Eat and Drink Southern Astoria, a paradise for young New Yorkers, offers diversity more affordability By Ivan Pereira Updated April 17, 2017 6:52 PM Print Share fbShare Tweet Email Like most of Western Queens, Southern Astoria has become a mecca for young New Yorkers looking for a break from the crowded, expensive Manhattan scene, while still having that urban feel. Its mixture of brick buildings and new glassy developments attracted a diverse set of residents to the area, from immigrants who have called the neighborhood home for decades to young professionals who are just starting their New York experience. “We are a dynamic, diverse community and we are very accepting,” said Florence Koulouris, district manager for Queens Community Board 1, which covers the area. But the newfound limelight is giving residents concern that the neighborhood could quickly become out of reach for middle-class New Yorkers. The community is situated between the East River and the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and by the Grand Central Parkway and 30th Drive. The majority of the buildings are residential houses and smaller apartment buildings, which are predominantly prewar walk-ups. Those homes have been popular with immigrants for decades, according to Koulouris, and created mini melting pots within the blocks. Dilek Kaya, 22, moved from Turkey into the neighborhood two years ago with her husband and said she was immediately taken in by the diversity of the area. “People are always talking to each other and [asking], ‘How are you doing? How is your family,’ ” she said. “They’re just constantly friendly.” The ethnic variety extends to the area’s mom and pop stores, bars and restaurants, along Steinway Street, 21st Street and Astoria Boulevard. Every corner of the globe is represented in the neighborhood’s menu options such as the South Asian restaurant Roti Boti on 21st Street to the Latin American lounge Villa Restaurant on Steinway Street. “It’s its own little city,” said Gabriela Machucha, 26, a kickboxing instructor who moved to the neighborhood three years ago. “I can get anything I want for lunch, like Greek food, or Indian food, without going far.” The neighborhood is only a half an hour subway ride on the N or W train into midtown, which Koulouris points out has been advantageous for many residents who work in Manhattan. She added that the new Citi Bike stations that are scheduled to open in the area will help fill some of the transit gaps between the elevated train stations and side streets. The area's popularity has brought some change in recent years as high-end condos have been cropping up throughout the neighborhood, especially along the waterfront. And with those new homes came higher prices. Median asking prices for homes in the area exceeded $1.1 million as of March 2017, compared to the $449,000 price a decade earlier, according to Street Easy. Queens’ median asking price, in comparison, was $599,000 in March. Southern Astoria median rents have gone from $1,995 in 2007 to $2,300 in March, and the number of available units has shot from 35 to 1,287 during that period, according to StreetEasy. Some residents said they are concerned about possible gentrification. “I give it 10 more years before everyone starts moving in here instead of Manhattan” said Ravhel Oyama, 31, who moved into Southern Astoria six years ago. Monique Tatum, a real estate agent with Citi Habitats, said there are plenty of pockets for deal-minded home hunters, especially if they’re looking at an older apartment. “The condos, a one-bedroom will rent between $2,150 to $2,400. For the same size apartment, in a prewar you can get something for $1,895,” she said. Despite the surging prices, Koulouris said she’s confident the community would remain a haven for working-class New Yorkers who are looking for an open, friendly neighborhood. “Anybody who wants to move to the area would be very happy,” she said. Find it Photo Credit: Google Southern Astoria is bordered to the north by Hoyt Avenue South below 31st Street and Astoria Boulevard above it, and to the south by 30th Drive below 21st Street and 31st Avenue above it. It is bound to the east by Hobart and 50th streets and the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and to the west by the East River. Southern Astoria restaurants Photo Credit: Linda Rosier Vesta Trattoria21-02 30th Ave.The Italian restaurant offers dozens of wine selections, as well as exquisite Italian brunch and dinner menu items. vestavino.com Himalayan Restaurant and Grill25-94 Steinway St.The South Asian eatery offers an eclectic menu and drink selection straight from the region. himalayanrestaurantandgrill.com Where to party Photo Credit: Linda Rosier Astoria Craft Bar and Kitchen18-01 26th Rd.The bar is a favorite for visitors with a dozen beers on tap, Trivia Tuesdays and several screens that play different live sports. astoriacraft.comDon Coqui28-18 31st St.The lounge is Puerto Rican inspired and plays Latin dance music all night long. doncoqui.com Things to do in southern Astoria Photo Credit: Linda Rosier Ophelia Theater21-12 30th Rd.The theater group puts on small, independent plays ranging from new musicals to classics. opheliatheatre.comHallets PointThe greenspace on the western edge of the neighborhood includes ballfields and a breathtaking view of the East River and Manhattan skyline. Where to shop Photo Credit: The Furniture Market via Facebook Astoria Fashion Fabrics3313 30th Ave. The clothing store offers many options for sewing and design work.The Furniture Market22-08 Astoria Blvd.The store sells new and old furniture for every room in the house Q&A with Husko Celic, co-owner of Caffino Photo Credit: Sija Bojkovic Husko Celic, 42, opened the South Astoria coffee house Caffino three years ago with his wife Sija Bojkovic. The Montenegro native has been in the food businesses for 20 years and owned a cafe in Europe before he moved to Queens. What makes Caffino different from other coffee shops in the area? We feature our own seasonal specialty coffee drinks along with freshly-made sandwiches in a bright, cozy atmosphere with fresh flowers, little board games, a book to draw in or magazines to read. Our vendors are La Colombe Coffee Roasters, Balthazar Bakery and San's Bakery. What do you like most about the neighborhood?The diversity of ethnicity & culture. What are some things that the neighborhood could do to make it better for your staff and how? As you know Astoria can get filled with trash at times. We and our neighboring business owners along with some awesome customers are outside sweeping, gardening doing all we can to keep it clean. Some of [our] customers bring back trays, bags and plastic lids to recycle and reuse on their next visit. This is something customers and neighbors can adopt to lessen the use of plastic and keep our neighborhood clean. What is your favorite memory of Caffino so far? The day we opened our doors and how well we were received. It was truly a pleasure to see our neighbors, who were stopping by and asking all sorts of questions while we were under construction, become our customers until this very day. By Ivan Pereira Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Comments We're revamping our Comments section. Learn more and share your input.