Authentic Mexican food & entertainment at Lime & Salt Cantina

A small business with a huge heart

By Michael Perlman

[email protected]

Obet Juarez & his staff Emmanuel, Francisco, William, Claudia, Isidro and Catalino give a thumbs up to community.

Queens is nicknamed the “The World’s Borough.” Holding up to its title is a most diverse culinary landscape, where Lime & Salt Cantina holds the mark of distinction for a Mexican restaurant and bar, inspired by iconic taquerias and longtime traditions.

At 98-102 Queens Boulevard in Rego Park, freshly prepared authentic dishes, cocktails and entertainment come together in a colorful ambiance, creating a unique community destination.

Owner Obet Juarez, a 34-year-old Sunnyside resident, cultivated his dream by bringing part of his native residence of Puebla, Mexico to Queens Boulevard, which came to fruition on Feb. 4 of this year.

From the moment patrons enter, they are often greeted by Juarez and his friendly team. Then the personalization continues while sitting at cozy booths or at the bar, creating the sensation of an extended family.

“My recipe for success is to love what I do,” Juarez said.

The chef is his brother, who not only has experience preparing Mexican dishes that resemble “food art,” but with cuisines including French, Italian and Greek.

“We learned from our mother’s style of cooking and loved it so much, that we wanted to share it with the world by offering our food alongside our famous cocktails to introduce something special for the neighborhood.”

His role model also included his bosses. “I saw how well it went for them, so over the years, I wanted to do the same,” he continued.

A bird’s-eye view of authenticity, courtesy of Lime & Salt.

Signature elements of Puebla, the fourth-largest Mexican city, include its culinary history, pottery and Colonial architecture.

Juarez, who emigrated to the U.S. at age 16, has worked in the culinary industry ever since.

He recalled, “I began working as a dishwasher and then I moved into the kitchen. From there, I worked on the floor and was a bartender for 10 years.”

Juarez takes pride in his heritage. He said, “Throughout my time working in Manhattan, I wanted to open a place that felt like home. I dreamt of a Mexican restaurant, where I could sell food that originated in my home country.” The restaurant name bears cultural significance. “We came up with our name, ‘Lime & Salt’ through the years of saying it, since we use lime and salt for our tacos, beer, shots and more foods. It’s very common and the name sounds catchy,” said Juarez.

Lime & Salt’s walls feature murals of a map of Mexico with maracas, a calavera, which is known as a decorative skull, tacos and a chihuahua bearing the Lime & Salt logo.

Other decorative features include a mariachi sombrero, tequila bottles and traditional colorful collectibles hanging from the walls and the ceiling.

Without a doubt, Lime & Salt’s ambiance has been a breeding ground for unique memories since its opening.

“We have a mural that says, ‘Will You Mariachi Me?,’ and we actually had a couple who got engaged here and took a picture with it,” Juarez said.

Site of a proposal. Photo by Michael Perlman

Patrons can sing their way into the weekend with karaoke every two weeks on Friday beginning at 7 PM (subject to change). Occasionally, a DJ adds to the vibe.

Juarez explained a most anticipated dish as the nachos and steak nachos to be specific.

“It comes with mozzarella, black beans, ranch, sriracha, pico de gallo, guacamole and any choice of meat ranging from chicken, chorizo, al pastor, steak, shrimp and birria, but what makes the nachos special is the way our chef prepares the chipotle cheese sauce.”

As for the most unique dishes, he highlighted “mole enchiladas.”

“It is from my hometown. It’s a very unique sauce that is made with 60 ingredients. Examples are chocolate, almond, crackers, raisins and different kinds of chili peppers. It’s a sweet sauce, which is very common where I’m from.”

Their signature dish, “Boulevard Molcajete,” consists of carne asada, chicken, chorizo, queso frito, nopales, papalo leaves, cebollitas, cilantro and salsa mocha, which is served with rice, beans and tortillas.

To warm up this winter, “caldo de pollo” soup or “tortilla soup” would do the trick.

Patrons also have a lesson while enjoying a wide selection of taqueria, such as “al pastor,” consisting of onions, cilantro, marinated pork, grilled pineapple, salsa verde, radish and cucumber, which is served with three tacos. Eye-catching sides include adobo fries and nopales & cebollitas.

A meal is not complete without dessert. A classic is the “tres leches” Mexican milk cakes.

A full lineup of unique cocktails includes a “Rego Park Old Fashion,” consisting of bourbon, amaro Averna, special house syrup and orange aromatic bitters.

Signature cocktails, courtesy of Lime & Salt

For additional zing, choose a “Sweet & Spicy.” This is a serrano-infused tequila, passionfruit, triple sec and of course, lime and salt tajin.

Juarez is a humanitarian. “I donated outside of my restaurant, but we are open to partnering and contributing to community causes,” he said.

Additionally, he is open to hosting community events, family gatherings, parties for all occasions and catering outside his restaurant.

Besides maintaining his dream business that supports the community, his family and staff, he said, “My long-term plan is to create more jobs by opening more businesses.”

Patrons have warmly welcomed Lime & Salt.

A bustling crowd.

Forest Hills resident Audrey Pavey explained, “After reading about this restaurant on Facebook six months ago, I decided to stop by and try it. I had the ‘Mexican cobb salad’ and I always get it to go. I get home late from work and I’m always looking for a quick and convenient place. I love the flavor of the chicken, chorizo, avocado and corn. I am a creature of habit.”

She also admires the rapport and embraces the small business model.

“The owner and staff are very friendly and always invite me to have a seat at the bar, while I wait for my food to go. It’s a very comfortable atmosphere,” Pavey said. “I try to support our local businesses whenever I can, since it’s important to have a thriving community with places to eat, drink and congregate. I hope Lime & Salt remains part of our community for a long time to come.”

“The food is fresh and full of flavor, and we love it,” said Niki Szenasi of Rego Park. Her daughter can attest to that. “So far, I’ve ordered delivery. My two favorite dishes are the chicken quesadilla and the chicken burrito. The ambiance is colorful and fun. I’m also such a loyal customer due to the friendliness of the staff. Every time I call to place an order, the person on the phone is welcoming and overall very pleasant. It’s so important to preserve small businesses since they add personality and character to our neighborhood and help put money back into it,” Szenasi said.

She envisions holding events there. “I could totally see myself hosting a Women’s Empowerment gathering. It’s a wonderful addition to our neighborhood and I’ll continue supporting Lime & Salt.”

Forest Hills resident Lauren Gantman cannot forget the veggie fajita, which she first tried last summer, and most certainly the accommodations.

“I have food allergies, so the wait staff and manager checked all ingredients. They were able to adjust the platter specifically. It’s important to feel safe eating in a restaurant,” she said.

Eddie Alvarez and his family, who live nearby at Birchwood Towers, discovered Lime & Salt over the summer after encountering Yelp.

“One evening, my wife, our three-year-old and I were blown away by the hospitality, food, overall service and experience. We are big foodies and eat here quite a bit,” he said. “We have been here on Fridays for Happy Hour, as well as socializing with family, friends and kids. I have a small group of Forest Hills dads and we grab drinks occasionally, and last week, my wife scheduled a ‘mom’s night out.’”

Some favorite dishes that they don’t seem to deviate from are nachos, mahi-mahi tacos and shrimp tacos.

Their daughter orders from the Kids Corner menu, and enjoys her empanadas and French fries.

“The food is authentic and seasoned just right, and the drinks measure up,” he continued.   

When Juarez is not in the dining area and interacting with patrons, he cherishes his family time, especially with his two daughters.

Owner Obet Juarez & manager William, Photo by Michael Perlman.

“We hope to impress this lovely neighborhood and offer new experiences. From what we have noticed, it’s filled with wonderful people who are from various countries, and we are happy to be part of the community,” Juarez said.

Lime & Salt’s hours of operation are from 11:30 am to 11 pm on Monday to Thursday and Sunday, and until 1 AM on Friday and Saturday.

Patrons can call (718) 275-1575 or place an order online via Grubhub, Seamless, Uber Eats and DoorDash.

For more information about this community gem, visit www.facebook.com/limeansaltRegopark, @lime_andsalt on Instagram or www.limeandsaltregopark.com.

Village Grill: A town center in Forest Hills

Embracing the magic touch and humanitarian values for 10+ years

By Michael Perlman

[email protected]

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.

Chic new cafe opens in Forest Hills

Forest Cafe wants to be an ‘oasis’ for locals

By Jessica Meditz

[email protected]

Forest Cafe’s attractive storefront.

All coffee lovers of Forest Hills and its surrounding communities now have a brand new cafe to add to their lists.

Forest Cafe, located at 68-04 Burns Street, celebrated its grand opening last Saturday, inviting the community into their spacious, bright and comfortable location.

The cafe is powered by the family-run staff of sisters, Julie and Nina Fung, and Nina’s fiancé, Paul Shim.

The trio has been residents of Forest Hills for about a decade, and are proud to serve their neighbors and the community they call home.

Forest Cafe’s three-person team (L to R): Nina Fung, Paul Shim and Julie Fung.

“Since we’ve been residents of Forest Hills for such a long time, we’ve always wanted a cozy cafe in the neighborhood to be able to study and work,” Julie Fung said. “Earlier this year, we saw this place and we just had a very clear vision of what we wanted it to be.”

The space, decorated in a trendy, minimalist style with pops of green both in the form of plants and the canopy exterior, offers a peaceful and cozy atmosphere for patrons.

Photo courtesy of Julie Fung.

Fung describes the cafe’s interior as a combination of Japanese and Scandinavian influences, and a mixture of all their decorative tastes.

There is ample seating for guests, including booth-style tables, stool seats, window benches and two cushioned chairs situated by a coffee table.

Also a plus is the complimentary Wi-Fi offered to patrons, as well as outlets to charge electronic devices.

Photo courtesy of Julie Fung.

“We really hope this place becomes an oasis for the Forest Hills community, for our friends, family or really just anyone who’s looking to stop by,” Fung said. “We wanted to make our cafe as peaceful as possible, which is also why we love this location so much. It’s tucked away from the hustle and bustle of Austin Street, while still being in the heart of Forest Hills.”

Forest Cafe offers a variety of drinks, including classic espresso drinks, such as Americanos, macchiatos, cortados, cappuccinos and lattes.

The drinks are made with Project X Coffee beans, which are inspired by Japan, grown in Brazil and roasted in Chicago.

They’re also excited to share some signature drinks, including their Forest latte, iced shakerato, ube latte, matcha latte, hojicha latte and a homemade iced tea.

The cafe’s namesake beverage is their signature latte that’s made with organic maple syrup, a hint of cinnamon and can be served hot or iced.

As for food, they serve croffles, which is a hybrid of a croissant and a waffle. They explained that the croffles are made fresh daily, and come in the flavors of plain, pistachio, Nutella or s’mores.

The team hopes to expand their menu soon, hopefully to include more savory items, as well as possibly obtaining a liquor license to experiment with drinks in the future.

“We make a lot of drinks at home that we’ve never been able to share publicly, or they’re hard to find. We have our own twist on these drinks, so that’s also what we wanted to provide,” Shim said.

“We enjoy seeing people drinking these drinks and enjoying it, and if it can get any better, we’d love to work on it,” he continued. “We all just love food, drinks and sharing it with others. It’s a love language.”

Living in the neighborhood for some time, all three team members love the beauty and the friendly, community atmosphere Forest Hills has to offer.

“I actually wouldn’t mind staying here for the rest of my life, to be honest,” Fung said. “I might wander here and there, but I think I’ll always want to come back to Forest Hills.”

“Our goal for this cafe is to become a staple in this neighborhood, a landmark. For example, if you’re in Forest Hills, you know about Forest Hills Stadium,” she added. “That’s how big we want to grow this place to be.”

Forest Cafe is open seven days a week, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday.

For more information, visit @forestcafenyc on Instagram, or stop by Forest Cafe to welcome the business to the neighborhood.

Middle Village resident spreads good luck through jewelry

‘A little extra protection neva hurt nobody,’ says Erma Camporese

By Jessica Meditz

[email protected]

If New York had a personality, it would be seen in Brooklyn native and Middle Village resident, Erma Camporese.

Simultaneously blunt, yet as kind as they come, Camporese, 57, is known and loved by the local community.

Her wit, humor and textbook New York accent has earned her the title, “The Queen of Graham Avenue,” where she was born and raised.

You are likely to spot her at Anthony & Son Panini Shoppe at 433 Graham, where she frequents.

As an Italian-American, whose family comes from Sanza, she’s naturally very superstitious.

This motivated Camporese to start her own jewelry business, Creations by Erma, in which she specializes in evil eye jewelry.

“Everyone has a different symbol for the evil eye. But at the end of the day, the evil eye is the evil eye. Whether you believe in the Turkish evil eye, the Italian horn, it’s all the same meaning,” she explained.

“You’re not wishing bad, but you’re not wishing good either.”

Camporese’s jewelry spreads both good luck and positivity.

Camporese views the evil eye as a form of protection when someone wears it, leading her to make her business’ slogan: “A little extra protection neva hurt nobody.”

She emphasizes that the stylistic spelling of “never” is on purpose.

“I never use the letter ‘R’ when I talk. I used to have the word, ‘never,’ and a friend told me I had to get rid of it, because it’s not how I talk,” she said.

Camporese offers various creations in her online shop, including necklaces, bracelets, earrings, keychains, eyeglass holders, wind chimes and rosary beads.

As a small business owner based in Middle Village, Camporese is proud to have over 4,000 followers on Instagram (@creationsbyerma), and her TikTok by the same name is not far behind.

She attributes much of her online success to the help of Nicolas “Nico” Heller, better known as “New York Nico.”

The social media personality is nicknamed the “Unofficial Talent Scout of New York,” and he and Camporese quickly became close friends.

“Believe me when I tell you I’m not conceited, but I became an overnight success. [Heller] always used to joke around and tell me he wanted to make me famous, and I’d just tell him to leave me alone,” she said with a laugh.

“On Labor Day weekend last year, I let him put up a skit, where I was being serious the way I was talking to him,” she continued. “About a half an hour later, he was like, ‘Have you looked at your phone?’ When I went to get my phone, I had like 1,000 messages.”

The two continue to collaborate and upload humorous skits to social media.

Camporese’s personality shines through her social media.

In the past, Camporese participated in a New York accent challenge with Heller, as well as commercials for companies including Bumble and Vitaminwater.

“I love Erma, the Queen of Graham Avenue. She is so Brooklyn, it hurts,” Heller said.

“I love that she is embracing the fact that she has a talent and is creating content of her own. I hope to see her on the big screen one of these days.”

In addition to her online presence, Camporese strives to be present in the community at various events across Brooklyn and Queens.

This Saturday, Creations by Erma will have a pop-up stand at the St. Stan’s Fall Festival in Maspeth, where she will sell her work.

On Oct. 22, she’ll participate in the Party in Pink Breast Cancer Fundraiser at P.S. 128 in Middle Village.

Camporese said she’s very big on paying it forward, which includes spreading awareness and donating funds for cancer research to NYU cardiac research in memory of her brother, Nelson Camporese.

She’s also a member of the Maspeth Lions Club and Our Lady of the Snow Ladies Auxiliary.

Everything Camporese does, including her jewelry and online content, is in the name of “amore,” or love.

“Sometimes I like to mind my business, but my personality sells, so I’ve been told,” she said. “Allowing my life to hold protection has shown me such great opportunities. Paying it forward is a big thing for me, I view that the good we put into the world is the good we receive.”

“Protection is for everyone, and I am ecstatic to share my work.”

Metro Village hosts 2nd Community Day

By Jessica Meditz

[email protected]

Rachel Kellner and Mark Libertini, the husband and wife team behind Aigner Chocolates.

This past Saturday, community residents from all walks of life gathered on Metropolitan Avenue in Forest Hills to celebrate Metro Village Forest Hills’ second annual Community Day.

Metro Village Forest Hills is a small business alliance founded by Rachel Kellner of Aigner Chocolates and Eileen Arabian of DEE’S Wood Fired Pizza + Kitchen, which was born out of high tensions amid the pandemic.

It was during this time where the businesses got the idea to host their first Community Day on the Avenue, and hope to continue the tradition for years to come.

“Aigner’s was robbed a few years ago during the pandemic, and the businesses really came out to support us. We decided to create an informal business alliance to provide support to each other and to preserve the richness of the community here,” Kellner said.

“We want to keep those businesses around, and so during the pandemic, obviously events had to be outdoors. So we had this idea to do a Community Day and we did it last year with 30 businesses participating,” she continued. “It went so well that we decided to keep it going. Now it’s going to be a tradition here.”

The Community Day spanned from Royal Collectibles to DEE’S, with businesses up and down the Avenue offering various treats, gifts and positive greetings to visitors.

In addition, 29 businesses participated in a scavenger hunt, where guests received a series of clues and had to guess which business corresponded with that clue, who would then mark it off.

The bingo board-like template was created by community member Samantha Weitzberg.

All guests who filled out their cards completely were entered into a drawing to win a $100 gift certificate to DEE’S and Aigner Chocolates. The winner will be announced by Metro Village this week.

Additionally, 150 prizes were given out at random throughout the day at all the scavenger hunt locations to participants.

Local elected officials took the time to soak up one of the final days of summer sun in Forest Hills, including Councilwoman Lynn Schulman.

Councilwoman Schulman and Alfred Vitsentzos of Nick’s Bistro

“It’s so important to have days like this with people coming out to see all the different kinds of stores, it’s very eclectic,” Schulman said.

“It’s so nice to have local owners and it’s really important to help them,” she continued. “It’s just such a community atmosphere here, and everybody’s just so nice and welcoming.”

Arabian is proud to celebrate the success and accomplishments of businesses on the Avenue, including DEE’S, which just relaunched its weekend lunch service since the start of the pandemic. She believes that this year’s Community Day had an even bigger turnout than last year’s, and hopes to see the event continue to grow.

She admires the diversity of the businesses and all that Metropolitan Avenue has to offer.

“This day brings a lot of exposure to Metropolitan Avenue, which is so important because everyone knows about Austin Street, and they don’t always know about Metropolitan,” she said.

“It really has everything to offer: retail, restaurants, barber shops and hair salons, nail salons, butcher shops, attorneys, everything. So it’s a great way to draw people in and open up the doors of opportunity for other businesses.”

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.

A community of MisFits unite

Business owner creates safe space through health, fitness

Anthony Oll-adikankwu Jr. started MisFits Nutrition with the intention of creating a safe space.

By Jessica Meditz

[email protected]

Growing up, Queens Village native Anthony Oll-adikankwu Jr. always felt like he didn’t fit in, or a misfit, if you will.

He has since reclaimed the word and turned it into something positive for himself and others when he opened MisFits Nutrition on Queens Boulevard in Forest Hills.

Although MisFits Nutrition is listed as a vitamin supplement shop online, Oll-adikankwu Jr. said that his business’ mission encompasses so much more.

As a licensed practical nurse since 2012, health has always been important to Oll-adikankwu Jr. While one’s physical health is essential to their state of being, he also emphasizes the importance of mental health and having a life outside of work.

That is a main component of what motivated him to open up his business.

“People on Wall Street are committing suicide. You make tons of money, but your relationship with your child is strange, you’re never there, you can never make practices, you’re never there for your lover. It takes a toll. That’s not the kind of life that I want.” he said.

“It’s not just about making money…there’s plenty of things I could do just to make money,” he emphasized. “It’s about creating a space where people can come. A lot of people are dealing with depression. I’ve had people come in here, not even knowing me, they just come in, they feel good.”

Oll-adikankwu Jr. said that many people have entered his business to purchase an energy drink or snack, and have felt comfortable confiding in him about their hardships, which is exactly what he hoped for when envisioning MisFits.

MisFits Nutrition’s storefront.

The storefront is adorned with a Black-owned business flag and LGBTQ Pride flag, and the interior features a wall of positive affirmations in different languages to symbolize the diversity of Queens.

“I’m creating a space that’s not just a shake spot, but where people can come in and feel better and talk to a stranger in here. In Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts, for example, people are very secluded and they just want you out the door,” he said. “People come in here, not knowing each other and they’ll be friendly enough to talk to each other. I’m creating a space, a safe haven, a judgment free zone where people can come to.”

Oll-adikankwu Jr. opened MisFits Nutrition four years ago, and runs the business on his own — along with the support of his family and the community at large.

As an Herbalife nutrition club, MisFits Nutrition offers a variety of healthy consumption options on its menu, including energy teas, shakes, bowls and donuts. Oll-adikankwu Jr. also sells a wide variety of supplements to promote a healthy lifestyle.

As a former personal trainer, Oll-adikankwu Jr. offers dance cardio classes every Tuesday and Saturday to keep the community active.

To contribute to the welcoming atmosphere of MisFits, he also offers various activities for people to take part in, including karaoke, game night and Sip N’ Paint, which is co-hosted by Tahina Marcette, who operates Marcette Studio.

MisFits Nutrition’s decor creates a welcoming vibe for all who enter.

“I wanted to create an outlet that’s family-oriented and not alcohol-centered for people to bring their family, kids and friends to be with one another and talk to other people,” Oll-adikankwu Jr. said.

Reflecting on his time spent donating drinks to healthcare workers at local hospitals, he brought up how the sudden switch up on the “healthcare heroes” trend of the COVID-19 pandemic left a bad taste in his mouth.

“People started appreciating nurses, and the pandemic created this trend of ‘healthcare heroes.’ I was collecting donations to deliver drinks to the hospitals not only to promote the business, but to kind of show that I’m trying to do something as well,” he said.

In fact, Goldman Sachs reached out to him with a proposition to contract him to deliver 100 shakes per day to the hospitals.

This was a challenge due to the fact that MisFits Nutrition is a one-man operation.

“I would always get new customers, but it was stressful,” he continued. “Goldman Sachs then extended the contract for another month, but when COVID numbers started dropping, and they canceled the contract.”

He wishes people on a larger scale would support healthcare workers and appreciate their work without an extenuating circumstance.

However, his customers are extremely supportive and believe in his mission.

“I go to Aesthetic Solutions right here, and I passed the shop. I saw the Black-owned sign and immediately went in. I just started my fitness journey, so I’m looking for all alternatives and not giving up my favorite, good foods and sweets,” said Maddie Felton, a regular customer.

“It’s a part of my routine, coming here. There’s just so many options and it makes it easier to stick to my meal plan without giving up the stuff I love.”

A fitness lover or not, Oll-adikankwu Jr. encourages all who are interested in nutritious drinks and snacks along with fun, interactive activities to stop by.

For updates and more information, follow MisFits Nutrition on social media.

Fill the Form for Events, Advertisement or Business Listing