The Birria Birria Birria
The first thing you notice when you walk into Astoria's brand-new Krave It on 30th Avenue is, like, whoa… there are a lot of different kinds of pizza here, and most of them look demented as hell. There's a pie covered in tater tots, and there's one with crushed up Cool Ranch Doritos all over it. Macaroni and cheese, plantains, corn, fried chicken, mozzarella sticks, chicken parm, french fries, garlic knots, even goddamn fried Oreo cookies all make an appearance on top of these cheesey concoctions. Plus there's Krave It's signature "sauce spiral" going on atop most of these, adding to the overall bonkers vibe.
Here's the thing though: Vishee and Jenna Mandahar, who opened the first Krave It in Bayside about six years ago, aren't just trafficking in stoner-food gimmicks. These pizzas are really good, with even the most over-the-top creations made with fresh, housemade toppings and sauces, and close attention paid to the balance among the ingredients. Yes, there's a lot going on, but it almost always works. Plus there are not too many places around town where a single slice of pizza is enough to make a complete meal.
Among the Krave It standards are the White Truffle Chicken Pizza, the Que Pasa Empanada Pizza, the World Famous Cheeseburger Pizza, the Homer Simpson Pizza (complete with bacon and doughnuts, among other things), and, maybe my overall favorite, the lively Jabroni with buffalo chicken and jalapeño ranch.
And just recently they started offering the Birria Birria Birria Pizza, an enormous double-crusted beast that's stuffed with well-seasoned beef and covered in an insane amount of cheese, with a small tub of consommé on the side for dipping. There are simpler, more standard varieties of pizzas available as well. Slice prices range from $3 for a plain to $6.50 for the more loaded specialty items.
The original Krave It actually started as a sandwich shop, and though the Mandahars' pizza tends to get all the attention these days, there are still an impressive list of subs—more than 40 overall—to be had at the Astoria location. As you might expect, most of these are also overstuffed, heavily-sauced monsters, from The Luger (chopped up steak, mounds of melted cheddar, onion rings, creamy beet horseradish sauce) to the Bambam (pulled pork, root beer BBQ sauce) to the Munchie Madness (chicken cutlet, smoked bacon, french fries, fresh mozz, gravy) to the Queen Eggplant with ricotta and vodka sauce.
The Birria Birria Birria from Krave It
In case you're still hungry, there are also a bunch of smothered fries and tater tots on the menu, as well as Tikka Masala Wings with pistachio and cilantro, and eight different salads, all of which are said to be "big enough to eat later." Soft drinks include Jones Soda on tap and Krave It's own brand of bottled refreshments (the Root Beer was perfect).
The Mandahars were both born and raised in Queens, met in middle school, and are now married with three kids. Five kids, really, if you count the Krave It shops. The new Astoria joint is located in the former Queens Comfort space, but after a complete renovation over the winter you'd never know it while you're here. The only thing that does seem familiar is that Krave It feels like a party, with a soundtrack of crowd-pleasing hip-hop playing just loud enough to get you moving, and, when the weather is warm, pizza-eaters spilling out through the big open storefront onto the sidewalk and curbside dining areas.
Krave It Astoria is located at 36-18 30th Avenue, between 36th and 37th Streets, and is currently open from 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 midnight daily (646-927-2999; kraveitny.com)