I rarely have many reasons to be in Queens. That is, until now. But if I’m ever in the mood for delicious, clever punk rock food, I’m pleased that a short travel six minutes on the 7 train out of Manhattan and walk a few blocks up is all that it takes. Alobar, a pork ‘n’ pub restaurant taking Long Island City by storm, invited Dillinger and me to check out their food and impressive cocktails, too.
Miss Love took a look at this menu and proclaimed it was “guy food,” so I immediately decided that I would take Dillinger on a guy date. While the menu’s battered bacon add-ons and barbecued pig tails may look intimidating, there are quite a few delicate starter selections for the feminine palate, should your lady (or fastidious gentleman!) not have an immediate desire to gnaw on maple-cured ribs. That being said, I would have liked to see the freshness of their appetizers trickle into the entrees. I think that with their ingenuity, they can transform dishes for a lighter palate without sacrificing their views and values.
However, on the appetizer front, I don’t think anyone would pass up Alobar’s selection of housemade pickles. We sampled the thick tarragon carrot pickles, briny and robust with mustard seed and a little coriander for a sour, sweet Asian flair. And for your $4, you get a ton of carrots.
Also on the menu as a light, but tasty treat, is a clever twist on a bar favorite. A giant bowl of truffled maple-bacon popcorn, served hot and drizzled with sauce, was the unanimous appetizer favorite. The bacon, served in more hunks than pieces, covered the bottom of the bowl and most of the top of the popcorn as well. Glistening with truffle oil and maple, it was a crispy and sweet treat, although very gooey and impossible not to eat with a fork. Believe me, if you felt awkward eating pizza with a fork and knife before, try doing the same with popcorn.
But the main reason why we were here was for these prehistoric looking puppies. Pig tails! And no, they’re not curly or pink. I can best describe pig tails as a hybrid of the best bar wings you’ve ever had and fatty pork belly. Combining the silky, unctuous fat of the belly with the flavor of roasted dark chicken-like meat, all slathered in a sweet apple barbecue sauce, it’s a delicious snack with a gamey tang and a tempura flavor from frying. They’re fairly large, too, and have a “jointed” structure to better retrieve meat from, but the pieces are proportionately similar to wings, as well. A little effort goes a long way!
As for drinks, we started out with two very seasonally-inspired cocktails, the smoked peach with mezcal, tequila, peach nectar, jalapenos, and honey, and the cactus cooler, with passionfruit, vodka, cactus fruit, and lime juice. Both were refreshing and tinted with a sweetness that blended well with each respective liquor. I would have liked for the peach to have a little more heat and even an extra splash of color from fresh jalapeno! The cactus cooler didn’t particularly taste like cactus, but it had a great, fruity flavor.
Our entrees couldn’t have been more different, but we agreed on one thing: they were crazy good. As soon as I saw Kentucky-fried rabbit on the menu, it was all that I could think about. And with red-eye gravy, hash browns, and bacon-braised cabbage? Sign me up, no questions asked. The rabbit was crispy and crunchy, with a thick, flaky crust and a tender texture. It was similar in texture and color to a chicken breast, with a stronger, sweeter natural flavor and juicier center. I absolutely loved it. With the colorful purple cabbage, studded with some soft chunks of bacon like the popcorn from before, it was the perfect savory and sour combination. The hash browns and gravy were unfortunately less impressive, the former simple and underseasoned, and the latter drizzled on as an afterthought, a bummer as I was looking forward to the interplay of coffee and bacon with Southern specialties.
Dillinger went for the most massive burger I’ve ever seen, made even more gargantuan with two thick slices of battered, deep-fried bacon. Now, understand this: Dillinger is my go-to adventure friend for multiple reasons, one of which being that he is very, very tall and big. Seeing him put down the burger halfway through and push his plate away was like seeing a UFO. It just doesn’t happen! My point is, this burger kicked our collective asses. Covered in the aforementioned bacon, smoked onions, butter lettuce, and served with fresh fries, it was absolutely delicious and so savory. The salted frites on the side were the perfect crispy accompaniment to such a bold sandwich.
With our entrees, we shared two more cocktails. Dillinger’s was a basil and blackberry cocktail with vermouth and lime juice.While the freshness of the ingredients was abundantly apparent, the seeds from the muddled berries made this impossible to drink from the provided straw. The flavor was perfectly balanced and pleasantly sweet. My cocktail was another stunner- a special house bacon-infused bourbon whip with orange and egg whites. Really deep and delicious, with a heavy clove and cinnamon flavor like liquified Christmas and a sweet, frothy top. I was surprised that the bacon flavor was so light and airy on the palate. It was definitely a unique drink.
And yes, we had to do dessert. A fluffernutter inspired treat was a no-brainer, with homemade fudge sauce, peanut butter sauce, marshmallow fluff, and thick griddled pieces of white bread. Everything came together exactly as it should have. While the buttery bread may have been a little rich with the sweetness of the three sauces, each piece was just soaked with flavor and the hint of salinity balanced out the dish impeccably.
We also shared a few after-dinner drinks, a hot apple brandy drink, super strong and hot with intense black tea and honey flavors, and a glass of Churchill’s port. Both perfectly complimented our desserts, including this stunner, the salted caramel bread pudding. The dark spots you see on top (as the Queens sun was quickly fading) are part chocolate chunks, softened by the hot pudding, and a crisp, crunchy brulee of sugar. The caramel notes were subtle, but enhanced by the other ingredients as well as the pool of sauce at the bottom. A dessert unfettered by whipped cream or gelato, this was simple, well-prepared, and delightful to eat. Not unlike its creator, Alobar itself. I think the rough-hewn atmosphere of the restaurant is fun and clever, and that they have a lot of potential in the space they’re in and with their dishes.Thanks again to the Alobar staff and team, especially our kind, prompt server, and to Alobar’s PR team for facilitating our write-up. It was truly a wonderful evening.