After too many months away. I'm back in Astoria. Honestly, I haven't biked much. But I'm pleased to see Astoria looks better than ever.
On the upside:
Butcher Bar on 37-08 30th Ave sells good meat (I still haven't tried they BBQ, but I can vouch for their sauce, which is good). I don't want to be like Brooklyn, but I do want nice local places. This is one of those. Of course the meat costs more. But it's worth it. Trust me. I won't try and convince you; this is bike blog. But go there. Or Astoria Live Poultry (and meat) on 20th Ave. Or at least your local butcher. If you live in Astoria and buy Purdue chicken from the grocery store, you're an industrial-Deleware-chicken-farm-loving-Chesapeake-Bay-killing loser. Seriously, take advantage of what we have, the rest of the city is jealous!
Queens Kickshaw (40-17 B'way) was fucking packed. Good on 'em! I think their drip coffee is too roasted. But what the fuck do I know about coffee? I think Dunkin' Donuts is pretty good in the coffee department. Best coffee shop by far. Too bad it's too far for me to go to every day.
I'll be damned if Homemade Falafel (3618 Broadway) doesn't have kick-ass falafel. It's really good, at least the sandwich I had. So where the dolmas. I don't know why I think they won't make it. Too foreign? Not romantic? Maybe they do great take out and delivery. I wish them the best.
Harissa Cafe (34-05 30th Ave) still makes nice food and sells the best goddamn bread and croissants in Astoria. DID YOU HEAR ME?! Mind you, sometimes they don't want to sell the bread (cause they need it for sandwiches. But ask nice and if they have enough you'll get, THE BEST BAGUETTE IN NEW YORK CITY!!! DO YOU HEAR ME? Better yet, have a not-so expensive meal (which will be very good) and keep them in business so I can buy THE BEST BREAD IN ASTORIA! I'm done shouting now. But if Harissa closes, I will be very upset at all of you. And get your watch fixed next door.
Sugarfreak (40-09 30th Ave) finally opened. It took so long I thought they'd never make it. I had brunch there. Honestly, I wasn't so impressed by brunch. But I refuse to judge a place on brunch. Hell, I'm rarely awake for brunch. And honestly, I've had enough of Southern Comfort food since the wonderful Queens Hideaway (in Brooklyn) closed. But I wish Sugarfreak well. The decor is fab and they mean well. That counts for something. And besides, I don't have to like it. I'm just me. They don't need my business. The need yours.
I really want these places, and one's I haven't mentioned--Sparrow, Sweet Afton, Queens Comfort, Astor Bake Shop, Pachanga Patterson, that cafe-bar on Ditmars (whose name I can't this moment think of, and bar across the street, likewise)--to make it. Because these are local people bringing a good locally rooted aesthetic to Astoria.
We don't need another Euro-Cafe on 30th Ave (2 or 3 are fine). The burger bars need to settle down (may the best 3 win). And I don't want chain stores.
I mean, I imagine all these Greeks with shitty cafe's on 30th Ave thinking the secret to success is putting in a big TV and hiring the hottest skinny Slavic woman you can find (and let me tell you, I have nothing against hot skinny Slavic women). They ignored Sparrow, even though it's the best bar in Astoria, as being just about crazy hippies/liberals/hipsters. (I mean Evan, the owner--a very nice guy--looks like Jesus. Oh, my!) But then Sweet Afton opened. And it's doing very well (I think). The bartenders at Sweet Afton (generally) don't have boobs. How could it succeed? What's the secret?! Here it is: good food, good drinks, good lighting, and no TV. Craaaazy. It really can be that simple.
On the downside:
Latos Latos & DiPippo is now Latos Latos & Associates.
What happened to DiPipo?! I hope he's OK. The sign is certain much worse without his name.
I'm sad to see Walt's Hardware on Broadway closed. At least I hope the sign stays. But it won't. Not unless a hipster turns it into a bar called Walt's Hardware. (Please, rich hipster: do!) But though I loved the place when Bob Shapiro ran it, Bob sold it to some Koreans who didn't know shit about hardware. So I guess it deserved to close. I stopped going there.
So now, like everyone else, I go to the jovial bastards at R&R Supply on Astoria Blvd (1807 Astoria Blvd). If they talk like that about others in front of me, what do they say about me in front of others? Guys, you got a good store, now calm down, and stop treating your customers like ignoramuses (except the paint guy... you're pretty good with the paint). I mean I went in there to buy a large wrench and the guy laughed and said, "so you collect tools." I don't know... I just need a large fucking wrench. And one use will save me the cost of hiring somebody who has a large wrench. You sell wrenches. Why are you giving me a hard time for buying one? Grrrrrrr. Anyway, boys, see you soon. But try acting like men.
It's also sad to see what used to be Top Tomato on Ditmars closed. Where do you folks buy your produce? I'd swap you one produce stand for, I don't know, Rosarios?
And near me, Boston Pizza opened a place on the corner of 31st Street and Newtown, where Pasha used to be. Pasha was great when they were small. And then they left nothing but destruction in their wake. A bodega closed before they moved in. And then the took over the corner (the bodega is still empty, for all practical purposes), and then they got worse and couldn't make it. Folks... listen to me: gas fired grilled meats aren't good enough. You need to grill over charcoal or actually creat tasty shit. Again, it really is that simple.
Anyway, Boston Pizza has always had, in my humble opinion, the worst pizza in Astoria (Boston itself ain't exactly a pizza Mecca). I rarely wish ill will, but please close. Nobody wants fluffy flavorless crust and bad cheese.
All this in less than half a year. Settle down, now! But looking good.
What else has changed in Astoria recently?
Stay warm for the rest of the winter. Perhaps wrap yourself in plastic like these creatures on Ditmars:
It's good to be home!
Meanwhile I gotta say "hi" to my buddies at Bicycle Repairman Corp., the best bike store in Astoria (and maybe New York City). I hope (and assume) they're doing well.