With the exception of Chinese skewers and anticuchos the last time I had meat on a stick was more than a decade ago. The details are hazy, but I’m certain the meat in question was of the souvlaki variety, essentially a kebab with a hunk of bread impaled on the end. Lately I’ve been passing by Souvlaki King an Astorian purveyor of sandwiches—and you guessed it—meat on a stick. Yesterday I finally succumbed to the siren call of smoke and meat at the stand on the corner of 31st Ave. and 31st St. A red siren sits atop the stand, silently flashing. As it spins it conjures up images of brothers George and Kostas Tsampas as souvlaki EMTs, or better still super heroes.
Finding superior souvlaki underneath the elevated train for $2.75 was a bright spot on a rainy day. The tender chunks of lamb had just the right amount of char and were seasoned with a dusting of oregano and a spritz of lemon juice. My Astorian street meat experience is limited, but based on my one visit the royal appellation is well deserved. I’ll be back for a sandwich one of these days.
Steps away from Souvlaki King is Güllüoğlu, a Turkish pastry shop. “It’s like Starbucks, but different,” my new friend Irem told me as she made a Turkish coffee and tried to convey a sense of the 142-year-old chain. “It’s nothing at all like it,” I thought surveying scores of pastries and cakes, including more than a half dozen types of baklava.
Overwhelmed by the selection of baklava I opted for tahinli çörek ($3.50). Actually, that’s a lie. When I saw the big disk of tahini bread I forgot all about the baklava. Studded with sesame seeds and rolled into a spiral it eats like a cross bwteen halvah and the Turkish sesame bread simit. It’s perfect with a strong cup of Turkish coffee ($1.95). That coffee, dense and dark, was accompanied by a few squares of cherry flavored Turkish delight. Unlike other versions of the confection I’ve had Güllüoğlu’s lives up to the name. And Queens itself continues to live up to its reputation as a hotbed of ethnic cuisine.
Souvlaki King of Astoria, 31st Ave. and 31st St., Astoria, 917-416-1189
Güllüoğlu ,30-92 31st St., Astoria, 718-406-9100