The Astor Restaurant is the latest edition to join restaurant row on Ditmars Boulevard in Astoria, serving delicious food and drinks in a huge two-floor space that includes a speakeasy in a private room.
The new spot opened on Oct. 8 and will have an official grand opening party at the end of the month as soon as they get their liquor license. In the meantime, there are plenty of great choices on their food menu and refreshing fruit-based mocktails along with prices for every budget.
“We’re trying to be a place for middle-class people that live in Astoria,” said Zafar “Ziggy” Iqbal, who owns the restaurant with his wife, Carmen Pena. “When they come to our restaurant they enjoy our food; it’s very delicious. And if you want old-fashioned, our speakeasy is old-fashioned; if you want to see new, we have that upstairs. Everything is a mix for the old and new generation.”
The red leather chairs and endless rows of hanging lights are a result of Iqbal and Pena’s vision to pursue their lifelong dream of opening their own restaurant. The Sunnyside-based couple have been together for 15 years; back when they met, Iqbal was driving a taxi and Pena worked in a local bank. The two decided to run their own green cab taxi business where they had a dozen cabs and worked alongside the city, but in recent years with the pandemic and the popularity of ride-shares like Uber, they decided to leave the livery business and take the opportunity to finally pursue a restaurant.
With all of the great food that Astoria has to offer, they knew the western Queens neighborhood would be the perfect place to turn to. When they saw the huge space that used to be Uncle Jack’s Meat House was vacant and right in the middle of such a popular area in Astoria, they knew that it was the right spot for them.
“This business is amazing,” Pena said. “I love it because we meet so many people and we talk with them. This was our dream even from before and now we have the opportunity because we found this place.”
The Astor has a variety of different choices from steak dinners to entrees like volcanic shrimp and lemon butter chicken. One of their choices, The Astor Burger, is already a popular go-to and comes with bacon, cheddar, avocado, jalapeño and garlic mayo on the side with fresh, thick french fries. They also have a nice choice of small plates like homemade nachos and tacos. Their brunch menu has more to offer like their chorizo and egg tacos, Mexican scrambled eggs and avocado toast, just to name a few.
As soon as their liquor license is granted, they will serve beer, wine and cocktails, but their mocktail menu also has some noteworthy choices. One is called The Sunnyside and is made with raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, lime juice, honey and tonic water. Overall Iqbal and Pena hope to provide the ultimate space for food, drink and events.
“We have the best chef right now in the kitchen,” Iqbal said. “We try to do the best we can with our guests and our service. When people come over here we make sure we offer the three principal qualities of service and when people come over here, they love it.”
The Astor Restaurant
36-16 Ditmars Blvd., Astoria