Note: First Looks give previews of new dishes, drinks, and menus we're curious about. Since they are arranged photo shoots and interviews with restaurants, we do not make critical evaluations or recommendations.
Astoria and Long Island City's hunger for barbecue just won't be sated. First came John Brown Smokehouse, then Butcher Bar, and now a third: The Strand Smokehouse, a barbecue joint and beer garden that's decidedly neighborhood-oriented, but with an eye on food happenings beyond Queens borders.
So the beer is all locally made and the meat comes from butchers down the street, but the chef is imported from Manhattan: Eric Milley, most recently the chef at Gabriel Stulman's Jeffrey's Grocery, where he was cooking for a few dozen at a time instead of the several hundred seats The Strand offers between its indoor and outdoor areas. But he's excited for the change: "it's three minutes from where I live. I want it to be a fun hang out space."
The Strand doesn't wed itself to specific barbecue styles, but Milley intends to keep the primary focus on ribs, smoked chickens, and pulled pork. This is Astoria, so there's lamb from time to time, but Milley's really excited about the caper-brined pastrami he's working on, which gets a dose of juniper berries in the dry rub alongside the usual black pepper and coriander.
But The Strand isn't just a barbecue place. "I like to think of it as a beer and whiskey bar with great food," says Dan Bronson of Astoria's Crescent & Vine, who was brought on to fill out the restaurant's drink list. The craft beer list (comfortably priced at $6/pint and $18/pitcher) leans heavily towards brews made within twenty miles of New York City and many made right in the five boroughs.
"The whiskey is mostly drinks we like. We're starting pretty simple now but hope to get more weird and cool as we go on." That includes some cocktails ($8) with simple, bold flavors like Bulleit rye with a house pickle brine ("like a pickle back, but something we could call our own") and a Manhattan dosed with hop bitters and moonshine-soaked cherries.
There's also an in-house music set up—"we have a house banjo," Bronson says with a smile—for live bands about five nights a week. The kitchen is open for dinner from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m., and on Thursdays (until midnight) and Fridays and Saturdays (until 1 a.m.) they switch to a late night charcuterie menu with housemade terrines and cured meats bolstered by Murray's cheese and a couple sausages from nearby Muncan.
It's more structured at brunch (11 a.m. to 4 p.m.), where waiters attend tables in lieu of the counter service style used the rest of the week. Amid the brunch classics lie some dishes that hint at Milley's West Village restaurant tenure: a 28 ounce ribeye with braised greens, fried eggs, grits, and cornbread ($37, generally split for two); and duck leg confit with eggs, more greens, and smoked tomato ($18).
The Strand has been open for just a few weeks, but it's already garnered serious neighborhood attention. "To be honest," Bronson says, "I was expecting us to mostly attract the type of people who'd otherwise be going to Brooklyn on the weekends. But everyone's been coming—it's all of Astoria."
The Strand Smokehouse
25-27 Broadway, Astoria, NY 11106 (map)
718-440-3231 (not yet connected, coming soon)