P.J. Horgan’s

Any plans for St. Patrick’s Day? You may want to make them right about now. Sunnyside’s very own P.J. Horgan’s serves up delectable and authentic Irish cuisine that pairs nicely with a big ol’ pint of Guinness (or a finger or two of Jameson, depending on your taste).

p.j. horgan's shepherd's pie

shepherd’s pie

I walked into P.J. Horgan’s last night and a nice gentleman sitting at the bar suggested I find my own seat. “I’ll go right ahead,” I said, and he smiled with a twinkle in his eye–the beginnings of a magical experience at the small Irish pub on Queens Boulevard.

The booths are wooden and aren’t very deep, prompting you to sit upright and forward more than a booth at, say, Sarabeth’s might. I liked the alertness I was forced to adopt as a result of the booth’s design. It made me ready to consume hearty Irish cooking.

MDP arrived shortly after I sat down, and we both ordered pints of McKenzie’s hard cider, which is on tap at the pub. An accommodating waitress (who, authentically, had an Irish accent) brought us a basket of soda bread, which bears an unusual hint of rye but has the same crumbly consistency of every other soda bread I’ve ever tried. I liked it.

Soon after the soda bread came, our appetizer followed. We ordered potato skins stuffed with bacon and cheddar off the spare, simple menu. To be honest, P.J. Horgan’s hardly innovates when it comes to appetizer selections; fried foods figure prominently on this list. But the pub delivered on the potato skins–the potato itself was baked perfectly and the bacon/cheddar combo saturated my taste buds with fatty goodness. We scarfed ’em down in no time.

p.j. horgan's curry chicken

curry chicken

For our entrees, we ordered off the Irish portion of the menu: I got the shepherd’s pie, while MDP tried the curry chicken, which is touted as P.J. Horgan’s very best dish. A word on non-Indian curries: I like to call them the “Queen’s curry” because they are unlike Indian curries, which tend to be simply spiced stews. British/Irish curries have a more robust curry powder flavor at the fore, and feature more vegetables (such as mushrooms, peppers and onion, as was present in the P.J. Horgan rendition). That’s not to say Indian curries do not contain curry powder or the aforementioned vegetables. But Indian curries do tend to have a more nuanced spice flavor–coriander, curry, cardamom, turmeric and cumin tend to make the cut of ingredients–and often contain coconut milk and/or yogurt. Personally, I like both the Queen’s curry and traditional Indian curry for their distinctive, very different flavors. P.J. Horgan’s serves up yellow rice and steak fries with their curry, further setting it apart from its distant Indian cousin. It was very good.

I loved my shepherd’s pie, which was filled with ground beef, peas and a delicious brown gravy. The ground beef was hidden by mashed potatoes that were elegantly piped and lightly baked on top. I highly recommend the shepherd’s pie. I’ve heard good things about the bangers and mash (and, admittedly, choosing between the shepherd’s pie and bangers and mash was a difficult decision), so, really, you can’t go wrong with your entree choice at P.J. Horgan’s.

This St. Patrick’s Day, take the 7 over to Sunnyside for some traditional Irish fare. If you don’t make it to P.J. Horgan’s, or it’s overflowing with people, you have a bevy of Irish pubs to choose from: Molly Blooms (has food), the Kettle (has food), The Courtyard, Maggie Mae’s, The Gaslight, Donovan’s (in Woodside, has food) and many others.

P.J. Horgan’s

4217 Queens Blvd. (between 42nd and 43rd streets)

Sunnyside, NY

Take the 7 to 40th Street. Walk east a few blocks. It’s on the north side of Queens Blvd.

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Queen

By now, you know that I’m a snob when it comes to Italian food. I rarely venture to restaurants that serve up such fare, and, when I do, I’m highly critical of them. (For reference, see my Sauce review.) Another thing about me that you may or may not know is that I’m a sucker when it comes to restaurant recommendations from people I know.

queen mozzarella

mozzarella

Two coworkers recommended Queen, an Italian restaurant, to me. Situated beside a few fast food joints in Brooklyn Heights, Queen is a rarity. It’s the kind of old-school Italian restaurant I recall from my youth, growing up in New Jersey. Apparently, it’s been around for years and has survived the ebb and flow of its neighborhood.

I wandered around the dimly lit streets of Brooklyn Heights for about 15 minutes before finding Queen. Buildings cowered behind scaffolding and the street names were meaningless. Luckily, I finally navigated to the restaurant, arriving 10 minutes late for our reservation, using seldom trusted Google Maps.

When I entered the restaurant, I was struck by the ambiance. It was warm, yet felt very dated. Though the neighborhood has changed, it appears Queen has maintained its roots in Jerseyan Italian restaurant decor. We were told the wait would be 15 – 20 minutes, despite our reservation, and then were eventually sat right next to the door, with a great view of a hardware store across the street (the LED sign on the exterior informed me that they sell paint and make keys, if you’re wondering).

queen chicken parmigiana

chicken parmigiana

A member of the waitstaff promptly brought over a plate of various breads, including a few slices of regular Italian bread, crisp breadsticks and–my favorite–two pieces of something like focaccia covered with marinara sauce. We ordered two glasses of reasonably priced pinot grigio, but that’s where the bargain at Queen ended.

We opted for the housemade mozzarella, which, I anticipated, would be fresh mozzarella, as opposed to a globe of cheese they took out of the fridge. I was wrong. It was dense and nearly flavorless, and, for a whopping $16.75, came with just a few random pieces of soppressatta. Though the cheese was a minor disappointment, I pressed on with hope that our entrees would be better.

I ordered the chicken parmigiana, which is accompanied by a plate of penne pasta with marinara sauce. A thick layer of melted mozzarella cheese covered the breaded chicken with marinara sauce featured aplenty. This dish was fine. I ordered it because I figured it’s very difficult to go wrong with such a simple dish. I was neither disappointed nor impressed.

queen ricotta cheesecake

ricotta cheesecake

MDP got the gnocchi with veal and pork ragu. I enjoyed the ragu in his dish, but the gnocchi were clearly overcooked. They were a tad slimey and too soft. He finished his plate, but he wasn’t sold on Queen either.

For dessert, we tried the ricotta cheesecake. With two fruit syrups drizzled around the plate, the ricotta cheesecake tasted just like, well, ricotta. There was a hint of lemon zest, but the dish lacked any semblance of sweetness. I recall the ricotta cheesecake at Palma, which was creamy, just sweet enough and totally delightful; Queen’s rendition paled in comparison.

The bill was more than $100, which is fine, but neither MDP nor I felt as though the quality of the food justified the prices.

So, if you’re looking for Italian places to try, skip Queen. For top-notch Italian food, try¬†Palma or Emporio, which are both located in Manhattan, instead.

Queen

84 Court St.

Brooklyn Heights, Brooklyn

Take the 2/3/4/5/R to Borough Hall and walk a few blocks.