A restaurant review done by me indicates that I inherently think their food is fantastic. So really, this page is actually more of a listing of my local faves. A golden rule of success in cooking comfort food recipes is … never cook while you’re hungry. Often times, recipes I make can take a few hours to complete, so ordering from a restaurant really helps take the “edge” off so I don’t rush my cooking.
Once I’m hooked on a restaurant, you can rely on me to tear through the menu and get to know the dishes on an intimate level. I’m really good at doing the same thing over and over again for a very long time. Therefore, I choose to review places that I know REALLY well so I’m familiar with their standards. A restaurant review by me is based on years of research, anywhere from 1 to 10 years … not from random, one-time experiences. I respect the restaurant industry tremendously, therefore I like to stay positive with sprinklings of constructive feedback is. There’s no need to spread outright negativity.
Below is a rundown of my most recommended places to order from – listed alphabetically, not by rating.
Mexican Restaurant and Taqueria
Yes, this is Mexican, not Greek! Order from here when you’re in the mood for a traditional Mexican-American meal with succulent meat drenched in aromatic spicy sauces and a side of Mexican rice and addictive refried beans. I regularly get their enchiladas and the decision to get either red sauce or green sauce always kills me. Or if you want mole, they have that too. Not only is their flavor unmatched, Athens Grill is never stingy with the portions.
Their tacos are served with nopales (cactus) on top – which contributes to their authentic touch over other local Mexican restaurants – but sometimes you have to ask for them. At only $2.00 each they offer basic options such as chicken or steak, but also offer delicacies such as beef tounge (lengua) and pig ear (oreja) for those seeking a more adventurous experience. I’m personally hooked on the chicken and Al Pastor pork tacos. The juicy, carmelized chicken is spit-roasted and shaved onto your taco.
King of Falafel & Shwarma
Middle Eastern food truck & restaurant
The name speaks for itself, as the food truck proudly boasts their food vendor trophy. Sure the falafel is fantastic, but what I love equally is the crunchy vegetables they serve with each dish – lettuce, onions and some seemingly pickled purple vegetable I have yet to identify. My biggest pet peeve of these “meat-over-rice” food vendors is not getting enough sauce. Here, they are never stingy with the sauces and you can actually get extra servings of sauce on the side without it being a hassle (and for free). Each dish is given a name and personally I’m hooked on the Ashley platter – a mix of chicken and lamb generously covered in 3 types of sauce.
They have one restaurant, but somehow I like the food from the truck a little better, not sure why. Oh, and they often give you free falafel samples as you wait.
The decor of The Melting Pot is very bare bones – which is a plus in my opinion. The food is made by people of Jamaican descent, so you are getting superior authenticity when you order from here. Their ever-so-traditional jerk chicken never fails to impress and having ordered this is large quantity multiple times from their catering menu, my party guests will agree. The jerk seasoning is mild, so if you want to turn up the heat, by all means pour on their spicy jerk sauce.
Goat lovers, listen up! Their curried goat falls off the bone with the slightest bite or tug of a fork. And while its super common for restaurants to give you too many goat bones, The Melting Pot is sure to serve a satisfying amount of meat.
I must admit that I’m not a fan of their mac n cheese. It’s baked casserole style and served in a cube-like portion. I believe mac ‘n cheese is one of those dishes that really needs to be made to order.
This is the perfect place to stop in and grab a quick, filling snack for under $10. Most notably, at $2 each, they offer three types of empanadas … meat and/or cheese filling which is baked and/or fried in a flour or corn-based dough. I also recommend other very filling bread products are available such as a cheese bread (Pan de Queso) and a guava bread called Pan de Guayaba. Wash all this baked and fried goodness down with their house-made avena – a sweetened and slightly spiced oatmeal and milk based beverage. They have two locations in Astoria, noted in the captions above.
This spot used to be called Bankok Tasty and the new owners have kept most of their old menu items. I’ve been ordering from them for over 10 years when it was just a small takeout operation with only two tables. And after intensely studying Thai curry paste for an entire year, I can confidently say that their dishes are probably not just cookie-cutter Asian food.
Dishes seem to be sautéed and simmered with fresh herbs and aromatics such as basil, kaffir lime leaves, ginger and possibly galangal. Vegetables are bright-colored and still a bit crunchy to preserve nutrition and texture. When you ask for a dish to be “spicy’ you certainly get what you ask for, so use those words with caution.
Unfortunately, I’m always amazingly disappointed with their Pad Thai – the most basic Thai dish on which Thai restaurants should be judged, so I’m told. Maybe it’s a texture problem in how noodles turn into a brick when transported in a takeout container. But texture aside, the flavor could be a bit more aggressive for my tastes. Perhaps it’s better when eating in-house.