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When great food minds unite in Astoria

Jonathan VanSleet (l.) is the executive chef and Dimitri Paloumbis is a co-owner of MexiBBQ, a Mexican and American barbecue fusion restaurant in Astoria. The restaurant also sells "growlers" of beer, which patrons can buy. Photo by Rebecca Henely
TimesLedger Newspapers

When it comes to pairing Mexican food and American barbecue, the owners of Astoria’s MexiBBQ say there is more to the combination than Tex-Mex.

The restaurant, which has been open for almost two years at 37-11 30th Ave., serves food that blends styles of cooking from South Carolina, the Baja California Peninsula, the Yucatan Peninsula and others in combinations that have been a hit with the neighborhood. The restaurant also has 48 taps of craft beer at any given time.

“There’s a lot of really, really unique items that you’re not going to get anywhere else,” said Jonathan VanSleet, MexiBBQ’s executive chef.

MexiBBQ is the brainchild of Dimitri Paloumbis, who also owns Break Bar & Billiards, at 32-04 Broadway in Astoria, and Dino Phillippou, who owns upscale Greek restaurant Cavo, at 42-18 31st Ave. in Astoria. The two restaurateurs decided to go in together on their new eatery based on their mutual love of barbecue and beer.

“We figured here, we’d do a little more, be creative about it,” Paloumbis said.

VanSleet said MexiBBQ’s menu serves a variety of dishes, both American and Mexican, such as burgers, ribs, tacos and quesadillas. The signature dish at MexiBBQ is the brisket, which is smoked for three hours and braised for six.

While Tex-Mex cooking relies on tomato-base sauces, VanSleet’s sauces can include mustard and vinegar like South Carolina barbecue, sweet and smoky sauces made from agave nectar and onions, or a house barbecue made from achiote, a combination of spices and seeds often used in the Yucatan. Some dishes are also seafood-based Mexican dishes favored on the Baja Peninsula.

All sauces and dishes are cooked in-house, VanSleet said.

“When you get your plate of food, there’s probably about 20 hours of work that goes into it,” he said.

MexiBBQ also has 48 different types of craft beer, which the owners switch up for every season. VanSleet said the taps always have a combination of strong beers, lagers, pilsners and darker beers such as porters and stouts.

“If you are into beer and you know what style you like, it’s going to be easy to navigate the menu,” VanSleet said.

Those who like any of the beers can buy and take home a “growler,” a half-gallon capped container for later use. The restaurant also sells tequila and bourbon.

Other partners in MexiBBQ include John Bortolis and Rick Boutureia. Julieta Ballesteros is the consulting chef.

“We want to do something more than just a restaurant,” Paloumbis said. “We want to serve an experience.”

Hours for MexiBBQ are 3 p.m. to 2 a.m. Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday and noon to 2 a.m. Sunday. The bar closes at 1 a.m. every day except Friday and Saturday, when it closes at 2 a.m. Hours for brunch are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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