Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Queens Kickshaw

Note: This post is participating in the Astoria Blog Carnival, hosted by We Heart Astoria.

For someone whose sole brush with the law involved carrying an open container of Molson Ice on the Jersey Shore, I spend an awful lot of time worrying about going to jail – or, more specifically, death row. This invariably leads to the ultimate question: if I were about to get the chair, what would I choose as my last meal?

Chances are it would involve cheese. Grilled cheese. And probably beer.

In other words: my final dinner on the planet could be catered by the Queens Kickshaw.

My encounter with Astoria’s palace of all things melted and gooey took place on a rainy Sunday afternoon. Befitting Kickshaw’s reputation as a little slice o’ Williamsburg, the crowd leaned toward the hipster – bearded 20something guys in retro tees, young women in thick-framed glasses, a dad carrying an infant in a Snugli. Bare lightbulbs hung in wire cages from the rusty stamped-tin ceiling; a strangely pleasurable mix of slow hip-hop jams and vintage Bob Dylan played on the sound system. Our party of three – Dr. Science, the Esquire and me – took our posts on industrial-looking stools at the end of the long, communal butcher block table.

Service seemed to be a team effort. We were waited on at various times by the friendly husband-and-wife owners and a flamed-haired, nerd-chic young waitress.

Photo credit: Dr. Science
Our dining adventure began, as all good meals should, with beverages. Dr. Science and I each ordered a beer from the short list of draughts, which changes frequently (even daily, if the kegs get kicked). I chose a Kelso Pilsener and the good doctor picked a Mikkeller Single Hop IPA. The Esquire ventured into the caffeinated portion of the menu, ordering a cold-brewed iced coffee made with beans from Coffee Labs Roasters. It was so smooth that even a java wuss like me could drink it without milk.

We shared the Miso-Mustard Pickles, a mini-mason jar filled with carrots, asparagus, cauliflower, cucumbers and the Holy Grail, a single hard-boiled quail egg. ("Whoever gets that is lucky," the owner-wife informed us. We managed to split it three ways.) All had a perfect, mild tang – even the cauliflower, which normally falls slightly above Brussels sprouts on my list of Vegetables from Hell.

The real draw, however, is the grilled cheese. There are eight varieties, and none is sullied with bacon, speck or any of the other porky things the kids are so wild for these days. (Vegans, I'm afraid, are SOL.) Here's how it went down:

  • Fontina (Dr. Science). Hoo boy, was this tasty. It was melted over pesto and sauteed mushrooms on fluffy foccaccia.


  • Gouda (The Esquire). This one, served on brioche, had a nice kick courtesy of the pickled jalapenos. The guava jam, however, got lost in the mix.

  • Gruyere (Me). Kickass – just the right amount of cheese melted with pickled onions on rye. My only gripe: the crust was so crisp it scraped the hell out of the roof of my mouth. Whatever, it was worth it. I also liked the shredded Napa cabbage and caraway seed slaw served in a tiny bowl on the side.
    The Esquire, having just stepped off a plane from the Heartland, was hungry enough to order a bowl of tomato soup. That too was creamy and delicious, and adorned with a festive sprig of dill.

    There were only two choices for dessert, which was really OK considering the amount of carbs, cholesterol and calories we'd already ingested. We opted for the Brownie Affogato: two large cubes of brownie in a milk-and-coffee concentrate bath. The owner-husband recommended that we hold on to the bowl as we dug our spoons into the brownies, thereby helping us avoid a coffee-splash tragedy.

    Total damage? $83 including tax and a healthy tip. Not bad for drinks, three sammies, a soup and a shared app and dessert.

    It must be said that not every sandwich is a hit. On subsequent visits, I was disappointed by the ricotta and manchego on multigrain, which tasted like, well, multigrain, and the arahovas feta, which was overpowered by dill. But really, everything else on the menu continued to satisfy.

    So yes, Queens Kickshaw, before they strap me in to Old Sparky, send me over a sandwich or two.

    The Queens Kickshaw
    40-17 Broadway

    Veg friendliness

    Food quality


    1 comment:

    1. I have to admit I haven't had a sandwich from Kickshaw yet, but I have enjoyed their coffee quite a lot. Man, I love grilled cheese!