2009-02-11 / Restaurant of the Week

Club 21 Bar & Lounge

By Teresa Barile

Club 21 Bar & Lounge

This rustic, neighborhood bar and lounge serves delicious American and Czech beirhaus-style food along with fine brews from the Czech Republic, Germany, Belgium and the U.S. Club 21 opened just one year ago and is aptly named for its location, tucked away on 21st Street near 30th Avenue.

The first thing you'll see when you walk in is Ladislav, one of the proprietors of Club 21, mixing

up fantastic cocktails at the bar. Their list of specialty martinis is impressive and Thursday nights are a good night to try them when they cost just $5 each. The French kiss, with a touch of Chambord and pineapple juice is smooth and delicious, while the cucumber martini is cool and refreshing. All are made with premium vodka and fresh fruit juices. The star of the show here though, is beer, with the taps flowing all night long. An airy outdoor beer garden, just behind the bar can accommodate up to 90 people and really packs them in during warm weather. The main dining room, which features rough-hewn tables and banquettes against original brick walls, adorned with paintings by local artist and bartender. A large screen allows for sports events to be projected to please the crowd.

Start any weeknight off properly with a visit during Club 21's Happy Hour. From 5pm to 9pm you can partake of frosty glasses of domestic beers for just $2 and well drinks for $3. Don't forget Thursday night's martini special at $5. A nice selection of wines and all your favorite cocktails is available. A d.j. spins on Friday and Saturday nights from 11pm until the wee hours for your dancing pleasure. Relax at a banquette or on the upholstered sofa in the rear of the dining room while you munch on appetizers or enjoy a full meal.

Club 21's other proprietor, Tomas, oversees the kitchen in delicious detail, to create hearty American and Czech fare for hungry patrons. You can start with a platter of their handmade pierogies, or "pot stickers" as some call them. These delectable dumplings are filled with creamy potato puree and topped with butter and grilled bits of smoky bacon for added flavor. Just dollop on some sour cream and dig in. Another Eastern European favorite is crispy potato pancakes with minced onion, served with apple sauce or sour cream ($6.95). Buffalo wings are de rigeur in bars and Club 21 does a fine job of them or two can share a cheese platter with the chef's selection of three cheeses, or an elegant platter of smoked salmon with red onions, capers and tomato ($9.95). Ask about the house made soup of the day too.

There are just about ten choices of entrées on the menu, covering meat, chicken and even fish entrées, along with tantalizing nightly specials. Given a choice, I always opt for ethnic dishes, and so I was pleased with a hearty helping of their very own beef goulash. Tender chunks of meat had been cooked for hours in a savory gravy, meant to be soaked up by Czech steamed bread dumplings called "knedlicke". My dining companion polished off a generous dish called the "Gypsy Cutlet" and deemed himself ready to chop wood in the forest. This hearty dish consists of a very tender veal cutlet, sautéed mushrooms and onions, all topped off with a light gravy and a sunnyside up egg ($13.95). The Gypsy cutlet is nicely presented, steaming hot, with small mounds of marinated shredded carrots, red cabbage and rice. Classic Wiener Schnitzel, made with a veal cutlet, or pork or chicken schnitzel are all delicious and crispy brown, served with roasted potatoes and red cabbage ($12.95-$14.95).

The nightly dinner special was perfectly seared sea scallops on a bed of braised, shredded cabbage, sweetened with raisins. This unusual dish was delicious, especially if you enjoy the combination of savory and sweet dishes, as I do. On the American side, there are a couple of chicken dishes, one which includes a creamy stroganoff sauce, and a generous serving of grilled Atlantic salmon with either rice or roasted potatoes.

For dessert, try their house made apple strudel with its flaky pastry, or made-on-the-spot palatschinken, a type of crepe filled with peaches and chocolate, and topped with a cloud of fluffy whipped cream.

Club 21 Bar and Lounge is open seven days a week from 5pm until 4am, with a nice Happy Hour until 9pm with drink specials. There's a live d.j. on Friday and Saturday nights after 11pm, and Sunday brunch is served from noon until 4pm. At brunch you can enjoy several types of omelets, sandwiches or grilled kielbasa with fries. The lounge area is ideal for a small private party or gathering of friends. The atmosphere is cozy and friendly. As Astoria gets larger, it's important to have a small, neighborhood place to meet friends and feel at home. Visit Club 21 Bar and Lounge soon and enjoy great beers, cocktails, American and Czech food all under one rustic, cozy roof.


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