High school students review eatery The Queens Kickshaw

Photos by Bradley Hawks

One of the most wonderful rewards of being a writer is when you get to use your words to inspire others—and not simply to indulge in a new restaurant, experience a new play, or peruse a new store. I am talking about those particularly meaningful opportunities you get to inspire, encourage, motivate, and even awaken.

When Dena Wolk and Jorge Betanzos—of the Bronx Early College Academy X324—reached out to BORO Magazine to participate in a weeklong intensive exploration of the culinary scene in New York City, I jumped at the chance.  I was invited to speak to their students for three hours about my career as a food writer, editor and photographer. And while we enjoyed a day of mini lessons about descriptive writing, employing the use of meaningful adjectives, along with anecdotes about bizarre foods and unique encounters, the culminating experience came when the students were invited to try their own skills at a restaurant right here in Astoria—The Queens Kickshaw.

Owners Ben Sandler and Jennifer Lim reserved the back room, where they discussed the intricacies of running a restaurant with 30 middle-and high-school students.  Chef Kenji Hurlburt then shared some of the joys and challenges of running a kitchen. Students were served portions of the kale salad, classic grilled cheese, and macaroni and cheese. The following is a sample of what the young adults had to say.

Ruth M.

If you like slightly eccentric coffee shops with mouthwatering meatless menus, then you’ve surely heard of Queens Kickshaw.

This restaurant, located in an inconspicuous corner on Broadway, opened in 2011 and was founded by Ben Sandler and Jennifer Lim. The couple decided to open a restaurant together after their successful wedding, which ended in them marching down a vacant street in Downtown Manhattan. A very distinctive wedding, may I say. But what’s even more distinctive is this establishment’s cuisine.

Although you cannot indulge yourself in a delectable serving of a juicy steak coated with barbeque sauce and a side of mashed potatoes here at the Kickshaw, you surely can indulge yourself in some delicious foods. If you haven’t figured it out, Queens Kickshaw is a vegetarian restaurant. That’s right—they manage to serve scrumptious foods without having to include meat. The grilled cheese, for instance, will leave you yearning for more of that crunchy toasted bread and the tangy melted cheese. It’s an explosion of incredible flavors right in your mouth.

The mac and cheese served here surely puts Kraft to shame. You’ll certainly disagree that Kraft is the cheesiest after you try the macaroni and cheese at the Kickshaw. Just by looking at it, you know this is a dish that will rock your taste buds. Although slightly bland, it consists of some squishy macaroni and an overload of elastic melted cheese. It even contains green beans in the inside, which will be a nice addition for you protein lovers out there.

You could tell this workplace is enjoyable by the way the staff treats you. The minute you sit down, a waiter comes and tries to tend to every need you have, and in a friendly manner, too. It’s already great that the outside of the restaurant is extremely alluring, giving customers a glimpse into the warm, pleasant atmosphere. What’s even better is that all your pre-conceived thoughts are proven true once inside. Dim lighting and a homey feeling are pretty much the best phrases to describe the rustic setting of Queens Kickshaw. And let’s not forget the music: ‘80s and ‘90s songs seem to be the preferred playlist, but who’s complaining? Who doesn’t like listening to Whitney Houston while dining on some mac and cheese?
So, next time you’re strolling through Astoria, be sure to drop by Queens Kickshaw and try the cheddar and mozzarella brioche grilled cheese with tomato soup. It’s only $10. Trust me, it’ll be an experience you won’t forget.

Jaylene C.

Stepping into the restaurant, one can imagine seeing people on their computers, drinking their coffee. Once one hears the music, it was like being home away from home. The environment that this establishment seems to be a part of is a casual setting. Once the restaurant dimmed the lights in our section, the establishment had a rather bohemian feel to the place. The smell that was recognizable is grilled cheese and coffee. Queens Kickshaw reminded me of an ABBA music video.

When the food finally arrived it looked like the food would exceed my expectations of vegetarian food. Usually, whenever one eats a grilled cheese it looks like it’s been cooked with butter. This particular Kickshaw grilled cheese didn’t look like it was made with butter. But the aesthetics were really appealing to my eye. It felt like heaven. It was so golden. Imagine seeing 30 grilled cheeses; it was like seeing the gates of heaven.

One might say that the kale salad was one of the best entrees because of the combination of fruit and veggies—also the pecans. The kale salad was très fantastic.

Sissi S.

The restaurant was opened in 2010 by a newly married couple that moved to Astoria. They began with barely any experience of managing a restaurant, but they learned with time. The co-owner Ben was a waiter and barista in multiple restaurants, in which he developed skills to run a restaurant. His wife Jennifer, on the other hand, had no experience with managing a restaurant of her own, but was an expert in business, which helped with finances.

As you walk into The Queens Kickshaw, a smell of onions hits you, not in an unfavorable way, but I must warn you if you’re a bit sensitive to scents, your eyes might water a bit.

The restaurant was illuminated by the translucent window, and the restaurant had miniature lights hanged from the ceiling, which shined a golden type of color and gave the atmosphere a toasty, comfy feeling.

The tables had a coffee bean color, matching the brick walls. The tables had hooks in the bottom, which was a bit unexpected but was handy.

The mac and cheese had a stringy, satisfying texture, which made the dish fun to eat. As I ate more there was an unexpected surprise I found. The green beans in a modest quantity gave the dish a curveball in taste.

[With the kale salad], never have I ever tasted such a savory salad, and I mean that in the best way possible. For the first time I didn’t just taste leaves—the nuts in the salad and the caramelized apples had such a sweet taste that balanced the salad’s overall salty taste, which made the salad delightful to eat.

The Queens Kickshaw isn’t only a restaurant but also a bar and coffee shop. The owners made sure it had a vibe that appeals to all customers. It had coffee tables, and couches in the front for the people who wanted to relax in a dim lit place. It had a bar with stools for those who came for a quick drink with friends, and larger tables for those who came in groups to eat lunch. The Queens Kickshaw is a welcoming place where everyone can come to hang out, no matter the time of day.

More from Around New York