By Suzanne Parker
We chose to vacation in England this summer. The deciding factor was our daughter’s resident status in Old Blighty, but there were plenty of collateral benefits. Chief among them was the proliferation of gastropubs.
Gone are the days when British pub grub was an afterthought to getting wasted. Getting wasted has not gone out of style, but the food has become much more of a forethought with no malice. Starchy, leaden concoctions with gravy have given way to menus touting the provenance and authenticity of their artisanal ingredients—just like here, only they did it first.
Not quite ready to let go of that post-vacation buzz, we were delighted to find Snowdonia, a gastropub in Astoria with ties, however loose, to the UK.
Co-owner Tom Davies originally hails from Wales, and the name is an homage to that mountainous region. As further reminder, the walls of this petite establishment are adorned with skis. There is a quirky sensibility here, with a television tuned either to old movies or animated features on Netflix. Checks are presented clipped to vintage bodice ripper paperbacks.
Traditional Anglo-Welsh dishes happily share the menu with others with a New American derivation, including Wales’ national dish, Welsh rarebit — an aggrandized grilled cheese sandwich. Craft beers, many of them local, dominate the bar list. There is a concise, affordable wine list by bottle or glass, and a choice of some clever cocktails.
Like the menu, (and our marriage), we split our choices between British-ness and Americana. Glamorgans, traditional vegetarian Welsh sausages with leeks and cheese, coated with breadcrumbs were like sausage-shaped croquettes with a mayonnaise based dipping sauce. Oysters & Oysters were deep-fried oysters and oyster mushrooms with Carolina sauce. The batter was pleasantly frothy, but made the mollusks difficult to distinguish from the funghi. Both dishes make great noshes while hoisting a few.
Watermelon salad with mint, arugula, goat cheese, and bacon was piquant and refreshing, especially after all the fried stuff.
Again with the frying, the fish (pollack) and chips would have made any London chippie proud. The batter was light and crisp, fries the same. If we have any kvetch, it’s that they were stingy with the mushy peas. Granted, most people hate mushy peas, but if you like them you want more.
Mac & Cheese Burger, consisting of panko breaded macaroni and cheese bun with tomato and onions and a substantial meat patty was daunting. Taken individually, all the components were worthy. The meat was juicy, and the mac ‘n’ cheese as promised. The problem is that there is no equivalency of heft between a bun and a slab of fried mac ’n’ cheese. If you regard a burger as something that you should be able to pick up like a sandwich and take all encompassing bites of, I dare you to do it with this pup. In order to bite from to top to bottom, we would need unhinged jaws. Still, eating the burger as a Salisbury steak with two sides of fried mac ‘n’ cheese was pretty tasty. But halving the thickness of the “buns” would have made it a possible burger.
Dessert, espresso and mocha panna cotta, was not too sweet, light and charmingly presented in a jam jar.
The Bottom Line
Snowdonia lives up to expectations for a good local gastropub, equally inviting for a drink or a meal. During the summer they host a Craft Beer Clambake on Monday nights featuring fresh seafood and Coney Island Beer. They also do a brunch with a menu item that sounds like it was custom created for our daughters. It’s called the “Half English.”
Suzanne Parker is the TimesLedger’s restaurant critic and author of “Eating Like Queens: A Guide to Ethnic Dining in America’s Melting Pot, Queens, N.Y.” She can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.
34-55 32nd St.
Price Range: Starters; $8-11, Mains: $15-17
Cuisine: Gastropub grub
Setting: Small, cozy pub
Service: Friendly, attentive.
Hours: Saturday – Monday 11 a.m. – 4 a.m., Tuesday – Friday 5 p.m. – 4 a.m.
Alcohol: Full Bar
Children: Hey, it’s a bar.
Credit cards: Yes
Noise level: Acceptable
Handicap accessible: Yes