The Queens Kickshaw (40-17 Broadway, Astoria, NY)
"A grilled cheese menu inspired by our neighborhood," reads the typed sheet of paper listing the offerings for Astoria's newest eatery, The Queens Kickshaw, which officially opens to the public tomorrow. A kickshaw is a small, elaborate, or exotic delicacy, which after an initial sampling of their creations is precisely what this kitchen delivers.
"Brooklyn is sort of its own brand," explains Jennifer Lim (co-owner with husband Ben Sandler), "but we really believe Astoria has something very special and unique to offer." Not wanting to design a restaurant that intrudes on the neighborhood, the husband-wife team have conceived a sandwich shop that sources local cheeses and breads, with specialty gourmet coffees in a welcoming, intimate atmosphere. Later this summer it will also showcase a carefully edited selection of craft beer.
The space was formerly a clothing store, and in a renovation that has extended well over a year, the couple partnered with EcoSystems to design a uniquely green space, with refurbished, recycled, and reclaimed materials.
EcoSystems cofounder Matt Tyson explains how it was almost like digging for oil. "We really had no idea what we would find. We just came in with hammers and chiseled away at the existing floors and ceilings." After peeling away layers of old linoleum and tiles, the base level revealed the original wooden floors, which have been beautifully restored for the grand opening. The ceiling, which had been lowered, was lifted to its maximum height, and tiled with vintage molds for a charming and rustic feel that suggests the history of the building and the neighborhood. The Queens Kickshaw achieves the intimacy of a downtown coffee shop, but with surprisingly grandiose spaciousness and reclaimed wooden tables of every size and shape imaginable to accommodate individuals to couples or large groups.
Utilizing a Marzocco Strada coffee machine, Queens Kickshaw sources beans from Coffee Lab Roasters in Tarrytown, and a few of the Tarrytown team were in the store today to ensure the highest quality execution. The latte I tried was otherworldly, using Circus Dog Espresso beans, a blend of Indian and South American coffees, for smooth, chocolate-butterscotch flavor with a clean finish ($3.75).
We enjoyed a selection of pastries and sticky buns from Balthazar, which will be providing the baked treats for the restaurant.
Sodas were available in hibiscus, lime, and grapefruit, using seltzer water on tap and syrups from P&H Soda Co. The hibiscus was deliciously refreshing, with a hint of lime and slight but pleasant kick.
Above is a snapshot of the opening menu. Prices are still being determined before the opening tomorrow, though customers can expect premium specialty ingredients to cost more than a typical grilled sourdough and Kraft single (update: opening prices listed below).
I was extremely pleased to see they offered a version of everyone's childhood favorite, and quite literally fell in love with their "classic"... molten-ribbons of endless strands of fresh mozzarella and shredded cheddar string from each bite on a buttery brioche, served with a cup of a thick and robust, wonderfully hearty and chunky tomato soup ($8).
The Fontina Val d'Aosta was a fluffy focaccia cut into finger-sized slices, piled with marinated mushrooms that harmonized with the earthiness of the cheese, all wonderfully complemented by a bright and vibrant drizzle of basil pesto, all served with a pine nut salad ($11).
The Manchego & Ricotta comes on multigrain, with minted eggplant and capers, served with a green salad with pickled golden raisins ($9).
But judging from outbursts around the room and at nearby tables, the unanimous favorite of the day was the insanely addictive gouda, with toasted brioche, black bean hummus, sweet guava jam, and tangy pickled jalapeños ($10). Simultaneously sweet, savory, buttery, crunchy, smooth, and just plain outrageously delicious, this sandwich is truly something special, and that unique bite that creates raving fans and loyal regulars. Inventive side dishes include curried pumpkin seeds, miso-mustard pickles, and lemon-coriander olives.
The Queens Kickshaw will be open Monday through Friday from 7:30AM to 4:30PM, and weekends from 9:00AM to 4:30PM. Certain to be a local favorite, this fantastic addition to the neighborhood is just seconds away from the Steinway station on the R train, and will inevitably draw eager patrons from well beyond the borough.