34-12 36th Street
Astoria, NY 11106
(718) 255-1947

Located right at the foot of Kaufman Astoria Studios is The Astor Room, a throwback to the silver age of cinema. Walking in is like walking into the 1920s or 30s and that's the point. While countless restaurants these days have begun to merge fine food with fine cocktails (Venturo, Schapiro's, The Wayland, No. 7... and those are just the ones I've been to this year), it's probably the only restaurant I can think of that manages to completely take on the speakeasy experience in it's glitzy entirety.

The Astor Room is divided into two sections: the dining room and the bar. When Myna and I arrived on a Friday night the dining room was surprisingly empty with maybe a half dozen tables occupied. The bar, on the other hand, at least seemed a bit more full, even if it wasn't exactly crowded. Since she and I have taken a liking to sitting at the bar of a restaurant almost more than sitting at a table, the bar was where we chose to go and I'm glad we did. A live jazz singer was on break and when she started singing, Myna, a professional singer herself, complimented her. The bartenders knew exactly what drinks we were talking about even when we intentionally ordered off-menu cocktails, the food was excellent, and the vibe was so chill and relaxed that the only thing it was missing was either a pot-smoke haze or an absinthe drip. If I lived within walking distance of a place like the Astor Room, I'd be a regular (especially since the drinks cost about a third less that they do in Manhattan. Score!)

If there was a downside to it all, and it's a real downside, it was the service. Yes the bartenders knew what they were doing and yes they were friendly and yes the hostess was extremely nice, but the service bordered on neglectful. I'd still be a regular here, but I might have to order my second drink just as the first one was being served to avoid being forgotten. Or I guess I could bring a flare gun. In the end, they apologized (it must've showed on our faces) and comped us a round. So there's that.

Since neither of us were starving (and we were at the bar) we decided to forgo a traditional meal and instead treated The Astor Room's menu like a small plates one, ordering an array of appetizers and bar menu options. We began with a round of east coast Oysters. Not too many because who wants to spoil dinner. But a half dozen between us. Enough to get the stomach yearning for more. The oysters were fantastic. You know how sometimes you order from the raw bar because you feel like you're supposed to and then wind up having drained twenty bucks for what was essentially a spoonful of horseradish and lemon? Not this time. That was then followed up by the Rhode Island Fried Calamari, the weakest of the items that we tried. There was too much artsy flair. I didn't particularly care for the chunks of vegetable (in this case, sweet and hot peppers) and a puree of... I'm not entirely sure. I wanted sweet, crunchy, tangy, spicy squid. It was still good, but I don't think I'll recommend it.

I love vegetables far more than Myna does. I go out of my way to eat as many of them as possible. Unlike me, she loves salads. Maybe it's the healthy aspect of a salad but maybe it's just the word salad (she does like chicken salad and pasta salad... and those are worse than McDonald's salad), but regardless of why, if we eat out, which we often do, there's a good chance that she's going to order a salad. And so she did. She went for the Heirloom Beefsteak Tomato Salad. Large slices of tomato with greens, blue cheese, and with a drizzle of a thick balsamic glaze. I've never much cared for this style of salad, but she enjoyed it and it looked nice on the plate. I ordered a bowl of their French Onion Soup, made with sherry in the beef broth and topped with slightly charred gruyere cheese. It was delicious and, since we didn't order very much, I'm glad that it was heavy. Nevertheless, the best dish of the night, far far far far and away, were the Angus Beef Sliders with apple-smoked bacon and a blue cheese fondue sauce, which we ordered with a side of Truffled Fries. Once upon a time, I met someone who didn't like truffle fries. I have to assume that this person had recently fallen and hit his head, because truffle fries are amazing and were the perfect accompaniment to the sliders which were so juicy, so perfectly cooked, that Myna and I were equally blown away in amazement. I can say with total honesty that these were, literally and without exaggeration, the best sliders I've ever had.

As I mentioned, The Astor Room never filled up despite being a Friday. I asked a bartender "is it always this calm here?" He replied "not for brunch." So maybe that's their big thing. Brunch. And really, it should be late night because in my opinion, it's late night when a true speakeasy's soul comes out. So I think you should go. We had a great time. Great drinks, great food, a great atmosphere, with great singing. Yeah the bartenders could have been more on the ball and bullshitted with the customers on the end a little less, but I'd still return in a heartbeat.

A half dozen oysters, four small plates, two glasses of prosecco, and three cocktails came to $108 plus tax and tip.

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