Categories: Food Travel, NYC

The Ultimate Guide to the Queens Night Market

Front entrance gate to the International Queens Night Market

Updated for the 2024 season! The Queens Night Market returns this weekend to Flushing Meadows-Corona Park for its ninth season, and it’s once again 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.

An evening crowd at dusk at the Queens Night Market

The Queens Night Market

One of the most anticipated annual events in New York City is upon us: the Queens Night Market, in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. This open-air market, which starts up each 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 New York food lovers, it’s a can’t-miss event.

The QNM kicks off its ninth season on April 13, 2024 (the first two sessions, April 13 and April 20, are ticketed sneak previews), and this year, the night market starts an hour earlier! For the 2024 season, Queens Night Market will run from 4pm until midnight (the market will close at 11pm during the fall season, however).

The market also expanded its footprint and will feature more than 70 food vendors per night, up from 50 in years past. Expect cuisine from countries like Indonesia, Ukraine, Sierra Leone, Peru, Cambodia, Portugal, the Philippines, Colombia, Haiti, Mexico, Antigua, Singapore, El Salvador, Japan, and more.

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 of 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 the Queens Night Market … including, of course, what to eat.

A selection of diverse global foods from the Queens International Night Market.

Various Queens Night Market goodies.

 

The Magic Price Cap

Before we get into the must-eats of the Queens Night Market, it’s important to note that the price of food items at the market is still capped at $5-$6 each, despite the current economy where everything seems so expensive. There are a few factors that have been helping the vendors maintain their razor-thin margins for this year.

The organizers of the night market have tried hard to maintain a low vendor fee. This year, they also secured a sponsorship from Citizen Bank for the second year in a row, and this sponsorship was passed to the vendors via a discount on the vending fee. Each food vendor is charged only $110-$165 a night—other markets would charge four to five times that.

However, even with that sponsorship, the Queens Night Market is not inflation-proof. You will find that certain dishes may have shrunk a bit in portion size. But that may be a good thing, as the point of going to the night market is to try as many dishes from around the world as you possibly can. So … perhaps smaller portions are your friend!

This price cap also makes for a more democratic market and gives a lot of new vendors a fighting chance. If a visitor spends $30-$40 on a big meal from one vendor, that might be the end of their stay at the market. With the price cap, however, that budget can be spread out among more vendors, including the lesser-known newbies.

Three Indonesian desserts from Moon Man at the Queens Night Market

Moon Man desserts. Photo courtesy of Moon Man

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’ keema palata

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.

Nixtamal. Nixtamal is serving the original mole Poblano. When I say the original, it’s legit the original. They use the unique mole recipe that was developed by Sister Andrea de la Asunción, a nun at the convent of Santa Rosa in Puebla, in 1681. This recipe has been handed down for generations, and now we have a chance to try it.

Ramly burger, The Malaysian Project

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. This year, The Malaysian Project will only participate at the beginning of the season and will not be there for the fall.

Persian Eats. Don’t miss out on this vendor. The dizi (lamb stew) is cooked for more than 24 hours, and the kebab is delicious. They also make a Persian ice cream called bastani with saffron and rose water, using local dairy and eggs. It’s creamy, not overly sweet, and certainly not something you want to skip.

Joey Bats Cafe. While most people go to Joey Bats to get pastéis de nata (Portuguese egg tart), that’s not what I want to highlight here. Go for the bifana! It’s a Portuguese pork sandwich made with thin slices of pork cooked with garlic in white wine. The menu is made by the formidable Isabel Fernandes, aka Joey’s mom. If you are among the lucky few who have tasted her cooking, you know you’re in for something good.

So skip the natas; you can get those all year round from JBC’s multiple locations in the city. Don’t skip the bifana.

Twister Cakes with the stall owner at the Queens Night Market

Twister Cake!

Twister Cake Bakery. Don’t miss these Romanian/Hungarian kürtőskalács, aka chimney cakes. I like mine with coconut flakes.

Brenda’s Cuisine. This vendor is a newcomer at the QNM this year. Looking for something homey and comforting? Look no further—go try the sancocho, a hearty Dominican stew perfect for some of the colder nights at the market.

Emeye. Emeye is serving traditional Ethiopian cuisine. The injera (sour fermented flatbread) topped with stew is just delicious; comforting and full of flavor.

Treat Yourself Jerk Chicken. They do Jamaican jerk chicken right and are great value as well.

Warung Bites. A newcomer to the Queens Night Market this year, slinging Indonesian martabak and bakwan. Martabak is made with ground beef, eggs, shallots, and scallions folded and fried in a crispy, flaky wrap, and bakwan is a (vegan) veggie fritter—a perfect snack to walk around the market with.

Nansense. Everything is great at this Vendy Award-winning Afghan vendor. This year they’ll have Kabuli pulao and chapli kababs.

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.

Twisted Potato, Sam’s Fried Ice Cream. Twisted potatoes and fried ice cream (both in multiple flavors!) are always favorites among the kids. Maybe not at the same time! (Or maybe so?)

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 chaotic. Things usually calm down around week six, 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.

A young child holds a bowl of soup and eats in the middle of the Queens Night Market in NYC

Kids love the night market for the activities AND the food!

How to Get to the Queens Night Market

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 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 likely 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 1pm-2pm, spend a few hours at the museum, and when the clock hits 4pm, walk over to the night market just as it opens up. Museum visitors who stay for the market do not have to pay the $15 parking fee!

Queens State of Mind sign from the Queens Night Market

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 7:30pm, so the best time to arrive to the night market is when the gate opens at 4pm, 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.

Kids look at a variety of colorful dumplings at the Queens Night Market

Sharing food is the best strategy!

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, meaning this site may receive a small commission if you purchase through them, at no extra cost to you. 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 price cap. If you bring your own plates for sharing food with your friends, they will be appreciative. (We like these compostable ones.)
  • Containers to bring food to go. There are 70+ food vendors at the market each night, and many of the dishes served, such as stews and curries, keep well for the next day. Unfortunately, most of the vendors are not equipped with to-go boxes (those are expensive, even at wholesale). Bring some takeout containers with you, if you plan to maximize this experience and stretch it for more days.
A bowl of Burmese ohno kaukswe, or coconut chicken noodle soup, from the Burmese Bites stall at Queens Night Market

Save those spoons! Ohno kaukswe (coconut chicken noodle soup) from Burmese Bites

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.

Vendors from The Malaysian Project make egg-wrapped Malaysian Ramly burgers for the Queens Night Market

The Malaysian Project in action

Finally: Please Be Nice 

Here’s a last 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-$6 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; an adjunct professor at the School of Visual Arts, and a rare plant enthusiast.

 

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Published On: April 12, 2024

2 Comments

  1. Sharon August 24, 2022 at 4:36 am - Reply

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