THE QUEENS KICKSHAW3/20/2012
Astoria, NY 11103
A kickshaw is basically a delicacy. A sort of fancy small dish. So it's telling that Queens, the once upon a time working-class borough would become home to a restaurant creating a delicacy of the simple grilled cheese. Like so many dining establishments in recent years (Salt & Fat, M. Wells, Dutch Kills and Sweetleaf Cafe come to mind without my even having to try), Queens Kickshaw was bred for Brooklyn. But it's in Queens. Hmmmm... Methinks I see a trend.
The Queens Kickshaw isn't just Brooklynesque, it's straight outta Williamsburg. Our waiter with the tattoo sleeves, ear plugs and facial piercings; the bartender in the silk vest and flat cap; the retro/vintage lights, the punk metal music... I dated a Suicide Girls type girl a few years ago who'd would have fit right in here. But it's not just for post-goth punk co-eds. About a hundred or so indie beers and wines runneth over on the menu complete with tasting notes for the discerning yuppie snob. The Queens Kickshaw is almost a wine bar/beer hall that just so happens to have accidentally made its name in grilled cheese.
Ah yes. The reason I came. Grilled cheese. So I showed up with the Rents this past weekend for a late lunch. I grew up with grilled cheeses. Indeed, I grew up with some of the best grilled cheese known to man. They were simple. They didn't pretend to be more than they were. They were the less heathy than fast food. Queens Kickshaw makes upscale versions of them. The menu does not include American Cheese. This was a mistake on their part. Maybe they made that decision because there is no organic American cheese or maybe it's because American cheese isn't actually cheese so much as sliced cheese-flavored dairy product with nuclear wasteland tinted food coloring. The fact of the matter is that it ain't there. But as a result, the best kind of grilled cheese option is off the menu. Fools. Anyway. What did we get?
Well, Dudeman went off topic and ordered the Mac & Cheese. Again, Queens Kickshaw eschewed the American cheese. Instead it's made with Gruyere, cheddar, smoked mozzarella, caramelized onion and french beans and it came with a little side salad. It was good. There's no denying it. We all liked it. Was it better than the original Yankee cheese version Mom, er, Shrink used to make? No. Just don't tell Dudeman. "This is better than yours, hon." Shrink ordered the Cheddar & Mozzarella Grilled Cheese, which came with a tomato soup (for dipping as well as for sipping. Both are encouraged). The sandwich was rich and buttery and gooey and we ate it right up. The soup was great as well. It was rich and thick, nearly a marinara sauce in a bowl. I ordered the Gruyere Grilled Cheese. I love Gruyere. My favorite cheeseburger to date (the one at Five Napkin) comes smothered in it. This sandwich didn't ruin the mood. Beneath the soft cheese was caramelized onion, possibly the best accompaniment a grilled cheese can have that isn't tomato or bacon. The only downside to the dish was that it came with a sort of hoity-toity bullshit "coleslaw" made sans mayo but overloaded with caraway seed of all things. The whole-grain slaw was virtually tasteless, but on the upside (if there was one) it had virtually no calories.
In the end, The Queens Kickshaw doesn't beat the former eateryROW Best Sandwich winner (grilled cheese subsection), midtown's Melt Shop. But in terms of atmosphere, it wipes the floor with them. And in terms of its bar section, it's light night and day. The Queens Kickshaw is a super-welcome addition to the borough. Now, if only someone could tell 'em about Kraft singles...
A dish and a non-alcoholic drink (iced green tea in my case), plus tax and tip came to $15 per person. Cash only.
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