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The Spot: William Hallet, 36-10 30th Avenue, Astoria.

The Deal: No one knows better what a neighborhood needs than the people who live there. So when Astorians Gary Anza and George Rallis noticed the lack of late-night American fare deep in Astoria, they started planning, and in July 2011 the restaurant William Hallet opened.

“The great thing about American food is you can take a little from each culture and create new dishes, which is where we wanted to take the menu when we conceived Hallet,” says Rallis.

The bar and restaurant focuses on late-night bites, perfect for sharing with a crowd, and over the last three years the crowd has been changing.

“There is a greater concentration of young single people, as opposed to ethnic family-centric households,” Rallis explains. “And although we try to cater to the new Astorians, when we create a new menu we still take cues from the ethnic diversity that is still prevalent in the neighborhood.”

And William Hallet will be there, with a selection of shareable dishes, whiskey, and draft beers.

Read about William Hallet’s Signature Dish after the jump…

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The Spot: Oliver’s Astoria, 37-19 Broadway, Astoria.

The Deal: Over the last year, the site of a former French restaurant on Broadway in Astoria has become the bustling craft beer gastropub. A main focus of Oliver’s Astoria has been making the restaurant a friendly neighborhood location, through its décor, events and provisioning.

On a warm Friday afternoon, the windows and doors are thrown open so the inside restaurant blends into the outdoor café, and plenty of patrons are idling over a late lunch and one of the rotating tap beers.

Oliver’s has a one-and-done keg policy that keeps the selection fresh and new. Although co-founder and general manager Rob Williamson says that it is more work than a typical bar, it’s helpful for bringing in special brewery guests and appealing to beer fans. The next guest brewery will be Dogfish Head on Thursday, October 9th.

“I’ve worked in beer bars forever,” he says. “The spectrum of beer is fantastic. Not all of them are winners but when they hit, they hit.”

To further the local vibe, Williamson says the restaurant works with local businesses to meet the menu needs. They purchase from the butcher and baker on the block.

“It’s always easier to shop in your backyard,” he says.

Oliver’s continues to expand its offerings and events, from Monday night trivia to brunch with $3 cocktails. The brunch menu has recently expanded to weekdays to accommodate Astoria’s large population of restaurant industry employees.

Read about Oliver’s Signature Dish after the jump…

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The Spot: Brick Café, 30-95 33rd Street, Astoria.

The Deal: Brick Café, serving fresh Italian and Mediterranean cuisine, has been a mainstay of the Astoria community for 15 years but joined the Hells Kitchen Hospitality Group in July.

Despite the change in ownership, most of what has made this restaurant so enduring will stay the same. The staff, many of whom have been with the restaurant for at least five years, will still treat customers like family, and Chef Willie is still running the kitchen.

“We treat each other like family,” says Zoran, manager. “We know their names and families. People celebrate their special days here.”

Changes — such as a daily brunch and Wine Wednesday ($5 a glass and $25 bottles on select wines) — are designed to complement and not compete with the restaurant’s ethos.

Read about Brick Cafe’s Signature Dish after the jump…

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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…

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The Spot: fresk’o, 31-19 30th Avenue, Astoria.

The Deal: The newest frozen yogurt shop in Astoria, which opened June 1st, is nestled between a Baskin Robbins and a 16 Handles on 30th Avenue. The independently owned fresk’o sets itself apart through owner Gus Prentzas’ dedicated search for the perfect frozen yogurt and Greek yogurt flavors.

Prentzas is from Greece, where his grandparents and great grandparents owned a farm with sheep and goats and yogurt was a staple on the dinner tables. He translated that love of fresh and wholesome flavors into a three-and-a-half-year endeavor to find the ultimate frozen yogurt flavor. Fresk’o even translates from Greek to mean “fresh.”

The Greek heritage also influenced the shop’s location in Astoria, considered the heart of the Greek community. The frozen yogurt shop has already generated a large Greek following. Café tables outside attract a crowd on a warm afternoon, and Prentzas is in full swing greeting customers. “When someone walks in, they’re a customer, but they leave a friend,” he says.

In addition to the traditional frozen yogurt shop set up with soft serve fro-yo and a wide selection of nuts, chocolates, and fruits (bought fresh daily) as toppings, fresk’o also serves up a creamy Greek yogurt made from a combination of cow and goat’s milk and served with olive oil, walnuts, or Greek honey. With Greek yogurt for breakfast and frozen for dessert, the two options fulfill the shop’s motto of “Once a day is never enough.” The shop’s 10 am to midnight hours mean there are plenty of opportunities to come multiple times a day.

As the temperatures drop, Prentzas plans on adding waffles and hot cocoa to the menu.

Read about the Signature Dish from fresk’o after the jump…

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The Spot: Bunker, 46-63 Metropolitan Avenue, Ridgewood.

The Deal: Sometimes, as they say, the best-laid plans just go awry. The original plan for the rather industrial location on Metropolitan was for a fish distribution company called Fish & Ship. Then Hurricane Sandy flooded the space. Then a business partner, and the fish connection, had to back out. So what to do with this address that TK Adam refers to as “the curse and the blessing”?

Fortunately Jimmy Tu, the executive chef, and Jacky Tu, the sous chef, had been sitting on an idea: “Quality Vietnamese food,” says Adam. “The exotic yet accessible flavors of Vietnam, the street food that they loved, but elevated with quality ingredients. Bunker was born out of belief and out of survival instinct.”

But where new ideas and delicious food goes, attention soon follows. Bunker first drew the attention of locals, and then the food blogs and then The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, New York Magazine, The Food Network and others.

“Through hard work, perseverance, sacrifice, and just plain luck, Bunker has been a destination spot for the better part of a year now,” Adam says. “We have a loyal, ever-expanding customer base willing to trek from all over to a middle-of-nowhere restaurant with nothing to entertain them within miles as they tough out torturous wait times. And for that, we are so grateful and so thankful.”

Read about the Signature Dish after the jump…

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The Spot: Breezy’s, 97th St Concession Stand, Rockaway Beach.

The Deal: The concession stand at Rockaway Beach is back and one of the restaurants taking advantage of the summer crowds is the new BBQ joint Breezy’s. The evolving restaurant began as a food truck in Williamsburg.

“We experimented with our BBQ in a food truck in Williamsburg last year and had been looking for a place to set up shop,” says Amy Tichenor. “We didn’t want to do a restaurant or a take-out joint, the Rockaway concession felt like the perfect fit between food truck and restaurant.”

Now Tichenor and friends sling BBQ to hungry beach goers every day but Tuesdays at the busy cash-only spot, nestled between the other family-owned businesses at the concession stands.

“The 97th Street Concession has such a diverse group of family-run local restaurants, offering beach-goers a number of options, if they are looking for a quick bite to eat on the weekends or if they want to go out to dinner on the beach during the week, the concession is the perfect beach-side dining in The Rockaways,” Tichenor says.

Read about Breezy’s Signature Dish after the jump…

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The Spot: Murphy’s Lobster Grill, 48-20 Skillman Avenue, Sunnyside.

The Deal: Murphy’s Lobster Grill opened last October, an extension of the owner’s next-door namesake bar. Murphy’s Bar has been a Skillman Avenue staple for the last 10 years.

“When the space next door became available I decided to expand and run a seafood restaurant. There’s none in this part of Queens, and I have experience from my other restaurant in Mineola, Long Island,” says owner Mike Murphy.

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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 emily@brownstoner.com.

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

The Deal: When your restaurant’s philosophy revolves around farm-fresh produce and seasonal dishes, it’s imperative that the menu reflects the changing seasons. So although patrons may miss a favorite hearty dish – such as late winter’s Signature Dish of the Loaded Baked Potato Gnocchi – summer is just an opportunity to find a new favorite.

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The Spot: The Dumpling House at Bear Restaurant, 12-14 31st Avenue, Astoria.

The Deal: Bear Restaurant serves modern Eastern European cuisine on the western edge of Astoria. This summer Chef Natasha Pogrebinsky has introduced a Summer Dumpling House pop-up in the same space.

Dumpling House will serve plates of sharable Serbian-style dumplings, perfect for splitting with groups.

“Russian dumplings are unique because they are smaller in size so it makes for a perfect bite.  The dough is much lighter and thinner, therefore you don’t feel ‘stuffed,’” Pogrebinsky says. “It’s a perfect ratio of dough to filling.  Russian dumplings are also served in distinctive sauces unlike any Asian-style dumpling.”

The menu will be served as prix fixe orders of five starting at $14. The dinner tasting menu includes four flavors of dumplings and an appetizer for $50. The sauces featured are light yogurt and dill, infused vinegars and clarified butter with caraway.


Read about the Signature Dish, after the jump…