Eat Play Shop: Astoria
One family’s attempt to entertain their toddler and themselves in a new neighborhood every weekend
Last Saturday we decided to visit our good friend Blitz who just moved to Astoria. The thing about Blitz is that he doesn’t have kids, or want kids, and he definitely didn’t move to Astoria for the kid-friendly activities. Rather it was the easy commute, cheap rent and plethora of lively bars and restaurants that drew him there. But as it turns out Astoria is filled with families and the day we arrived there was a festive street fair going on with colorful rides and ice cream. So as far as Nate is concerned, Astoria is paradise. And as far as we are concerned, it’s a fantastic place to eat, play and shop.
For lunch, we were obviously looking for the best slice in town. Months ago we tried the pizza bloggers’ Astoria favorite, Sac’s, which was decent but not mind-blowing. So this time we decided to spin the pizza wheel and go Greek. First stop: Gyro Uno, not necessarily the hottest spot in the hood (there was one old guy eating a hamburger buried in a soggy bun) but we persevered for two reasons. 1. Nate was joyous in his big boy booster seat next to the mirrored wall (where he could make faces at his favorite friend besides Elmo–Nate) and 2. The pizza was really good. We did our research and the experts informed us that their personal pan pizza is very close to what you would find in Greece. The crust is moist and crunchy, covered in a very mild cheese that proved an ideal canvas for toppings, especially shaved meat, tomatoes and onions.
Since the Greek pizza experience was so gratifying—the friendly waitress even ran after us when we forgot Nate’s sippy cup—we decided to try the Balkan version of pizza at nearby Djerdan, where the staff was not nearly as welcoming. Still we loved the Burek, the flaky, layered filo-ricotta pie (plain, spinach or meat) and thought it would make a great savory breakfast, or, as our childless friend coolly suggested, a drunken snack.
Next on our agenda was the Museum of the Moving Image—one of the world’s most comprehensive collections and tributes to film and digital images, with archives, screenings and exhibits, including some great family-oriented events. A Jim Henson/Muppets series is running until September 25 with puppet workshops and a showing of Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey about the man behind the monster, which won the special jury prize at Sundance. A corresponding exhibit of artifacts and props runs through January 2012.
But here’s what really happened: Nate was hot, cranky and definitely not in the mood for anything that wasn’t cold, creamy and delicious. So we decided to postpone the museum for another day and instead wandered over to Güllüoglu, one of three new branches of a beloved Istanbul bakery, where our most critical foodie friend said he had the “best baklava of my life.” For Nate we found a cooler full of small green ice cream frogs and then gorged ourselves on the perfectly sweet, bite-size baklava filled with chestnuts, pistachios or walnuts, which were, as one of us muttered with a mouth full, “orgasmic.” When we finally surfaced, Nate was covered in green slime and licking a stick.
Since it’s a sin to leave Astoria without taking home massive amounts of $3-$6/lb. feta cheese (at least in our bible), we stopped at Greek grocer Titan Foods and headed straight to the back of the store to the feta shrine. After sampling a few fetas with long Greek names, we picked a delicious creamy sheep’s milk feta, as well as fresh olives and EVOO, fluffy pita bread, frozen spanikopita, and a pint of housemade taramasalata. Add a bottle of Ouzo, put the baby to bed and Opa! (Blitz however had other plans.)