Sofia Reyes Tastes The Best Lumpia in SF
Best Vietnamese: District Saigon
In a neighborhood known for its diverse culinary scene, Astoria was seriously lacking a Vietnamese restaurant until February 2016, when District Saigon’s pho saviors swooped in to relieve locals from another rice noodle-deprived winter. The pho here is excellent. Each sip of deceivingly clear broth, cooked for at least eight hours, is enormously rich and savory. Available in two types of beef as well as chicken and vegetable varieties, the pho is served in steamy basketball-sized bowls with soft rice noodles and fresh herbs. If you’re still hungry, or sharing dishes with the table, go for the spicy chicken curry, which is so satisfyingly thick with coconut milk that you might find yourself licking the bowl by the end of your meal.
Best ramen: HinoMaru Ramen
Riding the W train to the very last stop and walking up Ditmars is worth it for this ramen that’s seriously unlike any other in the city. Beyond the fish cakes created to look like adorable monkey faces, just a sip of the signature spicy Hinomaru ramen made with a ridiculously creamy pork broth will tip you off to this spot’s superiority. Both straight noodles and curly noodles are available here, in soups ranging from vegetarian to a refreshingly spicy lemongrass chicken. Ask for extra chili oil for an added kick to your broth. And don’t leave without trying an order of tempura broccoli, which is fried so crisp and so delightfully drenched in a sweet soy sauce that you’ll forget you’re even eating a vegetable. To enhance the ramen experience, the menu also has suggested beer and ramen pairings, so you’ll get the best bottle to go with your broth of choice. If you’re in more of a BYOB mood, head to HinoMaru Ko, the restaurant’s younger sibling that only has a few counter seats but will gladly pour your bottles of wine alongside your tonkotsu.
Best place for fried chicken and cocktails: The Pomeroy
Lady Gaga graced Astoria with her presence in 2015 to celebrate her friend and personal chef Bo O’Connor’s restaurant opening, bringing a legitimately trendy (and tasty) new hangout to the Ditmars neighborhood. While the pop star has yet to return to The Pomeroy, the place is pretty much always packed with a crowd eager to sip the simple yet elegant cocktails -- try the $11 Goodluck made with Queens Courage gin, lime juice, muddled cucumber, and mint -- paired with O’Connor’s excellently crispy and juicy fried chicken, available as a half or whole bird, and served with two refreshing homemade dipping sauces.
Best BYOB: Yaar
This stylish Indian restaurant, located under the elevated subway tracks, is an ideal spot to stretch out and stuff your face after a long day of commuting. The $13.95 three-course menu is the way to go, served with appetizers and entrees large enough to share and still have leftovers for lunch. Choose your level of spice, in classic dishes like chicken tikka masala and saag paneer, and make the most of the BYOB atmosphere where you can keep popping bottles to chase down the spicy samosas and beyond.
Best hangover brunch: The Bonnie
After a night of heavy drinking, probably at The Bonnie, you’ll want to head right back in your sweatpants for a warm, hearty meal to soak up all that booze, accompanied by unlimited refills of French press coffee. And OK, the brunch cocktails are pretty great too. The menu does include healthier options, like smashed avocado toast with feta and mint and a notably flavorful kale salad. But if you’re trying to kick the hangover, you’re going to want to dive into dense biscuits soaked in sausage-laden gravy (request poached eggs on top), fried chicken & waffles with butter syrup, and a Pat LaFrieda breakfast burger topped with pimento cheese, bacon, a fried egg, and pickled jalapeños.
Best underrated seafood spot: Astoria Seafood
Both the New York Times and New Yorker recently featured this low-key seafood shack, originally recommended to this writer by a cab driver. Bring your own bottle of booze and head to the ice trays to pick from a daily selection of fresh fish by the pound (think branzini, grouper, trout, and more all under $10/lb). Your chosen fish is then grilled to order and served in an energetic dining room, packed with people collectively taking advantage of Astoria’s greatest high-quality food bargain.
Best restaurant everyone associates with Astoria: Taverna Kyclades
A staple in Astoria’s massive Greek scene, this lively old-school taverna has played host to the likes of Bill Murray and George Clooney, and probably countless other less-famous grey-haired old white men, too. The restaurant doesn't take reservations, so expect to wait for a table, inside or outside. When you do finally get a seat, you’ll find sizable side dishes of fried cheese and outrageously lemony potatoes that could easily work as an entrée, but you can’t leave without an order of grilled octopus, known for converting the even the fiercest tentacle-phobe into a fan.
Best Casual Greek: Gregory’s 26 Corner Taverna
Red-checkered tablecloths welcome you into what could easily double for a living room in your Greek grandmother’s home, except with more cheap carafes of wine and rounds of plates overflowing with seafood, salads, and spreads. You’re eating the best of New York at this small restaurant that always smells like fried smelt and pork souvlaki -- and dining on the cheap. For $12 you’ll get a steamy plate of mussels with feta and tomato, easily shareable between four and the $10 beef gyro plate with Greek salad and fries is an entree big enough for two.
Best Fancy Greek: Telly’s Taverna
This nautically themed restaurant is a special-occasion place for many local families, which makes sense because portions “for two” are really for four, at least. The Greek spreads served with hot pita are a must to start off, then pick a fish (request it de-boned if you’re skittish about picking at a skeleton) and some sides, and you’re eating that healthy Mediterranean diet everyone keeps talking about.
Best Nouveau Mexican: Pachanga Patterson
Serving up tortillas from Corona’s esteemed Tortilleria Nixtamal, this modern Mexican restaurant focuses on gourmet, fusion-inspired twists on traditional south-of-the-border fare like shrimp and octopus tostadas and pineapple-loaded guacamole. Visit for fiesta brunch, when you can add $16 unlimited liters of prosecco and juice to your order of chilaquiles, or book a taco night for a group of eight or more where three tacos, salsa, guac, and two hours of unlimited beer and margs will run you about $40 a person.
Best Chicken Parm: Michael Angelo’s
Astoria has no shortage of Italian restaurants, but this red-sauce joint rises above the rest with its ridiculously juicy, crispy, and saucy chicken (or eggplant) Parm. Fried crisp to order and topped with a satisfying glob of melted mozzarella, the Parm is then covered in a slow-cooked, incredibly smooth marinara sauce that will have you asking for an extra ladleful. Available as both a hero sandwich and on a platter with penne or linguine on the side, get ready to kick your Parm addiction into full force once you bite into this Italian fried perfection.
Best falafel: King of Falafel
This is one fried chickpea place that earns its royal title. Its oval-shaped falafels achieve optimum crispness and are best enjoyed wrapped in warm pita with freshly sliced pieces of shawarma and hot sauce, a combo known as the “Shawafel” sandwich. The food is equally excellent at either the food truck or brick-and-mortar location. Just know that lingering outside the food truck will usually earn you a falafel sample, and that will probably lure you into buying at least the $4 appetizer portion.
Best tacos: Athens Grill (El Grill)
Don’t be fooled by the name, this is a legit Mexican restaurant and home to the best tacos in all of Astoria. Grab a styrofoam to-go box loaded with warm tortillas and juicy al pastor -- three tacos for $6! -- or sit in back with a cold bottle of Jarritos soda as you munch on a selection of 15 types of meat and vegetarian soft tacos with a side of rice and beans, of course.
Best late-night meal: The Strand Smokehouse
Eat all the by-the-pound smoked BBQ and cornbread you can stomach until the cafeteria-style kitchen closes at 2am, and maybe try haggling for the very last rack of ribs just before the kitchen shuts down. Although the menu changes daily, short ribs and baby backs are what you're here for, all to be soaked in six varieties of homemade BBQ sauce. Chase down all that meat with Southern-inspired cocktails and plenty of draft beer.
Best bakery: Rose & Joe's Italian Bakery
This small, cash-only bakery underneath the Ditmars Blvd stop sells some of the best baked goods in the borough. Sample the crunchy-shelled, freshly filled perfect cannoli, then take home cookies by the pound. But don’t be misled by the all the sweet stuff -- the back counter serves up a mean pizza slice, too.
Best date spot: Sek'end Sun
Swiped right and want to get right to it? Meet up at this relaxed, wood-paneled bar that’s just dim enough to hide any evidence that, yes, you did edit those selfies you sent your Tinder date prior to meeting. The decently priced cocktails ($10) and $6 wine Wednesdays mean you won’t break the bank if your date is a bust at this neighborhood bar. Time spent snacking on small bites like Belgian waffle pizza topped with homemade sausage and smoky, melty mozzarella will ensure that your night, even if you should have swiped left, was still put to its best use. Communal tables and a spacious backyard also help ease social anxiety with only the type of help that friendly strangers and a few cocktails can provide.
Best comfort food: Queens Comfort
Crazy mash-ups of your favorite comfort foods make this one of the least healthy Queens eateries, but oh so satisfying! (Especially if you’re just looking to taunt your friends bragging about their successful streaks on the Whole30.) Forget any and all diets and plan to enjoy the peanut butter & jelly burgers, Cap’n Crunch fried chicken, deep-fried Sriracha mac & cheese, s’mores bread pudding, and beef hash empanadas over multiple, BYOB visits.
Best noodle spot plucked straight out of Thailand: Pye Boat Noodle
This colorful, narrow noodle shop will briefly transport you to Bangkok. Skip the pad Thai and opt for boat noodles -- a popular Thai street snack of noodles in broth made to efficiently slurp while you stand. Or, try some other dish outside of your usual stir-fried noodle comfort zone, like bamee phoo moo dang nam, an egg noodle with crab meat and roasted pork soup served in a flavorful chicken broth. All dishes are served with a traditional caddy of Thai condiments like peppers in vinegar and cane sugar to add to the intrigue. The full bar also serves boozy slushies; the watermelon is particularly refreshing.
Best post-movie dinner spot: Mamu Thai
If you’re catching a movie at Kaufman Astoria Studios, skip the chain restaurants right outside the theater and head to this small, casual Thai restaurant offering a brick-and-mortar version of the beloved food truck of the same name. Expect to find all your typical Thai dishes here, along with house specialties like lard naa, a rice noodle dish soaked in savory Thai gravy, and duck noodle soup served with a duck leg.
Best Cajun: Sugar Freak
The extensive po-boy menu -- including chicken fried French fries, mac & cheese, and fried chicken varieties -- is tantalizing, but if you’re truly hungry, opt for a platter of fried anything or one of the five different styles of chicken. Chase it all down with a spiked sweet tea and an enormous side of crispy fried okra! Since the recent closure of Burnside Biscuits, this is the spot in Astoria for ex-Southerners and Southern food enthusiasts to get their fix of regional delights, complete with outhouse-themed bathrooms, because apparently everyone loves rural stereotypes below the Mason-Dixon line.
Best for group hangs: Bohemian Hall & Beer Garden
This is the place that everybody has been to that one time they went to Astoria (or pretends they know about if they’ve never been to Astoria), and for good reason -- the massive outdoor area of this hundred-year-old haunt is a popular warm-weather gathering spot, and any of the 20+ taps pair perfectly with a Czech specialty, like roast pork with sauerkraut & dumplings.
Best bagels: Brooklyn Bagel & Coffee Co.
The home of one of the best bagels in all of New York City, this small chain makes a doughy, unbleached, and unbromated flour round -- in addition to equally good gluten-free bagels. Missing out on the homemade cream cheese, which includes flavors of the week like chimichurri, baked apple, and diavolo chipotle, is not an option.
Best diner: Neptune Diner
This 24-hour, under-the-sea-themed eatery has the requisite enormous laminated menu with everything from all-day breakfast and a whole fish cooked to order, to Greek and Italian specialties and homemade soups. Servers in suits and stained-glass light fixtures class-up your bacon grilled cheese with cheese fries, but in that Grandma’s-hosting-her-poker-group-for-brunch kind of way.