Beer gardens are nothing new to the Astoria neighborhood. I think they may be the only reason why some other boro residents even come here. I get the allure: beer+space+food. It’s not rocket science why these places work. Especially in the warmer months. You can have a picnic out back all season -with 500 of your closest friends. For yard starved New Yorkers this is important!
The Strand, not to be confused with the bookstore (which would be AWESOME to have in Astoria) has made its home in a former Blockbuster Video (RIP). This place is ginormous, as all former video stores that carried a whopping six dvds needed to be. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t impressive. It is. Does it look any different than those other two beer gardens in Queens? No, but looks can be deceiving because this isn’t actually a beer garden. It is a dedicated smokehouse and whiskey bar with live music to boot.
The star of this show, by far, is the house made pastrami. This shouldn’t be the case in a place that serves the holy trinity of chicken, ribs and brisket but such is life. Dry rub BBQ doesn’t always do it for me and I think some of the kinks need to be worked out in the kitchen. The timing is a bit off as the brisket and ribs I had were both dry and unremarkable. The pastrami, however, was perfect. Falling apart and flavored with caper, I hope that stays consistently good. Not sure what it is about NY barbecue places that make side dishes an afterthought but I wish that trend would die. The slaw was quite like what you’d get from a bodega and those were definitely not my mama’s collards. Sigh.
I was excited to see a wall of whiskey barrels but that feeling changed quickly when the most basic questions about them couldn’t be answered. Let’s just say the service here is a work in progress. I do believe this place will get better through sheer will and genuine enthusiasm, they just need time to gel. A place that has live music five nights a week (and banjos!) has GOT to succeed.
The Strand opened with some complaints; all of the buildings surrounding the garden are residences. And it will be interesting to see what happens once the crowds move outside. The place will close at 11pm and that seems a decent middle ground for a bar/restaurant. Whether this works out well for all parties involved remains to be seen. Luckily, the future looks more than a bit promising–even with all the hurdles that need to be jumped for now.
Astoria, New York 11106