Walk Like an Egyptian Along Astoria’s “Little Egypt”
By Jason D Antos
“See Queens and see the world!” No motto better describes the amazing diversity that we as a community get to enjoy, and which also makes us the envy of the other boroughs. Italian, Mexican, Greek, Chinese, the list goes on and on – whatever type of food you’re craving is just a brief walk or car ride away.
This month, we wanted to highlight a cuisine you might not be as familiar with. Along Steinway Street, as it approaches the Grand Central Parkway, you’ll find yourself intoxicated with the sounds and smells of the Middle East.Walking along this stretch between Astoria Boulevard and 28th Avenue, one notices that the English language business signs suddenly change to Arabic and Dari. The Middle Eastern community has been coming to Astoria since the 1960s and includes Yemenites, Moroccans, Tunisians and Algerians. Known as “Little Egypt,” this stretch of Steinway features delicacies from Egypt, Morocco, Lebanon and Palestine as well as a number of other countries of the territory.
It all started in 1987 with Kebab Cafe, the first Egyptian-owned establishment along Steinway Street. Visitors to this part of Astoria can enjoy delicious baba ghanoush and kebab, unbeatable baklava and conclude the meal with fragrant shisha or hookah smoke.
Here are just five choices out of dozens of amazing places which will tantalize your senses as you enjoy the libations of an ancient civilization.
Opened by talented chef, Moustafa El Sayed, who hails from the ancient sea port of Alexandria in Egypt, Mombar’s iconic, mosaic tile face was designed to honor Egyptian culture and cooking. The outside of the restaurant features sculptured tiles and in the center, you’ll find the Eye of Horus, a symbol of protection and also a means of luring in patrons (with hypnotic effect) who are curious as to what exactly is behind those tile-covered doors. Mombar offers some of the best Egyptian cooking in Astoria including savory chicken and lamb dishes fit for a king (or should we say Pharos).
25-22 Steinway St. | 718.726.2356
A delight for the soul, this hookah lounge offers a wide variety of freshly made juices including apple, lemon, orange, mango, banana, cranberry or even carrot. Enjoy their mouthwatering
rice pudding, baklava or basbousa. El Khayam also features an incredible list of teas including chamomile imported from Egypt.
25-72 Steinway St. | 718.267.0400
AbuQir is an Egyptian seafood spot serving fresh fish cooked to order. Try the Grilled Scallops or Mixed Seafood Tagine. Specialties include Grilled Black Tiger Shrimp and the savory dish known as Tajin, which is a stew made with calamari and shrimp in a red sauce.
24-19 Steinway St. | 718.274.3474 | @abuqir
Formerly named Isis after the Egyptian goddess, here at Rose you can find a huge selection of shisha in an amazing assortment of flavors ranging from cherry, to apple, to mint, to mango. Enjoy while you watch Al-Jezera with the other patrons. Regulars highly recommend the pineapple, grapefruit, watermelon and coconut-flavored shisha.
23-52 Steinway St. | 646.287.2713
This amazing Palestinian restaurant serves the best mudammas, Abu Ghosh Hummus and Chicken Shawarma Platter with seasoned French fries. This popular neighborhood spot serves an amazing array of mixed grilled meats with a great choice of sides, including salad, hummus, pickles, garlic pita and sauces. And here, it’s all about the bowls. Enjoy various Palestinian-inspired dishes in a bowl by stacking it with your choice of chicken or beef shawarma, two sides and sauces with warm fresh pita on the side.
24-11 Steinway St. | 718.204.7488 | @duzannyc