You can taste the world without leaving Queens, New York
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Dining out in Queens is like taking an international food tour.
As the largest and second-most populous borough in New York City, you can find virtually any dish you desire here — on any given day, at almost any hour. And Queens is full of surprises. The East Coast doesn’t have the best reputation when it comes to tacos, but there are plenty of restaurants proving that New York is catching up to California. Craving dim sum or a bowl of boat noodles that rivals what you’d find on the streets of Bangkok? Check and check. The range of restaurants in Queens proves this may be one of the most diverse and delicious slices of the Big Apple.
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When New Yorkers think of dining in Astoria, they usually imagine a traditionally Greek neighborhood. There are plenty of options, but Astoria Seafood gives you a taste of all the classic Greek dishes — simply prepared, quality ingredients — from its fish market. You pick your seafood, and the chefs will do anything you want: grill, saute, fry, deep-fry, bake, roast … you get the idea. And when you dine here, you start understanding how the area has become more diverse, too. You’ll hear enough languages being spoken that you might mistake the spot for a U.N. summit. But, it’s also just more reason to venture out and explore Astoria’s Egyptian (especially off Steinway Street), Brazilian and Colombian restaurants, among others.
There are plenty of options for first-rate Asian food in this neighborhood, but it’s perhaps best known for its authentic roster of Thai restaurants (there’s even a stretch known as Thai Town). It’s not surprising once you learn that a large Thai population lives here, and you’ll see temples and Thai grocery stores dotting the streets during your visit. The bar Pata Paplean feels like a watering hole you’d find in Chiang Mai, and the very reasonably priced bowls of noodle soups — only served on the weekends — transports you to Southeast Asia with just one bite. Or, you can line up for the chicken-and-rice dish at Eim Khao Mun Kai, where you’ll crowd around a small table and feast.
When you disembark from the 7 train at the last stop, you’ll find yourself in the middle of what many locals consider “the Chinese Manhattan.” While Flushing may not be as well known as Manhattan’s Chinatown, this is where first- and second-generation immigrants — the population is nearly 70% Asian, according to 2010 census data — have flocked to in recent years as they opened businesses and formed their own community. The result? Some of the city’s best Asian restaurants, bakeries and specialty stores can be found on nearly every corner in the downtown area. You can hunt for mom-and-pop shops selling stellar plates of dumplings for under $10 at spots like White Bear or dine at gleaming new restaurants such as Haidilao, a hugely popular chain of hot pot restaurants. The culinary options are endless and make the journey well worth it.
This neighborhood in north-central Queens can sometimes feel far removed from the trendiest parts of New York City. As you’re strolling down Roosevelt Avenue searching for tacos or momos, there are people speaking in at least half a dozen different languages at any given moment — which isn’t a surprise, really, because Jackson Heights is often referred to as the most diverse zip code in America. Just as rich is the array of food you can find here: The New York Times put the spotlight on the Birrira-Landia food truck, already a neighborhood icon, which now lands on nearly every best taco list in the city. But you’ll also discover everything from Himalayan cuisine (check out Lhasa Fast Food) to fluffy cornmeal cakes from the popular Arepa Lady. You could easily take yourself or a group of friends on a global food tour without leaving the area.
Long Island City
If there’s one restaurant that could personify Long Island City, it’s Adda. This Indian restaurant, which is about the size of a tiny New York studio apartment, serves unparalleled takes on the subcontinent’s varied regional cuisines, from dishes like tandoori gobi to Malvani fish curry. It’s modern, yet approachable — just like LIC itself with its new developments surrounded by industrial warehouses. Although this redeveloped area may feel like it’s been overtaken by luxury towers, there are long-loved standout restaurants, if you know where to look. Dutch Kills has been open since 2009 and stands up to the city’s best craft cocktails bars, and nearby, you’ll find exceptional modern Mexican fare at Casa Enrique.
Rockaway Beach is only a subway (though a long one) or breezy ferry ride away if you’re coming from Manhattan. But once you’ve arrived, you’re rewarded with surfers chasing the waves and plenty of places to eat whether you stay all day or all weekend. If your agenda is all about lounging in the sand and soaking up the sun, Caracas Arepa Bar and Rippers are two popular spots on the boardwalk that will keep you satiated and hydrated. But if you get away from the beach, you’ll discover the robust creative community here — OK, a lot of them are from Brooklyn — at spots like Whit’s End serving top-notch pizzas with seasonal ingredients or Tacoway Beach for fish tacos served out of shipping containers.
Manhattan’s Koreatown, a roughly two-block stretch of East 32nd Street, gets all the attention when it comes to Korean restaurants. But College Point, located just east of Flushing (and reachable in parts by bus or the Long Island Rail Road), is where connoisseurs of everything from kimchi jjigae to barbecue head when they want the best renditions of the country’s most recognized dishes. Hahm Ji Bach is a favorite and crowd-pleaser because you’ll find all the popular homestyle dishes people love in Korean cuisine, but the flavors aren’t watered down and the quality is on point. One more tip? Many of the restaurants don’t have English menus, so hopefully you’re dining with someone who knows their way around a Korean menu or speaks the language.
Many of us are willing to travel near and far just for food. In 2020, however, traveling and dining out is a completely different ball game with all the various restrictions regulating where we can travel and the restaurant industry at large.
But in New York City, you can still easily take a gastronomic tour of the world without leaving the Big Apple. And if there’s one borough to hit, it’s Queens. The sheer number of restaurants and diversity of cuisines alone makes this lesser-known area worth visiting when you want to whet your appetite. You’ll find neighborhood staples, mom-and-pop shops and even trendier restaurants claiming spots on hottest restaurant lists — and all these spots need your business now more than ever.
Featured photo by javan/Twenty20.
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