I’d like to preface that I rarely give bad reviews or get irate in public. However, I think this needs to be said to anyone who is interested in dining at Astoria Seafood.
The main take away from this entire story is this: “don’t ever assume anything“.
Since this is a long post, I decided to break this up to a two-part story:
This post is Part 1: Main course – restaurant review. Click here to read Part 2: Dessert course – take-away lessons from my experience.
Let me start by bottom-lining my review. If you’re interested in dining at Astoria Seafood, then go at your own risk. Be as prepared as possible. Ask questions if you feel unsure. Learn from my experience.
I typically go on Yelp to read people’s reviews before I try a new restaurant. While I know Yelp reviews are subjective, they give me the opportunity to see the good, bad and ugly of a restaurant. Reviews don’t usually deter me from trying unless the pictures I see are rather appalling.
Astoria Seafood got rave reviews in Yelp, Google, and Foursquare. Queens’ foodie residents also raved about the place and considered it as their top go-to seafood restaurant. I’ve always wanted to go to Astoria Seafood, but didn’t take the plunge until last Saturday.
The restaurant’s schtick:
- You pick your choice of fresh seafood. They have a variety of choices (lobster, scallops, mussels, king crab, snapper, bass, etc.).
- You pay for what you pick. They charge by the pound and depends on what type. After you pay, you tell them how you want it cooked (grilled, baked, or fried).
- After you pay, you go back to the front, tell the hostess your name and show your receipt.
- Hostess writes down your name and # of people.
- You wait your turn to be called.
- Hostess calls you and once seated, they then start cooking your food. I learned/experienced this step the hard way…
Before I move on, I’d like to preface that Astoria Seafood was VERY busy when we got there. I expected this because of the Yelp reviews and tips I got from a Queens foodie I follow on Instagram.
The Wait Times
After picking the food, there was a short line to the cashier. There were 2 cashiers at that time, so it’s not a lengthy wait. Basically, they tally the weight of each seafood you got, total up your final cost, ask how you want it cooked, and you pay.
Getting a table
After hostess took our names, we waited between 20-30 minutes before we got seated. The hostess was quite entertaining to watch because she would call people as she was smoking her cig. When she called to seat people and no one came to her, she would say “ok, forgot about them, don’t care about them” and would proceed to call the next one on her list. When it was our turn, she was calling “Lina” first, I asked her do you mean “Liane”? She said, “yes that’s what I said, I clearly can’t say your name right”, in a joking way. Laughs all around.
We’re called the same time as another group. The hostess seemed to have decided to do community style seating with my group and this other group without inquiring if it was OK with us. I didn’t complain because they were VERY busy and the other group didn’t seem to mind as well. One thing I noticed before we’re even shown to our seats, was the hostess and waitress got into a little spat with one each other. Waitress was complaining about the hostess’ system of sitting people to their manager. Hostess is a little sassy one, talked back. They seemed to be fighting about the hostess’ deciding to sit 2 groups in a table for 6 and waitress wasn’t too happy about that (side note: We think this is what made them so confused about our group, which you’ll later read how it unfolded). Now was this a way to act in front of customers? If I still have your attention, you be the judge and read on.
Getting our food + experience
Must warn you this part is long.
Again, because this was our first time, we tried to prepare ourselves about the whole experience, including not getting our food at a reasonable rate. It was a very busy Saturday night.
The group we sat with got their food first. The theme of our table for the rest of the night was just that – other group got their food and we didn’t. We didn’t mind this at all because before I realized #6 above was supposed to happen, I thought they cooked the food based on who was first on the hostess’ list (other group told me they waited long before they got seated, after I asked them).
Once again, the phrase “don’t ever assume anything” plays a big role here.
We waited for quite a while for our food. My patience started to wane and I started to ask questions when I saw this big group who picked, paid, and was sat way after us, started getting their food BEFORE we did.
I first asked the hostess, who was by the cashier area at the time, about our food’s status and proceeded to tell her about other group who got their food first. I was slightly annoyed when she ignored me, but I didn’t make a big deal because observing the way she was in the front before we got seated, made me think that that was her “thing”.
I looked for the waitress instead and asked her calmly, “what’s going on with our food? we’ve been waiting a while”. Waitress said, “it’s coming”. She went back to grilling area and went back to our table seconds later saying, “he says it’ll be available in 2 minutes”.
Another 10 minutes gone by, I heard the hostess, who was again by the cashier area call out my name. She was with this guy named “Spiro” and was eyeing us and asked, “Liane?”, in a “making sure” type of way. I said “yes” and then she proceeded to speak with Spiro.
Another 5 minutes gone by and waitress comes back to our table telling us,
“We’re sorry we didn’t realize that you weren’t together.”
They (or she?) thought we were together with the other group sitting on our table. WUT?
Stunned (so was the other group who was packing up their food at this point) and very annoyed, I tried to calmly state, “no we weren’t”.
Waitress spoke to Spiro to ask our food’s ETA and then Spiro started to tell me in a voice that I couldn’t hear due to the crowd’s noise. I told Spiro calmly, “I can’t hear you” and then he proceeds to tell me the same exact thing the waitress told me and apparently according to the waitress at a later point, told me how long I would have to wait for the food to arrive.
Now at this point my blood is almost getting to my head. Waitress comes back again and says, “I’m really sorry, but we really got confused, we thought you were together. You weren’t actually supposed to seat together, this setup was not our norm..” (at this point other group left already).
I told her, “no we weren’t, we weren’t even eating their food” and in my head all of these was being stated “Uhhh.. how did you figure that? Did you see us eating their food? You went to and around our table multiple times, you didn’t see us NOT eating their food???? Our plates were empty for Pete’s sake. It’s not our problem if the way your hostess sat us is not your norm.”
She proceeded to tell me, “Well, I thought you guys were together because you were talking”. At this point is when I got irritated and went off on her, saying “we weren’t together, did you not see us NOT eating their food” and other words I can’t remember at this point.
She proceeded to word her response carelessly as follows:
“Why didn’t you say anything if you thought there was an issue? Why were you just waiting patiently? We’re really sorry, we got confused, you weren’t supposed to be seated together that’s not how we do it..”
I was irate at this point because all I heard was “I am sorry, but I am weirded by you for being too understanding and patient”. I said, “Honey, I get it and all I’m saying is other people who was here after us started getting their food, are you really blaming me for not pestering you way before, when you’re clearly busy?”
She proceeded to tell me 2x how we didn’t say anything, said the she would’ve already asked, and she wasn’t blaming me. She said sorry again and proceeded to offer their greek salad as a consolation. At this point, all logic in my brain went somewhere else, and proceeded to reject her offer and told her to not speak with me.
Once again, the phrase “don’t ever assume anything” plays a big role here.
Now you might be thinking at this point, OMG, why didn’t you say anything when you didn’t get your food? Again, it was my first time at this place and I didn’t realize that #6 was part of their schtick.
After I told the waitress off, Spiro came by minutes later apologizing and offering the salad and potatoes to us as a consolation. At this point, I was fuming and chose not to acknowledge him. Gene was the one who spoke to him.
Because I was so mad about how the waitress treated us, I didn’t wait to have the food boxed up. As I was waiting outside, waitress came to me to say sorry again. Now again, as I said, I rarely, if not ever get mad in public. I was still fuming at this point and told her to not talk to me.
She then proceeded to say, “are you really blaming me? In my 2 years of working here, I never had anyone like you blame me,” then continued to say “I’m gonna remember you from now on”, like as if I was a threat to her or something. I obviously had to say my piece, which I won’t go into further detail on. Let’s just say I said the words “don’t worry this will be my first and last time here” in a less graceful way.
Not one of my finest moments in public.
Due to my experience, I didn’t enjoy the food. Truthfully, I almost cried in anger as I was eating the scallops, but didn’t want to give them the satisfaction of seeing that. Anyway, here are my thoughts:
- Scallops – perfectly grilled, doused with too much lemon.
- Shrimp – grilled and overcooked.
- Branzino – grilled, it was OK. I should’ve had it baked.
- Salmon – grilled. This is the one that I didn’t eat so I can’t comment on how it was.
- Greek salad and potato – didn’t eat.
Uncooked seafood they had on display was fresh. I didn’t see any red eye fishes or smelled anything funky, both of which are signs of freshness.
Yelp photo by Monica W
The restaurant is a no frills, casual, and gritty establishment. They embody what, in my own opinion, Astoria is about. They are located in the more industrial side of Astoria and is not too far away from the 36th Street R/M station or the 36th Ave N/W station.
The place is big enough to accommodate several tables and chairs, but there is no room for a waiting area. We had to wait outside the restaurant, which is not ideal if you’re dining during the frigid months.
photos c/o Yelp reviewers (see captions for details)
To be continued….Address: Astoria Seafood 37-10 33rd St
Long Island City, NY 11101
Astoria, Long Island City
9a-10p – Mondays
10a – 9:30p – Tuesday to Saturday
Closed – Sundays
Credit: Friends and New Girl GIFs c/o www.giphy.com