TL has been a fan of Stove in Astoria for a long time, to the point where he refused to tell other people about it so he could keep the place his own little secret. I'm not sure there's too much danger of that though—the restaurant is located in a residential area far from any train stations, so a person wanting to eat at Stove would have to be pretty dedicated. Even I never made it out there until a week ago, despite TL swearing by the honey-glazed double-cut pork chops for the past year.
I was back in New York City for the weekend in order to attend a friend's wedding (congratulations again, JF and JA!), and managed to arrive in time to celebrate JS's birthday with him the night before. Since we planning to hit up the new beer garden that night, dinner in Astoria was a natural choice.
At Stove, I passed up the pork chops in favor of a hanger steak, cooked medium rare, and with mashed potatoes substituted for the shoe string potatoes it was supposed to come with. I'm not an expert on steaks, but this one seemed full of meaty flavor, though slightly on the chewy side. It also arrived with lightly sauteed carrots, broccoli, and string beans, which were fresh and buttery.
Our side of the table split an appetizer of the Prince Edward Island mussels steamed in white wine and garlic, which was a smaller portion size than we expected. The mussels were plump and briny, and the sauce made a perfect dip for the crusty bread our server amiably refilled for us throughout the meal. We also got a appetizer special of Irish sausages encased in puff pastry: Stove's version of pigs in a blanket. The onion jam they came with was probably the best part, serving as a perfect complement to the juicy sausage and flaky pastry.
I tried a bite of the birthday boy's strawberry ice cream (the only dessert they don't make in-house, according to our server), as well as several spoonfuls of a dish of strawberries in cream. Both nicely showcased the flavor of the fruit.
In the end, I'm not sure whether Stove is worth the trek. Service was great and everything was tasty, but nothing about the place seemed unique. I felt like I was having a well-prepared meal of pretty typical grub, at a place more like a good neighborhood joint than a destination restaurant. Still, maybe I should try those pork chops….