If you’re like me, and you just returned to New York from New Orleans where you ate gumbo everyday for a week because you love gumbo so much, Sugarfreak is a lovely godsend. You will be hard-pressed to find better Southern food anywhere else in New York, especially in a place that makes you feel like you’re truly back in the comfort of the warm and spicy south.
Sugarfreak is usually open only for dinner on weekdays, from 5PM-11PM, but they are also open for brunch on weekends and national holidays, which is the meal we sprung for.
Style: Southern food Overall rating: 7.9/10 tasties Location: Astoria, Queens, NY
What we ordered
With a bad case of gumbo craving, I immediately ordered a bowl. I use gumbo as a yardstick against other places I have tried in New Orleans. It was a chicken and Andouille sausage gumbo with a dollop of white rice in the middle (photo shown above). Well, for $10, I have to say it was pretty good, definitely killed the craving I had, and probably some of the best gumbo you would find on the east coast. It was not too heavy, leaving me room to eat other dishes afterwards. It was a bit overly salty, which overwhelms any savoriness that might have been hiding in there. The rice gave the salt a nice cut, but it was not enough. To put it in perspective, Sugarfreak’s gumbo is a tad worse than the best gumbo I had in New Orleans, which was a tie between seafood gumbo at Oceana and the seafood gumbo at Mr. B’s Bistro. I tend to like seafood gumbo better than chicken/sausage gumbo because it is less salty with more depths and variety when it comes to flavor.
Then came the jambalaya with spicy creole tomato gravy and 3 eggs on top (yes, three) for $14. The kitchen forgot my 3 eggs, but I let it go because I don’t think my coronary can take on 3 eggs anyway. The jambalaya was great - it was dry and not mushy, which is not easy to execute. Most jambalaya soaks up so much fluid that it becomes mushy and heavy (in taste and in actual weight). Sugarfreak left the grains of rice intact, with complex flavors but on the mild side which complemented nicely with the tomato gravy, which was intense, spicy, salty, tomato-ey (autocorrect is telling me that was not a word). I enjoyed it thoroughly.
The delicious, non-mushy jambalaya
What else is on the menu?
I did not have any more room to take on the great variety of Louisiana homestyle cooking that Sugarfreak offers, which was really a shame, because whatever Southern foods your heart desires, Sugarfreak probably has it. From fried chicken with waffles (which looked delicious when I spied on my neighbors), beignet sliders, biscuits and gravy, oysters rockefeller, hushpuppies!, popcorn alligator (you guessed it, fried alligator meat), muffuletta, po’boys, or the sazerac (a signature Southern drink that is Southernly sweet), Sugarfreak can answer to all of your Southern needs.
Price range: $20-30/person
Most entrees for brunch range from near $10s for non-seafood appetizers, to the low teens for most non-seafood brunch mains and the high teems for seafood brunch entrees. Brunch drinks give you a great bang for your bucks, ranging from $4 to $6 mostly. Dinner is a dollar to two more expensive than brunch for the same entrees.
The atmosphere is one of the best features of Sugarfreak. A lot of thoughts and effort went in to help you feel like you’re down South even in the freezing cold of New York winter. The place is filled with Ball jars – they put your water in it, they put drink menus in it, they put string lights on the ceiling in it. Chandeliers added a nice southern mansion charm to your meal, and the colorful furniture brought me back to New Orleans. A+ for hooks under the counter for hanging your bags.
They put your drink menus in it!
Solid southern dishes that will satiate your cravings.
Cozy with a lovely southern charm.
Food can be really slow on a busy day (30-40 minutes per dish), but the attentive service makes up for it.
Menu variety: 10/10
Eat to your heart’s desire - if it’s southern, Sugarfreak has it (including dead alligators).
One vegetarian option per type of food (i.e. one vegetarian po’boy, one vegetarian muffuletta). You won’t starve as a vegetarian but Sugarfreak’s potential would be lost on you.
If you start out in Manhattan, find your way to the N/Q and get off at 30th avenue and Sugarfreak is within a 5-minute walk from the subway stop. If you live in Queens, the Q101 bus stops within a few blocks of the restaurant.
Value for money: 7/10
The food is rich and you will be stuffed, but it will set you back likely at least $20 per person with tax and tip. That is, if you don’t drink, don’t get seconds, and skip dessert.
Overall rating: 7.9/10 tasties
Sugarfreak: 36-18 30th Ave, Astoria, NY 11103
Access: 5-minute walk from the N/Q, 2-minute walk from the Q101 bus
Phone: (718) 726-5850
Store hours: M-F 5PM-11PM, Sat 11AM-11PM, Sun 11AM-10PM
We hope to provide an alternative to Yelp’s extortions against small businesses, one restaurant review at a time. Please share if you find this helpful, and feel free to leave comments to help keep our reviews up to date
Follow me @juneshowell and on medium
A few more days
A final Hi meeting
The local neighborhood bar has a quiet time between six and nine. It is a place that specializes in coffee, beer and seasonal menus. There is just enough of each for a satisfying snack and effective buzz. After the time when the laptop lids close and before the social gatherings start -- there is a sort of twilight*. Often this time is a fugitive ground rife with creative inspiration and meditative work -- of the kind that results in personal reward.*twilight may refer to civil, nautical or astronomical variety depending on your social or terrestrial condition
A man positions his mouse on the edge of his browser window. He clicks, holds and drags the viewport first left then right. The content of a video game promo micro site responds and adapts to the available space. To the man, this is more delightful than the game itself.
A man laboriously moves his piano down three levels onto the subway platform. Classic vocals and strided chords -- he played so well I swore he was blind. Oblivious to the heat on that August stage, he was most in touch with his audience -- whom he elevated with his music.
A woman should do exactly as she pleases no matter what a man may think.
As the Dalai Lama once said, "It is a time when there is much in the window, but nothing in the room."
"No one understands me," she said. Her grandmother was silent for a minute. It seemed she was searching for an answer in the star speckled sky. "But no one understands anyone in this world, darling. We are all unique. It is what gives us a sense of wonder."