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Astoria bar strives to capture community feel

Astoria bar strives to capture community feel
Mike Krawiec, co-owner of Sweet Afton, holds one of his signature cheeseburgers and a plate of deep-fried pickles next to the wide array of beer on tap. Photo by Joe Anuta
By Joe Anuta

When the owners of a neighborhood bar say it is “the Astoria local,” they really mean it.

Almost everything about Sweet Afton at 30-09 34th St. is designed to support the community, said 28-year-old Mike Krawiec, a co-owner and seven-year Astoria resident.

Its most basic function is as a meeting place.

“It’s like everybody’s living room,” Krawiec said. “It’s an honest bar, there’s no pretense.”

On a recent Thursday night, Krawiec tried to walk across the concrete floor of the crowded, dimly lit watering hole, but at every step he was stopped by old friends and regular customers.

“At any given time I will know a lot of people here on a first-name basis,” Krawiec said.

But neighborhood barflies can be found everywhere in the city. Krawiec took special pains to make his bar truly local.

All of the food comes from the five boroughs: meat and cheese from Manhattan, bread from Maspeth, vegetables and coffee from Astoria, and pickles — one of the bar’s signature items — from McClure’s pickles in Brooklyn.

The briny vegetables are chopped into chunks, coated with a thick layer of beer batter and then deep fried. They can often been seen accompanying the bar’s other speciality: the cheeseburger.

But more importantly, there is a large array of alcohol to chose from.

The taps behind the bar dispense Brooklyn’s Kelso Nut Brown Lager or Red Wagon IPA from the Fire Island Beer Co. along with other micro-brew labels from around America and the world.

Bottles along the back wall contain house-made infused alcohols, which are a hit with the clientele.

“We sell a lot of cocktails,” Krawiec said.

There is even a rotating cask ale that must be carefully hand-pumped by the bartender.

The atmosphere at Sweet Afton is a far cry from the other generic sports bars that blanket the area as well. There are no televisions on the walls and all the warm wood and hearty bricks give it the feel of an earthy inn or small Viking mead hall.

And it might have been either of those in a previous life. All the wood is reclaimed, which means it was taken from another building. The mirrors are old vintage windows and the light fixtures are all antiques.

“The fixtures over the bar were my grandmother’s,” Krawiec said. “I found them in her basement.”

But if Krawiec pilfers from some of his family, he gives back to his community.

All of the staff at his bar live in the neighborhood, and he even hosts a local mini-market several times a year, where the bar is opened during the day for Astoria musicians, artists and jewelers to show and sell their work.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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