New bubble tea shop opens its doors in Ridgewood

Tsaocaa strives to bring quality food and drink to locals

By Jessica Meditz

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Tsaocaa’s menu includes a wide variety of teas.

Earlier this month, residents of Ridgewood extended a warm welcome to Tsaocaa, a brand new bubble tea shop in the community.

Located at 65-07 Fresh Pond Road, the shop sits in a prime location where both longtime locals and passersby alike can stop in and enjoy a cup of bubble tea.

Wendy Lin, owner of the location, first arrived in the U.S. from Hong Kong almost 22 years ago, and has lived in Ridgewood ever since.

Loosely translated, “Tsaocaa” means “the holy land of tea,” and the franchise’s website looks at its team members as being on the pilgrimage road. Tsaocaa has over 100 locations across the U.S.

Tsaocaa opened its doors on Jan. 7

Lin feels this sentiment resonates with her own journey in the restaurant industry.

“I really like milk tea; I make myself one every day. But the ones that I make for myself versus the ones at Tsaocaa are totally different, as they use different types of tea, different roasts,” she explained. “Basically what we do is to try to fulfill whatever the Ridgewood area needs, and want to bring something special here.”

Tsaocaa’s menu includes various types of roasts, including sakura, jasmine and green tea. They offer a wide variety of options, including classic and slush style fruit tea, fruit mojitos, milk swirl and milk bubble tea.

Flavors across the menu range from grapefruit, mango, strawberry, kiwi, dragon fruit, lychee, blueberry, peach and many more.

Lin said that Tsaocaa is unique in that its teas not only taste great, but consist solely of pure, natural ingredients. Presentation is also of utmost importance, as their products are also served in an aesthetically pleasing way.

This is not Lin’s first endeavor in food and beverage, as she also owns Sushi Yoshi, which is located at the same site.

Lin’s other food business, Sushi Yoshi, is at the same site as Tsaocaa.

She’s been making sushi at the location for eight years, and its varieties include classic sushi rolls and signature rolls – such as the “Fresh Pond Roll” – which includes salmon, fresh pineapple and crunch topped with avocado and black caviar with mango sauce.

Other options include bowls, burritos, burgers, egg waffles, soups and salads.

Lin said that despite opening up so recently, she already has several regulars who stop by multiple times per week.

She’s thrilled to serve her community.

“I hear so many customers say they’ve been waiting to see this kind of location in the Ridgewood area, and we already have regulars,” Lin said. “That makes me so happy.”

Tsaocaa is open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., and online ordering options such as UberEats, Grubhub and DoorDash – as well as their own online ordering service: https://www.onlineorder.abcpos.com/sushiyoshiridgewood/88b2a8c6856849daac58da72b81a3553.

Legendary T-Bone Diner to reopen

Pastrami, matzah balls and around the clock nostalgia

By Michael Perlman

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T-Bone with historic neon sign on its side, April 2022, photo by Michael Perlman.

One of Queens’ earliest freestanding diners will have a second lease on life.

The T-Bone Diner at 107-48 Queens Boulevard in Forest Hills, which shuttered last February, will reopen next summer or potentially sooner in spotless condition.

It will merge two classic concepts of Americana – a diner and a deli, and will be known as “T-Bone Diner & Delicatessen.”

It will operate as a kosher-style 24-hour establishment.

This columnist brokered a deal to rescue the historic T-Bone Diner by introducing A. Kumar, owner of nearby Jade Eatery and Lounge to Richard Jagusiak, the diner’s leasing agent, and helped defeat a plan to have a Popeyes location open in its place.

The now missing T-Bone front neon sign, Photo copyright Thom Sheridan, July 31, 1987.

“My endeavor is to keep our culture alive,” said Kumar, whose business partner is Glenn Reiner. “A main reason that I decided to reopen this diner was to serve our community, since there are not too many diners remaining in the neighborhood.”

He remembers the recent losses of the beloved Tower Diner and Shalimar Diner, in addition to delis of yesteryear, including Sandy’s Surf, Ben’s Best and King’s/Boulevard Delicatessen. Eyeing a meaningful and creative future for the T-Bone, Kumar explained, “Our menu highlights will be pastrami, matzo ball soup, and a 24-hour breakfast and the likes. We will be like Katz’s Deli. Our dress code for the staff would be a long skirt for the ladies, and men will wear fully white or black with a bowtie, just like the 1940s and 1950s.”

One of the T-Bone Diner’s major attractions is a circa 1950s-era Art Deco neon sign on the side, which will continue to illuminate upon Queens Boulevard in bright pink neon, but with the addition of the term “Delicatessen.”

Historic neon sign, Photo by Retrologist Rolando Pujol.

“The historic sign is a fantastic example of mid-20th century neon signage,” said David Barnett, co-founder of the New York Sign Museum and Noble Signs, who envisions restoring the authentic sign and adding to it in the same style.

“This sign is notable for the unique floating raceway mounting of the mill finish neon channel letters, and for the unique neon pictorial pan sign, which has a playful style that showcases the maker’s artistic sensibility,” he continued.

The front also had vintage signs, but those vanished several years ago and can be replicated.

T-Bone Diner in 1930 by NYC transit surveyors & circa 1940 by NYC Municipal Archives.

The T-Bone was prefabricated by the famed diner manufacturer, Kullman.

In 1930, an even more traditionally styled diner existed with “Seminole Grill” artfully stenciled on the base of each exposure.

Then in 1936, the IND subway entrance would be erected adjacent to the diner’s front entrance.

Today, a granite plaque near the front door reads, “T-Bone Diner, Since 1934.”

In its early days, it was known as The Boulevard Cafeteria, followed by the T-Bone Tudor Grill in 1937.

According to historian Ron Marzlock, the diner’s name was based on Robert Grassi preparing a perfect-old world Florentine T-bone steak, which boosted traffic and earned it the reputation it needed. Afterall, this was the era of The Great Depression.

Early on, T-Bone Diner was also stenciled on the facades.

Over the decades, the T-Bone Diner underwent several renovations. Its most recent owners are fondly remembered as Peter and George Plevrites.

The T-Bone was frequented by many notables, including Abe Colman, who was nicknamed the “Jewish Tarzan” and “Hebrew Hercules,” and began achieving much success during the Great Depression.

Passing away at age 101 in 2007, he was recognized as the oldest professional wrestler worldwide.

In a 2018 interview, his niece, Miriam Bly, referenced the T-Bone Diner as his favorite stop.

“He loved steak and soup, and would eat two meals a day,” she recalled.

Another notable T-Bone patron was legendary rock photographer Neal Preston, who captured the “who’s who” of rock musicians.

After compiling the Sunday New York Times at a candy shop on Queens Boulevard and Continental Avenue, he could not resist a tradition of rewarding himself with cheeseburgers at the T-Bone Diner.

The T-Bone earned its spot on TV, as in the case of the 2003 “Regular Joe” comedy series on ABC.

Joe Binder was portrayed by Daniel Stern and Joanie Binder, portrayed by Kelly Karbaez, was his 18-year-old child who attended Queens College and worked at the T-Bone to support her daughter, Zoe.

The demand for a diner and deli is high, according to patrons who are current and past residents. “I wish we had another kosher deli or diner in the neighborhood,” a resident named Sandra Martin said. “We used to go to Ben’s Best while my parents were alive, and we enjoyed it.”

The T-Bone was a go-to place for Forest Hills Inn Board President George Hoban, who would come home late from the airport after a business trip. “It was comforting to know that I could get a great meal and friendly staff at any hour,” he said. He also misses Ben’s Best. “I loved the hot dogs, knishes and sandwiches. The kosher style delicatessen is almost a rite of passage for any New Yorker and it’s a sin that our neighborhood no longer has that option.”

Diner expert Riley Arthur of San Diego, California, captured the broad picture of the NYC diner culture on Instagram; @dinersofnyc and February will mark the seven years of photographing them.

“In that time, 99 diners have closed, never to reopen, but a handful closed and reopened by brave new owners. Queens lost 28 diners, second only to Manhattan in fastest rate of diner loss,” she explained. “Gentrification and rising rents are the two largest factors, although the pandemic resulted in a steady rise to their closure.”

She considers diners and delis to be “pillars of the community.”

T-Bone Diner in 1948.

“Maybe their food reminds them of home cooking. I’ve seen diner owners give cups of coffee to the homeless on multiple occasions. This is a place where people can sit for hours and be welcomed, eat alone, or their kids can do homework at the booths or patrons can have a safe first date,” Arthur added.

She felt that the T-Bone offered all the ambiance to be desired in a diner, consisting of frosted windows bearing its name, deep blue and white booths and a welcoming sit-up counter overlooking an open grill, where you can keep an eye on your eggs and potatoes.

“There was colorful lighting and a cozy atmosphere. The cooks wore classic paper soda jerk hats. Ironically, food is always secondary to the diner experience for me, but if you wanted an authentic diner meal, their menu delivered,” she said.

Stu Mazlish may be a Richmond, Virginia resident, but he left his heart in Forest Hills.

“After a ceremony at Forest Hills Jewish Center, my father took our family to the T-Bone for lunch. I must have been around six and ordered a slice of blackout cake, which was bigger than life,” he reminisced.

The personalization factor and ambiance of delis also cannot be beat.

Looking NW on Queens Blvd from 71st Ave, 1984.

For Sandy’s Surf, he said, “All I can remember was the smell that is amazing to this day, and how Sandy was so nice to my mother and I. He gave a free hot dog after showing him my report card. Every Friday, my father gave me a dollar to buy a loaf of rye bread sliced from Jay Dee Bakery to go with the deli from Ben’s Best.”

The T-Bone was one of San Diego, California resident Pete Attardo’s most frequented stops, and he remembers how the landmark always seemed to be open and welcoming. “There was a counter man by the grill, whose name I believe was Spiro. He was good-natured and always willing to laugh at our shenanigans. I used to go with my dad on many afternoons and get their open-faced turkey meal with mashed potatoes and gravy,” Attardo said.

He relocated in 1973, but revisited in the 1980s.

“In later years, I would take my wife and kids, and especially my youngest son would enjoy it. Every one of my friends who left Forest Hills would make it a point to hit the T-Bone on their trips home.”

Fifteen-year Forest Hills resident Lindsey Nicholson, who admired the T-Bone’s retro appearance with its neon sign, said, “I love a good diner and the fact that you can get a large variety of food. My partner and I loved the Shalimar on 63rd Drive and the ‘50s feel of UJ’s on 71st Road. Tower Diner on 66th Road was one of our favorites too. Diners are a much-needed option, since they offer breakfast all day and are casual.”

Forest Hills resident, Jeffrey Carrasquillo, lived next door at Lane Towers. T-Bone was his go-to for a quality meal after a long day of work.

He describes the establishment as “more than a restaurant” and a “place of socialization” where particularly the elderly and single folks could talk about current events and holidays.

He feels the same holds true for Jewish delis.

“The restaurant staff became like family. You knew them by their first names and would chat,” he said. “Our neighborhood will never be the same again as more of these places are gone. Corporate restaurants don’t have that ambiance.”

This adds to my earlier diner preservation victories, where Manhattan’s historic Moondance Diner and Cheyenne Diner were hoisted up and transported on a flatbed to Wyoming and Alabama, respectively, which led to the NY Observer assigning the nickname “Diner Man.” – Michael Perlman

Fogo de Chão cuts ribbon in Elmhurst

Brazilian steakhouse experience comes to Queens

By Jessica Meditz

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General manager Katie Calvin cut the ribbon with a Brazilian gaucho knife.

Queens residents are now able to enjoy a Brazilian steakhouse experience without having to travel far.

Fogo de Chão, an internationally renowned restaurant founded in Southern Brazil in 1979, has finally opened its doors in Elmhurst at 92-50 59th Avenue.

The location’s team as well as supporters gathered for a ribbon cutting ceremony on Nov. 30 to commemorate the achievement and indulge in a night of fine dining.

Fogo de Chão’s Elmhurst location faced some construction-related delays before it could officially open on Nov. 25. The upscale chain boasts five locations in New York and 67 worldwide.

Katie Calvin, general manager, said she feels proud to hear all the positive feedback from the community, and is excited to welcome more guests to the restaurant.

“I don’t think there’s anything like this in Queens. Some people have said about our bar that they don’t see something like this unless they go to the city,” she said. “It’s been really good feedback. We had around 400 people on Saturday and 200 people on Friday.”

Fogo de Chão is well known for their churrasco experience, which involves continuous tableside service of signature cuts of fire roasted meat. Fraidinha and Picanha are among the variety of meats offered.

They offer a buffet-style market table, which includes fresh charcuterie meats, fruits, salads and more, starting at $15 per person.

Among Fogo de Chão’s variety of options is their market table, including charcuterie meats, fresh fruits and more.

Fogo de Chão also has delectable brunch and lunch options, as well as a full bar complete with small plates, happy hour deals and special cocktails. Caipirinha, the national drink of Brazil made with Silver Cachaça, is a popular favorite on the menu.

Calvin said that 102 employees currently work at the new Fogo de Chão location, and that she could actually hire a few more.

Tom Grech, president and CEO of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, commended Fogo de Chão for bringing so many new job opportunities to the borough, and said that he will continue to support and visit the restaurant.

“We all know that New York City, frankly, has been lagging in the recovery post-COVID. But it’s commitments like these people from Fogo that helped get us back,” he said.

Fogo de Chão continues to show its support to the community. Back in August, the restaurant partnered with Queens Together at First Baptist Church of Elmhurst to provide fresh, high quality meals to over 1,500 locals.

Calvin added that Fogo de Chão donated 10 percent of their opening week sales to Mets third baseman Eduardo Escobar’s foundation, where he provides children in Venezuela with baseball materials, opportunities, food and supplies.

The Fogo team is open to more charitable opportunities in the future, and strives to cater to each guest’s dietary needs, making their dining experience unique.

“Our mission is to ignite fire and joy with our team, our guests and our community. We understand that we all lived through the last few years, but what it means to be in a community in our industry is so valuable to us,” said Barry McGowan, CEO of Fogo de Chão.

“Restaurants make up the soul of every community, and we want to be a valued part of that,” he continued. “We are very grateful to be here.”

Calvin cut the ribbon to commemorate the occasion with a Brazilian gaucho sword, paying homage to the unique culture Fogo de Chão will expose so many residents to.

Zum Stammtisch celebrates 50th anniversary

Iconic German eatery serves Glendale for 50 years

By Jessica Meditz

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Zum Stammtisch’s comfortable interior. Photo: Zum Stammtisch.

Known for its hearty meals, fresh beer and comforting ambiance, Zum Stammtisch on Myrtle Avenue in Glendale is a neighborhood staple.

The well-loved German restaurant first opened its doors in November 1972, marking half a century of operation this month.

Zum Stammtisch was founded by John Lehner, who emigrated from Freising, Bavaria, Germany in the 1950s, along with two partners.

It was always Lehner’s dream to have his own German restaurant, as his father had a small establishment he took pride in back home.

After much dedication and hard work, Lehner found it rewarding to see his restaurant become a hub for the large German population that resided in Glendale. Within 10 years, he bought out his two partners, and became the sole owner of Zum Stammtisch.

Since Lehner’s death in 1993, his two sons, Werner and Hans, continue to keep the family business alive as co-owners.

Werner, Erna (mother) and Hans Lehner inside Stammtisch Pork Store. Photo: Zum Stammtisch

Werner Lehner, the eldest of the two, said that while many restaurants feel the need to change with the times, Zum Stammtisch prides itself on staying original and old-school.

“We do have some specials now that would be what you’d call a little more Americanized, like shrimp cocktail or prime rib. But we try to keep the same style of food, the same everything,” Lehner said.

“Back when we first opened, it was a very German neighborhood; everybody on the streets spoke German,” he continued. “Now, it’s almost like the UN out there, everybody’s different…which is great because instead of just having one type of clientele, you have everyone.”

Zum Stammtisch keeps things traditional in a multitude of ways, as seen by their waitresses in dirndl dresses and German specialties on the menu, such as goulash soup and Jägerschnitzel, a breaded veal cutlet served with a fresh mushroom sauce.

But the thing that truly makes the Zum Stammtisch experience different is the interior decor, which features a dimly lit atmosphere, stained glass windows, vintage artifacts at every glance — from German newspapers to beer steins — and even a large moose head on the wall to keep you company as you dine.

The Lehner brothers have taken steps to experiment with the establishment over the years, such as opening Stammtisch Pork Store & Imports in 2011, which is located right next to the restaurant.

The Pork Store offers authentic German meats and delicacies to its patrons, including fresh wurst, cheeses, salads, breads, chocolates, dairy products and more.

Lehner said that while all the standard sausages, such as bratwurst, krainerwurst and knockwurst, come from the Pork Store, the team switches things up with their “Weekly Wurst.”

“When we make our own, we try to make them a little more interesting…we make habanero mango bratwurst, which everyone really loves, we make Philly cheesesteak sausage, currywurst and even teriyaki pineapple,” he said. “It’s nice to have the place next door so we can experiment a little bit and bring different things over to the restaurant from there.”

In terms of beer, Zum Stammtisch keeps things simple with just five beers on tap: a lager, a dark beer, a weiss beer, a pilsner beer and a seasonal beer that is available as a novelty.

“We tap the kegs almost every day…there’s never a keg on there more than a couple of days,” Lehner explained. “It’s always extremely fresh.”

Many community members admire the dedication to quality that Zum Stammtisch offers, and have made it a regular part of their celebrations and feel-good moments. This is true for Gillian Guile, a Glendale resident.

“I have been going to Zum Stammtisch for as long as I can remember. My favorite memory was my family’s annual trip there for my Oma’s birthday every August. Her birthday was never complete until we went to Zums,” she said. “I was also lucky enough to celebrate my 21st birthday there before COVID with my friends and family. Prost to 50 years of great food, service and gemütlichkeit.”

The phrase “Zum Stammtisch” roughly translates to “to the special table,” and the team’s efforts have stayed true to its name for the last 50 years.

Lehner said that he’s had countless special memories in the restaurant over the years, but some of his favorite ones come from World Cup celebrations and watch parties, which are just around the corner.

Zum Stammtisch is a great place to watch the World Cup. Photo: Zum Stammtisch.

“It’s always a ton of work, but it’s always so satisfying to see the place so packed with so many people having a good time, as well as people you haven’t seen in a while,” he said.

It is important to the Lehners to continue serving the community for years to come, and keep German culture and traditions alive.

“Back in the old days, if you were German, you went to a German restaurant, if you were Italian, you went to an Italian restaurant,” he recalled. “I feel people have become much more adventurous, looking for new experiences. As old-school as we are for a lot of people, we are definitely a new experience.”

Heritage Kulfi expands market to NYC

By Stephanie Meditz

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Cardamom chai, rosewater and saffron are just a few of the unique flavors sold by Heritage Kulfi.

Heritage Kulfi, a family-owned business with a unique spin on the popular South Asian dessert, continues to spread to markets around the country.

Born in Manhattan to Pakistani parents, Mansoor Ahmed founded Heritage Kulfi in 2020.

After years of experience in the frozen dessert industry, he was inspired to bring his South Asian heritage to a wider audience.

“In 2020, with the onset of COVID and how everything was being impacted, I just had to take a step back and try to create something that was entirely mine and something new and innovative in which I could be creative,” he said.

“It also speaks to my own identity, the foods I grew up with, and something that’s new to the world of frozen desserts.”

Heritage Kulfi founder and CEO Mansoor Ahmed brings something new to the world of ice cream.

Kulfi is a creamy, dense, South Asian frozen dessert that is traditionally served in popsicle form.

By making kulfi into an ice cream-like texture, Ahmed brings something new to the table while still honoring his roots.

He also incorporates ingredients and flavors commonly found in South Asian cuisine, including cardamom chai, rosewater and saffron.

“Our flavors that we offer, you won’t find anywhere else,” Ahmed said. “That’s keeping in line with traditionally what kulfi is, but also being innovative in using these ingredients in a particular way.”

Ahmed ensures that the ice cream is made with authentic ingredients every step of the way.

He sources Alphonso mangoes directly from India to use in his products.

“I find one ingredient that I want to focus on, find the best one and give it that space to breathe and shine,” he said.

“Between all our flavors, you’ll find high butter fat content, which means that they’re very creamy. And we slow-cook all of our ingredients directly into the ice cream mix. What that does is it allows for a very bold, infused flavor profile.”

Heritage Kulfi is on the shelf in various markets in the five boroughs, such as Lincoln Market across Brooklyn, Tariq Halal Meats in Flushing, as well as Key Food Supermarkets and Vitelio’s Marketplace locations throughout Queens, but the company expands its reach daily.

“I’m really excited to make the product available to more and more people…I’m working to add several hundred accounts in the next few months,” Ahmed said. “It’s really about continuously exploring these ingredients and trying to bring something new and exciting to the world of ice cream.”

In addition to several new flavors, Heritage Kulfi will see a line of vegan ice cream early next year.

Based in Princeton, N.J., Ahmed delivers his ice cream to markets around the tri-state area in an ice cream truck of sorts.

“It’s not your traditional ice cream truck, but because of my background in frozen distribution, one of the most exciting parts was being connected to store owners and also getting feedback from actual customers,” he said. “You can find my truck going around and visiting stores, but also keeping in touch.”

Ahmed is thrilled to share his kulfi creations with one of the most diverse cities in the world.

“Kulfi is obviously Queens. Everyone knows about kulfi in a certain way,” he said. “It’s a twist on kulfi…so I hope that people will try it. Even though certain flavors are kind of mainstream, like coconut or vanilla bean, you’ll find that ours has a different style to it. People will often say, ‘This is the best vanilla we’ve ever tasted.’”

To learn more about Heritage Kulfi and where to purchase a 16oz pint, visit their website, https://heritagekulfi.com.

Village Grill: A town center in Forest Hills

Embracing the magic touch and humanitarian values for 10+ years

By Michael Perlman

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Owner Dina and waitress Angela.

For nearly 11 years, owner Dina Stergiopoulos of Village Grill has opened her heart to Forest Hills patrons and the greater community by working long hours to freshly prepare signature Greek meals and classic American favorites.

Situated on an inviting corner of Ingram Street at 73-01 Yellowstone Boulevard, patrons have sparked friendships with the owner, waitress Angela and fellow patrons, all while enjoying diverse scrumptious foods at reasonable prices.

Along with her late husband, Panagiotis Stergiopoulos, they opened Village Grill on Feb. 28, 2012, which may seem as if it was yesterday.

He was a much-admired face of the community, but passed away on Dec. 31, 2021 after battling cancer.

“My husband was funny, outgoing and always smiling,” Stergiopoulos said.

Panagiotis with food to be donated during the pandemic.

Today her husband is fondly remembered by patrons, and she is committed to keeping his spirit alive with every meal she cooks and by continuing to give back to the community by donating meals to people in need.

Stergiopoulos will host the “Village Grill Thanksgiving Dinner Giveaway” on the Tuesday prior to Thanksgiving from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

“There will be 50 turkey meals with mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberry sauce, biscuits and apple cake. My goals after my husband passed were to become a better person and try to help people and carry on his legacy,” Stergiopoulos said.

“I want to provide a warm home-cooked meal to people in need. This is a way to remember my good-hearted husband, so his soul can be at peace.”

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the couple donated a total of 40 meals to Long Island Jewish Forest Hills Northwell Health, NYC Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst and the 112th Precinct.

Patrons do not need to travel far to feel as if they are in Greece for an afternoon or dinner engagement, thanks to the charming ambiance that features the color scheme of the Greek flag, model sailboats, paintings and ceramic artwork. One can even take a Greek crash course, where a sign features catchphrases such as “kalo fagito” for “good food,” “orea mera” for “nice day” and “kalimera” for “good morning.”

Stergiopoulos was raised in America, but when she was 16, she built upon her family’s Greek heritage in Athens. Her husband was born and raised in Volos, Greece.

“We came to the USA in 2003 and got married on Oct. 28 of that year,” she recalled.

Dina & her late husband Panagiotis preparing sausage.

They lived in College Point and later relocated to Forest Hills, a close distance to Village Grill.

A tradition runs in the family. “Everyone in my family likes to cook,” said Stergiopoulos.

“My grandma, Pige, was an influence on all of us, as she made everything good, but her signature dish was stuffed grape leaves with rice. My grandma taught me how to prepare them two years before she passed. Mine are good, but my grandma’s were excellent.”

Pige did not use a recipe book. “Her measurements were a handful of this and a pinch of that,” Stergiopoulos chuckled.

Stergiopoulos and her husband had a dream.

“We wanted to work hard and retire in Greece at a small village outside Athens, where he could have a small parcel of land and raise his own chickens and plant vegetables,” she said. “I am focusing on the business very much these days, so I do not feel the pain that is left behind when a loved one goes away. I am very blessed that I have customers; my friends that have supported me. My customers walk into my shop and I mostly know them by name. They walk in and say, ‘Dina, what am I eating today?’ That is a beautiful feeling. I greet my customers like friends that come to visit. It’s beautiful how even customers that moved away still come to dine.”

Village Grill has a “recipe for success.” “I always say we are not perfect, since mistakes happen, especially when it is very busy. If a dish is undercooked or overcooked and is brought to my attention, I will make it right. The one thing I say and I am always proud of is that it’s fresh. This is how I managed to stay open for nearly 11 years,” she said.

Between the walls are many timeless memories.

Dina & her husband Panagiotis upon first opening in 2012 .

Stergiopoulos considers the restaurant as her home that she erected with her husband, and she spends more time at the restaurant than her residence.

“It is our baby,” she said.

A memory of the recent past surfaced. “Even when my husband was ill in the wheelchair, he spent his day at the restaurant window, greeting people as they walked. He did not want to stay home.”

Another fond memory was celebrating her husband’s 55th birthday on April 9, 2021, where not only family was in attendance, but a family of close friends. To mark the occasion, there were 55 balloons.

Dina’s husband Panagiotis, head of table on his 55th birthday with 55 balloons, April 9, 2021.

Family-style recipes are always on the menu, in contrast to gourmet recipes.

Stergiopoulos said, “People want to eat, especially if they’re enjoying their food, so we serve a good-sized portion.” For example, a platter consists of a Greek salad, a side dish and meat. Once a patron orders a platter, they receive their salad as the meat is freshly being prepared.

“Every souvlaki and meat is cooked to order,” she continued.

Stergiopoulos is detail-oriented, which also contributes to her success.

When patrons often ask what makes a great Greek salad, her response is the olives and the feta cheese.

“I only use imported Greek feta and olives. I am in general a big cheese eater, and when I go out to eat, if another restaurant doesn’t know the brand of feta, I won’t order the salad,” she said.

Since day one, she goes on a trek for quality meat. She explained, “I don’t order meat to be delivered, but have to hand-pick it to ensure it is not laying around on a truck. I cut and marinate all of my meat at the restaurant, and it’s never frozen.”

Spinach pie is among her patrons’ favorites. “It is prepared with many fresh herbs and original feta to make the difference,” she said.

Dina & her “Never trust a skinny chef” collectible.

A popular soup is chicken avgolemono, featuring celery, carrots, lemon and orzo.

A unique pita sandwich is Bifteki souvlaki sandwich, which consists of a meatball with spices, tomatoes, red onions and tzatziki sauce.

A beef gyro platter (80 percent beef and 20 percent lamb) and features a small Greek salad, tzatziki, pita and a side of one’s preference.

Also available is a variety of starters, salads, burgers and wraps, such as the Santorini fish wrap and a Mediterranean wrap. Authentic sides include oven-roasted lemon potatoes and grilled vegetables.

A meal is not complete without dessert, such as baklava, galaktoboureko and rice pudding.

A full line of beverages includes Greek coffee, cappuccino and shakes.

Every day on Village Grill’s hot table, comes the “Special of The Day,” which remains identical on certain days. Stergiopoulos said, “Monday is always oven roasted chicken legs. Wednesday is spaghetti Bolognese, and Thursday it’s chicken again, since people love it. Friday is usually a fish dish, Saturday is pastitsio (Greek lasagna) and Sundays is usually beef stew. People ask me what is in this dish, and my answer always is ‘a lot of love,’ since I like to cook and create new recipes.”

Village Grill is open from 12 p.m. to 9 p.m. daily, with the exception of Tuesdays, and free delivery is available until 8:45 p.m.

Village Grill’s authentic Greek ambiance.

On her day off, she is an early and determined riser who cleans her home and then enjoys a leisurely walk with her dog, goes shopping and watches TV with Sophie at her side.

“Cleaning is another obsession. If your space at home or in your ‘second home’ is clean and orderly, your life will be,” she said.

If Stergiopoulos decides to retire someday, she hopes to relax, but cannot visualize herself sitting and doing nothing. “I want to volunteer in helping people in any way I can, and especially young children,” she said.

Until then, her priority is Village Grill, where every day she shares her magic touch among a community of friends.

She is open to community partnerships for the upcoming Village Grill Thanksgiving Dinner Giveaway, particularly to benefit the needy. Interested organizations can email [email protected] or call 718-544-4024.

EEEEEATSCON Festival returns to Forest Hills Stadium

Martha Stewart visits Forest Hills

By Michael Perlman

[email protected]

Culinary sensation Dan ‘Grossy’ Pelosi with the legendary Martha Stewart at EEEEEATSCON, Photo by Michael Perlman.

EEEEEATSCON can be considered a festival like no other, especially at the nearly 100-year-old Forest Hills Stadium, a breeding ground for tennis and music history.

After a three-year hiatus due to the pandemic, the festival made a strong comeback, building upon the success of the 2018 and 2019 events.

Throughout the afternoon of Oct. 8 and 9, an estimated 10,000 guests made their way through the stadium and its accompanying grounds, where every turn had a surprise in store.

With 32 restaurants, families and friends discovered a highly curated selection of culturally diverse foods that are both locally and nationally sourced.

Additionally, they dined to the beat of unique bands and a DJ, enjoyed activities, picked up souvenirs and attended presentations by industry pioneers and culinary and creative professionals, including the legendary Martha Stewart.

“This is a special event for The Infatuation and Chase Sapphire, since we really take the time to consider the community experience,” said Michael Sinatra, chief of staff of The Infatuation x Zagat. “Ensuring that we have a wide offering of food representing so many different cultures, interesting panel discussions that merge food and culture, and some incredible entertainment, make it a truly unique experience.”

Sinatra pinpointed behind-the-scenes facts. “The Infatuation curates all of these restaurants using insights from our food writers across NYC, the U.S., and London. We’re not just bringing any Cuban sandwich up from Miami, but rather we connect with our Miami writer and ask what the best option is, as in this case, Sanguich De Miami. The same can be said for our options from Los Angeles, London and beyond.”

The festival is the product of imaginative teamwork. “In some ways, we’re planning for these events throughout the year, as we do it with our partners at Chase Sapphire in Los Angeles in the spring and Forest Hills in the fall,” Sinatra said. In 2021, The Infatuation was acquired by JPMorgan Chase & Co. “The aim was accelerating their investment in dining, and it further demonstrates JPMorgan Chase’s commitment to meeting customers where they are with exceptional benefits, useful content and one-of-a-kind experiences. Consumers can expect to see more partnerships between the brands, as we continue to grow together,” he continued.

A family enjoying simple pleasures alongside The Infatuation backdrop, Photo by Michael Perlman.

Food vendors felt like a “who’s who” in the culinary industry.

Apollo Bagels, whose team originated in June with sourdough bagels in Williamsburg, is now popularizing their bagel halves with toppings including lox, heirloom tomatoes and red onions.

All the way from L.A. is Harold & Belle’s, which has a 50+ year history, and they are renowned for classic Creole dishes.

Shake Shack x Hoppers marks an exclusive EEEEEATSCON duo featuring the London-based Sri Lankan restaurant.

Attendees were advised to anticipate a burger with spice, curry and punchy flavors.

West African style grain bowls were also on the menu, thanks to Teranga in East Harlem.

Friendly service at the classic Sally’s Apizza, Photo by Michael Perlman.

The legendary Sally’s Apizza was established in 1938 in New Haven, CT, and served scrumptious brick oven pizza, earning it a spot in the “Pizza, A Love Story” documentary.

Detroit-style pizza could be found by visiting the kiosk of the Williamsburg-based Ace’s Pizza.

If one was craving home-style South Indian specialties, Semma made the cut and is rated a Best New Restaurant of 2021.

Not so far away, Zaab Zaab came from Elmhurst to serve highly regarded Isan dishes from northeastern Thailand, prepared with chilies, herbs and lemongrass.

The vibe further comes alive through guests from not only New York, but numerous states.

Dr. Jaimee Hazel of Jamaica, Queens attended with her mother, Dr. Donna Elam, and her daughter Jazzi Rhodes. “The highlights were trying food from all around the country and some from NYC that I never heard of, but the best experience was exploring the event with my mother and daughter. We had a blast at the La Croix experience. We acted like kids at a carnival and received some nice swag in the process,” she said.

As for the presentations, she added, “I learned that Martha Stewart is a down-to-earth person and willing to share her culinary expertise with anyone who asks.”

When she thinks of EEEEEATSCON, “unique” immediately comes to mind.

Swinging with Aperol Spritz, Photo by Michael Perlman.

“People from different cultural backgrounds, living in all boroughs, from all walks of life, were able to mingle in a beautiful setting while being unified by their common love of food and merriment,” Hazel said.

“I passed this train stop multiple times and never knew Forest Hills Stadium existed,” she continued. “What a gem. I look forward to attending more events.”

It’s so great to be able to attend events like this literally in our own backyard,” said East Meadow resident Jhoesly Santana, who attended with friends Tim and Carmellie and brother-in-law Irfan.

Santana enjoyed the exposure to great food from all over without having to leave NYC.

“We came prepared with a list of places to try, but were pleasantly surprised with the additional places. The best parts included the authenticity of The Wiener’s Circle crew featuring the best hotdog I ever had, the Peppa’s Jerk pork, and the catfish nuggets at Harold and Belle’s, and I don’t even eat seafood, so that should tell you a lot.”

Santana took pride in how a multitude of vendors set up their stations creatively, as well as the exclusive collaborations, several bars, various lounges and performances.

“There was always something going on. We were having drinks while waiting in line and could watch the marching bands or The W.A.F.F.L.E. Crew dance, or take pictures with the decorative displays which made everything interactive. The caviar lounge was also very nice.”

First-time festival attendee Rosa Maria Lazon of Forest Hills enjoyed the afternoon with her family.

She said, “It is a unique event that offers and supports diversity, where there is something for everyone to enjoy. It is meaningful for such a historic site as Forest Hills Stadium to host it.”

She praised the variety of food, the music, the DJs, emcee, the drummers, the drinks and ice cream, topped with delightful, sunny weather.

Another resident, Joseph Gasso attended with friends. His highlights included the Wiggle Room pop-up, which featured house cocktails such as the Slam Dunk Disco with mezcal, under a disco ball, and having big eyes for variety.

He said, “This is an affordable festival for foodies that’s coordinated by one of the most reputable food sources, The Infatuation. I loved that most of the food vendors were close to the entrance. There was plenty of space to walk around and the vibe was great. This was my third EEEEEATSCON and I can’t wait to come back.”

The lineup of musicians transcended attendees to far corners of the world.

The sensational FogoAzul surprises guests, Photo by Michael Perlman.

On Saturday, as patrons were sitting at picnic tables on the stadium’s court, dining in the exclusive Chase lounge, or making their way up to the multi-tiered food kiosks on the stadium’s stage, FogoAzul NYC offered one of the most rhythmic experiences.

Based in Queens, they are characterized as NYC’s all women/non-binary Brazilian American drumline.

They feel that “music and rhythm is in every human, if you give them the means, very loudly.” On average, they perform at 150 events annually, including parades.

Red Baraat, which originated in Brooklyn, prides itself on initiating unity and joy, and consolidates hard-driving North Indian bhangra with hip-hop, raw punk and jazz elements.

Also from Brooklyn, the nine-piece band, Brass Queens, draws inspiration from New Orleans music with modern pop.

Some of their performance spots include “Good Morning America” and the 2021 Met Gala.

Another show-stopper, W.A.F.F.L.E. Crew (We Are Family For Life Entertainment), made its way around the stadium campus.

They explained, “In the LiteFeet dance community, there are different teams; we knew with the platform of dancing on the subway, we can start our own. What makes us unique is everyone’s individuality and talents. We are great by ourselves, but better together.”

DJs played various genres including Latin, hip-hop, 1980s rock and dance, thanks to DJ OP!, DJ Matthew Law, DJ Perly and DJ Lovelisa.

Saturday’s guest speakers included Martha Stewart, Bun B and Black Thought of the Rappers Who Cook panel, whereas on Sunday, Hasan Minhaj and Ramy Youssef were also attractions.

Bun B is known for impacting the hip-hop scene over 25 years ago as one half of the acclaimed UGK.

Black Thought is co-founder of “The Roots” and is a most prolific voice in hip-hop, who won three Grammy Awards.

Minhaj originated the weekly Netflix comedy series, “Patriot Act,” with Hasan Minhaj.

Award-winning Egyptian-American Youssef is a comedian and actor who produces and stars in “Ramy,” a popular Hulu show.

Not a seat was left empty when it came to Martha Stewart, who spoke in a tent for over 45 minutes, which also consisted of a Q&A session.

She is an Emmy Award recipient TV show host and an entrepreneur who founded the first multi-channel lifestyle company, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, and is also a best-selling author of 100 lifestyle books.

She maximizes everyday living by capturing audiences with cooking, gardening, healthy living, pet care and collecting among other topics.

“One of my mottos is to learn something new every day,” said Stewart. “I have a new show coming out on Roku. We signed a new contract for 39 shows a year for the next three years. It’s divided between cooking, holiday and gardening. Talking to interesting people every day is so important to me.”

She also discussed The Martha Stewart Podcast on iHeart.

“I’ve had everybody from Snoop, who I find extremely interesting, to Kris Jenner, Clive Davis, who’s an old friend. I try to get people that I actually know. I want to talk to them about what they’re doing and what interests me about what they’re doing. Sometimes we go over an hour and a half or almost two hours, and I don’t even realize that we’ve been talking so long. When that happens, you know you had a good conversation.”

When asked if there is a form of media that she has yet to tackle such as a documentary, she responded, “Well, I’m working on that. You’re going to love this documentary. Netflix bought it. It will come out within a year.”

It will be produced by R.J. Cutler, who is associated with Billie Eilish and also focuses on legends such as Elton John.

“It’s unusual, but then the fictionalized version will come out after that. It will be me exaggerating my life. It hasn’t been announced yet, but wait for that,” she continued.

Andre’s Hungarian Bakery: A cornerstone for generations

A taste of Hungary in Forest Hills

By Michael Perlman

[email protected]

One mom and pop shop that reads NYC all over it is Andre’s Hungarian Bakery, which has enticed palates with authenticity for generations.

This cultural gem has welcomed patrons since 1976 at 100-28 Queens Boulevard in Forest Hills, and today it is one of the last-of-its-kind traditional kosher bakeries, especially for Queens.

Their slogan, “Where pastry is art,” comes alive as soon as patrons encounter the window display and enter the small, yet charming and nostalgic shop, where the experienced staff complements the culinary experience with a smile.

Rose Heimann (1919-2018), who emigrated from Hungary, is the original owner who achieved the American Dream.

“She asked me what I should name it, and I said to name it ‘Andre’s Hungarian Strudels & Pastries,’” her 73-year-old son, Andre Heimann, said.

With much faith, she granted life to an empty storefront, and as of 1981, he entered the business and they both became faces of the community.

The ambiance features cases and shelves of Hungarian pastries, stained glass fixtures and bricks, and shelves of native collectibles with a tributary photo of “Grandma Rose.”

“I’ve kept the bakers and all of the old recipes and traditions of the holidays alive,” Heimann said. “She deserves all the credit in the world, and the fact that the Forest Hills mom and pop shop is there after 40 years, is something very few stores can say. People took Andre’s home for the holidays and they still are.”

Despite today’s rise in chains and shift in real estate values, the ownership and staff at Andre’s, who considers themselves “a family,” is determined to persevere by continuing to bake Hungarian pastries by hand the old-fashioned way, while using the finest ingredients.

Fatima Auwar, Tino Melendez, Lucio Carlos behind delectable Hungarian pastries.

At the time that Andre’s opened its doors, the neighborhood was dotted by kosher and traditional bakeries, delis and butchers, including Jay Dee Bakery, Evelyn’s Bake Shop, Peter Pan, Sandy’s Surf Delicatessen, Boulevard Delicatessen, Ben’s Best, Glick’s, and Lazar’s.

Traditional favorites that are bursting with flavor are plentiful and include blueberry, plum and apple pies, Napoleon, rugelach, babka, strudel, Sacher torte, Dobos torte, croissants, Linzer tarts, fruit squares, danishes, assorted cookies, floden and beigli.

To become better acquainted, babka is a sweet yeast cake swirled with either chocolate or cinnamon raisin.

Their classic rugelach features nuts, raisins and a mix of apricot and raspberry jelly, whereas chocolate rugelach offers a rich chocolate filling and a hint of hazelnut.

Classic Rugalech

Layers of walnut and poppy seed come together with prune lekvar on top, if one is craving for Floden.

An artful beigli pastry consists of sweet yeast bread, complemented by dense walnut or poppy seed filling.

Sacher torte is a dense chocolate sponge cake with chocolate glazing and layers of apricot jam and finely grounded nuts, invented by Franz Sacher in 1832 for Prince Metternich of Vienna.

Dobos torte is a layered sponge cake with chocolate buttercream, topped off with caramel, and named after Hungarian chef József C. Dobos, a Budapest delicatessen owner who invented it in 1885.

Adding to traditions, Andre helped develop an online presence in relatively recent times, which included shipping baked goods countrywide.

The website further engages patrons with a behind-the-scenes clip titled, “Making Strudel.”

This legendary dessert is prepared on a long table and features a light and flaky crust with sweet or savory fillings.

According to the staff, “Making strudel is a form of art that takes years to perfect,” and they owe much gratitude toward Andre for one-on-one training.

Andre was born in 1948 in Újpest, the Fourth District in Budapest.

“In 1949, my parents left, since many Jews wanted to leave Europe after WWII. I grew up in Brazil and Caracas, Venezuela, and then we ended up in the Bronx,” Heimann said.

“In 1962, I started seventh grade here. My younger brother was born in Brazil. My parents came here with a suitcase and two kids to start a life. Coming to America was not easy,” he continued. “They didn’t speak the language, but they were willing to work. She had a drive to succeed.”

Rose & her son, Andre Heimann on her birthday in 2010.

His mother once lived in Elmhurst.

Andre reminisced about opening day, which was prior to Thanksgiving in 1976. “It was a huge hit. There were lines. It was a very Jewish neighborhood. Those were the golden years, and there was a demand and products spoke for themselves.”

Linking the past to the present, he said, “Everything is made the old-fashioned way. Nothing is mechanized or bought frozen. Everything is touched by hand.”

He continued, “The key in the bakery business is selling fresh pastries, or you won’t get a return.”

Prior to 1976, his mother Rose was an employee at another famous bakery, Mrs. Herbst’s Homemade Strudels & Pastries, which was located at 1443 Third Avenue in Manhattan, but replaced with a residence. “Her first paycheck was $1.10 an hour in 1966. That was minimum wage. Imagine working for that,” Heimann explained.

Mrs Herbst’s in the 1930s, where Rose Heimann began working.

“She worked in Yorkville, which had many Germans and Hungarians. She was there for over 10 years before opening up the little shop you see in Forest Hills. She took one of the best bakers to come and work with her, Mr. Hans, who was German. He ordered all the supplies, had the recipes and did all the baking. She also took along the strudel lady, who would come two to three times a week. She had to come in the evening, since you don’t have the space.”

After Andre’s father passed away in 1981 and as a result of the old-time baker passing away, it motivated him to become more involved.

“I was very eager to help my mother. I never worked in a bakery, but had to start from scratch. I taught myself, but there were also many Hungarian and German bakers willing to teach me,” he said. “At that time, everyone had a little recipe book. You couldn’t Google recipes. I had to put in a lot of hours to get to the point to bake everything in the store.”

In those years, there were trained bakers who worked in Europe prior to emigrating, Andre recalled. “There was a little more respect and it was easy to find Hungarian bakers,” he said.

Rose Heimann at Andre’s circa early 1990s.

As a businessman, he then felt determined to build upon his recipe for success.

Two blocks east of Andre’s, he owned the Jet Age-inspired Empress Diner in the 1980s and applied a Hungarian twist (now demolished), and then in the early 1990s, briefly owned Andre’s Café on Restaurant Row.

In 2004, he opened a branch at 1631 2nd Avenue, later renamed Budapest Café, which specializes in traditional entrees, strudels, crepes, wine, espresso and cappuccino.

At 1049 1st Avenue is Andre’s Hungarian Strudels & Pastries.

“I took pride in quality products, these businesses and the fact that I could make everything, since at one time I couldn’t,” he said.

Andre recalls his mother as an unbelievably dedicated, strong woman, partially motivated by his father, who had a few businesses overseas that were unsuccessful.

“They don’t make that breed anymore. She was there from opening until closing, every single day. Whenever someone came into the store, whether it was at 8 a.m. or 8 p.m., she would still be there. She was a tough cookie. I don’t think you’ll find that dedication anymore,” he said. “She worked full-time in the bakery until she was 89 and passed away at 99. It was her oxygen. I would work in the back with the bakers as she would work in the front with the customers, handling the cash. She made sure everyone got fresh pastries, every single day.”

Today’s staff continues to keep the tradition alive.

“We keep the old recipes. Everything is old-school, the way it was over 40 years ago, and that’s why people keep coming here,” said front manager Fatima Auwar, a nearly nine-year employee. “I know a lot of customers for a long time, and I feel very happy.”

She is most tempted by their chocolate croissants and Sacher torte.

Tino Melendez and his brother, Eric Melendez, dedicate much of their energy toward operating the business.

Tino, who held his current position for the past two years, but worked with Andre for many more, pinpointed a key ingredient.

“We feel at home like a family,” he said. “Andre and the chefs taught us how to bake everything from scratch.”

His favorite pastries are Napoleon and plum pie. He is often in the back, ensuring that the baking supplies are spotless and ready for the next order.

The head baker, Jaime Vasquez, has a long history at Andre’s, which dates back nearly three decades. Second-hand baker, Lucio Carlos, has been a mainstay for six years.

When it comes to his favorite pastries, he said, “I don’t have a choice” and chuckled, but then selected a traditional seven-layer cake.

“I work eight hours daily and six days a week, and I aim for the best quality,” he continued.

For a taste of Hungary in Forest Hills, place your order at (347) 935-3120 or say “hello” to the crew in person.

Ice Cream Window: ‘Different, but still the same’

By Stephanie Meditz

[email protected] 

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ice Cream Window served scoops of happiness to the community such that it became a permanent fixture. 

Intended as a three-week pop-up in Karlssonwilker design studio, the shop brought Ridgewood’s original immigrant populations together by experimenting with traditional cultural flavors in its ice cream. 

Karlssonwilker, originally headquartered in Manhattan, moved to Ridgewood when a developer bought out multiple neighboring properties. 

“We knew that our days were numbered as well, and that they would tear down these whole buildings and build a skyscraper,” said Elisabeth Smolarz, Karlssonwilker photographer and founder of Ice Cream Window. 

Born in Poland and raised in Germany, Smolarz knew of the large Polish and German-speaking communities in Ridgewood, as well as its overall population increase over the last few years. 

With the help of some friends in the area, she bought the new Karlssonwilker design studio space on Woodward Avenue, along with the apartment above it. 

While renovating the building’s facade, Smolarz recalled her time living in Gowanus and saw the need for some kind of outdoor component. 

“It had a bench outside. It was very dark inside, so I would oftentimes sit outside and work or read,” she said. “What was lovely about that, being outside, was that I met all the neighbors immediately. I knew everyone on my block within a few months.” 

This goal is what prompted the installment of a window, and for a while, Smolarz wondered what to do with it. 

In 2019, she visited Lady Moo Moo in Bedford-Stuyvesant, an ice cream shop that serves its ice cream out of a window for customers to eat outside. 

“I tasted the ice cream and said, ‘Wow. This ice cream is amazing. I think this is the best ice cream I’ve ever had,’” Smolarz said. 

Smolarz’s daughter was born in January 2020, followed by the start of the pandemic. 

“Motherhood just became extremely lonely,” she said. “There were no mom groups. We had a digital one and it was nice, but you just couldn’t really connect with anybody.” 

During her many walks with her new baby that summer, she thought to follow Lady Moo Moo’s business model and temporarily use Karlssonwilker’s window to serve ice cream at a social distance. 

In August 2020, Ice Cream Window was born as a pop-up, with the ice cream delivered by Lady Moo Moo. 

Smolarz met many of her new neighbors in Ridgewood, and after the pop-up ended, they approached her on the street and asked when she would sell ice cream again. 

By popular demand, she agreed to reopen the shop for at least another year. 

Smolarz solicited the help of other local businesses such as Topos Bookstore Cafe, Millers and Makers, Porcelain and Plein Air to turn Ice Cream Window into a permanent shop. 

This past summer, Ice Cream Window collaborated with the longtime Ridgewood staple, Rudy’s Pastry Shop to sell ice cream sandwiches made with chocolate chip cookies. 

“That’s what’s beautiful about Ridgewood, that it is a community,” she said. “You can ask anyone for help, and people will help you.” 

Smolarz gives back to the community in various ways, such as cooking traditional Polish dishes at Woodbine’s free Sunday dinners. 

Most notably, though, she works to ensure that Ice Cream Window brings something new to Ridgewood without alienating its longtime residents, rather making them feel at home. 

“The flavors relate to the community, and to us personally,” she said, referencing her husband and the Karlssonwilker team. “We kind of channel our childhoods here.” 

Waldmeister, a traditional German flavor, has been well loved in Ridgewood for a long time.

For instance, one of Ice Cream Window’s specials is waldmeister, or sweet woodruff, a popular German flavor that was served in Ridgewood a long time ago. 

Ridgewood’s older Gottschee population can easily recognize the pumpkin seed oil that distinguishes Ice Cream Window’s styrian ice cream. 

“We have family in Vienna…so we first found out about it in Vienna when we were cooking dinner and then they served us vanilla ice cream with roasted pine nuts and a drizzle of pumpkin seed oil,” Smolarz said. 

Whenever she goes to visit them, she brings back authentic pumpkin seed oil for the ice cream. 

Ice Cream Window serves huge amounts of joy through one small window.

Hris, a flavor based on an Icelandic malt chocolate candy, is a nod to Hjalti Karlsson’s Icelandic heritage. 

Smolarz’s favorite flavor, “mak,” is based on a Polish poppy seed roll with a sugary lemon glaze called makowiec. 

Ice Cream Window also offers linden-flavored ice cream reminiscent of Smolarz’s childhood, but only during certain months in the spring.

“There was this moment, like end of May, early June, when all the linden trees were blooming in Ridgewood,” Smolarz said. “And I just love the smell so much. So during that time, we always make linden ice cream just to celebrate the season.” 

Other flavors in the rotation include dulce de leche, lucuma, lychee, matcha and red bean along with the typical vanilla and chocolate. 

Because Ice Cream Window uses such a small space within Karlssonwilker, its flavors are on rotation. 

“We’re trying to have flavors that kind of go beyond what’s familiar to us,” Smolarz said. “We kind of think, what else would the community like? And it’s very easy, Queens is the most diverse place on this planet, I think.” 

Ice Cream Window’s Instagram account, @icecreamwindow, has been an important tool to learn more about community members and foster a fun atmosphere. 

As a photographer for Karlssonwilker and photography instructor at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, Smolarz loves to see customers post pictures of their ice cream. 

The star of the account, however, is a bright orange puppet, lovingly called “the window puppet,” that makes an appearance in every post announcing the flavors of the week. 

“Maybe next year when we get really good at puppetry, we’ll have a puppet theater for the kids,” Smolarz said. 

Because of her own daughter, Smolarz always works to include children in the fun of Ice Cream Window. 

She especially loves to see them try new, unknown flavors when vanilla or chocolate are not offered. 

“It’s always very sweet how, next time they come, they say, ‘I want a scoop of lucuma,’ or ‘I want a scoop of waldmeister,’” she said. “This is what’s amazing about ice cream. It just brings you a lot of joy.” 

Ice Cream Window will continue to serve joy to the Ridgewood community on Saturdays and Sundays from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. until the temperature drops.

Fogo de Chão partners with Queens Together to feed locals

First Queens location to open in Elmhurst later this year

By Jessica Meditz

[email protected]

Fogo de Chão, an internationally renowned restaurant founded in Southern Brazil in 1979, will soon make its Queens debut.

Later this year, the restaurant will open a brand new location next to Queens Center Mall in Elmhurst—marking its first Queens location, fifth in New York and 67th globally.

In preparation and celebration of the upcoming opening, Fogo de Chão partnered with Queens Together, an organization formed during the COVID-19 lockdown to address food insecurity.

Last Friday, the two groups came together at First Baptist Church of Elmhurst to provide fresh, high quality meals to over 1,500 community residents.

Fogo de Chão and volunteers worked together to provide people with meats butchered and prepared on their full-sized mobile churrasco grills.

Folks enjoyed their signature churrasco-style meats—Fraidinha and Picanha—along with mixed greens and their well-loved potato salad.

“Coming to Queens is such an amazing opportunity for us because it’s the most culturally diverse city and borough, and that’s what we love to do at Fogo,” Katie Calvin, general manager of Fogo de Chão, said.

“Especially for people who are from Latino or Hispanic countries, they often don’t have somewhere to go that feels like home,” she continued. “That’s why we love that we’re coming to Queens; we’re really excited.”

In addition to the Queens event, Fogo de Chão is committed to providing for the communities they serve, and arranges for mobile events to take place across the U.S.

Queens Together was also proud of their presence at the event, continuing their mission of empowering, representing and supporting the local restaurant community, as well as Queens residents in need.

We’re just trying to be a forward-facing program. We try to close all the gaps and connect people with food and services, and with restaurants in general, our biggest thing is trying to help them stay in business,” Devin Kloss, media director at Queens Together, said.

“Our goal is just to be somebody that they can call when they have a question, and then either we’ll find out the answer, or we’ll find the person to get them the answer,” he continued. “That’s really our goal.”

Mets third baseman Eduardo Escobar helped prepare food at the event.

Also in attendance was third baseman for the Mets, Eduardo Escobar, who is a big fan of the restaurant.

“It was actually a really organic, beautiful connection that was made with Eduardo. He started to eat at Fogo, and we started to hear him saying, ‘Fogo power,’ and ‘I play better after Fogo,’” Calvin said.

“Now we have luckily have a really tight-bonded relationship, and a percentage of our sales go to his foundation, where he provides to kids mostly in Venezuela with baseball materials, opportunities, food and supplies.”

Escobar spoke fondly of Fogo de Chão as he helped prepare the meats that went out into the community, and is happy that the restaurant so close to his heart is now physically close to him, where he plays baseball.

“The food is just so delicious, and I love everything about it. The people are also so nice,” Escobar said.

“Everything they’re doing to help the community is so important and special, and this is an amazing opportunity,” he continued. “God bless this restaurant. The food helps me feel at home.”

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