A Taste of Italy at Da Franco

Located right off of Astoria Park at 23-92 21st Street, you will find Da Franco RestaurantDa Franco offers a few outside tables to enjoy a good weather day and also has a wide selection of gelato to cool you off from the summer heat.  Their menu is extensive but that just means there is more to try and enjoy.

To start, they brought a plate of freshly baked crostini drizzled in olive oil. It was right out of the oven and still warm so it was devoured rather quickly.  All of the pastas at Da Franco are home-made on the premises.  Being a pasta and seafood lover, I tried the Spaghetti Ai Frutti Di Mare.  It met all of my expectations.  The fresh spaghetti pasta sautéed with extra virgin olive oil and garlic in a light tomato sauce was surrounded by a plentiful portion of seafood which included mussels, calamari, clams and shrimp.  It was absolutely delicious and I will definitely order it again.

It wouldn’t be a visit to Da Franco without getting one of their brick oven pizzas.  Da Franco uses home-made mozzarella directly from his own factory in Ridgewood, NY and you can taste that freshness.  I really enjoyed the margherita pizza.  The crust was thin and was a nice balance between doughy and crispy – I thought it was just right.

The mission at Da Franco is to make everyone feel at home at their family restaurant.  I can say that I enjoyed my visits there immensely.  The friendly service and the food will keep me coming back.

A Taste of New England in NYC

lobster shack

Craving a delicious lobster roll but not able to get to New England?  Well, the tastes of New England have come to New York City by way of the Urban Lobster Shack!  With two Urban Lobster locations, one in the East Village (240 E Houston St # 2) and one in the Financial District(15 Stone St. btwn Broad St. and Broadway) you don’t have to go too far to enjoy a scrumptious lobster roll or one of the many other delicious options offered. 

I stumbled upon Urban Lobster by luck – I walked past it on the way to the train after work.  Many times, I would see the sign with the special combos being offered for lobster rolls and shrimp rolls as I headed for the train.  Sure enough, if you look carefully, hidden amidst other restaurants and a parking garage entrance, is a tiny space serving lobster rolls.  Since I was heading home when I’d pass by, I tried to make it a point to remember to come for lunch some time.   Finally, the timing was right and I tried the lobster roll special offered for window service customers.  This special included a lobster roll, soup, chips, and coleslaw.  Needless to say, I have been coming back ever since.  I recently tried their shrimp roll special and the spicy crab & sweet corn chowder (pictured above).   Every bite was delectable and my lunch was quickly devoured. 

Even though it is a very small location, especially the one in the Financial District, they have a wide variety of seafood, soups and side items on the menu in addition to the specials listed outside.  So if you are in the area of either of their two locations and love seafood, don’t pass by the Urban Lobster Shack without a visit!

When You Can’t Travel – Dine Instead!



Salmon Tartare

Salmon Tartare









Enter the cozy setting at Bistro Les Minots, located at 47-17 30th Avenue in Astoria and it is easy to forget that you are in NY.  The eager to please owners at this French Bistro are very welcoming and work hard to ensure that your dining experience is an enjoyable one.  I went with a larger group so we were in the back area of the restaurant.  Even, with a large group, our waiter was very accommodating with any questions we had and offered helpful suggestions for our orders. 

Eager to try French cuisine for the first time, I sampled three dishes during this meal.  My first and most adventurous dish was an appetizer portion of Les Escargots de Bourgogne which is described on the menu as sautéed snails served in a puff pastry with garlic, parsley, shallots and red wine.  Since they were not served in their shells but in a pastry, I thought it would be the best way to try escargot.  Even though I was nervous that these were in fact snails that I was eating, the dish itself was quite delicious and beautifully plated.  I also ordered the appetizer portion of Le Tartare de Saumon.  It was fantastic!  The small cuts of fresh salmon, cucumber and mango covered in a cilantro vinaigrette all blended together perfectly in each bite. 

For my entrée, I had the Les Moules Provençales – steamed mussels with Provencal herbs & spices in a tomato sauce.  It was a plentiful serving of mussels that came with an order of french fries since it was the entrée portion.  At this point I did my best to finish the mussels since I had already sampled two appetizers.  As usual, I was too full to try a dessert, but those around me enjoyed some delicious looking crepes and crème brule.

Bistro Les Minots offers an all you can eat mussels and fries special on Monday evenings and there is a prix fix dinner offered from 5-7pm.  Brunch is also served on weekends.

If you would like to have an authentic French dining experience, I would highly recommend Bistro Les Minots.  I left feeling as relaxed and happy as if I had been on vacation in France, even if it was just a couple of hours spent having dinner.

When You Can’t Travel – Dine Instead!

This past Wednesday I took my first trip to Brazil… well at least my taste buds certainly did! Favela Grill, located at 33-18 28th Avenue in Astoria, is an excellent way to get first-rate Brazilian food when you are not able to travel there in person. The space is divided into a lounge and bar section which then leads to a separate, larger dining area. It is a warm, inviting space and because Mardi Gras was coming up, the tables were decorated with sequined mask centerpieces which added a fun flair to each table. It is details like that which can really enhance a dining experience.

Having never had Brazilian food before, the entire menu was full of tasty new dishes for me to try. While tempted to order one of the varieties of Salgados (a homemade Brazilian style pastry), I ended up sampling a few delicious bites of the Isca de Peixe appetizer (strips of fried white fish with a dipping sauce) that a friend had offered up since the portion was so abundant. When I saw my entree in front of me, I knew I had made the right choice. I was presented with portions of a fried tilapia fillet covered in a house special shrimp sauce that was accompanied by a serving of mashed potatoes and white rice. It was the perfect mixture of tastes all on one plate and I savoured each bite! Since I was with a large group it was fun to see what everyone else had ordered too. Everyone seemed to enjoy their dinner choices as much as I had. I will definitely be coming back to Favela for more tastes of Brazil as I am eager to try some of the other menu items I missed out on this time around. Although, I think the house special shrimp sauce was so good, it will be hard to order a different entree!

Favela Grill is open 7 days a week from 12pm to 11pm. I was excited to hear that on weekends they have live Brazilian music (reservations strongly recommended). If you are lucky enough to go there for lunch, they offer daily specials. You can view their menu and more details on their website: http://www.favelagrill.com/.

When You Can’t Travel – Dine Instead!

For those of us who are not able to afford a trip to Greece, luckily we can try to experience the next best thing. Philoxenia, embodies what you would expect from a restaurant of its kind in Astoria, Queens – an authentic Greek dining experience. At its new location, 32-07 34th Ave, you walk in to a very cozy and welcoming environment. Even though it was freezing outside the night I went for dinner, I immediately felt warm and comfortable once I was seated.

Sometimes, it is intimidating to try something you are unsure of, but the wait staff at Philoxenia was eager to assist my group in finding the perfect items to order for our meal. Upon their suggestion, I tried the house red wine which our waitress described as being close to a Cabernet Sauvignon. It was just what I was in the mood for.

I already knew I loved the Greek appetizer, Tatziki, so I was excited to see that they had an item on their menu called Pikilia which was a sampling of four of their homemade traditional spreads. Tatziki is a yogurt, cucumber and garlic spread and was included in this sampling. The other three spreads included in the Pikilia were a spicy cheese spread, a carp roe caviar spread and finally a roasted eggplant spread. Served with hot, toasted pita, I was in heaven sampling all four of these! Each had a very distinct flavor and each was delicious. I enjoyed rotating a different spread for each bite. I highly recommend trying this item if you want to see what you like best. I liked each spread enough to order this appetizer every time I return because I am definitely not going to be able to pick just one or two.

For my entree, I ordered Bakaliarakia or in other words – the fried whiting with skordalia (a potato and garlic dip). I have had fried whiting before at other Greek restaurants so I was already sure I would enjoy my choice. This was the first time it was served with a potato garlic dip to accompany it though and that was definitely a highlight for me. It was fantastic!

Although I did not have any room to try anything else myself, I have heard great things about the desserts served at Philoxenia. This restaurant is also known for its fresh seafood and when they announced their specials we also found out that they make their own phyllo dough! I can say with certainty that everyone in my group really enjoyed their entrees and the friendly service we received.

Philoxenia is just a quick subway ride from Manhattan on the N Train which is much faster and more affordable than a trip to Greece! It is an excellent spot to experience Greek Cuisine at its finest. You can view their menu and other details at www.philoxeniarestaurant.com.