January 4, 2014
THE HUNGER JAMES OFFICIAL RATING:
In the midst of 7 inches of snow, last night I ventured out to Astoria, Queens to say goodbye to a dear friend leaving the cold for warm and sunny California. She was having her bon voyage party at a place called The Strand Smokehouse – a local beer garden slash BBQ restaurant.
When you walk in, there are huge picnic tables scattered around the restaurant that are self-seating. Once seated, it is up to you to retrieve your drinks and food. Not a fan of cafeteria style, I griped and complained that I had to get up from my seat, grab a tray, order my food, get a drink from the bar, and then walk back to the table. It was just like high school, except I wasn’t eating my lunch in the bathroom.
Since I was the only one eating, I begrudgingly got up from the table and walked over to the food counter. Now, I don’t really eat BBQ food, especially not meat off the bone, so I was extremely lost. Luckily, the guy carving the meat was very helpful and suggested getting a ¼ piece of chicken. I obliged his suggestion and then began to ponder my favorite part of the meal: the sides.
They had everything you would expect a decent BBQ place to have; mashed potatoes, corn bread, potato salad, chili, baked beans, green bean casserole, and of course, macaroni and cheese. (Clearly we ALL know which one I picked.)
I also got the green bean casserole, you know, to be healthy.
My next stop was the bar where they specialize in specialty craft beers. So now, they do not have Bud Light – I asked. But when they saw my discouraged face on no name-brand beer, they recommended a fantastic Amber Ale, brewed fresh in Astoria.
Now that I had my food and drink, I walked back to my table of friends and sat down, ready to dive into this classic home-cooked BBQ meal.
Saving the best for last, I put the macaroni and cheese off to the side and took a bite of the green bean casserole. Having this be my second or third time trying this particular dish, and hating vegetables, I didn’t really have any expectations. But, when I tried my first bite, I was satisfied. Green beans, topped with onion strings and sitting in a bowl of cream of mushroom soup.
Next was the chicken. And let me tell you about the chicken – it fell right off the bone. It was so tender and so juicy, I didn’t even have to use my utensils. The skin of the chicken (the best part) was so crispy and seasoned, too. Amazing.
Then it was onto dessert – the macaroni and cheese. Now, I am not a M&C aficionado by any means, but I have traveled the world, tasting and trying all different types of this popular cheesy dish, and I have extremely high standards when it comes to mac and cheese. And let me tell you, The Strand Smokehouse delivered!
I could write an entire book about this side dish. The macaroni was cooked to perfection and the cheese was so creamy. Not soupy. And it didn’t try too hard to be anything else than what it was: perfection. It was topped with breadcrumbs, giving each and every bite that surprising crunch. Definitely top 5!
I highly recommended this place if you are in the Astoria area. Great beers, reasonably priced food, and live music on the weekends playing great folk and country music. They are also open for brunch, and when it gets warmer, they open the patio for additional seating – a perfect place for a Saturday summer lunch.