BY KELLY MARIE MANCUSO
30th Avenue in Astoria is one of the hottest strips for dining and nightlife in Queens. With summer in full swing, check out our picks for the top five outdoor eateries for dining al fresco in the heart of the neighborhood.
37-10 30th Ave.
This purveyor of grass-fed, organic grain finished beef is part old-school butcher shop, part BBQ smokehouse vending high-quality cuts of meat, such as antibiotic- and hormone-free organic chicken, heritage pork, beef and traditional meat products. Hungry patrons can opt to purchase meat to cook at home, or they can stay and dine in Butcher Bar’s backyard garden complete with long, family-style wooden picnic tables, bold red canvas umbrellas and strings of cozy Edison lightbulb lanterns.
Dishes like the saucy yet sweet “meat candy” beef burnt ends ($13.50), half-baked mac and cheese ($10.99) Philly cheese brisket ($13.50) and tender St. Louis-style house smoked dry rubbed ribs ($19.99 half rack; $34.99 full) have earned Butcher Bar notoriety and a cult-like following. Stars of the new summertime bottomless brunch are the candied bacon and the smoked brisket hash with country gravy. Butcher Bar’s expertly prepared meats can also be found outdoors at the LIC Flea every Saturday and Sunday until the end of October.
37-01 30th Ave.
Sunlight and summer breezes waft into Grand Café’s exotic appointed dining room through large glass doors that open out onto ample sidewalk seating. The azure umbrellas, canvas chairs, exotic plants and palms create the feeling of dining outdoors in a quaint seaside resort town along the Aegean Sea without ever having to leave Astoria. Early birds will want to visit this Mediterranean eatery and sample the Cypriot omelette ($7.25), a mix of loukaniko, halloumi and tomato, while sipping the Early Riser ($9), an organic cold pressed juice blend of pineapple, pear, apple and mint. Lunch options include an impressive list of fresh salads, sandwiches, wraps, burgers and savory crepes, as well as an organic Greek yogurt bar. The specially seasoned lamb burger ($13.50), served with spicy feta on a seven-grain roll, is another great pick.
Antika Restaurant and Pizzeria
36-08 30th Ave.
This Neapolitan-style brick oven pizzeria uses only the finest ingredients to bring the authentic flavor of Naples to Astoria. Patrons can opt to slide into one the red leather banquets that line the exposed brick walls of Antika’s cozy dining room, or they can dine outside at one of six tables beneath the bold red canvas awning for the experience of an Italian piazza on a tree-lined street in Queens. Antika is best known for its old-fashioned, Grandma-style square pizza ($21) made with fresh San Marzano tomatoes and Grana Padano pecorino cheese. The prosciutto pizza dough sandwich ($14), which features prosciutto di Parma, fresh mozzarella and olive oil in a balsamic reduction, is another great choice.
36-18 30th Ave.
If you’re seeking authentic Louisiana-style comfort food in the heart of the city, Sugar Freak delivers. Start out with a bowl of Creole French onion Soup ($9), chili honey-infused hush puppies ($8) or popcorn alligator served with Creole mustard and grape jelly ($12). Sugar Freak’s extensive dinner menu features a delectable roster of New Orleans favorites like po’boys ($10-16), beer can chicken with sweet potato waffles ($17), jambalaya ($15) and crawfish etouffee ($18). Wash down all of this spicy goodness with a libation from their newly updated cocktail list, including the classic hurricane ($8), Creole bloody mary ($8) or swamp juice ($8), a potent blend of vodka, Triple Sec, Blue Curaçao, pineapple and orange juice complete with gummy worm garnish. Sugar Freak’s eclectic mix of antique chandeliers, corrugated tin ceiling and delicately roped-off sidewalk patio complete with cafe chairs and vintage floral linens impart a rustic, homespun vibe that is both inviting and inspired.
36-10 30th Ave.
This laid-back, American-style bistro features both weekend brunch and late-night drinks in a cozy, intimate setting. Enjoy a craft beer or weekend brunch favorites like the duck sausage hash ($15) or crab cake benedict ($16) while seated outdoors at one of several cozy café tables. William Hallet’s slow-cooked brisket ($16) served with grilled zucchini hush puppies, deviled egg salad and charmoula is the perfect summertime feast. Classic cocktails are also available. Try the guava lemonade ($10), blueberry smash ($10) or The Outerboro ($11), a flavorful mix of scotch, dry vermouth, grapefruit bitters and Swedish Punsch. Stay up-to-date on William Hallet’s special events here.