Expert Picks

The Expert’s Guide to Astoria

You can take Jess Bender out of Queens, but you can't take Queens out of Jess Bender.

Alicja Kwade, ‘REVOLUTION (Gravitas),’ 2017/Photo courtesy the Artist & Socrates Sculpture Park

Before I was an Uptown Girl, I was the Queen of Queens. While my address was technically in Woodside, my heart—and waking hours—was in Astoria. I don’t get to hang out in my beloved neighborhood as much as I want to nowadays, but I’m always game for a stroll down Memory Lane (or 30th Avenue). And when I do, I make sure to stop at all the spots below. Follow my lead for a perfect Astoria day.

Brooklyn Bagel & Coffee Company

As a loud-and-proud lover of bagels from Long Island, I’m pretty particular when it comes to my boiled and baked rings of dough. Despite its name having a bit of an identity crisis—there are three locations in Queens and one in Manhattan—Brooklyn Bagel most closely resembles my beloved breakfast. While its ever-rotating cream cheese lineup and hard-to-find bagel varieties like spelt and pumpkin seed are tempting, my order remains consistent: a whole wheat everything bagel, never toasted, with lox scallion cream cheese. 36-14 30th Avenue and 35-05 Broadway

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Best with a generous schmear….and never toasted / Photo courtesy of Brooklyn Bagel & Coffee Company

Socrates Sculpture Park

What this sculpture garden lacks in sheen, it more than makes up for in charm. With my Brooklyn Bagel breakfast in hand, I spent many weekend mornings perusing the abstract art installations scattered throughout the space. Its off-the-beaten-path location on the edge of the neighborhood made it my go-to calm escape whenever I needed a reprieve from the bustle of Queens. 32-01 Vernon Boulevard

Noguchi Museum

Admittedly, this is one of those institutions I wish I discovered when I lived closer to it. The fact that it was designed by one of my favorite sculptors at the tail end of his career—Isamu Noguchi—and holds his life’s work makes it especially poignant. Plus, I can’t resist multiple sculpture garden visits in a single Queens outing. 9-01 33rd Road

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A place made for solitude, The Noguchi Museum, New York. Nicholas Knight / Photo courtesy of The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, New York

Astoria Bookshop

Currently known as the only indie bookstore in the borough, this storefront boasts a stellar selection of fiction, memoirs, and children’s literature. Its expansive cookbook collection first lured me in, but it’s the sense of community that keeps me coming. A reading series at nearby L.I.C. Bar, signings by bestselling authors like Roxane Gay, a feminist-focused book club, a curated subscription series…how does this bookshop know everything I love? 31-29 31st Street

Photo by Val D/Yelp

King of Falafel and Shawarma

I first heard about this elusive Queens royalty in college when an acquaintance mentioned that his uncle was the King of Falafel. (Dream job, amiright?) While the food truck–turned–brick-and-mortar is by no means regal, the Middle Eastern plates here most certainly are. I try to get a pint of the baba ghanoush and foul mudammas whenever I go to keep in my fridge…and then order a falafel sandwich and some fried kibbeh for the ride home. 30-15 Broadway

Welling Court Mural Project

Like most urban art lovers, I’ve been depressed about 5Pointz’s demolition since the moment it was announced several years ago. I’ve since found a few alternatives to fill the void in my graffiti-loving heart, one of which is this colorful mecca around the Welling Court community. Come for the art, stay for the endless selfie opportunities. (I’m only half kidding.) 11-98 Welling Court

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The new 5Pointz, perhaps? / Photo by Garrison Buxton

Astoria Bier and Cheese

Since we’re on the topic of IPAs and stouts, most of the six-packs I bought while living here came from this Broadway location—along with many, many, many blocks of Cheddar and Brie. If you have time to linger for a bit, order a pint at the bar and a grilled cheese, because you’re an adult and you can eat whatever your heart desires for dinner. 34-14 Broadway

Gossip Coffee

Instagram originally told me I needed to go to this café for chef Scottish Francis’s epicly sweet concoctions when he was running the kitchen. His Prosciutto Guinness doughnut may be heaven in the palm of my hand, but this place became my home away from home for different reasons. Iced tea on tap, super-fast wifi, an adorable patio area, and floor-to-ceiling windows perfect for 30th Avenue people-watching…what more could a girl possibly want? 37-04 30th Avenue

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The decor is almost as delicious as their iced tea on draft / Photo courtesy of Gossip Coffee

SingleCut Beersmiths

I’m always a fan of supporting local breweries, and this may be one of the best. The brews change out frequently in its taproom, which gives me a great excuse to make the journey to refill my growler. The trip home was always a little long, so a few pints and a round of barbecue from nearby Salt + Bone give plenty of sustenance to make it back in one (slightly tipsy) piece. 19-33 37th Street

Photo courtesy of SingleCut Beersmiths

Artopolis Bakery

When you think of Astoria, you probably think Greek food! For me specifically, I think baklava! You know this bakery’s legit because it has Al Roker’s seal of approval. (You can’t miss his face; it’s pretty much everywhere in the space.) 23-18 31st Street