Hi! Allie here.
We simply could not write this blog without talking about our collective love affair with Astoria. Courtney and I were roommates once upon a time and thought we were the luckiest girls in the world when we found our cozy two bedroom apartment one block from the subway. Astoria was a semi-obvious choice for living, what with Manhattan being financially untouchable and Brooklyn being a little to scene-y for me. Now, given the choice, I wouldn’t live anywhere else! My love affair with Astoria is a full blown committed relationship; my boyfriend, Raven, and I live in a one bedroom apartment near the park with our Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Charlie, and we’re stickin'!
I’m simply aghast and always a little annoyed/defensive of my ‘hood when people say “I hate Astoria” or “It’s sooo far!” Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but check out my top 5 favorite spots in Astoria, and tell me you’re not at least a little intrigued. It’s not that far…
1. New York City Bagel & Coffee House
It’s a good thing Court and I moved, because this new-ish coffee shop is right around the corner from our old place, and I most likely would have gone into debt. Bagels made on site, in every iteration imaginable (think bialy, flat, mini, etc), cream cheese as far as the eye can see in flavors like jalapeno cheddar and cinnamon apple, and locally roasted coffee from Brooklyn. Pair that with free wifi, extremely friendly staff, benches outside, and even a water dish for thirsty Charlie, and you’ve got a recipe for a perfect Saturday morning. My order? A flat whole wheat bagel with 2 eggs and swiss, and a nonfat coffee frap. BOOM.
2. The Sparrow Tavern
Another great spot just down the road from my old apartment, Sparrow is at once a dive bar and farm to table-esque restaurant that Raven and I frequent for their good eats, extensive beer list, and creative cocktails. Raven likes it because the beef is grass fed, I like it because they have plenty of vegetarian options and the best french fries I think I’ve ever had (that is a BOLD statement, as you will learn that fries are one of my main food groups). Bonus? They serve brunch and are right across the street from the Bohemian Hall Beer Garden!
3. Nook N Crannie
A quintessential antique shop, Nook N Crannie offers everything from china to jewelry to one of a kind tchotchkes, but where it shines is the furniture pieces: midcentury end tables, apothecary cabinets, enormous armoires, the list goes on. I myself have acquired two small antique mirrors and a pink depression glass fruit bowl, but I'm still kicking myself for letting go of an enormous brass mirror and a cookie jar from the 30’s. Bonus: all proceeds benefit a non profit organization helping those who are battling addiction.
4. Astoria Park
A suburban transplant, I have always felt refreshed when taking the train back to Astoria after work, watching the city fade into the background, hopping off at my (almost) quiet, residential stop. If ever I’m really craving home, though, I head to Astoria Park. Sure, Manhattanites have Central Park, and I can’t say a bad thing about it, but Astoria Park is wonderful in its own right. Flanked by the East River, with sprawling grass, tall trees, and plenty of space to picnic, it’s like a mini vacation just down the block. Bonus: off leash hours for Charlie before 9am and after 9pm, and access to Astoria Park pool, the biggest in all 5 boroughs, for FREE (summers only, of course).
5. Butterfly Nail Salon
It is a rite of passage for every New York City girl to have “her” nail place. So it almost seems silly that my place makes my fiver list this week. Almost. I love my place because it’s close to my apartment, clean, inexpensive, and bizarrely enough, the owner opened up a second salon literally around the corner, with no plans to shut the first down. Sound random? IT IS! But it’s amazing...the new salon is bigger and has huge, leather pedicure chairs, but if it’s full you just go around the corner to the original! Bonus: the original offers a mani/pedi for $20 Monday-Thursday.
And now Courtney's rendition of Astoria's best and brightest:
When I first moved to the city, I felt like it was a bummer to move to Queens. Granted, it was also a bummer that I didn’t have limitless cash flow, a puppy, or a lifetime supply of Starbucks, so I was prepared for disappointment.
But then I moved to Queens.
And realized it’s freaking awesome.
I fell in love with Astoria. Quiet tree-lined streets, Greek food, multiple beer gardens: suddenly I felt like I hit the jackpot, and began waiting ever patiently for that nice Starbucks lady to give me the good news. Well she didn’t, but here are my top five favorite spots in Astoria that more than make up for the lack of lifetime Starbucks:
1. Astoria Bookshop
This is a brand new installation to the bustling Broadway/31st Avenue sub-neighb. It’s small (though mighty, with a diverse range of books) and independently owned (in fact, it’s the ONLY independently owned bookshop in Astoria). Maybe it’s too soon to tell, but are we getting a little Park Slope-y up in here? I’d suggest going with the intent to browse rather than search, but that said, Astoria Bookshop has a healthy selection of titles, including a hearty children’s section for those with tiny people.
2. Sweet Afton
Remember when I asked if we were getting Park Slope-y up in here? Well, with Sweet Afton, we are super Slope-y. This rustic, cozy bar reminds me of Brooklyn in the best ways: great outdoor seating, simple, but delicious menu with great Gastro Pub choices, and a killer speciality cocktail list including Gin’n’Juice, a cocktail with equal parts fizzy freshness and old school charm. Did I mention they have live Bluegrass, Folk, and Jazz on Monday nights? Get there.
3. The Strand
Whiskey. Beer. Meat. Live Music. Why would you need anything else? Straightforward and right to the point, this is a recent addition to Broadway and the perfect spot to replace those summer Beer Garden nights out with a big group of friends. All the beers come from within 200 miles and the whiskey pours straight from the barrel. With seat yourself tables and benches inside (and more beautiful outdoor space when the weather is warm), The Strand is an easy go-to option for that annoying and ubiquitous question, “What should we do tonight?”
4. Yoga Agora
What. A. Great. Place. Situated on the corner of Broadway and 33rd Street, this one room studio packs a majorly positive punch. Right when you walk in, you are greeted warmly, invited into the space and taken care of through the whole class. The thoughtful instructors lead you through an intentional, vigorous, and lovely practice. Oh, and on top of it all - classes are $5. Unless you are taking a donation only class (which just makes me want to pay them even more for their generosity)! Why haven’t you gone here yet? Go! Now!
One of the coolest spots in Astoria, if not a little far out for most. Coffeed is on the ground level of a huge building on Northern Boulevard and 37th Avenue, a little distant from the bustle of Broadway, but so worth it. And it’s out there for good reason: on the rooftop of the building is A FARM. A FARM. Brooklyn Grange to be exact. My husband and I were taken up there the first time we stopped in, we checked out the view of Manhattan and spied on the farmers harvesting crops. All the food comes down to supply the coffee shop, and the coffee is meticulously crafted by knowledgeable and friendly staff. Not to mention 10% of beverage sales and 5% of food sales go to local charities. So much for my need of lifetime Starbucks!
Have you been to these places? What do you think? What are some of your favorite spots in Astoria? Comment below and let us know what you think!