How the Queens Kickshaw Owners Built an Astoria Gathering Space
When married couple Jennifer Lim and Ben Sandler began plotting The Queens Kickshaw (40-17 Broadway, Astoria, 718-777-0913) in Astoria, they wanted simply to arm the neighborhood with good coffee. "Kickshaw derives from rickshaw -- I had my eyes on a Vespa and doing a mobile coffee cart," says Sandler. "I went to coffee conventions and all the good specialty coffeeshops in the city. I knew there was no specialty coffee in this part of Queens."
Stella Dacuma Schour
The pair's desire to run their own place derived from planning their own wedding, when they realized they had complementary professional skill sets that made them a good team. Sandler had been in restaurants for years, while Lim had worked in just one cafe, but she pushed Sandler to make the leap, and so they began looking for space.
The couple had been living in Astoria for three years (and Sandler grew up in Long Island City), and they knew the neighborhood was ready for a number of concepts. So by the time they opened their doors in 2011, they had bigger plans. They started with just coffee -- "We knew it would be harder to establish ourselves as a coffee shop if we opened as a restaurant and bar first," says Sandler -- and they quickly garnered a following for those drinks and the grilled cheese sandwiches they served on the side. "We thought the food was an adjunct," says Lim. "We never thought it would become center stage."
Their early success laid the foundation for the next phase, and three months later, they applied for a liquor license, which allowed them to bring in beer, wine, and the first bottles of what would become one of the best cider programs in the city. Soon after, they expanded the space and added a larger menu, which happens to be devoid of meat, although the duo doesn't call their restaurant a vegetarian restaurant. Three years on, the Queens Kickshaw has become a neighborhood staple, and you'll find most tables full no matter what time you stop in.
In this interview, the couple talks about why they don't talk about where their ingredients come from, the evolution of their cider program, and what comes next in Astoria.