by Adam Kuban, 10/22/2014
(From left) Cheddar and mozzarella grilled cheese at The Queens Kickshaw and Triborough Bridge photos by Joe Buglewicz
Astoria, as you might guess, was named for millionaire merchant John Jacob Astor, in the hopes that America's then-richest man might bestow some of his fortune on this part of northwestern Queens. He eventually invested $500 in the area but reportedly never set foot there.
His loss. Today, Astoria is one of New York City's most culturally diverse neighborhoods and home to arts institutions, food destinations and shopping that make a visit eminently worth the 20-minute subway ride from Times Square. Known primarily as the City's traditionally Greek neighborhood, Astoria is also home to a significant number of residents of Italian, Brazilian, Baltic, Irish and Egyptian descent, as well as a new set of émigrés—younger, hip, creative types drawn to the neighborhood's affordable housing, inexpensive amenities and short commute to Manhattan. There's much to enjoy here.
Astoria encompasses a large section of northwestern Queens. For visitors, it's best to think of it as a collection of smaller neighborhoods centered on each of five thoroughfares (36th Avenue; Broadway; 30th Avenue; Ditmars Boulevard running east-west; and Steinway Street running north-south) and to concentrate on one or two of them at a time.