasty and the atmosphere inviting- though a circumstance of unremarkable food and drink combined with a remarkable tab leaves a second visit in question. The Codorniz Asada y Salsa de Frutas is a dish served with about 4 quails drenched in a sweet sauce with raisins and thinly sliced potato crisps- perfect for swapping up the left over sauce. The collision of the sweet and salty landscape provides ample satisfaction for the palate- though it falls short of amazing. The Setas del Huerto Rellenas is a plate of mushrooms stuffed with vegetables and bacon- a hearty warm tapa full of flavor. The deep fried chicken croquettes are the least impressive hot tapa. All choices that make the mouth water when perusing the menu- but when the dishes arrive- they are simply a little better than average. With a buffet style table in the back- some of the tapas are ready-to-eat and served at a moments notice. The Sangria seems watered down (although seek extra alcohol and ye shall receive with a polite request to the server) and overpriced. The Paella Valencia is however- worth ordering. The oversized iron skillet is filled with delicate pieces of seasoned shrimp, scallops, white fish, calamari and sausage all in a bed of rice and rich tomato based sauce. You can split this large entree or take the rest home with you. Late hours, daily specials and attentive staff are pluses.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )
Despana Foods (86-17 Northern Blvd Jackson Heights 718-779-7438 & 408 Broome St NY 10013) This tiny store in Jackson Heights is much smaller than its sister store in soho. It manages to pack all that Spanish goodness into a space so small- there isn’t even room for a window. The service is friendly, but it helps to speak Spanish. The foods offered come mostly in jars and are generally used as a cooking aid rather than a ready-to-eat product, like mousse de esparragos (asparagus mousse for white fish or salads), legumbres y verduras con bonito del norte (beans, vegetables and fish in sauce to mix with rice), and peras del bierzo (sweet pears in juice). They have fruit preserves of all kinds, gourmet crackers and olive oil soaked pita. There is paella seasoning or mix– for first timers who may need assistance preparing the delicious seafood dish. Espana has a large selection of fresh regional cheeses, to name only a few- aragones- from cow milk, murcia el vino- goat milk and gariezo- sheep milk. They carry Spanish sausages to accompany your paella. This tiny store is a real treat for those willing to make the trip, but you’d better start your weekend shopping early. They are open until 4pm on Saturday and closed Sunday. Be sure to stop by the Broome St location for freshly made sandwiches & hot soups.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
They were right by naming this place Papa’s Empanada’s (Astoria 25-51A Steinway St 718-726-1400 & Jackson Heights 84-17 Northern Blvd 718-507-0400) because this little restaurant has spawned practically every kind of empanada imaginable. If you’re not familiar with the small Spanish pastry- it is a dough pocket with a sweet or savory filling, generally served hot and quick. The service is friendly but a little slow at this restaurant. The ambience resembles that of a fast food chain and is somewhat lacking, but gets the job done. The empanadas come in a a worldly selection- the Elvis- is stuffed with peanutbutter and banana, the Greek is a hearty spinach and feta, Italian is a meaty sausage surprise, Chilean melds together egg, raisins, beef and olives- the sweet ones ooz with your favorite fruits, like cherry, blueberry or mango- there is even one stuffed with macaroni and cheese or hotdogs and those are only a few of the choices. There are also traditional beans and rice dishes, yuca fries, and fruit and oatmeal shakes to wash it all down. Lunch specials and free delivery available.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
RIP- Euros Restaurant has closed…
The low-key Euros Restaurant (4501 Ditmars Blvd Astoria, NY 11105 (718) 204-0168) on the outskirts of the happenin’ Ditmars scene is a true gem. Despite its musty grandma’s-house-feel this Spanish food destination is top notch. Start with the sangria, a drink that goes down like candy. Their soups, seafood and black bean in particular, are well worth the wait for them to cool down. The seafood paella, arroz con pollo, roast pork and chicken dishes are what I recommend most, although the comprehensive menu leaves wanting to return again and again. The friendly service is a welcomed addition to the other ethnic eateries in the ‘hood. And Shhh! this off-the-beaten-path joint rarely fills up so keep this place on the down-low!
— Adam NaillRead Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )
718 (35-01 Ditmars blvd at 35th st). This romantic venue offers fine cuisine with an eclectic wine list. The attractive and super modern décor of the dimly lit bistro offers a Manhattan ambience in the heart of Astoria. There is a full bar with a variety of drinks and starters if you find yourself waiting for a table, and on a weekend night this is most likely the case. Service is inconsistent here- with a friendly but unorganized waitstaff that can sometimes leave you waiting too long or bring you the wrong item. Food is more reliable than the service- well prepared and tasty. The thin crust pizza is sufficient as a meal or a starter if you are sharing. The large plates of herbed chicken with garlic potatoes and generous chocolate ice cream desserts are reasonably priced considering you might have enough left over to eat for lunch tomorrow, if you prefer that sort of thing. Be sure you bring your appetite because the more-than-ample acoustics make conversation somewhat challenging. 718 is open late and serves tapas.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 3 so far )