My wife and I took a daylong food shopping and eating trip on Saturday to the Astoria section of Queens NY. Astoria has long been a Greek stronghold in the multi ethnic borough of Queens (Queens is the most ethnically diverse county in the US according to the people who keep track of this stuff). In recent years Astoria itself has become more ethnically diverse as well as having an influx of Yuppie and artsy types because of the relatively low rents and low crime rate.
Our GPS optimistically told us it would take us 47 minutes from Scotch Plains, obviously our GPS has never driven on the Brooklyn Queens Expressway. Actually, it wasn't too bad, about 75 minutes door to door to our first stop. Our first 3 planned stops were in the same neighborhood, and we conveniently found a metered parking space right across the street from:
Romano's Famous Pizza. But we weren't here for pizza, rather for what are reputed to be the best Gyros in New York. (The Seinfeld episode which includes Elaine hopping off the Subway in Astoria for a Gyro, which was subsequently stolen by Al Roker is supposedly based on Romano's, although in reality it is a block from the El train, not upstairs from the Subway). Anyway, this was just about the best Gyro either of us have ever had. My wife is a gyro hunter, always seeking out Greek church fairs for thier Gyros, but these had them all topped. Plus, it was huge, and only $6 each. Only problem was we were so full after our gyros, we really weren't able to do much further eating for the next few hours. http://newyork.citysearch.com/profile/7329106/long_island_city_ny/romano_famous_pizza.html#profileTab-photos
That didn't stop us from food shopping, of course. Our next planned stop, House of Pizza at 42-20 30th Avenue turned out to now be some kind of cocktail lounge, although none of the blogs I researched seem to have realized this. So we missed out on what were the best bureks in NY.
So we continued our walk down 30th Avenue to Sorriso's Pork Store,
noted for their hero sandwiches, written up in Robert Seitsema's excellent book about ethnic food in NY http://www.amazon.com/Food-Lovers-Guide-Ethnic-Eating/dp/155970716X/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1274752190&sr=1-2
We got an Eggplant Parm hero and a "DiNero" hero, loaded with roasted peppers, fresh mozz, etc. While waiting we were treated to several slices of Soppresata and Mozzarella by the very friendly guys behind the counter. We added a ball of that fresh mozz and some roasted peppers to our order. We had the heros the next day and they were terrific: http://www.yelp.com/biz/sorriso-italian-pork-store-astoria
Next up was a short drive about a mile north to our next 3 stops. Amazingly, we lucked out in this unbelievably congested section of town and scored a quick parking space and had just a short walk under the El to Rose & Joe's Italian bakery, written up glowingly right here on Roadfood: http://www.roadfood.com/Restaurant/Reviews/3655/rose-joes-italian-bakery
Thier bakery pizza was terrific. We bought 1/2 sheet (= 8 large slices, @$2.25 each, $18 total). It smelled so good carrying it back to the car we forgot about how full we were managed to have a slice each right by the car. We also got a few loaves of their semolina bread, which unfortunately did not travel well in the trunk. It was a little dead when we sampled it with some mozz and roasted peppers from Sorriso's (and wine) that night.
Next up was a short walk along Ditmars Blvd and over to Sal Kris and Charlie's Deli, a few blocks away, home of The Bomb. 137 positive reviews on Yelp can't be wrong, and we agreed, The Bomb might just be the best hero sandwich we ever had. For only $7.50, this sandwich had at least 3/4 pound of salami, ham, soppresata, cheese and who knows what else. The place is take out only, so we sampled a little of the hero at a bench across the street and saved the rest for the next day. All we could say was "Wow". A pic of The Bomb is on this link: http://www.yelp.com/biz/sal-kris-and-charlies-deli-astoria
I had one more stop on our walking tour, O'Hanlon's Tavern, under the EL ((I love old bars under the El) on 31st Street. My wife took one look and the two staggering old guys having a smoke outside and decided to take a walk while I had a quick beer. A great old place, basically unchanged (including, it seems, the clientele) since 1939. It was nice to be by far at the younger end of the demographic for a change, and I just turned 62. http://nymag.com/listings/bar/ohanlons-bar/
Before heading home we took a nice long walk along Astoria Park which fronts the East River and Hell Gate, and has great views across to Manhattan and the Triboro and Hell Gate Bridges. It is also the site of the burning and sinking of the General Slocum cruise ship in 1904. Until 9/11 it was the worst disaster in NY City history with over 1,300 people dying, many of them children on a Sunday School outing. There is a commemorative plaque on the fence overlooking the water. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PS_General_Slocum
Our bellies somewhat less full, we waddled back to the car and in a record-breaking 1 hour and 5 minutes we were pulling into our driveway, with enough food to last us until about 3 hours ago.