Sal, Kris & Charlie'sProclaiming itself the "Sandwich King of Astoria," Sal, Kris & Charlie's Deli could also easily take the crown for Queens, and maybe even the world -- at least in the crazily-overstuffed-sub-sandwich division. The crew of sandwich-makers expertly layers meats, cheeses, sweet or hot peppers and other trimmings into a towering meal on a roll that's as heavenly to look at as it is to eat. (In fact, a subway conductor once saw me eating a SK&C sandwich and exclaimed, "Lady, where'd you get that beautiful sandwich?")
In the shadow of the Amtrak trestle, not far from the Ditmars N/W stop, the narrow storefront is usually jammed with local cops and fire fighters, but the line moves quickly. Baffled by the options? Just go for "The Bomb," a mega-sandwich with absolutely everything that will earn you props from the assembled crowd (especially if you're female). It will also feed at least two, and perhaps even three people, for just $6.50.
- Sal, Kris & Charlie's Deli, 33-12 23rd Ave, Astoria, NY, 718-278-9240
Little MoroccoOn a prime corner in the strip of Steinway Street's unofficial Mid-East-North-Africa business district, Little Morocco has a whole range of hot food and salads from North Africa. But if you start with the rich, faintly spicy merguez (lamb sausage), tucked in a length of French bread and topped with a zingy green-olive relish, you might never get any farther down the menu. Especially if you smear on a little extra red-pepper harissa for sweet heat.
- Little Morocco, 24-39 Steinway St, Astoria, NY, 718-204-8118
El Athens GrillIn a classic Astorian setup, Mexican cooks have leased a Greek-owned restaurant yet kept the name, mostly; the window that used to display a gyro skewer is now decorated with cilantro and fresh pico de gallo, and open to customers seeking a quick taco.
El Athens Grill is a great place to stop for a snack, especially for its overstuffed Mexican-style torta. The fat sandwich is assembled on a fluffy roll. Some of the bread is pulled out to make more room for fillings, which include your choice of meat (spicy pork is always my pick) plus avocado, jalapeños, tomatoes, onions and a lot more that blends together in each squishy, greasy (in a very good way) bite. The smoky red salsa, provided on the side, adds a rich heat. Wash it down with an all-cane-sugar Coca-Cola imported from La Patria, or a crisp Bohemia beer. Most of the staff speaks only Spanish -- if necessary, just point to the menu to make yourself understood.
- El Athens Grill, 30-11 30th Ave, Astoria, NY, 718-777-5366
Il BambinoThere's old-school Astoria Italian-all famous sit-down restaurants like Trattoria L'Incontro, Ponticello and Piccola Venezia-and then there's the new school, represented solely by Il Bambino. This cheerful café specializes in that all-the-rage sandwich, the panino, and uses its battery of industrial-strength presses to excellent effect. Options include a delectable array of cured meats, from bresaola to soppressata, and little flavor treats like truffle oil.
Although the ownership is clearly enamored of the pig (the wall is painted with a giant butchering diagram), vegetarians can also find some tasty treats, such as the asparagus, goat cheese and portobello combo. Or they can just go for one of the giant cupcakes.
- Il Bambino, 34-08 31st Ave, Astoria, NY, 718-626-0087
Cevapdzinica SarajevoOK, so cevapcici are not exactly sandwiches. But they are the essentials-meat and bread-and you can bundle them up to go if you must. What exactly are cevapcici (say che-VOP-chee-chee)? They're the Balkan answer to kebab, miniature in size and extra-intense in flavor.
The little hand-formed mini-sausages of beef at Cevapdzinica Sarajevo (37-18 34th Ave.) are grilled to perfection and served on a little metal platter with two hunks of bread that is magically both fluffy and chewy. On the side is a healthy dollop of red-pepper paste that adds a fresh, sweet and slightly hot zing to the meat. Add chopped raw onions for crunch, and you're good to go. Astoria supports several cevapcici specialists, but an informal survey puts Sarajevo at the top of the list.
- Cevapdzinica Sarajevo, 37-18 34th Ave, Long Island City, NY, 718-752-9528