The guys who brought the late-night pub grub of Wilfie & Nell to the West Village followed that act in 2009 with the similarly minded Sweet Afton, which has quickly become one of the most popular bars in Astoria. The pretense is the same here as it is in the West Village—there is none. Just solid drinks and simple food, all shared in a room full of friendly, laughing souls.
Perhaps it's the Beer Battered Fried McClure's Brooklyn Pickles ($5) that have everyone smiling. Puffy pillows of chewy fried dough conceal thick-cut pickles, still juicy and full of snap. Dunk them into Sweet Afton's "Smokey Sauce" (essentially a chipotle mayo) for a spicy kick.
When it comes to the main meal, the Sweet Afton Burger ($9) is by far the most popular menu item. It would be easy to start talking about the pedigree of the Pat LaFrieda beef that the bar uses for the patty, but there's just too much juice dribbling down our chins to care. A thick slice of muenster cheese ($1) adds a punch of flavor that washes down well with a nutty lager.
The dry-rubbed Salt & Pepper Ribs ($11) are surprisingly tender, the meat peeling from bone in one gentle bite. With no accompanying sauce the onslaught of meat can be overwhelming, but the accompanying vinegary coleslaw helps to even out the saltiness.
If there's any room left, order up a side of Hand Cut Fries with Malt Vinegar ($4) or go for broke on the Mac & Cheese ($9) with Irish cheddar, muenster and gruyere. At this point you'll have ordered nearly the entire menu, which—as any of the regulars in the bar will attest—never gets old.
About the author: Nancy Huang, who comes to New York by way of Los Angeles, writes The Wanderkind, a food and travel blog of adventures here and abroad. She loves noodles, subway maps, and word games.