Friday, December 18, 2015

Five Forest Hills Businesses That Should Expand

Red Pipe
1. Red Pipe Cafe
Forest Hills' only indie cafe is charming, delightful, delicious and cozy. And while the coziness is certainly part of its charm, a bigger space with more room to spread out wouldn't hurt one of the neighborhood's finest spots.

2. La Boulangerie
Our best bakery offers delectable eats, from sandwiches, to salads, to breads and soups. And the space, like Red Pipe, is authentic, cozy and inviting. But also usually crowded. It could easily double in size and maintain its French mystique.

3. Starbucks (71st Continental)
Why not? We're home to one of the tiniest Starbucks on Earth.

4. Mr Vino's Cucina
I recently had a sandwich from this tiny gourmet food shop on Austin St. and it was terrific—fresh and delicious. This shop has the potential to be so much more than just a gourmet food/craft beer emporium. I can see it as a sit-down lunch place with light casual top-notch sandwiches and salads, something our 'hood so desperately still needs.

5. Red Mango
See No. 3.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

New Bake Shop Coming to Austin St.

I believe this is in the former space where that little Mexican / Chinese food combo place used to be. Looks like it could be a cute little place...

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Restaurant Review: OvoSodo

Oh, to keep up with all the restaurants now in Forest Hills! It's a full-time job these days. Yes, there are still a few old-time places that have bucked the trend—Portofino, T-Bone Diner, for example—and managed to stay in business despite all the new competition. But the fact is they are facing an uphill battle that gets more difficult every other month it seems as the next new place opens up. In just the past several years, so many new restaurants have opened in Forest Hills, the dining scene here has gone from one stuck in the mid-1970s, with maybe four or five decent, and I use the word decent generously, restaurants, to one that's overflowing with excellent choices.

Recently, I decided to pay another visit to one spot that hasn't gotten as much attention since the awesome places like Station House, Banter and Jack & Nellie's have opened. And that is the Italian diner/restaurant OvoSodo, located on Queens Blvd. just around the corner from Ascan.

OvoSodo is a very interesting place. It's half gourmet italian restaurant, and half diner. That's really the best way to put it. At different times of day you can get pretty much any kind of food you'd get in a good diner. For breakfast, there's your standard bacon and eggs fare, for example. At night, for dinner, it takes on more of an Italian restaurant feel.

And that is mostly because it's excellent sister Italian restaurant, Tuscan Hills, is located just a few blocks further down Queens Blvd., towards Kew Gardens.

And that's another element that makes OvoSodo so interesting. Tuscan Hills serves some of the same dishes OvoSodo does. But there are some differences. For example, while Tuscan Hills' pizza is to die for—some of the best in the City—OvoSodo takes the pizza experience further, offering a different style of pizza altogether (square slices, for instance) and a much broader variety.

At my recent visit, I had the Salsiccia pizza: Tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese and sausage. It was awesome. Light, not heavy like traditional NY style pizza, but overflowing with mouth-watering flavor.

OvoSodo's Salsiccia pizza, with mouth-watering sausage.
We also had the meat lasagna, also excellent.

So the food is terrific. But what I also love about OvoSodo is the atmosphere. Each restaurant feeds off its location. An establishment can't help but be influenced by where it is situated in this great big city of ours. And here, even within the confined borders of Forest Hills proper, where a restaurant is located influences its look, its feel, and its atmosphere.

By situating OvoSodo along Queens Blvd., that decision can't help but affect the overall feel, and purpose, of this particular restaurant. When we visited, during a weekend evening around 8p.m., we noticed it was only half-full. Since this place is a bit off-the-beaten path, it wasn't hard to imagine that the influx of weekend diners to Forest Hills had gotten so far as Austin Street and its side-streets, and then stopped there. OvoSodo is in a spot frequented by locals—and that's about it. There'd be no reason for visitors to find it, really. The fact is, the block it's on, along with most of that strip of Queens Blvd.—on both sides—has seen much better days.

And that's probably the reason we are starting to see such an interesting dining scene arise along Queens Blvd. now. The atmosphere—speeding cars, old apartment buildings, could not be more dreadful for a restaurant—but the new restaurants that are opening along the Boulevard are doing wondrous things with both cuisine and with the atmosphere inside their walls. You would not know you are eating at a place with multiple lanes of inappropriate-for-a-residential neighborhood traffic racing by outside.

And that's why there's been a spate of attractive new restaurants opening along these blocks of Queens Boulevard, and not Austin Street. The rents just gotta be a ton lower than along Austin, which a Shake Shack can probably easily afford (praise the lord!) but which an entrepreneurial restauranteur just cannot—at least in its early-going.

OvoSodo makes use of the urbanized atmosphere of Queens Blvd. by incorporating a dinerish feel; it's a place you can spend hours refilling that cup of coffee. It's not overcrowded like so many of the other hip new places that have opened in and around Austin Street. (Even, unfortunately, Red Pipe, which I love, but is a tiny spot and could benefit from a much bigger space.)

And that is what I love about OvoSodo—it's open, it's airy, it gives you room to breathe—and to delight in some awesome food to boot. Try it out if you haven't already.

Latest Video in Arson Case

The police have released another video of whom they think is the person responsible for setting the fires at construction sites in one area of Forest Hills, north of Queens Blvd. Other leads they had in the case have not panned out, including a photo of one man on a motorcyle the authorities had circulated as a possible suspect. He turned out to be a first responder. So the man in the video below is the current suspect in the case.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Happy Chanukah!

Better late than never, for those of you who don't follow me on Twitter!

Seeking Holiday Photos and Pictures of the Day

Don't forget to send in your holiday decoration photos or just any cool pics you have for Pictures of the Day. Email them to

La Boulangerie's charming holiday decorations during Christmas 2013.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

A Film to Get You in the Holiday Spirit

A young local filmmaker, 16-year-old Forest Hills resident Harrison Dillingham, emailed me about his short film. It includes many beautiful scenes of Forest Hills and Manhattan during the holidays and a soundtrack that will really get you in the holiday mood as well. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Free Tour of Historic Forest Hills Today

FREE Historic Forest Hills Tour on Sun, Dec 6 from 2 PM - 4 PM. We will explore stately residential buildings, the business district, & the Forest Hills Gardens. We will meet at La Boulangerie at 109-01 72nd Rd. Please join Jeff Gottlieb (Central Queens Historical Association, President), Michael Perlman (Rego-Forest Preservation Council, Chair & Legendary Locals of Forest Hills and Rego Park, Author), & Susanna Hof (Terrace Sotheby's Realty, Principal). Questions? Email &


New Photo of Suspect in Local Fires

The police have released this new photo of a suspect in the local fires. Another fire occurred at a home under construction last night...

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The Americans Films in Forest Hills Thursday

The TV show The Americans returns to filming in Forest Hills Thursday. A reader says filming will be "on the south side of Queens Blvd between the 76's and also Austin."

Friday, November 27, 2015

Video of Suspected Forest Hills Arsonist Released

A video of the suspected arsonist in the several fires that have occurred in Forest Hills over the past several weeks has been tweeted by @NYCityAlerts

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving

Wishing everyone a very Happy Thanksgiving!

Another Fire Tonight

Looks like that arsonist has struck again, targeting a house under construction at 108-43 67th Drive, in the same general area as the others...

Here's a pic the police tweeted tonight:

And one that a reader sent in:

Here's an article about these fires, apparently being attributed to one suspect:
Fire-Starting 'Ninja' Sought for String of Suspicious Forest Hills Blazes

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Pictures of the Day

Some gorgeous recent sunsets from Forest Hills. Thanks to Bob and Ernie for sending in these pics. The first two are views from The Pinnacle building...

Monday, November 23, 2015

One of my favorite quotes...

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Martin Niemöller at The Hague's Grote of Sint-Jacobskerk in May 1952

Friday, November 20, 2015

Rash of Fires Under Investigation

Six of the seven recent fires that have ravaged Forest Hills buildings in recent weeks have been deemed suspicious, according to the 112th Precinct — prompting the local police to enlist the help of the NYPD's arson unit. 
Read more about it here: Arson Unit Investigating Forest Hills Fires, Police Say

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

New Event! Forest Hills Winter Festival

I think the local Chamber of Commerce is calling this the "Celebrate Winter" event. It will be from 5 to 8:30 pm with a holiday lighting ceremony at 6:30. It's a great idea..  I think they should hold one in February too when it's really snowing hard, which would make for a cozier version...

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

And Yet Another Fire Tonight

This one's on 66th Avenue & 108th Street... The police say it is another residential fire of a house under construction. Thanks to Natalya for emailing in these pics. The first was tweeted by the Police tonight.

The 112th Precinct tonight tweeted: "We're aware of the recent rash of residential fires in Forest Hills We're coordinating with FDNY and other investigative authorities."

Fire in Forest Hills Injures Two This Morning

An early morning fire today at the Normandy apartment building at 106-15 Queens Blvd., located between Jewel Ave. and Queens Blvd., has reportedly injured two people, one critically. Thanks to Dawn for sending in these photos this morning.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Confirmed! Shake Shack Coming to Forest Hills!

In what just might be the most important news for Forest Hills since the Stadium started up concerts again, Shake Shack confirmed this morning that they will be opening in the former Strawberry store location on Austin Street: Shack HQ Confirms: Queens Is Getting Another Standalone Shake Shack

Just some early thoughts as the news that this is really happening sinks in:
1) This will be awesome for the Austin St. shopping district of Forest Hills. It will bring in tons of new shoppers to the neighborhood. The lines that usually stretch outside a Shake Shack (if they materialize, and judging by the lines we already get inside our Chipotle, I'd be shocked if they didn't) will be mostly younger potential shoppers for all of the other retailers surrounding our new Shack. If these retailers are smart, they will take advantage of these crowds somehow. In fact, I hope the Shake Shack invigorates Austin Street all the way down to Ascan, an area that can especially use a boost.
2) It will also bring in tons of younger shoppers to the neighborhood, and as a result, could very well change the dynamic of the shopping we have along Austin Street, possibly attracting retailers aimed at younger shoppers.
3)  Personally, I am surprised—surprised that Shake Shack has skipped over supposedly "hipper" Queens neighborhoods like Astoria and Long Island City to open up their first stand-alone location here in Forest Hills.
But then, when I think about it more deeply, I can see why:
  •  More younger people are moving into Forest Hills
  •  There are already a ton of the younger folk here
  •  Also, pretty much every demographic seems to love Shake Shack, and we have just about every demographic living here
  •  Austin Street is an extremely attractive shopping district with just the upscale feel Shake Shack loves (though it's been struggling a bit in some regards as of late—this will put a stop to that struggling)
  •  Austin Street is easily accessible by both car and public transit, so expect people to come to Shake Shack from all around Forest Hills
  •  The Strawberry location itself is ideal for a Shake Shack. It is a two-story building with more than enough space to eat in, along with huge windows, and sits at the head of a side street, making it extremely visible to shoppers not only on Austin Street, but those coming down 71st Avenue.
I'll have more to say about this exciting development in the days and weeks to come. The only downside I see for our neighborhood is that Shake Shack has now forced me to put off my plans to become a vegetarian. I know they have a mushroom burger, and I've tried it, quite good actually. But I'm sure that those who are fans of The Shack like I am can understand why my vegan plans are now on hold.

Below is my chart of who Shake Shack will compete with and who it won't, since there's been a lot of discussion about this over on the Blog's Facebook Page. All burger places in the year 2015 are not same, anything but. We've moved way beyond the days of McDonald's versus Burger King. You may be surprised by my take on this, but you have to take into consideration the different types of consumers each burger place is trying to appeal to. Bareburger, for example, is really a health-food restaurant that just so happens to make burgers. My conclusion: they will not be competing with Shake Shack which is anything but that.

The new Shake Shake will compete with in Forest Hills:
  • Twist & Smash'd (When I had their burgers, I thought to myself they reminded me of Shake Shack.)
  • Cheeburger Cheeburger (Both chains are going for the consumer who wants to have a filling, delicious burger and isn't watching calories)

Doesn't compete with:
  • McDonald's (today, our McD's of old is anything but the premium fast food burger outlet that Shake Shack is.)
  • Bareburger (A health food restaurant with tons of different proteins and salads, along with some tasty indulgent foods. But "healthy" is the word here at Bareburger. A low-fat Bison Burger is nothing like a Shake Shack burger. Bareburger has a particular niche for those who want a healthier option and I predict they will be minimally-impacted by the new Shack. I myself will still mostly go to Bareburger since I am careful about what I eat, and when I'm in the mood for a real treat, will visit The Shack.)
  • Pubs that sell burgers (Most people don't seek out their local pubs for a burger. They go to the pub and then say, "Hmmm, I'm in the mood for a burger with my beer." Burgers are an afterthought at pubs.)

Friday, November 13, 2015

Shake Shack Update

Well, I have a follower on Twitter—with an actual name—who tells me she has heard first-hand from workers at the site of the former Strawberry on Austin Street that it is being turned into a Shake Shack. This is the strongest evidence I have so far about the rumors actually being true. I trust this long-time follower on Twitter and believe the only way this information can be wrong is if the worker didn't know what he was talking about, which would be odd indeed.

And, then there's this bizarre post today on the Queens Gazette website:
Shake Shack Coming To Forest Hills!
Jeez, if you have the information, just tell us. You're a newspaper, or, something... I don't actually know what the Queens Gazette is come to think of it.

Anyway, it looks like the proverbial cat has gotten out of the bag and the number of sources holding onto this ridiculous secret are starting to have trouble holding onto it and it is seeping out to the public. Why this is such a secret and being so closely guarded is truly one of the most bizarre things I have ever seen. What's the big freakin' deal? Just let us know already. This has been going on since at least June, with the first comments on this blog about the Shake Shack in the Strawberry location appearing back then.

In any case, I am starting to imagine a Shake Shack on Austin Street and delightful vittles like lip-smacking juicy burgers, awesome fries and indulgent shakes and desserts! Woe to my waist-line!

Logos and Stuff

I know some of you have noticed we recently got a new logo. Well it just so happens I noticed over on Instagram and Facebook that Forest Hills' neighborhood coffee shop Red Pipe is also looking for a new logo and asking everyone to vote on their favorite. The choices are below and you can vote over on their Facebook Page.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Picture of the Day

Thanks to Jeff for sending in today's Picture of the Day, taken from the rooftop of 118-17 Union Turnpike....

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Another House Fire Last Night

Thanks to Angela for sending in these photos of another house fire last night, this time at a house right near the Queens Central Y, on 108th St. and 67th Road. Coincidentally, that's pretty close to where the big blaze was Sunday night.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Picture of the Day -- And a Need for Volunteers

Thanks to Steve for the photo... and he also sent along this item:

Volunteer Day at MacDonald Park Nov 14th—Farewell to 2015
The final Volunteer Cleanup Day for 2015 is this Saturday, Nov 14th from 10:00-12:30. We need help planting new shrubs, raking leaves, pruning, and cleaning.  If you could spare just one hour or two, that would be great...  As always, gloves, tools, and refreshments will be provided. And students receive Community Service credit. 

Monday, November 9, 2015

Aftermath of the Fire

Thanks to Jay for sending in these photos of the house where that enormous fire took place last night...