Monday, February 21, 2011

Watch Out Brooklyn, Comfort Cookin' Comes to Astoria

(Maple Bacon Buttermilk Biscuit at Queens Comfort)

Queens Comfort (40-09 30th Ave., Astoria)
Closed Mondays; Tu-Th 11am-10pm; Fri 11am-11pm; Sat brunch 10am-4pm &  dinner 6pm -11pm; Sunday brunch 10am-4pm & closed for dinner

I'm only gathering first impressions--these guys just opened their doors to the public today.  But if lunch was any indication of what we can expect from Queens Comfort, Astorians can already rejoice.  Southern-style comfort food has landed on 30th Ave.  And not just any comfort food.  This stuff will rival even your Granny's best baking.

Giving a major facelift to the space formerly occupied by recently shuttered Blue Restaurant, only the turquoise diner stools remain, with long communal-style tables replacing the booths, the whole eatery feeling more like a general store or old-fashioned Baptist potluck dinner.

(L-R: Thompson, Sullivan, Contini, D'Alessio)

Childhood friends since fifth grade from Long Island, co-owners Dave Contini (C.I.A. graduate and resident baker) and Donnie D'Alessio teamed up with Chef Casey Sullivan--who has a diverse resume that includes extensive experience with award-winning master smokers in Kansas City where "these kind of dishes are his religion," smiles Contini.  When artist-designer Avery Thompson came on board, it "just seemed a natural fit" and so he, too, joined the creative team.  

The restaurant, still in soft opening, will focus on southern style comfort food with a strong Louisiana influence (they even serve a traditional boudin--cajun rice sausage).  Along with Stumptown coffee from Brooklyn, brunch service is expected to start next weekend, featuring glorious recipes like a Kentucky Hot Brown Benedict and Bananas Foster French Toast.

While I will wait until their official opening for a full review, here is a sample of the dishes I have tasted. And let me tell you... these are some of the most outrageously delicious comfort plates I have enjoyed recently--in many cases exponentially better than their counterparts in Williamsburg.

Fantastically velvety split pea soup, almost like a warm and savory winter mousse, crowned with a haystack of crispy pork belly that actually crunches at the bite, giving way to salty and tender bacon inside.

Contini explained that they operate on the KISS-philosophy (Keep It Simple Stupid) which results in an absolutely perfect, classic rendition of some of the best mac-n-cheese you could crave.  Almost five inches tall, this golden browned casserole of elbow macaroni with cheddar, gruyere, and bechamel is crunchy crisp on the edges, yet smooth and deliciously cheesy throughout.  It's a perfect comfort meal all by itself (though I am dying to try their chicken pot pie, pot roast, and pulled pork sandwich!)

Best fried chicken sandwich. Ever.  A flaky buttermilk biscuit is slathered with maple butter and hot sauce, housing a juicy boneless chicken filet fried in a crisp, light, buttermilk batter, served with a heaping pile of Zapps potato chips delivered from Louisiana. Outrageous.

You haven't had a donut until you have tried Contini's cinammon-sugar-dusted cake donut.  As my stomach was grinning to full capacity, I enjoyed this donut hole.  The coating was crunchy with an almost toffee-like snap, giving way to a surprisingly moist cake donut you won't even want to dunk in anything.

The diner counter, reminiscent of a classic country store, is jeweled with cake stands of donuts and cookies, just an early preview of Contini's developing baked confections.

I couldn't keep my hand out of the cookie jar, and this "cluster cookie" will keep me sneaking right back in again and again.  A chewy chocolate crinkle cookie loaded with tender walnuts.

Though the menu, prices, and hours may fluctuate somewhat while Queens Comfort settles into its rhythm, I say you shouldn't wait much longer before this place gets packed.  The food is already great, the energy homey and warm, and the entire team couldn't have been more welcoming, even before I busted out my camera and started asking questions.

And since I know my posts can sometimes tip toward the heavier side of the menu, I took note for my vegetarian friends that they do offer some tempting entree salads, including a rendition with arugula, fig preserves, goat cheese, pear, and toasted walnuts, and even a Queens Caesar with charred romaine, black pepper mustard, and toasted croutons.

Sandwiches and salads are all $6.50-$8.50, with entrees ranging from $7-$14, and sides and soups from $3-$6.  While they await their liquor license, beverage service is BYOW (bring your own whatever).  I'd love to hear about your experiences as you welcome this wonderful new addition to the neighborhood... please post impressions and comments below.

We returned today with some friends, and here are some more images of what we sampled!  The owners also confirmed that once the liquor license arrives, they plan to host ping pong after dinner service in the evenings.

Arugula salad with goat cheese, fig preserve, pear, & toasted walnuts

Smoked turkey sandwich with bacon, cheddar, apples, & herb mayo

Pulled pork with Stumptown BBQ sauce & slaw

Chicken pot pie

Homemade coffee cake

Queens Comfort on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

Tink said...

I really want to try this place, I could use some comfort food. Maybe we can get together and go sometime.

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