Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Mojave

I've rarely met a margarita I didn't like. Throw in some guacamole and chips and I'm one happy diner. Serve these things in a garden that makes me feel as if I'm in San Diego and I'm hooked for life.

No surprise, then, that
Mojave is my kind of joint.

After a recent beach getaway, Dr. Science and I eased back into urban life with dinner at this Ditmars-area Southwestern/Mexican spot. The back garden, with its yellow walls, small fountain, and abundant greenery, erased the memory of our schlep from the ocean to the railroad to the 7 to the N. Half a margarita later, all in Queens seemed right.

We started with the excellent guacamole – required eating for anyone who sets foot in the place. Good chips, too.

Holy guacamole!

For part one of our entree, we shared the
vegan tempeh and wild mushroom tacos. The local taco trucks have nothing to fear, but I appreciated the veganness. Tempeh doesn't turn up on too many menus in Astoria. 

Gluten-y goodness

For part two, we split the plantain empanadas, which were slightly dry but enjoyable enough when dipped in the accompanying salsa.


Stuffed with plantains and three cheeses (sorry, vegans)

To cap things off, we ordered that classic Mexican dessert known as chocolate fondue. Authenticity be damned: you can't go wrong with fruit, spice cake, and molten chocolate. 







The service was pleasant and attentive, and the tab – $63 including tax and tip – seemed reasonable. It wasn't the greatest meal ever, but the whole experience, from the delightful garden to the tequila haze (OK, maybe especially the tequila haze), made me a fan. If you're actually from San Diego or Arizona or Mexico itself, lower your expectations. But by all means, grab an outdoor table and start sipping a margarita before winter comes.



Mojave
22-36 31st Street 


  Veg friendliness
 
Food quality

Vibe
 

Friday, July 13, 2012

LIC Market


Call it cheating, but I am expanding the borders of this blog beyond Astoria to write about LIC Market, a seasonal-and-local restaurant near the Court Square subway stop.

I know, I know: this ain't Vegetarian Long Island City. Sue me. Now, on to the review.

Dr. Science and I had a rare Friday morning together, so we decided to go for breakfast at the restaurant, whose chef/owner graces the cover of the latest issue of Edible Queens. LIC Market occupies an attractive space on the ground floor of a townhouse. At the entrance is an actual market, selling jars of house-made pickles, salsa, and the like. Original art hangs on the white brick walls, and the whitewashed wood tables give the place a pleasantly rustic feel. The main dining room was surprisingly hopping for a weekday morning, with a small crowd of 30- and 40-something professionals. 

We shared two dishes: the Bullseye eggs, which featured two slices of whole-grain bread with eggs fried in the middle of them, and the gruyere and scallion sandwich.






Bullseye!


The bread in the Bullseye was quite oily and blackened at the edges, but a fork-stab to the eggs yielded a satisfying rush of yolk. (I'll say it again: I like my eggs runny.) The excellent home fries combined perfectly cooked diced potatoes with caramelized onions and red peppers.



Gruyere and scallion sandwich, with egg




The sandwich, with its soft-boiled egg and generous amount of cheese, was tasty, though the baguette was a bit too white. It came with a side of lettuce, which could have used a nice vinaigrette.




The staff was friendly and efficient, and the tab for two breakfasts with coffee came to $22, with tax and a generous tip.

So, will we ever again take the N to the 7 just for breakfast? Probably not; there are too many appealing options within walking distance of our apartment, and if I'm not fed within 30 minutes of waking I get crabby. But we'll certainly return to LIC Market for lunch and/or dinner. As long as it's in Queens, it's all good.


LIC Market
21-52 44th Drive

Veg friendliness

Food quality

Vibe

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Pachanga Patterson

Brunch: I sort of don't get it. In my world, eggs and pancakes are meant to be eaten before 10 am, and booze is not consumed until at least 6 pm. (OK, maybe 5 pm on a Friday.) So the idea of combining these things in a single meal around noon just never made sense to me. One Bloody Mary and I'm ready for a nap. (Not to worry, Astorians: Mark Killian and his Brunch Bunch cover this meal nicely.)

So when I found myself entertaining two hungry relatives  we'll call them the Jersey Girl and the Upper West Sider late on a Sunday morning, I faced a new challenge: where to get really good brunch just a few blocks from home. We chose Pachanga Patterson (a mouthful of a name I will hereafter refer to as P2).





P2 has a lot to recommend it: out-of-the-ordinary Mexican fare, local ingredients, and creepy Day of the Dead artwork, to name a few. When Dr. Science and I went there for dinner, we liked the ambiance a bit better than the food, but found it a nice addition to the stretch of restaurants (Bareburger, Il Bambino, Zenon Taverna, etc.) along 31st Ave.






Three, count 'em, three!





We started out with chips and three kinds of salsa. (Hey, when it comes to exciting dips, why stop at one?) All were excellent.






For my main course I got the gorditas, thick corn cakes topped with poached eggs. (These normally come with chorizo, but the chef is amenable to leaving the pork off the plate.) The cakes were on the dry side but the eggs were cooked the way I like 'em: runny but not overly so.

Gorditas (sin chorizo)

Dr. Science ordered the Veggie Jenga: fried eggs over beans, avocado, and mashed sweet potatoes, with a tostada buried underneath. It wasn't the tower of block-shaped food we had hoped for, but it tasted great.

Veggie Jenga

Scrambled.


The Jersey Girl played it safe with a plate of scrambled eggs, Mexican style, cooked with tomatoes and peppers and served with flour tortillas instead of toast. The Upper West Sider went rogue and ordered some sort of chicken dish (not pictured).





 ¡Endiabladamente buena!
All the dishes were pleasant enough, but dessert was the real winner of the meal. As we were all stuffed with brunchy goodness, we split the El Diablito. It's the
evil twin of the celebrated Torta del Piccolo Bambino Gesu Cristo served at Vesta, Pachanga Patterson's sister restaurant. Forgive me, Baby Jesus, but I liked the little devil's cake, with its dash of chili heat, even better.


Perhaps because the Jersey Girl is a minor, we skipped the alcoholic beverages and went instead for P2's excellent coffee.

On weekend mornings, you'll usually find me with the early crew at Sanford's, scarfing down my home fries before the hordes arrive. But the next time I need some salsa to ward off the Sunday afternoon blues, I'll know where to go.

Pachanga Patterson
33–17 31st Ave.

  Veg friendliness
 
Food quality

Vibe
 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Bareburger

What better way to reanimate this blog than with a visit to neighborhood fave Bareburger? I'm happy to report that on a recent visit, this pioneer of the burgeoning Astoria burger scene is as tasty as ever.

Weirdly, I don't much care for their veggie burger. It can't hold a candle to, say, 5 Napkin's. No, the real draw here for the non-carnivore is the portabella sandwich. Normally, a big ol' slab of 'shroom on bread would not appeal, but Bareburger does something magical to theirs. It's marinated in balsamic vinegar, cooked to the perfect tender-chewiness, and topped with onions, roasted red peppers, and baby spinach. You can get it on brioche, but I always go for multigrain bread. It makes me feel less guilty about my favorite part of the sandwich: the Danish blue cheese. Granted, I'd probably eat a hubcap if you put gorgonzola on it, but half an ounce or so of moldy dairy goodness makes this sandwich something special. (Vegans: I think it would still hold up without the cheese, though I haven't been able to bring myself to try it.)

Dr. Science and I generally share the sandwich and one of the large salads, most of which are meat-free. The other veggie options, while not quite so virtuous, are also delicious: take, for example, the kick-ass fries, which come with three kinds of dipping sauce. (May I recommend the chipotle mayo?) And don't get me started on the thick-cut, perfectly crisp onion rings. Really, please don't.

Bareburger's beverage list is also good: Maine Root sodas and several great, reasonably priced beers on tap. And then there are the milkshakes. I suspect I could make a meal out of the peanut butter and chocolate one.

The 31st Ave. location is usually packed with 20something Astorians, families, and, yes, middle-aged couples. Service is consistently friendly and efficient.

I have to admit, I'm a little sad this place has turned into a chain (they've even got a branch in shudder Brooklyn). But I guess Astoria can't keep all the good stuff to itself.

Bareburger
33-21 31st Ave. (the one I go to, anyway)

Veg friendliness

Food quality

Vibe