I’ve been posting these little what I ate missives for a decade now, and it took until August 2010 before Kew Gardens needed to be added as a category (I have been to Max & Mina but did not blog about it). Perhaps I should start focusing on the other lesser-knowns that I pass through, but never stop to eat: Homecrest, Marine Park, Maspeth and the like.
Unsung neighborhood dining usually goes hand in hand with another activity. The impetus for this excursion was finding a modern multiplex to watch a summer blockbuster without having to go to New Jersey to beat the crowds. An 11:45pm showing of Inception at Glendale's The Shops at Atlas Park would hopefully do the trick.
But I also really wanted to eat Peruvian food and to branch out from the Jackson Heights usuals. I would hardly say the chowhoundy stretch of Roosevelt Avenue is overrun with foodie interlopers (Sriphrapahi being the exception); the area is always rich with unhyped possibilities. Sometimes, though, it’s fun to explore less concentrated patches of the boroughs even if they’re not particularly known for their cuisine.
I had my doubts about Tu Casa (do Latinos even live in Kew Gardens?) and they were not assuaged by the lackluster one-block strip of businesses amidst the brick co-ops, just beyond the Jackie Robinson Parkway offramp. (My low expectations were also why I brought my new point-and-shoot that I still haven’t mastered instead of the dSLR.) The outdoor seating (neither this tail end of Metropolitan Avenue nor its origin in Williamsburg feel ideally suited to alfresco dining) was completely filled, though. The two indoor rooms were also bustling. A good sign.
We settled into a two-seater (my only beef with the restaurant was that they were very strict about twosomes being put at small square tables. We always order for four, though, and it creates havoc. Just as I predicted, they ended up not being able to fit all the plates, bottles, glasses and pitcher on our table) just as band began setting up in the front window. I had not been expecting Stevie Wonder covers in Spanish.
I bummed James out by requesting the ceviche mixto when he really wanted the salchipapas. The octopus, shrimp and fish dressed in lime juice (I always want to add fish sauce and more spice to make it Thai-esque) was my attempt at creating a mildly healthier meal.
We ordered the Lo Grande de Tu Casa, equivalent to the matador combo at Pio Pio, and the food turned out to be very similar to that rotisserie chicken chain, right down to the creamy green sauce that you can’t help but slather on everything. Here, you also get a plastic squirt bottle of a citrusy-garlic mojo sauce. It was the perfect condiment for my usual side of choice, yuca fries.
I happen to love salty, savory pollo a la brasa, no matter which country it originates from. It was my benchmark, and Tu Casa excelled. Unlike at Pio Pio, though, you’re not relegated to this specialty. They also offer a variety of “Spanish” food including grilled steaks, stewed chicken and pernil, as well as Chinese-y Peruvian dishes like fried rice and the infamous French fry-laden salchipapas and lomo saltado. There’s always a next time, though it might be 2020 before I dine in Kew Gardens again. When we left at 10:45, the outdoor tables were still packed, a non-sleepy anomaly.
* * *
We arrived at the Atlas Park mall in time to grab at beer at Manor Oktoberfest, kitty corner from the theater. The only people up and out in Glendale after 11pm appeared to be under 30. Smoking and drinking at outdoors mall picnic tables feels odd, but you have to take your subway-less Queens entertainment where you can find it.
I hate to be the crotchety old lady bemoaning the declining manners of today’s youth, but when did it become acceptable to take off your shoes in movie theaters and put your sock feet and dirty flip flops up on the chair in front of you?
Tu Casa * 119-05 Metropolitan Ave., Kew Gardens, NY