Category Archives: Queens

Burger Queens

First, check out THIS EPISODE of Around the Hood in 8 Minutes, featuring Burger Queens.

We stopped at this joint during a group ride, and it really hit the spot. The burger itself was a double smash patty, and I got the works on it in terms of toppings.

The shoestring fries were also perfectly crispy and delicious, well seasoned. I would definitely go here again to try the fried chicken thigh sandwich.

BURGER QUEENS
96-19 23rd Ave.
Queens, NY 11369

Petey’s Burger

I stopped in this joint with some guys from the NYC Zooz Club after a ride, and stuffed a double cheeseburger down my throat.

It was really good! I didn’t get a photo of their shoestring fries, but they were excellent. All in, with a drink, $17. Excellent deal!

PETEY’S BURGER
46-46 Vernon Blvd.
Queens, NY 11101

The Baroness

First, check out my Ride & Review HERE:

I’ve been meaning to get over to this joint ever since I learned that my guys over at Golden Packing supply the burgers and some other meat proteins here. So I rode up on the Zooz and met with Tyson and Lupe, both Golden gang members, to chow down.

The savage wings are smoked and then fried, so they pack a ton of flavor. The burnt ends bologna was masterful. I’ve always wanted to try smoked BBQ style bologna, and this place definitely has me wanting more. The skillet mac and cheese was really nice. Also smoky and flavorful. The standard “Judith” 6oz burger was perfect. Great crisp on the patty, some caramelized onions, lettuce, tomato, pickles… really nice. I probably could have crushed two of these!

I would definitely go back to try more!

THE BARONESS
47-18 Vernon Blvd.
Queens, NY 11101

Little Pepper

We hitched a ride out to Little Pepper in Queens with another foodie couple who has been there a bunch of times. We tried a lot of shit, so I’m gonna just get right into it.

This Szechuan style pork sausage was packed with flavor and ate like dry salumi with a kick!

The sliced pork belly in chili garlic sauce was probably one of the best items of the night. That sauce was dynamite.

My favorite item of the meal, though, was the shrimp. “Prawn with chili pepper” is what to order on the menu. The lightly fried crisp batter on the outside gave this such an amazing texture. I could eat buckets.

The lotus root was a great veg item for the side, as were the string beans.

The tea smoked duck lacked smoke or tea flavor, and was a bit on the dry side. But it was really flavorful and still very tender.

The scallion fried rice doesn’t look like much, but it’s a meal in itself for sure. It’s really delicious, and it sure as fuck beats regular white rice. So get this for all your rice eating needs (to soak up the ma-po sauce).

Speaking of ma-po, their tofu dish was excellent!

Another classic done well are the dan dan noodles. Get these.

One of the more surprising dishes was the pork meatballs. These were tender, soft and gingery flavored. A little more on the sweet side when compared to some of the spicy items we tried.

Finally, the spicy and tingly cumin lamb dish was really nice. The lamb is thin sliced and tossed with tin slices of veg and onions. Really earthy and flavorful.

This place is definitely a banger. With the abundance of spots nearby in Chinatown, however, I’m not sure how often I would be back here in Queens. I do highly recommend it though.

LITTLE PEPPER
18-24 College Point Blvd
College Point, NY 11356

Carla

I stopped in here with some of the guys from the Zooz electric bike club (for $150 off your bike, use code JOHNNYPRIME at www.zoozbikes.com).

We sat outside, but then it started pouring, so we went inside. The place was nice enough to let us put our bikes into their covered outdoor seating area to stay dry.

Anyway, I tried their burger. I wasn’t crazy about the pickled cabbage on it, but the rest was great. The waffle fries were perfectly crispy with a good spice seasoning on it, like Old Bay/cajun. The egg is unnecessary, but it didn’t make it sloppy or anything. Good crispy bacon, which I broke up a little bit for neater coverage.

I would definitely eat here again if I was in the area. The service was excellent, and the menu was unique. In particular, I’d like to try their pho and banh mi sandwich.

CARLA
2503 40th Ave
Queens, NY 11101

Guan Fu Szechuan

I recently had the pleasure of dining with a bunch of food friends at this new Szechuan joint in Flushing called Guan Fu. They do an incredible job of showcasing the different kinds of spice that the cuisine is known for (numbing as well as heat), while also developing intense, robust flavors that you can actually taste. Contrast with many other Szechuan joints in NYC that just blow your mouth out with heat and numbness, leaving you unable to actually enjoy the food.

That’s not to say that the food here isn’t spicy. It sure as heck is! But the balance is so well done that it’s quite impressive. But let me get down to business, because we tried 17 different dishes here. There is a lot to discuss…

The first four dishes were cold preparations.

1. Thinly Sliced Pork Liver

This was nice. No mealy texture or gamey flavor. Good heat from the red chilis. Excellent citrus-flavored sauce.

2. Sweet Fried Pork Ribs

These were awesome. Great crispy texture, super tender, and with just a little bit of heat to gently contrast the sweet.

3. Razor Clams

These were served with Mexican green peppers (likely a poblano or hatch variety) as well as some red Thai chili peppers. Great preparation, and the clams were perfectly cooked.

4. Bean Jelly

This was one of my favorite dishes of the night. The bean jelly was reminiscent of a snappy, thick noodle. This was served with chili oil, peanuts, sesame seeds and scallions.

Okay now onto the warm food.

5. “Water Fish” Tilapia

This was both numbing and heat spicy. The fish was served in an over-seasoned broth so as to get all the flavors into the flesh of the Tilapia. In fact, the sauce/broth isn’t meant to be eaten, as is the case with many of the dishes we were served.

6. Dry Pot Frog

This was another favorite of the night. The frog was so tender on the inside and crispy on the outside. It was served with crisp, fried potatoes and lotus root in the mix too. That textural contrast really blew me away. Just be careful of the tiny bones in the frog meat!

7. Sliced Beef With Pickled Cherry Peppers

This was a really fun dish. The peppers were pickled, but the beef and cucumber cooked in the sauce were both fresh (meaning not pickled). Really nice.

8. Hot Pot

In addition to cabbage and mushrooms, this also contained slices of lamb meat and beef meatballs. Awesome flavors going on here when you mixed it all together, and a little bit of numbness from those famous Szechuan peppercorns.

9. Sweet & Crispy Corn

This was a nice way to knock back any heat that might be lingering in your mouth. These little nuggets were a perfect snack. Juicy inside, bursting with kernel corn flavor, but crispy and batter-fried on the outside.

10. Kung Pao Chicken

This is a famous dish, but done right and as close to authentic as you’re going to get. Lots of heat, really tender meat, and a great contrast of flavors and textures in the stir fry mix.

11. Ma Po Tofu

This is another famously spicy dish from the Szechuan region. The sauce here is a blast of heat and numbing spice, meant to be eaten with rice. I skipped the rice, though, and was just spooning the sauce into my mouth, gulp after gulp. It was great!

12. “Fishy Pork”

There is no actual fish in this dish, but it is made with the intent of giving the diner the essence or flavors of fish. The actual protein here is shredded pork, and it is delicious.

13. Hand Ripped Cabbage With Pork Belly

Bacon makes everything better, especially cabbage. This was a really nice way to get a veggie into the mix other than incorporating peppers and onions into a stir fry.

14. Double Pepper Chicken

Wow. Just when you thought Kung Pao was a kick in the balls, you discover double pepper chicken. The two peppers are green chilis (jalapeños) and red chilis (Thai chilis). But the sneaky spice here is the numbing Szechuan peppercorns that are also worked into the dish. Excellent.

15. Shrimp

These head-on giant shrimp were excellent. They even serve small shrimp where you can eat the shell as well.

16. Green Beans

I love how the veggie comes out last. These were simple and delicious though. A welcome addition to the meal.

17. Fried Sesame Cakes

I’ve had these babies before and I love them. These were filled with a squash mash or paste of some kind. I generally like the red bean or mung bean pastes better (they’re a little sweeter).

That about does it. I really want to come back here and try more stuff, or even just put down full portions of my favorite dishes from this trip, like the bean jelly and dry pot frog. Get your ass out here and try this stuff ASAP!

GUAN FU SZECHUAN
39-16 Prince St
G01
Flushing, NY 11354

White Bear

My buddy and I stopped into White Bear after a Charcuterie event in Flushing to try some dumplings / wontons in hot chili oil. The funny part is that the woman working there just brought out the plate of dumplings before we even ordered.

But I guess it kind of makes sense: Every white person that was in before and after us within the 20 minute span of time we were there ordered the same thing. She knew.

For $6 you get an order of 12. They were very tasty and well made.

WHITE BEAR
135-02 Roosevelt Ave
Flushing, NY 11354

Oro

I was recently invited to Oro by the owners to try out some of the classic and modern Italian fare that they serve at their spacious, beautifully appointed Long Island City restaurant.

Oro means “gold” in Italian, and the food equivalent of gold is just what they’re serving you here, especially when you indulge in some of the highlights that I mention here in this review.

First off, there’s an excellent cocktail menu. I went with a blueberry and bourbon drink that was really nicely executed. My wife went with a selection from their Moscow Mule menu. Also excellent.

The waiter will bring out some fresh house made bread next. It’s toasty warm and served with a dish of EVOO and vinegar.

We started with two nice, fresh and delicate apps: scallop crudo with crispy prosciutto in a grapefruit sauce, and charred octopus. Both were perfect. The scallop crudo was really fresh, light and crisp. I wish we ordered two!

The octopus has a great flavor and still kept a slight firmness without being too soft or too chewy – a sweet spot middle ground. There was a good spice kick to it as well.

We shared the duck bolognese pappardelle pasta (which was good, but just needed a bit more salt):

And the 28oz tomahawk ribeye:

That blob you see is an herb butter, which added a green-tasting freshness to each bite.

The meat itself hails from Snake River Farms, which is not only a purveyor of fine standard meats, but also American Wagyu. The owners of Oro are friends with the people at Snake River, so you know the cuts will be of high quality.

The cut itself was cooked a slight bit over from what I would have preferred, being more towards medium than medium rare.

But no matter. The flavor was still good, and the fat cap was delicious. Not to mention that at a price of $52, you’re saving big money and you’re just one stop into Queens from midtown Manhattan. At a place like Cut downtown, that Snake River Farms steak is going to run you almost $100. Crazy discount here. And this can be shared with a second diner, so even better. 7/10.

The steak selection here is pretty impressive. As soon as next week, as a matter of fact, there will be even more of a “butcher’s block” selection here, which will include a 36oz porterhouse as well as what’s already on the menu (filet, strip, tomahawk, and pork chops).

On the side we had some arancini, or fried rice balls, which were fun and tasty.

We also had the sweet potato creme brulee. I didn’t think I’d like it when we were told about it by the waiter. As such, we didn’t order it. But the waiter brought it out for us to try anyhow. It turned out to be my favorite item of the night!

It was sweet without going overboard, and the brulee crunch and marshmallow topping was just thrilling. I even remarked that if you plop a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top of it, it would make for a perfect dessert. Do yourself a favor and get this when you come here. It is unbelievable.

For our proper desserts, we tried the fig panna cotta and nutella bread pudding with homemade fluff. Both were incredible, but I give the edge to the panna cotta. So silky, smooth and light, but packing a big flavor punch.

ORO
41-17 Crescent St
Long Island City, NY 11101

Cafe Istanbul

Cafe Istanbul is a brand new middle eastern joint in Astoria that offers late hours, belly dancers, hookahs and great food.

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The owner, Sonny, is from Bombay, India. His love of food began when his mother inspired him to cook at age 15. Owning and operating a restaurant was his dream.

Chef Fathi hails from Egypt. Prior to Cafe Istanbul, he was a 13-year veteran of another popular middle eastern restaurant in Astoria. His cooking style is a blend of Mediterranean, Egyptian and Turkish cuisine.

The air in Cafe Istanbul is filled with delicious aromas and the sweet smells of hookah smoke. The best move is to get a few different teas and order a hookah right off the bat, that way you can sip and puff throughout the entire meal.

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I tried three teas: Moroccan, Egyptian and Turkish. My favorite was the Egyptian, which was similar to a sweet black tea. If you want something more mild, then go for the Moroccan tea, which is similar to a green tea variety.

We started the meal with some baba ganoush and  hummus, both of which were fantastic.

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I, in particular, really enjoyed the baba ganoush. I’m generally not an eggplant fan, but it was creamy, smooth and flavorful.

We slurped on some garlicky lentil soup as well, which was really warming on such a frigid winter night.

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We tried a duo of these wrapped “cigar” apps too. One was filled with melty, stretchy cheese, and the other with ground, spiced chicken. Both were good but if I had to choose a favorite, it would be the cheese.

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This simple chopped salad of lettuce, tomato, cukes, herbs and dressing was certainly my speed as far as salads go. I don’t like overly complicated salads with unidentifiable greens lurking within.

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We tried three entrees. First, the Istanbul steak:

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This was a thin cut boneless rib eye steak that was coated with a variety of very interesting spices – like sumac – grilled up, and then sprinkled with finishing herbs. At just $21 this is a good deal, and the robust and unique flavor profile is a great way to dress up a cut of choice beef. Ours was cooked to medium, which was appropriate for this particular cut. As it turns out, the eye portion was slightly more flavorful than the cap, which is an interesting anomaly for me to note for future reference.

Next up: lamb chops.

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The platter contained a mix of both lamb T-bones and rib chops, all seasoned in a similar manner as the rib eye steak above, with sumac and interesting middle eastern spices. I think I actually enjoyed the lamb more than the steak! I know – blasphemy – but these guys really nailed it with the lamb.

The final entree was actually my favorite of the three: shrimp tagine.

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You guys must think I’m losing my mind: the steak guy, not only liking the lamb better than the beef, but liking the shrimp above all! What can I say? It was perfect. The shrimp were cooked just right, and the sauce in the tagine was a nice, thick, tomato-based stew that really hit the spot.

And the rice! I usually despise rice. It’s boring! But here, it was really tasty, and I found myself just spooning it into my mouth over and over, all by itself.

Dessert was fun. We did some more teas, and a trio of nice end-of-meal selections.

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Baklava: This still retained a crunch while also benefitting from a good coating of syrup/honey and flavorings.

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Creme brulee with assorted berries on top:

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This was much lighter and fluffier than all the creme brulees I’ve had in the past. I liked it a lot! Sometimes custard can be heavy at the end of a meal, but this was the opposite.

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And almond rice pudding.

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This was actually my favorite of the three, because it was the least sweet. It was just right after a good meaty meal; delicate and mild.

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Definitely give this place a shot; especially if you’re out in Astoria on a regular basis. Heck; from midtown it was just a quick 30 minute subway ride and walk combined. Right now they’re open from 2pm to 2am, but in the future they will be open for lunch, and eventually breakfast as well.

Note: I was invited to dine as a guest of this establishment and received a complimentary meal. This was not in exchange for a positive review; all opinions expressed are my own.

CAFE ISTANBUL
25-47 Steinway St
Astoria, NY 11103

Christo’s Steak House

Christo’s Steak House overall score: 83

A food buddy of mine, Jared from Food & City, set up a nice small press dinner at this joint since we recently got to know the person who runs social media and PR for this joint and a few others in the area. Check out the run-down:

Flavor: 8
While some parts were over-seasoned, some were also under-seasoned on this porterhouse for two. However, the cook temperature was a perfect medium rare, there was an awesome crust on the outside, and the meat was well rested and juicy. 8/10.

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We shared among five people because there were other entrees to eat as well, like this sous vide and smoked beef rib.

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This baby sits in a temperature controlled bath for 48hrs and is also smoked like BBQ brisket. The result is a really top notch entree that rivals the best smoke houses in town. I think it just needed more sauce. 8/10 (and also mentioned in the “other meats” section).

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The rib eye, which I had on a second visit: 7/10

A special strip, topped with onions, sauce and bacon wrapped shrimp: 8/10 – would have been higher if not for the sauce and onions.

Regular strip high 8/10.

Filet also 8/10. Solid and perfectly cooked.

Choice of Cuts & Quality Available: 9
Master Purveyors supplies all the meat for Christo’s, so we are dealing with excellent quality. You can see in the images above that the porterhouse has excellent marbling throughout the cut. Really good quality fat. Everything is aged in house for 21-days, and all the major cuts are covered with some large format options and alternative cuts as well (hanger, skirt, beef rib).

Portion Size & Plating: 8
Portions here are big. We were actually able to get a peek into the kitchen to see the steak cooking and plating process in action.

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But these two videos really bring it to life, and in the second one you can see just how huge the portions are.

Keep watching…

Another thing to mention in the plating section is the lobster mashed potatoes. They serve the potatoes directly in the lobster shell. Pretty awesome.

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Price: 10
You get a lot of bang for your buck here, with steaks that still pack a ton of flavor but run a lot cheaper than the midtown boys. The quality is the same; it really is. I see the Master Purveyors trucks making deliveries all the time at the places in midtown. Yet, while we weren’t charged for the meal, I think everything only came to about $500. This is insane considering the amount of food, and the same bill in midtown would be $750. I’d definitely come back here.

Bar: 7
This joint has a nice cozy bar and lounge area off to the side when you walk in. I think it makes for a great neighborhood spot to meet up for a drink even if you’re not dining. And bartender Jeff mixes a good martini.

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Specials and Other Meats: 8
Since we were guests of the restaurant, the management and staff brought out everything they wanted us to try. That said, there were no specials read to us. In terms of other meats, aside from that awesome smoked beef rib, Christo’s offers lamb, pork chops and chicken, as well as hanger steak and skirt steak.

Apps, Sides & Desserts: 8
We tried a shitload of stuff in this category. I’m just going to drop the photos in and talk briefly.

Classic trio of Greek spreads. Keep in mind, we are in Astoria here, so this is a steakhouse with clear Greek influence.

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Lamb gyro tacos:

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Crab cakes:

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Lightly breaded and fried firm Greek cheese:

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Bacon. Delightful.

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Why, yes, more bacon please…

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Veal meatballs:

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Hanger steak egg rolls:

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Lobster mashed potatoes – awesome but pricey at $48:

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Parmesan and chive fries:

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Grilled asparagus:

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Steak tartare:

Tri-color cauliflower and blue cheese & bacon mashed:

Trio of apps – bacon, grilled oyster, balsamic figs:

The Calamari and Pepperoncinato Baked Clams were great.

Cheese cake and chocolate lava cake:

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The banana crumble martini was killer!

My favorites were the bacon, all the Greek items and the crab cakes. Stick to those and you’re in great hands.

Seafood Selection: 8
Scallops, shrimp, salmon and whole branzino are on the menu here for entrees, and I assume lobster as well due to the presence of a tank in the entry area. We tried the branzino. It was very simply prepared: roasted and de-boned.

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Service: 10
The service here is top notch. Everyone is attentive, courteous and pleasant, from the bar to the back of the restaurant. And here comes the usual shot of table bread to boot. I always do it. Don’t know why.

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Ambiance: 7
They really do a great job with the space here. It’s cozy, warm, comfortable and has a classic steakhouse vibe. Since this place is situated in the residential neighborhood of Astoria on the first floor of an apartment building, they are somewhat limited in what they can do. While this place is no Keen’s in terms of grandeur and decor, they certainly deliver everything you want from the traditional steakhouse experience.

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CHRISTO’S STEAK HOUSE
4108 23rd Ave
Astoria, NY 11105