If you ever feel worn out in Williamsburg or just need a break from Manhattan's madness, there's no better remedy than some time spent in Astoria. It offers a distinctive culture that's worth getting to know, whether you're a seasoned New Yorker or a Big Apple visitor. Here, see a side of Astoria (and nearby Long Island City) that carries on largely unnoticed — unless you know where to look. 

"Winegasms" Are a Thing

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Can someone give this place an award for Best Name? Winegasm is an intimate little spot where vino flows as musicians perform and chefs prepare tapas and Mediterranean favorites in an open kitchen. It's equally ideal for a big gathering of friends as it is for a romantic evening, and not many places can say that. The extensive list of smooth, rich and earthy wines is matched only by the selection of specialty cocktails. We feel flush. 

Where: 31-86 37th St., Astoria
When: Mon.-Thurs. & Sun., 4 p.m.-1 a.m.; Sat., 4 p.m.-3 a.m.
More info: 718-932-3331; winegasmeatery.com


You Have an Excellent Chance of Finding Yourself

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Socrates Sculpture Park wasn’t always the vivacious space that it is today. Before local artists transformed it into a public park and outdoor exhibition space for experimental art in 1986, it had been an illegal landfill. The ever-changing environment offers a peaceful, green (and free) place to wander around and have a good ponder about life. Things get even more intellectually stimulating thanks to all the cultural events lined up for the park’s 30th birthday this year. As Socrates said: To find yourself, think for yourself.

Where: 32-01 Vernon Blvd., Long Island City
When: Daily, 10 a.m.-sunset
More info: socratessculpturepark.org


You Can Visit Greece, Sort Of

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If Mediterranean food and Socrates references hadn’t already tipped you off, Greeks play a major role in what makes Astoria such a lively area. Astoria has more Greek folks than some of Greece's own islands do, and the local cuisine reflects it. At MP Taverna, classic Greek cooking is served up in a charming tavern run by the award-winning chef Michael Psilakis. Thanks to specialties like grilled branzino, lamb shank with orzo and chickpea salad, you’ll feel a whole lot closer to the Aegean than the Hudson.  

Where: 31-29 Ditmars Blvd., Astoria
When: Mon.-Thurs., noon-10:30 p.m.; Fri., noon-11 p.m.; Sat., 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; Sun., 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
More info: 718-777-2187; michaelpsilakis.com


Craft Beer Hides in a Warehouse

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In SingleCut's massive tap room, find old-school ales, new craft favorites and more in a space that's made for beer lovers. Every beer is brewed and bottled in Astoria — check out the 19-33 pilsner (named for the end of Prohibition and also, curiously, SingleCut's address), or if you're in the mood for mega hops, the Billy Full Stack double IPA. Soak up the sun this summer in the sidewalk beer garden and soak up the booze with snacks like soft pretzels and gourmet hot dogs.

Where: 19-33 37th St., Astoria
When: Weds., 6 p.m.-midnight; Thurs. & Fri., 4 p.m.-midnight; Sat., noon-midnight; Sun., noon-9 p.m.
More info: 718-606-0788; singlecutbeer.com


The Best Pizza Comes Straight from the Coal Oven

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It’s not New York if you can't enjoy some proper pizza. Few dish it out better than Sac’s Place, a cozy and simply decorated Italian spot. You can't go wrong with the pies here, from Mama's Old Fashioned to Sicilian to something fancy-schmancy like sauteed portobello mushrooms with cherry peppers. Sac's also serves a range of classic Italian dishes, like chicken Parm and spinach ravioli.

Where: 2541 Broadway, Astoria
When: Mon.-Thurs. & Sun., 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m.; Fri. & Sat., 11:30 a.m.-midnight
More info: 718-204-5002; 


You Can Be the Belle of the Ball

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The ideal hangout for a modern Cinderella, The Melrose Ballroom is where you can throw the private party to end all private parties (take that, My Super Sweet Sixteen kids!). Melrose offers custom lighting, 5,000 square feet of ballroom, and more than 1,000 square feet of rooftop space for your next big shindig. The space exudes a trendy sense of exclusivity and is ready made for your swanky work soiree, wedding or just an existential order from your inner fairy godmother.

Where: 36-08 33rd St., Long Island City
More info: 718-255-6921; melroseballroom.com


There's a Time Machine Set to the 1920s

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Decadence, opulence and a carefree spirit are essential elements for a '20s-inspired hangout. From its tastefully exuberant interior to its classy presentation of oysters and cocktails, Mars doesn’t just imitate  it transports you back in time to an era of speakeasies and an exquisite sense of style. Any hour here could be called a happy hour, but the one you’re looking for happens Monday to Friday, 5 to 7 p.m.

Where: 34-21 34th Ave., 
When: Daily, 5 p.m.-3:30 a.m. (kitchen closes at 11 p.m.)
More info: 718-685-2480; lifeatmars.com


Beer and Cheese Await

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Never underestimate cheese. Mouth-watering cheese plates can be the difference between a bar being merely cool and it being the kind of place you want to lounge in for hours. Astoria Bier & Cheese knows this and offers superb IPAs, stouts and ciders alongside cheeses of equal caliber. The you-know-what doesn't stand alone here, but it does stand out.

Where: 34-14 Broadway, Astoria
When: Mon.-Thurs., noon-11 p.m.; Fri. & Sat., noon-midnight; Sun., noon-10 p.m.
More info: 718-545-5588; astoriabierandcheese.com


You Can Explore a Cinephile's Paradise

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The Museum of the Moving Image is one of Astoria’s most cherished cultural institutions. The museum screens 400 movies a year, from silent classics (accompanied by live music!) to contemporary hits. Public discussions bring big names to the stage — think Robert Altman, Jim Jarmusch, Glenn Close — and exhibitions let you go behind the scenes. The core exhibition, Behind the Screen, includes more than 1,400 artifacts.

Where: 36-01 35th Ave., Astoria
When: Weds. & Thurs., 10:30 a.m.-5 p.m.; Fri., 10:30 a.m.-8 p.m.; Sat. & Sun., 11:30 a.m.-7 p.m.
More info: 718-784-0077; movingimage.us


Southern Hospitality Is Alive and Well in Yankee Country

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Music, smoked meat and whiskey are the pillars of grilling greatness as far as The Strand is concerned. As the self-described “Southern backcountry of Astoria, Queens,” The Strand is an authentic BBQ spot seemingly plucked from below the Mason-Dixon and dropped into an unlikely corner of the East Coast. But that’s Astoria for you  a home for new arrivals, fresh ideas and (delicious) diversity.

Where: 25-27 Broadway, Astoria
When: Mon.-Thurs., 4 p.m.-2 a.m.; Fri. & Sat., noon-4 a.m.; Sun., noon-2 a.m.
More info: 718-440-3231​; thestrandsmokehouse.com

By Jesse Van Mouwerik

Berlin-based illustrator and columnist Jesse Van Mouwerik is an avid fan of art, whisky sours and being alive. When the aliens land, he will draw them a picture.