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Tasty Vietnamese food at Bunker in/near Ridgewood

There’s lots of excitement from the Ridgefood folks about Bunker, a new Vietnamese restaurant that opened up on Metropolitan Ave just up the street from the gigantic Western Beef supermarket and corporate headquarters. Bunker is technically in Maspeth, but is really only a block or so over the border between it and Ridgewood. The chefs behind this venture –  Jimmy and Jacky Tu, both Queens natives – have a great background:

Jimmy, the head chef, is classically trained in French cuisine and has worked at various restaurants such as Eleven Madison Park and Elizabeth Daniel (in San Francisco). Sous-chef Jacky Tu helped open Tigerland, a beloved East Village Vietnamese & Thai spot, with his brother — and he’s also the former CEO of Korean taco truck company Korilla BBQ.

So head on over and enjoy things like pho, banh mi sandwiches, spring rolls. Watch for bacon on the menu, too.

The Jackson Heights Trilogy comes to Theatre 777

Theatre Mania reports that Director Ari Laura Kreith brings a trio of plays to Theatre 777 as The Jackson Heights Triology, “made up of the last three plays produced by Kreith’s company, Theatre 167.” The plays are  167 Tongues, You are Now the Owner of This Suitcase, and Jackson Heights 3AM. The director says, “Ever since I moved to Jackson Heights I got this feeling that this neighborhood needed to be a play. I was in Boulder, Colorado and I was trying to explain it to people. That was the moment I knew that there needed to be a document that showed what this place feels like.” There are many voices involved with the creation of this show – it is a “massive collaboration between 18 playwrights, with 38 actors play 93 different roles including a Bangladeshi cab driver, a Rwandan night nurse, and a Colombian drag queen.” The play is close to 2 hours and runs until Feb 27.

So yeah, it snowed this weekend

From our perspective, most of Queens got pretty lucky during this weekend’s blizzard, compared to a lot of places in Connecticut and Long Island, who got 2 feet of snow and more. La Guardia got a foot of snow, Astoria got a foot, Maspeth got 15 inches, and JFK got about six and a half. The average snowfall in Queens was about nine and a half inches. Check out some photos of the snowfall around the NYC area, too – feel free to send yours to us, too, and you might see them on the site!

Brooklyn Grange will have a CSA again this year

We Heart Astoria wrote about Brooklyn Grange’s CSA this coming season. It’s going to last 24 weeks – Saturday, May 18 to Saturday, October 26 – and the produce will be grown on their rooftop farm. They’ll offer things like radishes, turnips, herbs, kale, eggplant, and ground cherries – but there is much, much more planned for the shares. The cost will be $576.00 for the season ($24.00/week for 24 weeks). You can sign up now!

Kaufman Astoria Studios and its new back lot

We’ve learned more about what Kaufman Astoria Studios plans to do with 36th Street between 34th and 35th Avenues, the street that was de-mapped for them back in 2012 – it will become their back lot. It will give the studio 34,800 square feet to work with, at 60 feet wide and 580 feet long, and give them the freedom to consolidate their buildings on either side of the street. They also plan to build a gate to block pedestrians and vehicular traffic from entering (they can currently do that now), but emergency vehicles will be allowed to pass through. The gate they are planning will cost in the millions, too. It will be interesting to see how this affects this part of Astoria – some local folks are feeling apprehensive about the plan. Others feel good about it, and welcome the economic boost it could bring.

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Lunar New Year is the single most important holiday of the year in many East Asian cultures. This year it falls officially on February 10, but the holiday really translates to a week or two of celebrations for many Queens residents of Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Tibetan and Mongolian heritage.

The New Year is a time of getting together with family, paying respects to ancestors, enjoying great food, conjuring good luck, and celebrating the beginning of spring. Traditionally, the Lunar New Year is also like a communal birthday, with everyone turning a year older at the same time.

Here we’ve laid out some of the cultural traditions and special foods of each version of the holiday – and, of course, where you can celebrate in Queens.

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Over the weekend, before we hit the one day pedestrian pop-up plaza in Astoria, we found our way to Cyclo, the new Vietnamese restaurant in Long Island City. There hasn’t been a Vietnamese restaurant in the area before now, so locals are pretty excited about this new development. Cyclo offers a range of Vietnamese specialties – banh mi sandwiches, spring rolls, vermicelli noodle salads, and pho.

We tried a few things and they were all pretty tasty. The restaurant is located right around the corner from the newish Petey’s on Vernon Blvd. Here’s the outside of the restaurant, with a sweet bicycle in front.

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Yes, it’s getting warmer. Yes, a bowl of hot Vietnamese soup is still nice.

We paid a visit to Pho Bang at 8290 Broadway in Elmhurst. We got the number 22, which is sliced rare beef round in a broth with rice noodles, bean sprouts, basil and lemon on the side. Of course, what makes this recipe sing is the scallions, onions and cilantro. The combination of hot soup and fresh vegetables is a uniquely Vietnamese magic. $5.75 gets you an enormous bowl.

The beef comes out raw. You sink it into the hot broth and it cooks right in the bowl. Since broth is always boiling at Pho Bang, table service is pretty fast, especially if you gain status as a regular. Adding Sriracha  gives it that extra special spicy kick, but if you aren’t one for nose blowing at the table, you might want to just leave it out. If you go alone, no worries, you will be dining next to others (who will be generally blowing their noses too) — a very intimate experience.

If you go with friends, try adding a small order of cha gio to the mix. The $4.50 fried spring rolls come with a dipping sauce and lettuce to wrap them in. The beef salad is worth a go, as is the lemongrass chicken and the summer rolls. Still, this place is called Pho Bang for a reason — hint, it’s the pho.

As if there needed to be another reason to try this place, it has a parking lot.

If you want something sweet after, head over to Quickly at 8306 Broadway and get an iced taro or milk tea with black tapioca pearls.

Pho-to Source: Wikipedia