I'm not a shark or anything. But many a burly man has lost a game of pool to me thinking that he could beat a little red-headed girl. Sometimes these folks are rowdy and bring their own pool cue (I don't own one), which makes the victory all the sweeter.
But where to play? Astoria has several options. We've played many tables in here and I will share our research with you. We live near Broadway & 36th Street, so these places are all roughly near there.
In short, Clic is good for swanky pool, McLaughlin's for reliable pool. Broadway Station is for meat-head pool. Scorpio - for obscure pool. Tacos Mexico - tasty ethnic pool. Astoria Billiards place on 30th Avenue – full sized, but dry pool.
This place doesn't know it's in Queens. Hello Clic, you're in Queens! Clic is on Broadway between 32 & 33 streets on the second floor. It opened a year and half ago. There is always has a big bouncer type dude standing outside the entrance and the first time we went, we got bounced because a member of my party was wearing shorts. See "hello" comment above.
If you make it inside, you'll see the palatial interior. Clic’s inside is stunning- if a bit cheesy. It opened as a pool hall with at least a dozen full size pool tables. Now there's only one, and it's free. The other tables were replaced with giant booths that are like huge wine casks. Great for groups. Clic is the size of the Astoria Beer Garden, but it’s inside. It has a great lounge area where you can sit and look out over Broadway. There's two bars and all drinks require a mortgage. They seem to have an odd habit of charging for drinks by the price of the bottle. Even though it’s listed on a menu, ask the price of a drink before you order it. We got burned. Earth to Clic: fours drinks do not cost $150. Especially when you made one of us take off our baseball cap.
Both times we've been to Clic, it's been pretty dead, but it may be a late night hot spot with the Greek 20-somethings in the neighborhood. The brown felt, billiards size, pool table is in excellent condition and has always been easy to get, when we've gone.
Broadway Station is on Broadway, half a block south of the N train. It was bought, renovated and reopened about four years ago. Since that time they have aquired ever gimmick imaginable. You can play all kinds of legal gambling and they have maybe 10 different TVs which will show any sporting event at any given time. Perfect for the Yankees-Mets couple. They used to have a model train on a track just below the ceiling that was bit annoying and before they opened the kitchen, they had free popcorn which I preferred to the kitchen’s current offerings. They have their own microbrew and a respectable draft beer selection. They also occasionally organize outings like Mets games and sky diving.
They have moved the pool table to the back room which used to be patio seating. It’s extremely well-lit and quiet. It’s a little weird being back there – you’re very cut off from the front room with the bar. Consider bringing your own balls, the pool table is occasionally missing a few. Broadway Station has it’s own pool team and as a result, it can be a tough table. Occasionally there’s the “first date pool game” where some ex-frat guy is teaching his date how to play pool. The last time we were there, the date shocked us all by schooling him. It was pretty sweet.
This bar is on Broadway just West of 36th Street. It’s appears to be Croatian, always pretty quiet, and everyone wears black. It’s dark, has a beautiful rustic wood floor, exposed brick walls and a red felt pool table. The only beers on tap are Guinness and Bass – could be worse. There is always a sexy bartender behind the counter. In the summer the whole front of the place opens up and spills out onto the street and you see all the clad-in-black patrons sipping on frappes. There are 3 TVs and they all have soccer on, all of the time. There is comfy seating and tables and there is usually some available. Despite two “no smoking” signs behind the counter, and New York City law, someone is always smoking.
In the back, they have a foosball table and an electronic dart board. The foosball table leans slightly to the back, so you want to be the blue team. The pool table is in decent shape though I only saw three cues. No one’s ever playing on it. It’s all yours.
Tacos Mexico is a great little Mexican take-out place on 38th Street, just South of Broadway. You can eat in, but it’s still like a take-out place. They have now expanded to the space next door. Tacos Mexico, so far and I can tell, is pretty authentic. The food is great, cheap and now there’s a pool table and a bar. It’s a largely Spanish-speaking crowd, but you can certainly manage in English. Even if you don’t order food, you’ll get free homemade tortilla chips and salsa which are excellent. The place is very well-lit.
In the front of the bar there’s a foosball table which only costs 50 cents. There’s also a jukebox. The pool table is in back – standard green felt, bar size stuff, and it only costs 75 cents. The cheapest game in town. It’s being used about half the time. The players are usually Mexicans with cowboy boots and hats and I don’t think they bought these because In Style magazine said they were must-buys for the season.
Astoria Billiards place on 30th Avenue
There used to be a great billiards hall on 31st street under the N train. It closed and a new greek / international foods store has moved in. Since then, this billiards place has put up a bright new awning. It is on the North side of 30th Avenue by 33rd street. It’s a nice, legitimate pool hall. It has one fatal flaw: it doesn’t serve alcohol. I’m not sure what this is about. Maybe they are really hardcore and don’t want the felt to get damaged. Maybe they’ve seen one too many fights. Maybe they lost their liquor license. I really don’t know, but it’s a bummer. The crowd is very ethnic, we’ve heard several languages spoken there. Everyone’s pretty friendly.
The tables are full-sized and there’s always a few available. As in typical pool hall fashion, you rent the table and are charged by how much time you use it for.
McLaughlin’s is a very reliable, Irish pub. It’s as much about the bar flies as the bar. I’ve gotten to know many of them over the years. Hell – maybe I am one! The bar is on the South side of Broadway just West of the N train. It is owned by John McLoughlin who you can find behind the bar on Monday nights. Hello single, Irish 30-somethings: what are you waiting for? John McLoughlin is a pleasure to chat with and a great bartender. Tommy’s behind that bar most other nights and also quite a pro. They have the standard drafts and another tap that John’s been rotating for a few years. Tell him your favorite beer and it might be next in line. Once you get to know the bartenders, every third drink is free. McLaughlin’s is a clean, shiny pub. There’s a dart board in back and 3 TV including a huge widscreen in back. There’s no better seat to the Mets. They don’t serve food, but they don’t mind if you bring it or order in. There’s also a juke box with excellent selections including a variety of Irish folk music, which is played quite a lot actually. You’ll be impressed to see that the bar flies know all the words and are quite uninhibited about singing them out loud.
A few years ago I organized a pool team for McLaughlin’s for the league, but my timing was bad and the whole thing fell though. Regardless, from time to time, pool and been quite a phenomena at this pub and it’s a great table to play on. It’s in good shape, and you can often catch it unused. Once in a while one of the bar flies will challenge you and beat you one-handed.
There are maybe a couple of places to play on Steinway as well. I’d love to hear any of your thoughts on these or other places.