After years in the Seaside restaurant industry, Gustavo Martinez and Cindy Mendez were tired of working for other people. The couple tried to start a food cart in their hometown, but said they were rebuffed by rules restricting carts from the Prom and Broadway.

Martinez and Mendez took their custom-built gray cart north and recently opened Astoria Express, a hodgepodge of American comfort food staples in a small pod along Marine Drive on the city west side.