BY MICHELLE WAHLERS
Astoria, Queens is not up and coming, it is happening right now. Local food, farmer’s markets, and neighborhood bars with a present and supportive community are sprouting up like dandelions. Sweet Afton (“The Astoria Local”) is quickly making a name for itself as the hub of trendy, conscious and excellent eating and drinking.
I went Sunday night for some pre-Oscar cocktails and the place was packed to the gills. We got the last table in the house which is impressive and telling for a Sunday. Sweet Afton was incredibly welcoming with dim lighting and a great soundtrack, a perfect place to rehash the weekend’s debauchery and fuel up for the upcoming week. The menu is chocked full of comfort food made methodically with local ingredients. McClure’s pickles (made in Brooklyn) are featured prominently here, offering fried pickles and a pickle martini, winning over this pickle enthusiast. I ordered the salt and pepper rubbed ribs, the aforementioned pickle martini and a side of fried pickles. The ribs were tender and well cooked, but you are getting exactly what you ask for, no frills. Heavily seasoned with salt and pepper with no other accoutrement, the emphasis is all on the pork, so poorly cooked meat has nowhere to hide. This is a nice change from ribs swimming in sauce with no consideration for the meat under it. The fried pickles were beer battered and served piping hot. The batter was almost like pastry dough, soft and chewy, even faintly moist. I washed it all down with the pickle martini which is (as the name suggests) a glass full of Tito’s vodka and pickle juice. As mentioned earlier I am a pretty fanatical pickle consumer so this is just what the boozy doctor ordered.
My boyfriend got the Sweet Afton burger with cheddar cheese and, oh my lord….it was excellent. Extremely juicy, perfectly melted cheese, strategically placed pickles (of course!) on a toasted bun. It really was what a burger should be; messy, sinful, and perfectly crafted. He got a Rye Root Beer, which is the kind of sneaky drink that crawls up on you and before you know it you’ve guzzled 3 glasses. What I’m saying is, don’t forget there is rye in that mug of homemade root beer.
We finished the evening with another drink, a Lagunita for him and a Miller’s martini for me. Although I’m more of a beer or whiskey kind of girl, this elegant cocktail was delicious and served almost as a dessert. Made with elderflower liquor, Miller’s gin, strawberry puree and garnished with a slice of cucumber, this “girly” drink was delicate and a bit dangerous. Tinged with a light pink hue, the Miller’s martini was an excellent end to a great night at a neighborhood hot spot in the making.