Family Run means Family Portions

Nusara Thai Kitchen rates 5/5 Screen Shot 2015-04-18 at 1.36.11 PM: Family-styled portions is more than enough for two people to share.

Map it at: 82-80 Broadway in Elmhurst


The Nusara Thai Kitchen is a family restaurant run by daughter, Busayamas Busabong or “BB” for short. Her mother and two uncles “pulled money together” and opened the restaurant.

Moo Ping: an original barbecue glaze over skewered pork.

Moo Ping: an original barbecue glaze over skewered pork.

“Our family is big on food and would [sometimes] make [food] to feed 500 people,” said Busabong. “Some weren’t even special occassions, but just because [that many] people would come over.”

With the recipe book coming from Busabong’s mom, it’s no wonder that family sized portions are apart of the menu.

Fried calamari

Fried calamari.

Their most popular, Mango fish, is seasonal and features mixture of fresh shrimp,mussels and scallops served in a sweet and sour textured glazed. It is also the one that sells out the fastest daily.

Busabong has to “save the first and last three dishes” for herself and had to eventually limit the number of orders people are able to get.

Tomyum Shrimp: soup served in their special homemade hot oil.

Tomyum Shrimp: soup served in their special homemade hot oil.

Looking at the food was enough to loosen some belt notches. Between the Tomyum Shrimp and Moo Ping, I barely had room for the Calamari or Crab Fried rice I ordered.

The Thai Tea apparently gets everybody according to Busabong.

EAT TIPS: Bring an appetite because there isn’t anything on the menu that doesn’t look delicious. Price range: $5-17.

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La Autenticidad es la Clave (Authenticity is key)

Tortilleria Nixtamal rates 5/5 Screen Shot 2015-04-18 at 1.36.11 PM: Fresh tortillas are enough to get me out of bed.

Map it at: 104-05 47th Ave in Corona


Though we’re well beyond Cinco De Mayo, it’s no excuse not to visit Tortilleria Nixtamal for authentic Mexican food and, more importantly, their Horchata.

Horchata is made with three different types of milk and goes thru an eight process.

Horchata is made with three different types of milk and goes thru an eight process.

Co-owner Shauna Paige and her partner, Fernando Ruiz, sort of expanded into the restaurant business.

“[Ruiz] had some extra time with his schedule and I had extra time doing consulting work, so we thought why not start a tortilleria and sell the tortillas to the local restaurants,” said Paige. “The majority of our business is wholesale tortilla production.”

They make an average of 3,000 pounds of different sized tortillas a day. The number “varies,” but Paige did the math and chalked it up to 40,000 a day.

The tortilla-maker here is just one-half of the process.

The tortilla-maker here is just one-half of the process.

However, for Paige and customers, it wasn’t enough, so from regulars asking about making tamales then came a full expansion of a lunch and dinner menu.

As a restaurant, they opened in May of 2009, but have been making tortillas since 2007. It’s “just simple” food said Paige.

With many popular menu items, such as Al Pastor taco and fresh guacamole, the next “hopeful” goal is to open in every borough.

Unfortunately, I had to take the wonderful meal of the Al Pastor and Camaron tacos to-go. However, it did not disappoint, even after the 7 commute rush back.

(L to R) Al Pastor, pork, taco and Camaron, shrimp, taco. with respective green and red salsas.

(L to R) Al Pastor, pork, taco and Camaron, shrimp, taco. with respective green and red salsas.

Each taco had a refreshingly sweet taste of pineapple with cilantro, though the camaron didn’t have onion. Both of the meat is the tacos, Al Pastor had pork and Camaron was shrimp, had their own flavor.

EAT TIPS: Vampire Weekend was wrong, this Horchata is meant to be had in all seasons.

Treats Special, Part 1: Ices, Cream, Gelato… Oh my!

Pesso’s Italian Ices rates 5/5 Screen Shot 2015-04-18 at 1.36.11 PM: Excellent creamy.

Map it at: 203-20 35th Ave in Bayside


Here at Pesso’s, the ice cream is only the tip of a sweet’s tooth ice cream dream. The popular creamy has over a 100 flavors (109 to be precise), from Italian ices to the standard diary of frozen yogurt. It is THE shop to go to for in-house made ice cream and with only two buses to take from Jamaica it’s well worth the trip.

Pesso's is tucked on a residential corner in Bayside.

Pesso’s is tucked on a residential corner in Bayside.

The variety of flavors alone is enough to get a sugar high from reading them, even the sugar free Italian Ices should give a boost of excitement.

Variety of flavors of ice cream, Italian ices, cream ices, frozen yogurt and  gelato.

Menu variety of flavors of ice cream, Italian ices, cream ices, frozen yogurt and gelato.

Owner and namesake, Gidon Pesso, runs a “one-man show” for the most part. As a house painter for over 20 years, he wanted something different and always had a hankering for ice cream. The original plan was a space near St. John’s campus, but the unexpected happened.

Some of the many flavors at Pesso's.

Some of the many flavors at Pesso’s.

“Just before I was about to sign the lease, [my friend, who owned this shop previously] said why don’t you just take over the shop… and do your own thing, but here,” said Pesso.

The previous owner was going to make the ice cream for Pesso, but then he left before the end of the first year. He eventually learned and has been a success with the business for 11 years.

Afterward, I sampled the Coffee Brownie Brittle and the Heavenly Chocolate ice creams that’s picture at the top. The richness of the coffee flavor made me wish I had a cup of coffee just to make it what it was meant to be: affogato. As well the heavenly chocolate did the job as being the perfect match with the coffee.

And although it was rich in flavor, it didn’t leave me feeling heavy or come with an acute case of brain-freeze either.

Pesso's stays true to their motto.

Pesso’s stays true to their motto.

Pesso’s favorite flavor: Lemon ice for the “palette.”

Rest assured they do stay open all year: Sunday thru Thursday 11a.m. to 10p.m. and Friday to Saturday 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.

EAT TIPS: They sell out of flavors, so grab yourself a pint for $7. Set forth & enjoy!

Strictly Caffeine: Second Edition

Astoria Coffee rates 4/5 Screen Shot 2015-04-18 at 1.36.11 PM: Cool hipster aesthetic.

Map it at: 3004 30th St in Astoria


This coffee shop is a bit tucked away in one of the busy spots of Astoria, so don’t miss it getting off of the N or the Q train. This edition of “Strictly Caffeine” features Astoria Coffee’s Lemon Ginger tea.

A quaint mug of hot Lemon Ginger tea.

                                     A quaint mug of hot Lemon Ginger tea.

For a calm down on the sugar highs of cupcakes and coffee, I opted for their Lemon Ginger tea. With the clean and neat aesthetic table features, the tea made for a good creative space to pen the paper that’s been sitting in my dock for the past two weeks.

Ohioan and owner of Astoria Coffee, Dennis Lee, started the cafe with his partner, Liz Wick. When they first got to the area the found a lot of coffee shops, but nothing that was them.

Full baked goods of the cafe.

                  Full bar of baked goods of the cafe. Gluten-free is offered as well. 

“When we started talking about opening the store, there were no specialty coffee shops in the neighborhood,” said 31 year-old Lee. “We also wanted to do something of our own.”

With that, things bloomed. Currently, embarking on their first year mark in August, they plan on doing expanding their customer base with alcoholic beverages. Though until then, their popular items are their Espresso and, the up-and-comer, Matcha Latte.

USE

                                                Menu of Astoria Coffee. 

In addition to a versifying their menu, they want to expand their coffee bean delivery service, but that’s still a work in progress.

Courtesy of Astoria Coffee's Instagram.

Courtesy of Astoria Coffee’s Instagram.

For now, customers will just have to settle for the dueling tip jars and modern art hanging on the walls. Open weekday 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and weekends 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

EAT TIPS: Menu $2-6 prices, gluten-free options & the Ice Cream comes from ICE & VICE.

Dessert Before Dinner

Sweets First rates 5/5 Crowns Screen Shot 2015-04-18 at 1.36.11 PM: They sell FAST!

Map it at: 35-04 35th Street in Astoria


Forget the teeny-tiny cupcakes that trap tourists in Manhattan, there is a new shop in NYC that puts customers and family first. “Sweets First,” located in Astoria, is the where The Lonely Island would’ve went to have a “Lazy Sunday.”  Outside_Desserts

Situated across the street from Kaufman Film Studios, it was only ideal to base their creative cupcakes on classic movie titles.

“We allow the customers to choose, but sometimes we come up with the names [too],” said co- owner Charisse Balines.

The group of three, sisters Christine Mendoza and Sandy Nuguid and cousin Charisse Balines, each own and bake in the shop, which recently had it’s two years anniversary on April 18.

The complete Sweets First menu, which includes their seasonal drinks.

The complete Sweets First menu, which includes their seasonal drinks.

Their most popular flavor “The Seinfeld” features the quote: “I love broccoli. It’s good for you… then maybe you’d like to try a piece?” This is because the cupcake itself is broccoli and cheese as well as it’s best seller.

At the inception of the Sienfeld, Balines was pregnant and craving something sweet, so Mendoza decided to make something a bit unconventional.

“We like experimenting with other flavors,” said Mendoza. “I woke up after a dream and whipped [the Sienfeld] up and Charisse liked it.”

The cupcakes from (L to R): Salted Caramel,

The cupcakes from (L to R): Salted Caramel, “The Breakfast Club,” “Notebook.”

Unfortunately, the Sienfeld was sold out at the time of my interview, so I sampled (in order of their appearance above) their salted caramel cupcake (unnamed at the moment), the “Breakfast Club”, and the “The Notebook.”

Each cake had it’s own unique quality. Their salted caramel had a rich chocolate cake that wanted me wanting more. In addition, their special ingredient in this cupcake is what will have any foodie going back for seconds in the future.

The “Notebook” had a red velvet cake that was light and fluffy and with a Nutella frosting; it was an appetizing divergent from the usual red velvet matchup.

A

A “movie poster” list of their cupcake           selection.

However, my favorite was the “The Breakfast Club.” With a cinnamon cake topped with maple syrup frosting and bacon piece, it would make Guy Fieri’s hair lay flat from how sweet and savory it is. Hint: Eat the cupcake then a bit of the bacon and thank me later.

The next step for the family trio: adding more flavorful cupcakes, incorporating coffee and (long down the road) opening up a franchise on the West coast.

I’ll be crossing my fingers, but, in the meantime, I’ll happily settle for a dozen in Astoria.

Signed,

The Breakfast Club *cue Simple Minds*

EAT TIPS: For real a sweet-tooth, try the Flan bubble Tea. There isn’t a card minimum, but also no gluten-free options yet, but they’re working on it. Set forth and enjoy!

Strictly Caffeine: First Edition

Introducing our new rating system “Emoji Crown”: Screen Shot 2015-04-18 at 1.36.11 PM

OK Café rates 4/5 emoji crowns!

Map it at: 22-04 33rd St Astoria, NY


A few weeks ago, I wrote an article on the Panorama Café. Though, it received positive comments, some wanted a more concentrated coffee shop. Happily, I can report that those wishes have been granted. For the caffeine fanatics of Queens, behold OK Café.

This café has it all: gluten-free baked goods, vegan goodies, delightful baristas, seasonal specialties and baby cappuccinos served without the side of caffeine. Though, there isn’t much seating, it is hard not to stay longer than the time to drink your coffee.

The Ok Café has a small seating of three tables and bar stools facing the windows.

The Ok Café has a small seating of three tables and bar stools facing the windows.

Wife and husband owners, Giselle and Predrag Grncarski, opened up shop in less than a year ago in August 2014, but have had a steady business of customers since.

“I think that it’s a different kind of cafe than Astoria’s had before,” Giselle said. “We just decided to do something that breaks the mold about that. We still want to have an atmosphere that people feel comfortable familiar in, but not just the same thing, same thing.”

 The seasonally most popular of their specialty drinks being the "Magic 8 Ball."

The seasonally most popular of their specialty drinks being the “Magic 8 Ball.”

There is nothing the same here as the majority of there menu are specialty coffee and tea of the hot and cold variety.

With the recent rise in temperature, the signature iced coffee, “Magic 8 Ball,” is the way to go. Made with a New Orleans French Press and heavy milk, the drink is the perfect balance of light sweetness, strong coffee and a smidgen of milk.

Sweet iced coffee with a New Orleans French Press.

                                                           The seasonally popular “Magic 8 Ball.”

Before departing, I left with the “London Fog” tea for a different caffeine. Only to be describe as a warm tea with steamed milk, which is preferred to tradition for tea drinkers, it’s a drink that pairs well with the little breakfast snack you want on the go.

This is the menu of drinks for the regular drinks. It features hot and cold varieties.

This is the menu of drinks for the regular drinks. It features hot and cold varieties.

As the menu prices range from $3.75 to $5, it fits comfortably in the “Queens Cheap Eats” title.

Their bean comes from Counter Culture while their baked good come from Colson Patisserie with-gluten items and This Chick Bakes for the gluten-free items.

They are open Monday thru Thursday 7am to 7pm, Friday 7am to 8pm, Saturday 8am to 8pm and Sunday  8am to 7pm.

EAT TIPS: Great for families, get a specialty caffeine and they do take cards! Set forth & enjoy!

A Café Paradise

A walkable distance from Saint John’s University, Panorama Café is the ideal of what coffee shops set out to be. This quaintly hidden café is situated down Parsons Boulevard on 84 Drive and 85 Avenue in Jamaica, Queens.

Picture of the sign taken outside the 84-73 Parsons Blvd in Jamaica Queens.

Picture of the sign taken outside the 84-73 Parsons Blvd in Jamaica Queens.

Following the philosophy and inspiration of Sri Chinmoy, the Panorama of My Silence-Heart Cafe encases the true spiritual and calming atmosphere of meditation in the decor and food.

From detox drinks to gluten-free baked goods, this café is perfect for anyone looking to study, read or even start their new cleanse.

Owner, Shashanka Karlen, created the the café after helping a friend with his gourment vegetarian restaurant, The Oneness- Fountain-Heart, which also follows the mission of Chinmoy.

“I have been interested in food all my life,” said 54-year old Karlen. “[And] we want to be a place where people can be inspired.”

With food specials and soup brought in daily, there is no shortage of good eats.

One of the cafe's foamy specials containing a double shot, milk, chocolate an caramel.

One of the cafe’s foamy specials containing a double shot, milk, chocolate an caramel.

Personally, having had their signature coffee, the Panorama Latte was a delight. Although, there wasn’t “latte art” to be found, the experience and generosity of the staff was enough to have me back again.

If you’re not into coffee that’s okay too, with a menu of items less than $10 there is a bit of something for everyone.

EAT TIPS: Closed on Mondays & they close everyday at 6 p.m. Great for a vegetarian too! Set forth & enjoy!