From the archive
Many new spots target the twin passions of younger locals: Sunday brunch and cheap beer. (One sports bar off Steinway Street, Canz, has 40 TVs and 200 beers, served up by “Canz Girlz.”)
But among the restaurants that have opened in the last year or so are signs that the eating opportunities in Astoria and Long Island City could soon rival those in Williamsburg and Dumbo in Brooklyn. Bites like the spicy fried pickles at the gastro-pub Sweet Afton ($5); the caramel- and chile-tinged chocolate diablito cake at Pachanga Patterson ($6); the chirashi sushi, fresh as whitecaps, at Linn ($22) seem like tastes of things to come.
Right next to Canz is a distinctly odd storefront place called Queens Comfort. The chef, Casey Sullivan, a recent arrival from Georgia via Kansas City and Chicago, is working on a menu that spins like a disco ball, trying to reflect American comfort food, local and sustainable values as well as the diversity that is Queens.
Some days, this means chicken breasts, batter-dipped and fried to order in cast-iron skillets, then clamped between two Eggo waffles with maple butter and Tabasco ($8).
“That Eggo taste is seared on the American brain and there’s no substitute,” Mr. Sullivan said, thumping the table for emphasis.
Recently, it has meant arugula salad garnished with Honey Smacks cereal for crunch ($8), a fried green tomato biscuit with fine coleslaw and pepper jelly that might be the best vegetarian sandwich in the borough ($8) and real pulled pork from a Big Chief pit ($12). (Bad pulled pork, along with gratuitous deep-frying, spaced-out service and uncomfortable chairs, are boringly frequent pitfalls for restaurants in these parts.)
His red-eye gravy is spiked with Stumptown coffee and the sweet acidity of tomatoes, the grits are folded with cream cheese to a ridiculous lushness, and the iced tea is sweetened with the funk of molasses. On first bite, it’s hard to know what to make of the salt-and-pepper doughnut ($3): it has just the right powdery sweetness and oily crust of a plain doughnut. Then the salt kicks in, like the first sip of a margarita, and the black pepper begins a slow burn.
An entire meal of this sort of thing can be too much: If you are not already sluggish from Mr. Sullivan’s disco fries, topped with creamy sawmill gravy and melted cheese, the doughnut will stun you into submission. But they make memorable snacks.