Read the adorable stories of how these local couples met in Astoria

Evelyn and Romel
Photo courtesy of Romel Ragasa

Thanks to romantic comedies, we all know a good meet-cute when we see one: Jonathan and Sara reaching for the same pair of gloves in “Serendipity”; the title characters sharing a ride to New York City in “When Harry Met Sally”; book owner Will spilling orange juice on movie star Anna Scott in “Notting Hill.”

If you think that meet-cutes are a thing of the past thanks to dating apps, think again — we have no shortage of how-they-met stories, even right here in our neighborhood. We reached out to readers so that we could share their stories of how they met their significant others in Astoria. Read on for seven swoon-worthy stories from western Queens.

Katie & Owen

Katie and Owen
Photo courtesy of Katie Stearns

Katie Stearns, 28, moved to Astoria four years ago with two close friends. They were all new to the city and didn’t know anyone in the neighborhood.

“As we began to settle into our new apartment, we took notice of the apartment next to ours,” Stearns said. Her kitchen window was directly across from the kitchen window of a neighboring apartment, and the two windows were only about 8 feet apart. “There were some awkward encounters of noticing each other but not really greeting one another.”

Since their neighbors seemed to be around their age, Stearns and her roommates joked about how they should meet, and one night, “after a bottle of wine, it seemed like a really good idea,” said Stearns, who works as a development program coordinator at Columbia University. “I wrote on a piece of cardboard, ‘Hey! We’re new to the neighborhood and are looking for some friends. Raise your blinds some.’ As I was making the sign, one of my roommates joked that I would end up marrying one of these guys.”

They put the sign to the window, thinking nothing would come of it, but the next day, they were greeted with a sign from the guys next door that read “Welcome to the neighborhood” with a bottle of wine with a bow on it sitting below it.

Owen Tyrrell, 28, an energy services manager, said that he had the idea of offering the bottle of wine as an icebreaker. When Stearns put up a sign with a wine opener and her phone number, Tyrrell remembers being surprised that someone with a Wyoming area code was next door. He texted her and they made plans to share the wine at her apartment.

“I dragged my roommate with me to meet the new neighbors to help with some nerves,” Tyrrell said. “Katie’s beaming smile when she greeted us at the door put me at ease.”

The couple’s meet-cute sounds like it comes right out of a television script: “We joke that it sounds like it’s on a sitcom,” Stearns said.

The two sets of roommates hung out as a group a couple times before Tyrrell asked Stearns out for dinner by text. Stearns remembers that it was the week of Valentine’s Day, and the days he suggested for their date were everything but the 14th.

For their first date, they went to Pachanga Patterson, followed by the bar William Hallet.

The couple got engaged in May 2016 and plan to marry at the end of August this year.

“She was (and still is!) sharp, witty and beautiful — everything I could’ve hoped for, just two panes of glass away,” Tyrrell said. “My only regret is never setting up a tin-can phone line.”


  • Q.E.D.
  • Oliver’s Astoria
  • Pachanga Patterson

Courtney & Munim

Photo courtesy of Courtney Steers
Photo courtesy of Courtney Steers

It was a rainy night in February 2013, and neither Courtney Steers, 30, nor Munim Jalil, 28, wanted to go out. Luckily, their friends dragged them to Break Bar and Billiards on Broadway, because that’s where this couple met.

“I credit a lot to one of my best friends,” said Jalil, who works at American Express. “It was one of those nights where you wouldn’t go out unless you got a really good push from somebody. I was content to just stay home.”

Break wasn’t too far out of the way for Jalil, a lifelong Astoria resident — but Steers, who was living in Manhattan at the time, wanted to go out in Meatpacking or the Lower East Side.

“My friends in Astoria said, ‘You have to come out here. It’s fun. You’ll have a good time,’” she said.

Steers remembers walking around the bar to see what was going on, and she was talking with a group of guys until she went up to the bar by herself to order a drink.

“He [Jalil] came over and stole me away from them,” said Steers, an education technologist at NYU.

Jalil remembers seeing a girl in a blue dress and thinking, “I have to talk to this girl somehow,” he said. “I approached Courtney at the bar and started talking — the rest is history now,” he said.

The couple will celebrate four years together later in February. They’ve lived together in Astoria since April 2016.

“We have a great apartment and we have friends over all the time, and I really enjoy living here,” Steers said. The couple loves how Astoria is the “perfect balance” of being able to chill out, order in and have a board game night with friends, but still having a lot to do and being close to the city.

“I tell all of my Manhattan friends when they’re complaining about boy stuff and not meeting people and all the horrible guys in the city, I’m like, ‘You need to come out to Queens. We have a lot of good guys here,’” Steers said.


  • Bagelberry
  • Queens Comfort
  • 16 Handles
  • Mayflower Pizza
  • Burger Club

Elizabeth & Steve

Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Patterson
Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Patterson

It was Labor Day Weekend of 2015, and Elizabeth Patterson, 24, was out with her roommate at the Irish Rover, just a couple blocks away from her Astoria apartment. Steve Ettannani, 30, was at the Rover with his best friend. He had just moved back to New York from D.C. and was planning on moving to Astoria soon. Patterson and Ettannani started talking and realized that they both went to Wake Forest University in North Carolina and “hit it off,” Patterson said.

“It’s not very often that you meet someone from Wake Forest in Astoria, so we had a lot to talk about,” Ettannani said. “I got the courage to ask for her number and asked her out essentially the next day.”

Ettannani and his friend met up with Patterson and her roommate at the Bohemian Hall and Biergarten.

After that, Ettannani said, “I decided I wanted to get to know her a bit better, and that’s how things kicked off.”

Ettannani, a senior adviser for the NYC Department of Consumer Affairs, and Patterson, a production consultant for an event marketing agency, made their relationship official in January 2016 and just celebrated their one-year anniversary on Jan. 16.


  • Sweet Afton
  • Museum of the Moving Image
  • Astoria Park
  • Kaufman Astoria Cinemas
  • Mosaic Bar
  • Irish Rover

Makana & Ashley

Photo courtesy of Makana Shimaoka
Photo courtesy of Makana Shimaoka

Makana Shimaoka, 27, and Ashley Steele, 24, met on the set of “Orange is the New Black” in Kaufman Astoria Studios in August 2015.

“We met through a mutual friend who was working with us one day at Kaufman, and we were just talking,” Steele said.

“I sat down with her and I said that I liked her bird tattoos,” Shimaoka remembered.

“We flirted on Instagram and then a day or two later I get this text from an 808 number, and I knew that it was her immediately,” Steele said. “I didn’t even have to know the area code but I knew it was her, and we texted for six and a half hours nonstop and then went back to work on ‘Orange’ the next day, and that’s where it all started.”

That week, they worked on set for four or five days up in Rockland County, where the show films exterior shots, and spent their 12-hour days together in prison uniform.

“It’s my favorite outfit that she’s ever worn,” Steele joked.

Shimaoka said they had their “first fight” that week over a misunderstanding: Steele told her “stop flirting with me” over text as a joke, but Shimaoka took it literally, and the next day, Steele wondered why Shimaoka was ignoring her on set. Luckily, they got placed next to each other for a scene and were able to talk it out.

They went on their first date the next day in Astoria, where they held hands under the table at Sugar Freak, and Steele walked Shimaoka home to her Astoria apartment. Steele was living in Manhattan at the time, but now the two share an apartment in Astoria. Shimaoka works as a photo double and stand-in for film and television projects, and Steele now works as a fifth-grade teaching assistant and middle school basketball coach.


  • Butcher Bar
  • 16 Handles
  • Antika
  • Oliver’s Astoria

Jenn & Steve

Photo courtesy of Jenn Hall
Photo courtesy of Jenn Hall

Steve and Jenn Hall met in 2012 in the Astoria Choir. Jenn, 39, remembers meeting Steve, 30, during a wine mixer after her first choir rehearsal.

“At the wine mixer, he was one of the first people to come up to me, and I thought, ‘Well! Here’s a very friendly, adorable fellow,’” said Jenn, who works as a supervisor of risk pool and data analytics. “And I didn’t really think anything else of it; we were actually both just out of very long-term relationships, so I was not looking for love just yet, just looking for a good, fun organization and looking for opportunities to sing.”

Steve, a structural engineer, remembers meeting Jenn “in the blur of trying to meet as many new [choir members] as possible because having already been in the choir for a year, we try to make it as inviting as possible for everyone else.”

The first time Jenn and Steve really talked was a couple weeks later when a group of singers went out to Bareburger on 31st Avenue after rehearsal.

Jenn and Steve Hall - Image 2

Monday night football was on the TV, and Jenn and Steve are both football fans. Steve is a Bears fan from Illinois, and the Bears were playing against Dallas that night.

“I just made the comment, not realizing that I was scoring points, saying that I’d always thought that the Bears were such a fun team … and how cool it would be to be a Bears fan,” she said. “I ended up finding out over the course of the night that he’s actually a big Bears fan.”

The Halls, who live in the Ditmars area, got married on Nov. 8, 2015. The man who married them, Adam Eggleston, is the conductor of the Astoria Choir where they first met.

Steve and Jenn are still both members of the choir.

“I didn’t realize how close-knit this [choir] group was going to be and how many new best friends I would get just in one organization,” Jenn said. “It really changed my life.”

They are now expecting their first child.


  • Former Brick Café location (now Halsey’s Tavern/Mom’s Kitchen)
  • Burger Club
  • HinoMaru Ramen

Romel & Evelyn

Photo courtesy of Romel Ragasa
Photo courtesy of Romel Ragasa

When Romel Ragasa was 16, a new family moved into his Astoria neighborhood, and he was curious to see who they were.

Evelyn Ong’s brother was taking out the trash one day and Ragasa approached him and asked if he played handball. Ong’s brother said yes and asked if he could bring his sister along. The next day, the three of them played handball at Ravenswood Park in Long Island City.

Ragasa and Ong, both 26, bonded over handball. They went to different high schools (he to Long Island City High School and she to Townsend Harris) and played on separate handball teams, but Ong would stop by to see Ragasa practice.

Later she confessed to him that she walked 15 minutes out of her way just to see him; it wasn’t on her way home. A couple months later, Ragasa asked her to be his girlfriend.

Ong says that since they were so young, they kept the relationship from her family for a while and said that Ragasa was just her brother’s friend.

They would spend time together in Astoria Park and Long Island City Piers. Ong loves Socrates Sculpture Park, and Ragasa knows that when they fight, he can find her on one bench in the corner of the park.

They went to different colleges, but that didn’t hinder their relationship: “She was always helpful and supportive and has always been there,” Ragasa said. “She’s really been a big part of my life,” he continued. “We both developed together. We’re high school sweethearts … and saw each other grow.”

After nine years, Ragasa decided to propose. He rented out The Foundry in Long Island City for two hours and had all of Ong’s friends and family come and hide on the mezzanine. He had a flash mob on the bottom floor to propose to her, and if she said yes, her friends and family would pop up and surprise her.

She said yes, and the couple will get married on June 24, 2018. They will move in together in Astoria this summer.


  • Sanfords Restaurant
  • Tamashii Ramen
  • Blend on the Water
  • Astoria Park
  • Long Island City Piers

Lydia & Neil

Photo by Elle Wildhagen
Photo by Elle Wildhagen

Lydia Billings, 25, and Neil Ruiz, 31, didn’t technically meet in Astoria; they met in a communication course that Billings was taking in Manhattan in October 2014.

“Neil was actually the coach in my course, and after the course ended, I asked him out,” Billings said.

The two Astoria residents went out on their first date at Astoria Bier and Cheese on Broadway—but Ruiz didn’t know it was a date.

“For me it was going really well,” Billings said. “It seemed kind of flirty. We were having a great time.”

They went over to Sweet Afton and continued their conversation, and Ruiz said something about never having been asked out by a woman before.

“He said it in this way that was like he still didn’t think he had ever been asked out by a woman, and I was like, ‘Neil, how do you think we got here?’” Billings said.

“She said, ‘You know we’re on a date, right?’ and I was like, ‘Ohhhh, OK,’” Ruiz said.


After that, the couple said the mood of the date shifted and became more romantic, and they had their first kiss.

They remember taking “Pickle Back” shots and drinking the Dirty Pickle Martini at Sweet Afton—drinks they still enjoy there to this day.

Billings, a photographer and photography teacher, and Neil, a leadership development professional, just got engaged on New Year’s Eve and are talking about getting married in September. They’re even looking at locations in western Queens as a potential wedding location.


  • Q.E.D.
  • The Pomeroy
  • The Bonnie
  • Astoria Bier and Cheese on Broadway


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