Ah, Fourth of July weekend — the time to go all out while celebrating America’s birthday. And the July 5? The most opportune time to brunch without waiting for hours in line and the best time to eat a Mexican breakfast pizza dubbed the “hangover pizza.”
Astoria is arguably the best neighborhood in Queens because it is 15 minutes out of Manhattan and filled with locally based families own and manage cafes and restaurants. 31st Avenue is probably my favorite area because it is quiet and filled with hidden culinary gems, like Pachanga Patterson.
The cozy restaurant, adorned with sugar skulls and Mexican artwork, was completely empty (which was to be expected during the holiday weekend). The backyard patio was set with 14 seats and strewn with fairy lights, which I would’ve gladly sat in if not for the humidity.
To start, Priscilla, the host, brought out fresh tortilla chips with three salsas: the house Guacamole, habanero pepita, and poblano pea (shout-out to President Obama and #guacgate). The Poblano Pea was topped with a curry powder that resembled the flavor of Thai curry. After a while, I had to agree with the President and say that pea guacamole is not my cup of tea. Habanero pepita was smoky and spicy — and it must be duly noted that most of the food was spicy, and I have a reasonable tolerance to spice. The guacamole was simple and fresh, and Priscilla noted that the executive chef Peyton Powell is serving a guacamole with pineapple, coriander, and habanero aioli for the season. Priscilla and chef Powell are husband-and-wife and told me that they live right down the street from the restaurant, which shows how much they love their neighborhood.
I came in for the Mexican breakfast pizza called tlayuda, a dish chef Powell discovered while traveling in Oaxaca and wanted to bring to his brunch menu. It’s a tostada smothered with refried beans as the base and chorizo, queso fresco, radishes, a sunny side up egg, and Mexican cream. At first, I could not figure out how to eat it — the best way is to cut into it. It reminded me of a deconstructed hard-shell taco with the meat, beans, and cream, and brought the element of breakfast together with the egg. Brunch items also come with a complimentary cocktail like the Bloody Mary, which was the right blend of horseradish and tomato juice (and was, again, spicy). My guest had the Frijoles Charros, which were made of pinto beans, chorizo, and bacon, topped with a cracked egg, which he said felt like comfort food from childhood.
We were also treated to a surprise dessert: vanilla flan with blueberry compote and candied pistachios. My gripe with flan has always been that it is too eggy, but this was rightfully vanilla-flavored with hardly any hint of egg. And as full as we were, we had to finish it (chef’s orders). There was also alcoholic horchata with cinnamon, which might be the star of the meal, and tastes like Christmas in a cup because of the spices. And it was served with a large cube of ice, which is always a nice touch.
Verdict: if you like Mexican food and can handle spicy food, try Pachanga Patterson’s brunch. Chef Powell takes the time to travel to find menu inspiration and always changes his menu seasonally, and the small space allows customers to truly get to know Astoria residents and the neighborhood.