2014-04-02 / Restaurant of the Week

GRAND CAFÉ

The Grand Café is simply put, the go-to spot to see and be seen, for everything from a robust coffee and pastry or crepe, to a warm, pressed panini, or a full entrée, and anything in between. Soon, their adjoining “Ginger” Juice Bar will be open, offering organic juices and snacks too, so there are even more reasons to visit.

If you walk down 30th Avenue in Astoria, you can’t miss Grand Café with its distinctive clock on the corner of 37th Street. In warmer weather, the outdoor tables are always full of happy diners sipping, munching and dining while basking in the sun and enjoying the Mediterranean-inspired dishes served here. The selection of cocktails, wine and beer is impressive too, as is the bar itself, with a real fish tank lining the wall behind it. Inventive cocktails utilize the finest spirits and fruit to create the new “sake-licious” cocktail, the Amazon-tini with infused vodka and fruit puree, or the Honey Bee made with Jack Daniels and a touch of honey and lemon. Classic mojitos, margaritas, cosmos and martinis are all good options, along with brews and fine wine at reasonable prices.

Grand Café’s appetizers are so good, you’ll want to eat them at any time of day and you certainly can. Our lovely, helpful and friendly server, Toula, gave us some of her recommendations such as the new menu item called Greek bruschetta. Constructed on a round of pita bread, this bruschetta is topped with tomato, basil, and crumbled feta cheese for a nice twist that is perfect for sharing. Other new items that we enjoyed are sugarcane grilled shrimp skewers over house made couscous and fish and chips with their own signature potato chip fries that are super thin, crunchy and delicious. The crab and shrimp spring rolls are light and crispy, served with a tangy sweet and sour sauce ($11 for six). Quesadillas filled with cheese, vegetables or chicken are chock full of melted cheese, sour cream and salsa, also great to share among friends. The Grand Platter offers a great option for the whole table as it provides a sampling of mozzarella sticks, Buffalo wings, chicken tenders, spring rolls and cheese quesadillas for $21.

Dig into a full meal here with dinner entrées that include pasta, fish, meat and chicken. My dining companion dove into Grand Café’s delicious lamb burger made with tender, lean lamb, mildly spiced and cooked just right to retain the natural juices. The seven grain bun is spread with a touch of spicy feta cheese, enhancing the flavor of the meat, and served with fries, sweet potato fries, potato chip fries or field greens. The Woodfire turkey burger on a soft brioche bun is also exceptionally good, as is the veggie Chipotle burger with a kick of heat. The sirloin burger is made with Angus beef and there’s even a grass-fed beef burger, ideal for dinner or lunch. You’ll need two hands for their piled high Panini sandwiches filled with chicken, shrimp, steak or vegetables. With nine different wrap sandwiches, you’ll find your favorite, including vegetarian options.

Grand Café’s grilled skirt steak remains one of my favorite dishes here for its tenderness, rich texture and flavor, cooked to order and served sliced with your choice of sides. I opted for their new side dish of Israeli style couscous with mixed vegetables. These pearls of couscous are tender yet toothsome mixed with healthy vegetables for a great accompaniment to any meal. The grilled chicken kebab, skewered with fresh vegetables and tender chunks of chicken breast is a healthy choice, as is the pan seared salmon with grilled vegetables ($18.75). Thai coconut salmon is a new dish, scented with coconut milk and Thai herbs. The handmade lobster ravioli are delicious for their sweet lobster meat and the eggplant Tuscan ravioli are earthy and satisfying with a sprinkle of Parmigiano cheese.

I’ve not seen a dessert quite as decadent as Grand Café’s Snickers pie made with layers of cheesecake, Snickers candy and brownie bites. The baklava is flaky and sweet with honey, while Junior’s cheesecake is creamy and luscious. Grand Café’s crepes also make an excellent dessert, filled with Nutella and sliced bananas or strawberries. For a snack or light lunch, try a savory crepe filled with ham and cheese. The coffee drinks are great, hot or cold, such as the iced cappuccino or European frappe served in a tall glass.

Grand Café’s popular brunch is served on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays from 8am till 4pm. The $13 fixed price includes a brunch cocktail, eggs, omelets, fritattas, pancakes and French toast, salads, their famous burgers and more. Grand Café prepares breakfast every morning, so you can stop in on your way to work. Six friends, Stu, Teddy, Nick, Tony, John and Kirk opened Grand Café nine years ago so that you and your friends could meet and enjoy great food and drinks. Be hip, trendy and stylish by visiting Grand Café and their Web site for more info, cool photos and lots of ‘tweets.’

Put Grand Café and the new Ginger juice bar on your list and welcome Spring in Grand style!

37-01 30th Avenue  Astoria, NY
718.777.7321

www.grandcafelounge.com www.astoriaginger.com

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