As an aspiring historian I’m always drawn to locations that have historical significance in this great city of mine. Yet I didn’t know about this place’s history until relatively recently, and it’s only a handful of blocks away from my place. When I finally went I was overwhelmed. The spirit of Bohemia is alive and well in New York City.
When Czech and Slovak migrants migrated to the United States in the late nineteenth century they, like many other immigrants at the time, yearned for a piece of their fatherland. A beer garden and hall would’ve been such a staple. In 1892 these immigrants formed the Bohemian Citizens’ Benevolent Society in Astoria, Queens. Eighteen years later they mustered enough money to purchase plots of land to create a hall and a garden to foster the culture of Czechs and Slovaks in this new home. And they’ve been very successful; the garden proper has been enjoyed for 106 years, making it the oldest of its kind in the City.
Although the garden’s open year round, the best time to fully experience the garden would be on a summer’s day, order a pint of one of their imported brews, and enjoy the breeze and the shade from the immense trees. And of course, me being me, I just had to order the “oddest” Czech items on the menu: tlacenka (a kind of headcheese), and a whole roasted pork knee.
Come for the cuisine, stay for the environment, and you’ll never forget the culture.