The Queens Night Market returns April 16 to Flushing Meadows Corona Park for its seventh season, and it’s sure to once again be a diverse, delicious—and somewhat overwhelming—affair. Here are our top insider tips for where to eat and how to navigate the night market, by a longtime vendor.
One of the most anticipated annual events in New York City is upon us: the Queens Night Market. This open-air market, which typically starts up in April and concludes around the end of October, is a true celebration of the diversity of New York, as the majority of vendors are small operators serving the food they grew up with. For food lovers, it’s a can’t-miss event.
This year the QNM will kick off its seventh season on April 16, 2022. (April 16 and 23 are “sneak peek” nights with a $5 entrance fee; free and regular night markets begin May 7.) It will feature around 50 food vendors from countries like Indonesia, Ukraine, Haiti, Peru, Cambodia, Portugal, the Philippines, Colombia, Haiti, Mexico, Antigua, Singapore, El Salvador, Japan, and more. As usual, the price of food items will be capped at $5-$6 each.
With such a wide array of vendors, the night market can, admittedly, be a bit overwhelming to navigate. As someone who knows the ins and outs of the market pretty well—I’ve been a vendor since 2017, under the umbrella Moon Man—I’m here to help! Needless to say, during all my time there I’ve tried food from almost every vendor, and I’ve amassed quite a range of tips. To that end, here’s the ultimate guide to making the most of your time at the Queens Night Market … beginning, of course, with what to eat.
Best Food at the Queens Night Market
In no particular order, here are some favorite vendors and dishes I recommend at the night market.
Moon Man. Naturally, I will start with my own Indonesian dessert business! Get the combo, which consists of our signature kue pancong (coconut pancake), pulut tekan (sticky rice with kaya jam), and kue singkong (cassava cake). It’s the best value and perfect for sharing with friends.
Cambodian Now. This vendor is so underrated, and their food is really delicious. Get the tender beef skewers—they’re so flavorful and melt in your mouth—and the delectable amok trey, or fish amok, which is a pudding-like steamed fish curry wrapped in banana leaf. (It’s also the national dish of Cambodia.) So many foodies lament the lack of Cambodian food in New York City, and here’s your chance to get some!
Burmese Bites. I love the keema palata from these longtime vendors. It’s minced chicken breast cooked in masala and paprika oil, mixed with onion, egg, and cilantro, and then stuffed into a perfectly flaky flatbread.
Hong Kong Street Food. This vendor makes everything themselves, including the delicious homemade curry fish ball. The fried Hong Kong noodles are also terrific, and reminiscent of what you’d find in a classic HK cha chaan teng.
Taiwanese Yummy. The Taiwanese beef noodle soup is one of the best I’ve had in NYC.
The Malaysian Project. Get the Ramly burger: a spicy, savory, curry-seasoned burger wrapped in a fried egg, based on the roadside burgers the Malaysian owners loved back home. They tend to get overwhelmed, so if you really want this, arrive early.
Lion City Coffee. Try the tasty mee pok, Singapore-style egg noodles with fish balls.
Brazilicious. The Brazilian steak sandwich is delicious and very filling. Definitely share it with some friends if they are offering it this year!
Twister Cake Bakery. Don’t miss these Romanian/Hungarian kürtőskalács, aka chimney cakes. I like mine with coconut flakes.
Treat Yourself Jerk Chicken. They do Jamaican jerk chicken right and are great value as well.
Warung Jancook. Try their bestselling ote ote, Indonesian veggie fritters.
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Nansense. Everything is great at this Vendy Award-winning Afghan vendor. This year they’ll have mantu (dumplings), chapli-kabab burgers, and shor nakhod, a chickpea dish.
Bengali Street Eats. The crunchy-spicy-sweet-tangy fuchka is a must, and the samosa too.
DiLena’s Dolcini. This Italian sweets stand has great Hennessy boozy gummy bears (if you are into that!). As silly as these are, the ones they make are really boozy and delicious.
Best Times to Visit the Night Market
While the night market runs for months, some days are better than others to visit, depending on your goals. If you are a seasoned QNM goer, you should come during the first six weeks, as that’s when most of the new vendors will be there. As summer stretches on, some of the newer vendors may change their minds and pull out for the rest of the season. If it’s important to you to try something new, plan to visit early on!
If you are a newbie QNM visitor, on the other hand, the first few weeks can be extra overwhelming and more chaotic. Things usually calm down around week 6, and it’s certainly a more relaxing experience after the short U.S Open break in the fall, making it the perfect time to go for a date or just to hang out with friends.
All season long, the Queens Night Market is a kid-friendly event, with music and lots of games to play. However, the closing night of the market in October is one that families shouldn’t miss. Some of the vendors dress up and serve their food in costumes, and the night tends to be full of fun surprises.
How to Get There
The organizers say this every week in their announcements, but it bears repeating: Do not drive to the Queens Night Market. While driving might seem like a quicker, more direct way to get there, it’s rarely a smart strategy. The parking around the New York Hall of Science is very limited and can be extremely challenging. A large portion of the available parking spaces is reserved for the vendors’ vans, trucks, and SUVs, generally taking up around a third of what’s available.
Another third or so is used by the museum’s visitors who have arrived there earlier during the day. So QNM visitors have to rely only on the remaining third of available space, and new this year, you’ll have to pay $15 to park there, according to the organizers (who are not in charge of that!). Street parking, of course, is scarce in the area, and extremely frustrating. By the time you are able to park, it won’t be a (cost- or) time-saving situation anymore, and, trust me, you won’t be in a good mood. The 7 train or a ride-share service remains the best way to get to the Queens Night Market.
There’s one caveat, however, that applies especially to families: You could drive IF you combine your night market visit with a trip to the Hall of Science. That way, you’ll be near-guaranteed a parking spot. Plan to arrive by around 2pm-3pm, spend a few hours at the museum, and when it closes at 5pm, walk over to the night market just as it opens up. (It’s not clear if museum visitors who stay for the market will have to pay the $15 parking fee.)
When to Arrive to the Queens Night Market
This will seem obvious, but come as early as you can! The majority of these vendors, especially the new ones, are independent operators who don’t have much experience in food service. Predicting and scaling up food quantity can be a challenge, and some just don’t have the experience to speed up service and serve a ton of food per night. This results in a very limited quantity of certain dishes, and some vendors will inevitably run out of food much earlier than they anticipated.
Even seasoned vendors like us can get overwhelmed and sell out early from time to time. The lines also get really long around 8pm, so the best time to arrive to the night market is when the gate opens at 5pm, or shortly thereafter.
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What to Know About the Lines
You can’t trust them! At Moon Man, my team and I always try to serve up any order in under a minute (because I’m an efficiency maniac). However, many of the other vendors are working with a small team and lack experience. They haven’t yet learned how to serve food quickly and efficiently, and they end up with lines that can get extremely long.
It’s important to know that the length of a line is not necessarily a reflection of how popular a vendor is. Sometimes it just means the vendor is a little slow at service. My advice is to rely on your instincts and taste buds when you read a menu, and don’t just follow the crowd.
When you do decide to join a line, the best strategy is to split the task of waiting with your partner or a friend. Check the vendor list on Friday, and take note of the ones you are interested in. When you and your group arrive, divide and conquer! Split up and hop on different lines, and buy enough food to share with everyone.
Queens Night Market Survival Kit: What to Bring
Here’s what to bring to the night market to have the best experience. (Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links; see notice at bottom of page.)
- Cash. While there is an ATM onsite, the line for it can be overwhelming, and the majority of vendors accept only cash.
- A picnic blanket. I recommend this canvas drop cloth from Home Depot. It has a plastic underside, so if the grass is wet, your pants won’t be. You can wash and reuse it multiple times. It makes for the best picnic blanket!
- A tray. Yes, a tray! This is a pro move. You want to be able to collect food. With a half sheet tray like this, you can walk around and get food from multiple vendors in one go. Plus, a tray will save your fingers from the piping-hot foods some of the vendors serve.
- Kitchen shears. Another pro move. Have one handy so you can share any food with your friends easily.
- Disposable plates and napkins. The vendors operate on very tight margins to maintain the $5-$6 price cap. If you bring your own plates for sharing food with your friends, they will be really appreciative. (We like these compostable ones.)
Why You Should Keep Your Fork
Vendors do provide utensils for you, but we get worried about the amount of plastic waste the night market generates. We try to use recyclable materials, but there’s just no economical eco-friendly option for utensils like forks and spoons. We would highly appreciate it if you use just one fork and spoon for the entire night. Even better? Bring your own utensils (like this travel bamboo set) that you can wash once you get home.
Please Be Nice
Here’s a final point that should go without saying, but from time to time we have gotten unpleasant customers at the Queens Night Market. Please keep in mind the vendors are working really hard to serve a piece of their culture to you. Nobody is there to make a huge sum of money, and most do it as a passion project. If you were to know the amount of prep, logistics, and hassle these vendors endure just to open a stall there, you would be extra grateful to know that they are all still willing to do it for $5 a plate.
I hope to see you at the Queens Night Market soon! Say hi to me at Moon Man if you do.
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About the author: Nigel Sielegar is a designer/entrepreneur who wears many hats. He’s an internationally recognized award-winning designer who runs his own design firm, Corse Design Factory. In the culinary world, Nigel is known as the founder of Moon Man and a partner at Sea Monster, whose mission is to introduce NYC to Southeast Asian-style grilled seafood culture. He is also known for his pop-up series Waroeng, which shines a light on underappreciated cuisines that are hard to come by in NYC. Outside of design and food, Nigel is a co-founder of MORRA, a web and app development firm based in Indonesia; a co-founder of Novel Objects, a product photography studio based in NYC; and an adjunct professor at the School of Visual Arts.
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