Alpha Astoria

2 german girls review greek cafes in Astoria Queens

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Park Kafe- 30th Ave and 30th St

We know you missed us last week, but don't worry too much. The old-lady mafia didn't take us down. We were just a little busy, and we're back!

Park Cafe is the reincarnation of Baru (which received this rather unflattering review from Joey in Astoria). Neither of us ever visited Baru but Park Cafe must be a huge improvement.

The decor is trendy and cute. If it weren't for the Greek columns visible across the street in Athens Park, you could almost imagine you were in Manhattan (not that we don't love Astoria). It was a beautiful day, but we're still wary of sitting outside until it's a little warmer out (and then it will probably be too warm out and we'll want to sit inside because we are ridiculously difficult). If Amy had a porch she would consider registering for the adorable stripy patio chairs (perhaps she should register for a house, or at the very least a yard, instead). The wide open windows and the incredibly comfy leather chairs made us see why people choose to lounge in the cafes for hours on end. There were a few questionable choices (the surface of the bar probably didn't *need* to glow...), yet that seems to be the norm.

We had conflicting opinions on the bathroom and thus will have to review it separately -- maybe one of you can make a visit and cast the tie breaking vote.

Amy says: After the past two HORRIBLE bathrooms (Zodiac and Byzantine, I'm looking at you), walking into the bathroom at Park Kafe was like walking into bathroom-paradise. The sink was stunning, and with the exception of the ass-ugly rose petals in the decorative bowl, the decor was nice, yet still understated. The bathroom was not trying too hard. I didn't even notice the iridescent of the wall tiles until I was about to leave. Not to mention, automatic hand-dryers are theoretically better for the environment than paper towels. Bravo Park Kafe. I give it 4.5/5.

Brianna says: Amy made the first visit to the bathroom and came back gushing so I had no choice but to also embark on a trip to the loo. It probably is the nicest cafe bathroom that we've been to (though i was horribly bored with no graffiti to entertain me) but Amy may have oversold. The wall tile is a funky iridescent color but the grout work is sloppy and the round bowl-like sink is impressive but it's neighboring silver plate is a sad obvious attempt to cover up the hole in the counter meant for a second sink. Also: No paper towels. I give it a 3/5.

The menu was the typical behemoth, you can have anything from steak-on-a-stick to fried ravioli to pineapple mojitos. There are surprisingly few Greek options (save a plate of dips a la Zodiac, and a tempting baked cheese appetizer). Though we entered the cafe with the desire for some honey drenched, philo-baked goodness, there was not one to be ordered. We opted instead for fondue ($10.95) and two Frappes (3.75 each). The Frappes were, again, over ice instead of blended which we are all but convinced is the ideal. We've set a goal of solving one cafe mystery per review and today we were able to verify the pronunciation for Frappe -- we can now officially stop looking like uncultured ogres -- it's Frap-ay.

The fondue, though great to look at wasn't smooth enough and we felt like the combo of cheese and bread could have benefited from some roughage (apples? carrots?) to dip in between slices of carbs coated in fat but neither of these points kept us from consuming almost the entire bowl. The menu described the fondue as a blend of a few cheeses and you could really taste the feta which gave it a sharp edge that we both enjoyed. We peeked onto the plates of the tables around us and spied two huge decadent looking ice cream sundaes, so we plan on a revisit for American dessert sometime in the near future.

The patrons skewed young, and predominantly Greek-speaking, despite the lack of Greek cuisine. The group of five boys sitting next to us were attractive and friendly (We kept taking pictures of what seemed like the back of their heads. They may have thought we were stalking them) and the group of ladies in the back were equally attractive.

Service was good...our pretty Greek waitress was ready to take our order before we were (because we were slackers- not because she rushed us), and our food came quickly. However she did dally a bit in bringing the check after we finished (perhaps allowing us opportunity to lounge).

Awesome Astoria Activity:

Athens Park.... complete with statue of Athena straight from Athens (thanks guys!)

Overall, here's the final score:

Food: 3.5
Service: 4
Ambiance: 5
Average Attractiveness of Staff: 4
Average Attractiveness of Patrons: 4.5

Friday, May 12, 2006

Byzantio-- 31st St and 28th Ave

Byzantio is very chic – they have adorable red and yellow hanging lights over the spacious bar, comfy brown leather(ette?) chairs, a megatouch machine (not located next to the bathrooms), three flat screen TVs, somewhat subtle red lighting accenting the walls and the cutest waitresses so far (and that's saying something!). They are located next to the train tracks, so sitting by the front windows is loud (we quickly relocated, despite the excellent view we had of Zodiac), but they have tons of room (and tons and tons of empty tables). The patronage was younger than that of the last few cafes we've been to, and much more attractive. No possibly homeless men sleeping in the corners here.

Their pastry case is pathetic in comparison to all of the others we’ve seen, except for perhaps Zodiac-- we’d hardly blame them for accosting photographers – you wouldn’t want word to get out that you're slacking in the Greek pastry department. The display was probably only 5 feet wide and it didn’t even light up. It’s hard for the L things to call your name when they can’t see you due to lack of proper illumination. How can you expect the E things to thrive if they have to live in the equivalent of a cake deprivation room?

The menu is strangely devoid of Greek food –they have Greek salad and baklava but other than that it’s hamburgers and tuna sandwiches (Well, “tuna toast”). They also offer a plate of “fresh ground beef” covered in marinara sauce and bacon and served with French fries. One has to wonder why this is not smothered in gravy. If you’re gonna tempt heart failure, have some balls. They did have frappes ($3.50) – so it’s still a café. While ordering we decided to do a little investigative reporting and we managed to squeeze some info out of our waitress about the Greek toast mystery that was discovered during our mis-adventures at Lifkos Pirgos. We asked her what it was (Christina Amanpour better watch out). Turns out it’s just a ham and cheese sandwich – we were advised not to order it, so we got a pizza with tomato, ham and feta ($9.00) instead.

The frappes were like those at Zodiac in that they were not ice-y, but just sugary milk and Nescafe over ice – this may lend credence to Amy’s fiancé’s theory about the two cafés sharing one owner (even though the menus were totally different). Unfortunately the frappes were nowhere near as good as those at Zodiac mostly because they were full of little undissolved Nescafe chunks. The pizza was okay, but our opinion of it went down the more we ate. The ham and under-ripe tomato lacked any distinguishable flavor and the feta was pretty mild. There was some other filler cheese swimming around that we couldn’t identify. The crust was okay though – crisp if a little thick.

Two of the TVs in the room were predictably set to Greek news so we weren’t paying much attention until out of the corner of her eye Brianna spotted a Trade Fair commercial. We watched the whole commercial, mouths agape. Greek TV originates right here in Astoria! All this time we had assumed it was a satellite feed from the motherland. The commercial made Trade Fair look clean and well stocked-- someone should confront them about lying to new immigrants.

Brianna made a trip to the bathroom and it was disgusting -- they definitely need to get their cleaning crew backstage. The walls, however, were a treasure trove of graffiti goodness. This café visit was a reconnaissance mission and we discovered that there is an Astoria race war taking place exclusively on the bathroom walls at Byzantio. The front line appears to be 15 year old girls calling each other bitches and hos.

We’re awash in awesome Astoria activities this week:

Dance lessons!

Hanging out in an empty lot! (it’s rave time folks! Pass it on!)

Perhaps watching Lost a bit too obsessively has made us mystery whores, but Greek Café Tour ’06 is feeling a little like under-cover work these days. And, again like Lost, just when you think you’re getting things figured out you realize you know nothing.

Mysteries solved:
1. Greek Toast = Grilled Ham and Cheese
2. There’s a NY based Greek tv station (or Trade fair has expanded internationally so that people in Greece can enjoy their tini tiny aisle and sub-par produce… but really, Occam’s razor.)

Remaining/New Mysteries:
1. Where do all the café’s get matching Café Freddo glasses?
2. How do these cafés stay in business with so few customers?
3. What do those Greek stores with the weird tulle things sell and who is buying it?
4. Are American girls all bitches?

Tune in next time….

Food: 2
Service: 4
Ambiance: 4.5 (-.5 for the germy bathroom)
Average Attractiveness of Staff: 4.5
Average Attractiveness of Patrons: 4

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Zodiac -- 31st and Newtown

Cafe number 5 and it's only May!

Brianna walks by Zodiac late at night on her way home from watching trashy television at Amy's house, and the strobe lights and loud music had her convinced that it was some sort of restaurant/dance club fusion venue. But, despite the small number of pastries on the menu, we were able to order frappes so it *must* be a cafe!

Zodiac carries the astrology theme throughout their decor. The signs of the zodiac adorn the walls and tables, we half hoped for fortune-stuffed baklava. The big blue chairs cradled our tushies and invited us to linger at our table long after our bellies were full -- a good furniture choice for people who want to sell you more coffee and booze. The only questionable decorating choices were the randomly placed faux stone columns and purple track lighting in the molding (inspired by the undercarriage lights perviously seen only on tricked out Hondas).

The crowd was more mixed then we had previously seen -- some of the customers were not only NOT Greek, they weren't even European! The wait staff was older (all things being relative -- they were probably in their early 40s at the oldest) and very inconspicuous. We had 2 waitresses and a busboy and we can't remember any of them speaking -- in general the service was good though slightly creepy in a "The Night of the Zombie Waiters" sort of way.

The frappes.. they were awesome! They were less icey and frapachino-ish than those we've had at previous cafe's and had the perfect level of sweetness and only $3.25. The lack of desserts and the time of day (7pm) lead us to order the Pikilia ($9.95) -- 3 dips: baba ganoush, tzatziki and mystery smoked fish dip served with warm pita and sesame bread sticks. All of the dips were super yummy. The baba ganoush very garlicky, but in a good way. The tzatziki was good though maybe a little watery. The third dip was a bit of a mystery, it was defiantly of oceanic (or lake-ian) origin with a little diary mixed in and perhaps some liquid smoke -- we spent a good 5 mins trying it and wrinkling our faces up in deep thought playing name that flavor but we never came up with anything more specific than, "it's good...ish..."

The bathroom was... well, a bathroom. Amy felt it didn't fit in with the rest of the decor, due to it's excessive plainness. It was a private room versus a group bathroom, but it just wasn't that nice-- the toilet seat was loose, there were tape remnants on the wall. However, it did it's job, so whatever. If only they had carried the Zodiac theme into the bathroom-- a stall for each sign. Brianna wishes to offer suggestions to Zodiac, involving urine and the "scales" of Libra, but Amy thinks it might offend the sensibilities of our gentle readers, so we'll leave it to your imaginations. There was also another MegaTouch machine outside of the bathrooms, so a trend has officially been tracked.

Amazing Astoria Activities:

Well, you could always go to the cafe across the street (that Amy's fiance swears is owned by the same people, possibly due to the neon lighting on the outside, but that has not been confirmed by anyone who's not just speculating):

There's what Amy believes to be a dance club next door:

Food: 4.5
Service: 4
Ambiance: 5 (Amy really liked the blue chairs)
Average Attractiveness of Staff: 3
Average Attractiveness of Patrons: 2.5