The city targeted Hunters Point in southwest Queens  (as well as Williamsburg) for neighborhood “renewal” several years ago, which entailed changing the zoning to make glassy, high-rise apartment buildings facing the water possible. The decision has had benefits, as Gantry State Park, named for the large lifts that once transported goods from barges into railcars here, has become a jewel.

Some say, though, that the influx of towers has overly taxed the sewer system and that there’s still no real grocery shopping to be had on Vernon Boulevard. It’s like a big city has been plunked down in a place where there’s nothing to support it.

So, while previous trips to Hunters Point have found me down by the water, this time I got off the No. 7 train at the Vernon-Jackson station and  stayed inland along Vernon Boulevard to take a look at the quickly developing area.


The Big Six Towers, Queens Boulevard between 59th and 61st Streets, were developed, like Electchester in Flushing, by a trade union. In 1961 the New York Typographical Union (Local 6) completed the project in 1963 and one-third of its current tenants are active or retired union members. The AFL-CIO invested heavily in the towers in 2008 to help keep its apartments affordable for middle-class families. There are still some retired lithographers and printers among the residents.

While other large residential developments have joined the Big Six Towers on this stretch of Queens Boulevard, the small terra cotta former Childs’ restaurant outlet holds firm on the NW corner of 60th Street. The building hosts a laundromat, bodega, Irish bar and pizza parlor on the ground floor.


The Spot: Snowdonia, 34-55 32nd Street, Astoria.

The Deal: For any quality gastropub, the beer selection is a top priority. It follows then that Oktoberfest would be the biggest holiday. Or at least that’s the case at the Astoria gastropub Snowdonia, which has launched a new prix fixe menu for the holiday.

“Oktoberfest is our favorite holiday, in no small part because it primarily features beer, amazing Bavarian food, and more beer,” says Matthew Callahan, the community manager at the restaurant.

There are five main dishes, each served with two sides for $15. Choices for the main include Bratwurst with sauerkraut; Wiener Schnitzel (breaded veal cutlet); Sauerbraten (wine-marinated beef roast); Rouladen (flank steak stuffed with bacon, onions and pickles); and Hasenpfeffer, while the sides on offer are German potato salad, braised red cabbage, spaetzle, or green beans.

“Traditionally Oktoberfest starts in late September and runs through October,” says Callahan. “We’re starting a bit early and running it for six weeks because the menu is just that awesome.”

Read about the Oktoberfest-themed Signature Dish after the jump…


The former Queens County Court House (now home to the Queens Supreme Court) has been in this location since 1870, and sparked a political dispute that led to the creation of Nassau County.

Long Island counties, beginning in the late 1600s, were Kings, Queens, and Suffolk. Six towns in Kings consolidated in the late 1800s to create the City of Brooklyn, which was annexed (residents voted to consolidate it) to Greater NYC in 1898. Queens’ history is a bit more complicated. Queens originally comprised western Queens (the towns of Newtown, Flushing, Jamaica and in 1870, Long Island City) and what is now Nassau (Hempstead and Oyster Bay; North Hempstead was created in 1784). The eastern towns began agitating for “independence” from Queens County beginning in the 1830s, when a dilapidated courthouse in the Mineola area was to be replaced. Factions from the western and eastern parts of Queens vied for the new courthouse, which was ultimately built in Long Island City at the present Court Square in 1870. Differences, political and cultural, between the east and west ends of the vast county were accentuated during the debate. In the 1890s, proposals for Greater New York did not include Queens’ eastern towns.


The beloved poinciana tree has many nicknames — peacock, flame, Phoenix tale — in various languages. Some Christians believe that a poinciana was near the cross where Jesus died, and his blood sprinkled onto its flowers, making them a sharp red color. The beautiful tree is also revered throughout the Caribbean, where some countries use its image on their postage stamps. Well, now it is ready to spread through Queens, thanks to a new eatery, Poinciana Restaurant & Ballroom, which opened last Saturday near John F. Kennedy International Airport. Located inside the Garden Inn & Suites hotel at 151-20 Baisley Boulevard in South Jamaica, the establishment’s menu explodes with Caribbean fusion cuisine and eclectic dishes featuring Arab, Carib, Chinese, Dutch, East Indian, English, French, Portuguese, Spanish, Taino, Rastafarian and West African spices, vegetables and influences. It is also another enterprise by catering company Events by Mark and thus can provide a venue for everything from an intimate rehearsal dinner to an elegant wedding reception to a themed birthday celebration to a fun brunch.

Top photo: Wiki; bottom photos: Poinciana Restaurant & Ballroom


Welcome to the Q’Stoner food feature, Signature Dish! Once a week we check in with Queens restaurants and ask the owners about the all-time favorite dishes they serve. If you know of a dish you’d like to see featured here, please email

The Spot: Butcher Bar, 37-08 30th Avenue, Astoria.

The Deal: Astoria’s first local, organic, and natural butcher shop opened in 2011 but serves more than just raw meat; it also serves Kansas City-style BBQ.

“Our humble little shop, Butcher Bar is a butcher shop first, and a BBQ restaurant second,” says Matthew Katakis, the restaurant’s founder and Queens native. As a Queens native, Katakis was familiar with the Astoria restaurant scene and pounced on an open space across on 30th Avenue to expand the area’s offerings.

“We wanted to give options to our community and only offer hormone-free, antibiotic-free and pasture-raised-and-grazed animals that were given a humane lifestyle and a respectful death and conversion to our dinner tables,” says Katakis.

The Dish: Burnt Ends have been on the menu of this Astoria BBQ restaurant since its opening. If you want them, arrive early: They are always the first dish to sell out each day. “These ‘meat candy’ are made from the fatty deckle, off the top of the brisket which needs extra smoking time to melt the fat and make it edible,” says Katakis. “Other places end up just cutting it off and throwing it away, but this in fact is a real delicacy.”

The Butcher Bar smokers are running consistently filled with a rotating menu of meats – ribs, pork belly, and sausage among other cuts – but the burnt ends are always on the menu and given special attention. “We smoke them for over 16 hours and add a second rub to them after about 12.5 hours in our smoker,” explains Katakis.

The restaurant’s motto is “Eat less meat, but eat good meat,” but if you want that meat to be Butcher Bar’s burnt ends, you better get to the restaurant before they sell out.


Welcome to the Q’Stoner food feature, Signature Dish! Once a week we check in with Queens restaurants and ask the owners about the all-time favorite dishes they serve. If you know of a dish you’d like to see featured here, please email

The Spot: Bear Restaurant, 12-14 31st Avenue, Long Island City.

The Deal: Bear Restaurant was opened by siblings Natasha and Sasha Pogrebinsky and serves the Eastern European cuisine of their childhood, with a local twist. Sasha mixes and develops cocktails while Natasha runs the kitchen.

“Traditions and culture are what drives the design of our menu, which changes frequently based on what is fresh and available at the local farmer’s markets,” says Natasha.

The cash-only restaurant has drawn the attention of the New York Times and Michelin Guides.

The Dish: When at Bear, try the as-seen-on-TV dish of mushroom stroganoff. Natasha prepared a variation of the dish when competing on Food Network’s Chopped (Season 16, Episode 14), and it has been a customer favorite since debuting on the menu.

The mushroom stew is made daily and combines stewed mushrooms, caramelized onions, fresh herbs and finished with sunflower and truffle butter. It’s then served over house-made pasta, which is cut by hand.

“Steeped in tradition, culture and history, Bear tries to transcend time by reinventing this age-old recipe from Eastern Europe and bring it into a more comfortable, modern and relaxed feel of the Bear dining room,” Natasha says.

For a refreshing drink, try Sasha’s St. Dill Martini, a sophisticated twist on the ubiquitous pickleback: a vodka and pickle martini.


Welcome to the Q’Stoner food feature, Signature Dish! Once a week we check in with Queens restaurants and ask the owners about the all-time favorite dishes they serve. If you know of a dish you’d like to see featured here, please email

The Spot: The Thirsty Koala, 35-12 Ditmars Boulevard, Astoria.

The Deal: Although Queens has one of the most diverse populations in New York City, Australian cuisine has yet to gain a foothold. The Thirst Koala aims to change that. Owner and co-owner Katherine Fuchs says the restaurant prides itself on sourcing local ingredients and building relationships with long-standing purveyors, such as the 100-year-old Caleb Haley in the Fulton Fish Market.

As is the case in cooking non-local cuisine, The Thirsty Koala can’t always use local ingredients and instead uses bush tucker, ingredients indigenous to Australia. Many of the bush tucker ingredients are meats: kangaroo from Queensland, lamb from Queensland and Tasmania, and award-winning beef from the Manning Valley in New South Wales.

The Dish: For diners new to Australian cuisine, Fuchs recommends the appetizer of pasture-fed grilled Australian lamb lollies. Although the restaurant’s aim is to use locally sourced ingredients, the lamb lollies are one of the few dishes to use imported meat. Fuchs imports the lamb to ensure the correct taste.

“I use Australian lamb because I have not found a locally sourced product that compares with its subtle yet robust flavor and tender texture,” she says.

The meat is rubbed with wattle seeds, one of the bush tucker seasonings on the menu.

“Wattle seed has coffee notes, but when used with our lollies it lends a toasty flavor,” Fuchs says. “I serve them with caramelized pumpkin and a small salad of rocket [arugula] and seasonal fruit, which at the moment is pomegranate.”

The combination of local ingredients and bush tucker creates a fresh and unique flavor for guests familiar and new to Australian cuisine.


Welcome to the Q’Stoner food feature, Signature Dish! Once a week we check in with Queens restaurants and ask the owners about the all-time favorite dishes they serve. If you know of a dish you’d like to see featured here, please email

The Spot: Alobar, 46-42 Vernon Boulevard, Long Island City.

The Deal: A staple on bustling Vernon Boulevard, Alobar has been serving American cuisine to Long Island City residents since 2011. The dishes on the menu are prepared with local and seasonal produce when possible, and pair perfectly with one of the many cocktails on the menu. Owner Jeff Blath stocks Alobar with one of the largest whiskey selections in the neighborhood.

“Lots of restaurants do elevated comfort food. This is elevated food that happens to be comfortable,” says Jeff Blath, the restaurant’s owner.

The Dish: As an example of elevating and twisting comfort food, the (current) Signature Dish at Alobar is the Loaded Potato Gnocchi, with sour cream, chive, and bacon.

“This is a whimsical take on a loaded baked potato,” Blath says. “It’s all about technique, the gnocchi are cooked perfectly — nice and light.”

Suggested by Chef Greg Profeta, this twist on an old classic has made its way onto the regular menu as customer demand has kept it flying out of the kitchen.

In classic whiskey bar fashion, Blath recommends the Alobach cocktail to accompany this dish. The drink combines Four Roses Bourbon, Cointreau, Angostura & Peychaud’s bitters, and dry Champagne with an orange peel garnish.


Welcome to the Q’Stoner food feature, Signature Dish! Once a week we check in with Queens restaurants and ask the owners about the all-time favorite dishes they serve. If you know of a dish you’d like to see featured here, please email

The Spot: Pachanga Patterson, 33-17 31st Avenue, Astoria.

The Deal: Pachanga Patterson isn’t just another Mexican restaurant. Sure, the dishes on the menu will be familiar, but the owner and Chef Peyton Powell have taken care to put their own spin using local ingredients. “Being influenced by traditional dishes and putting our spin on them by blending the seasonal farmer’s market produce of NYC, while not having your everyday American Mexican menu,” Powell says. “Since we’ve opened here in Astoria, there has been an influx of ‘New Age Mexican’ restaurants opening in NYC; we believe we differ by concentrating in the true flavors of Mexico’s rich food culture by introducing exotic ingredients and incorporating them in a casual seasonal restaurant in Queens.”

The ever-changing menu highlights the seasonal produce combined with new recipes Powell brings back from his frequent trips to Mexico.

The Dish: Cochinita Pibil could be described on another Mexican restaurant’s menu as a pork taco. At Panchanga Patterson, the pork taco borrows an ancient Mayan recipe for cooking pigs – the cochinita. The traditional preparation in the Yucatan peninsula is served with tortillas or on a torta with pickled habanero onions.

“Our spin includes pickled cabbage and habanero onions along with a creamy garlic honey aioli which we feel takes this taco to the next level,” Powell says.

Other dishes on the menu, such as the tamarind-glazed pork belly, combine traditional Mexican flavors – the tamarind – with New York-local produce – Long Island purple cauliflower.

Travel, experimenting, and experience allows Chef Powell to combine local and exotic flavors to create a taste that can’t be found at another Mexican restaurant.

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