After months of hearing rave reviews, I finally got myself to the Queens Kickshaw, a new establishment in Astoria that serves “fancy” grilled cheese sandwiches, craft beer, and specialty coffee. Thanks to the power of Twitter, I organized a a casual “tweetup” with fellow Queens resident foodies @Stellaaa, @RoxWriting, and @mojoshowbiz, some of whom I met in person for the very first time.
All of the sandwiches on the menu, as seen on the website (screenshot below), sounded tasty and we arrived with a strategy.
We agreed in advance to order four different sandwiches, and split them all in quarters so we could have a sample taste of each. It was a brilliant idea and one I suggest you employ if you want to avoid the awful dilemma of have to choose just one sandwich.
After some deliberation, we decided on the Manchego & Ricotta, Gouda, Gruyere, and Fontina (clockwise, at 12 o’clock) . All the sandwiches were delicious in their own right but it would be unlike me not to compare and contrast them. So in order of least to most favorite based solely on personal preference, they are….drum roll please…
While I was prepared for the open-faced Fontina Val d’Aosta, my palette craved the crispiness of a two-sided, grilled cheese. The familiar pairing of basil pesto with the soft focaccia was lovely but by sheer virtue of sandwich construction, I placed it last.
The Gruyere reminded me so much of a pastrami sandwich without the meat. The pickled and caramelized onion, the mustard, the rye bread are the building blocks of a pastrami sandwich. This one was a wonderful vegetarian alternative if you are craving those flavors.
In the rare instances that I see guava on a menu, I almost always order it. The fruit, and its tarty taste, remind me so much of the Philippines. The sweetness of the jam juxtaposed with the creaminess of the black been hummus and Gouda cheese plus the pickled jalapanos created a complexity of flavors that I really enjoyed. The grilled brioche melted in my mouth which added a different dimension of texture to your traditional grilled cheese sandwich.
I really loved the Gouda sandwich and the Manchego & Ricotta barely eeked past it as my favorite of the four. I think what it boiled down to was my preference today for something not sweet. Essentially, this sandwich reminded me of an eggplant tapenade. The smooth texture of the cheeses and the pureed eggplant with whole briny capers was a winning combination.
After taking a quarter of each sandwich, we coined our newly formed concoction the “Franken-sandwich” (with a Guatemalan pour over coffee in the background).
The place was packed at 1pm on Sunday. Long tables in the back and a large table in the front allowed several parties to sit together, promoting a casual intimacy and sense of connection. The place definitely gave off a Williamsburg vibe where attention to detail, decor, craftmanship, and service were top priorities. It is quite a change from most of the establishments in the neighborhood. At our table, we (three of Filipino & one of Italian descent) sat beside four Tibetan women speaking in their native tongue and a solitary man wearing a plaid shirt and headphones, typing away on his Macbook. I smiled at a sudden realization.
When I think of Queens’ great asset, its ethnic diversity, I must admit that I often think of its new immigrants. I forget that there are people who have lived in this borough all their lives, whose families have lived here for several generations. Heck, I forget that even hipsters are a part of this great borough. In Astoria, once a neighborhood where all my childhood Greek friends lived, all are welcome. Our table at the Queens Kickshaw reflected just that.
Owners, Ben Sandler and Jennifer Lim, took the time to chat with us despite the restaurant’s constant incoming flow of people. When it was time to take the obligatory group photo, the only appropriate response at the end of the countdown was of course, “Grilled Cheese!”
The Queens Kickshaw
Astoria, NY 11103