Alpha Astoria

2 german girls review greek cafes in Astoria Queens

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Avenue Café – 30th Ave and 36th St

The waitstaff at Avenue Café has uniforms that match the awning -- this sounds awful now that we’ve written it down, but it’s actually rather cute. Not as cute as retro "Mel’s Diner" inspired dresses would be, but since Avenue café doesn’t even serve grits (and thus threatening customers with grit-kissing would be pointless) the matching t-shirts are good enough. As far as we can tell the hostess is free to dress as she wishes. If we owned Avenue Café we would impose a company-wide “no lace leggings” rule in order to rein in her Lindsey Lohan inspired fashion choices.

Brianna (who, as you may remember, holds the title of resident Greek expert due to spending 10 whole days in the motherland last summer) does not recall a plethora of light-up walls from her travels, but they certainly are popular here in Astoria. Avenue’s offering is less offensive than most… but it’s still a (huge) light up wall. MTV2 was playing on the flat-screen but the club music spewing forth very, very loudly from the millions of wall-mounted speakers was from some other source. Our hatred of lace leggings plus these complaints about the loud devil music might be the evidence that we are approaching 30 at a much too speedy clip.

We ordered frappes ($3.75) and the small mezze sampler. The sampler consisted of fried cheese, pita, grilled chicken, cucumber, tomato, olives and two items we had never heard of (Lautza and Loukanico) which the nice waitress informed us were smoked pork (turned out to be basically fried ham…) and some type of sausage. The frappes seemed to have a heavier coffee flavor than most-- which Amy liked and Brianna didn’t (odd since Amy is usually the more wimpy coffee drinker). We had mixed feelings about the food: The sausage, the cheese and especially the ham and cheese rolls stacked on cucumber and tomato slices: YUM! The chicken (dry), the fried ham (fried ham?) and the olives (how can olives lack flavor?): blah. We decided to top of our evening (and thighs) with a nutella crepe with vanilla ice cream (~$6) which was wonderfully delicious (but really how do you ruin nutella crepes?).

Service was a little spotty— we had finished our water and frappes and even after we asked for more water it took quite a long while to appear. However, the waitress was very nice, and even came back to correct her first explanation of what Loukanico was. The patronage was mainly young and attractive—possibly the club-going types that would enjoy the music that was giving Amy a headache and making Brianna reminisce about why she doesn’t like dance clubs. There was one women wearing an inexplicable top…it was like a tank top with a very wide cowel neck sown over the top… but otherwise everyone was much hipper than us.

Awesome Astoria Activities:

Anyone up for billiards? Snooker?

Food: 3.5
Service: 3
Patron Attractiveness: 4
Wait Staff Attractiveness: 4.5
Ambiance: 3.5

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Frappés Hit the Big Time

While pursing the fluffier side of the New York Times I came across an article on summertime drinks from around the world. Our humble little neighborhood drink made a stunning appearance:

Cafe Kolonaki, in Astoria, is one of New York's most authentic Greek cafes and a destination for lovers of the frappé, Greece's addictive national drink.

"Greeks drink frappés all day and all night when it's hot outside," said Stefanos Lintzeris, an owner of the cafe, which stocks special shakers and a kind of Nescafé instant coffee that is made just for the frappé.

Made from cold water, instant coffee and sugar, a frappé is distinguished by the thick mocha-colored foam at the top of the drink, produced by violent shaking. There is no milk in it, but a creamy foam is the mark of a well-made frappé. (The word is French, pronounced frap-PAY, even though the drink was invented in Greece in the 1950's.)

"I drink them all day," said Fernanda DaSilva, a Cafe Kolonaki waitress in a "Brasil" tank top on the first day of World Cup play. "By the afternoon I am running up and down the stairs and bouncing off the walls."

No Milk! Color us shocked. Normally we cannot stomach coffee in anywhere near it's black form but I guess once its been freeze dried and saturated with sugar coffee approaches edible even without dairy.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Wassi Cafe -- 28th Ave and 37th St

Wassi Café falls into the “Maybe-not-a-Greek-Café” category, and since the visit fell on a day when we updated our long Cafes To Do List, we couldn’t help but wonder if we really had to go here. This isn’t to say that it was a pleasant place to waste a bit of a summer evening, just that the evening in question did not involve any frothy Nescafe goodness.

Wassi is little and seems pretty new to the neighborhood. It gives off a very cute coffee-shop vibe with décor that is a little plain but comfy. There’s some nice artwork on the walls and they have cushy looking black leather(ette?) couches inside. They also offer wireless internet access (a first for an Astoria café!). The outdoor seating area is tiny, just four very welcoming tables; and since summer has finally begun we were very happy to snag one. It may be a sign that wedding overload has put us in a scary homemaking frame of mind but we also noticed that Wassi has two different very adorable types of sugar dispensers.

Since there were no frappes to be found we both ordered iced skim milk cappuccinos ($3.75) (all accusation that we are yuppie slime have just been proven). The drinks came with a sprinkling of cinnamon which we couldn’t quite decide if we liked, it looked pretty and in general we like cinnamon but it had a bit an eggnog vibe which was off putting in June (Bri is a very seasonal eater).

Wassi claims to have sandwiches and wraps but when we asked about them we were told that they were all out of food except for pastries. Amy ordered a croissant ($2.00) and Brianna 2 small danishes ($2.50 for one raspberry and one cheese). The waitress warmed up the croissant and it was delicious in a way only French pastries made with tons of butter can be. The danishes were ok… a little dry, probably because they’d been waiting around since morning to be eaten.

The absolute best thing about Wassi is that after the food is taken away, but before the waitress brings your check, she brings you free cookies! The small wafer cookies in chocolate sauce were a yummy surprise, though they might have been more complimentary (excuse the unintentional pun) with our coffees, as opposed to afterwards. However, as seen in earlier entries, we don’t diss the free. We’ve even been considering buying matching neighborhoodies with our slogan on the back (“Please buy us off!”).

Awesome Astoria Activities:


Right down the street is a very cute-looking bar, with apparently free viewings of independent films on Wednesday evenings. However, and according to the review on the door there are often fights. So it might be a trade off…

Food: 2.5 (though we should perhaps reconsider after visiting at a time when food is available…)
Service: 3.5
Ambiance: 3
Average Attractiveness of Staff: 3.5
Average Attractiveness of Patrons: 4

What We've gotten into Update

Still lots of caffeine to consume...

Athens Cafe -- 30th and 32nd
Omonia Cafe -- Broadway and 33rd
Kolonaki Cafe -- Broadway and 33rd
Zodiac -- 31st and Newtown
Byzantine -- 31st and Newtown
Lefkos Pyrgos -- 23rd Ave at 31st
Park Kafe -- 30th and 30th
Wassi Coffee Lounge -- 28th and 37th

To Do
Plaza Cafe -- 30th and 29th
Cafe Bar -- 36th and 32nd
Cavo Cafe -- 31st and 42nd
Grand Cafe -- 30th and 37th
Flo -- 30th and 38th
Lefkos Pyrgos -- 23rd at 31st
Avenue Cafe -- 30th and 36th
Santorini -- Steinways and ??
Galaxy -- 30th and 37th
Flo, -- 38th and 30th ave
Avenue Cafe -- 30th and 36th
Galaxy -- 30th and 37th
Locale -- 34th and 33rd
Elite- 28th and 32nd

*updated 6/17/06 by amy*

Sunday, June 11, 2006

A Brief Commercial Interruption

Awhile back I received an email from Brianna who asked if I "want some free coffee and a mug?" The answer to that is of course, yes, as I very rarely turn down free things. So I went off to check out the good folks (and the free wares) at Boca Java. True to their word, I received more coffee than I could ever hope for in the mail. The only thing left to hope was that it would be worth the sacrifice of counter and freezer space...

The deal with getting free coffee though, is that after you get it, it must be reviewed. I assume if I didn't review it I would get an invoice of some sort in the mail. I don't want to get on the bad side of people who shower me with free gifts, so here I am, dutifully spending my Sunday evening shilling for the man instead of finishing my bridesmaid's gifts. That's the kind of dedicated free-stuff-getter I am.

My honest opinion of coffee lies somewhere like this: I sorta like it.

  • I like coffee better iced.
  • I like coffee better with ungodly amounts of sugar in it.
  • I don't like cream in my coffee, but I do like whole milk. However, we only keep skim milk in our house.

None of these are putting me up there as a supreme coffee-reviewer. Thankfully, Boca Java never said you had to love coffee in order to get it for free. And luckily I live with a boy who does love coffee... So much so that he needs none of my "training wheels"-- he drinks it black, no sugar. We had a nice thing going: he drank the coffee I made, I made it as much to my likings as possible, and here we all are finding the ultimate answer: What do we really think about Boca Java and the coffee that they provide-- and the blogging market they are so desperately trying to corner?

Out of the six (6!) coffees that they provided for my reviewing pleasure, I have tried 3 of them so far. We have not tried two of those remaining three because they are flavored (Joe dislikes flavored coffees, and even I felt they sounded a little too much) and one because we just haven't made too much coffee lately. The untested coffees are: Late Night Log In; Blogger Fuel, Blogger's Pajama Passion: Life's Short. Blog Hard. and Blogger's Beach Blast: Go Ahead. Make My Blog.

Something to keep in mind during my reviews is that even though Boca Java does have whole-bean coffee, I ordered it pre-ground. Then I brewed it in our press pot, so the integrity of the coffee may have been compromised.

Now, what we've all been waiting for (assuming that you're still reading)... The contenders:

We tried this one first, and liked it but didn't love it. It had a great rich smell, and beautiful color. It was a little to intense for my tastes though. I plan to give it another chance one of these days.
This was my favorite. It had a nicely round flavor, and tasted really good the way I like it: sweet over ice. Joe had it hot, and deemed it his favorite immediately. We tried this one yesterday morning. There was a slight brewing accident, so we were a little worried it wouldn't taste right. However, it was good (if a little bitter due to the fact that I got grinds all over...) And I'm not just saying that to be nice to the purveyors of free stuff. It was the first one that I had tried hot, and I really enjoyed it-- though not as much as the New media Mavericks. Again, I might want to make it again, correctly before condemning it, especially as it was totally drinkable in it's "whoops!" state.

So my final thought is: New Media Mavericks is great. Bold, rich, yummy. All a girl could ask for in free coffee. And I hold faith that their flavored coffees will live up to the standards that have been set for them. And that standard is set at this : that there's some damn fine coffee.

And now back to your cafe-reviewing pleasure.