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Food Culture NYC

Where to Eat in Queens, According to Locals

October 25, 2021
Where to eat in Queens on a new map

Our new, fully interactive and user-generated map will guide you to the best local restaurants and street vendors in Queens—according to the people who live and eat there.

 

Queens is a literal treasure trove of cuisine and culture. And yet so many people miss it, or skim over the surface of it, perhaps because they’re busy or distracted, or maybe intimidated by where to start. Via food tours, posts on this site, and the Eat Something New in Queens email challenge and Facebook group, I try to encourage deeper knowledge of this incredible borough—to not only introduce newbies to some of the excellent food and culture here but also to inspire locals to stay curious and break dining routines (which I am guilty of falling into sometimes too!). There’s too much food and too little time for that.

It is my hope that anyone can come to Queens and eat like an in-the-know local. That anyone can travel to an unfamiliar neighborhood in Queens and quickly find an incredible, local-recommended place to eat. It should be easy for people to find and support the small, immigrant-owned eateries Queens is known for! I dream that the long-standing, easy-to-miss Mexican bodega on your block with the hidden kitchen attracts as many curious eaters as that Michelin-recommended restaurant down the street.

It’s with these hopes in mind that we’re launching the Eat Something New in Queens map on the Steps app today. With about 60 favorite restaurants mapped, it is the germ of the seed of this bigger dream right now. This is an evolving project. I’m inviting the members of our 6,700-member-strong Facebook group of the same name, as well as any other Queens food lover, to add to this map (via the Steps app) however they can. If everyone adds one favorite eatery or vendor, imagine what it will look like!

It may get overwhelming the more spots are added, but fortunately this map has a superpower: tags. You can filter it based on cuisine or neighborhood tags, whether it has outdoor seating or happy hour, is kid-friendly or good for groups, serves brunch or is perfect for a special occasion. More tag ideas are welcome!

While we are building out this map, I’ll also be adding to this post of favorite Queens eateries. It will be much more highlights than an exhaustive list, but it’s a good place to start when deciding where to eat in Queens. (This is a work in progress, so bear with us!)

Jackson Heights

Arepa Lady: This cute, sit-down spot offers delicious Colombian arepas, patacones, and a long local history—the owners’ mother was the original “Arepa Lady,” an iconic Roosevelt Avenue street vendor here in Jackson Heights. I love both the pillowy arepa de queso and the arepa de choclo (the sweeter yellow kind) with chorizo, paired with a fruity frozen margarita (sangria and nonalcoholic fruit shakes are also available). The patacones, fried green plaintain chips, with guacamole make a terrific appetizer. For something different, try the Colombian burger, topped with ham, bacon, cheese, shoestring potato fries, and the restaurant’s homemade sauce. Outdoor seating is available. 77-17 37th Ave.

Amdo Kitchen: At this Tibetan momo trucks, the steamed beef dumpling is the best, followed by the chicken and vegetable. I love that it’s served with spicy pickled radish too. Don’t miss the sepen, the traditional fiery red sauce that accompanies the momo (many people like to mix the thin mayo sauce into it to tame the heat). This is a popular stop on many of my food tours! 37-59 74th St.

The Queensboro: What is not to love about the Q? When it opened in 2018, The Queensboro was the restaurant Jackson Heights had been missing—a welcoming, local-owned neighborhood bar and restaurant serving up local beers, great cocktails, contemporary seasonal food, and plenty of space for the community to use for events (and now lots of outdoor dining space, too). The fried chicken and burgers are very popular, for good reason, and I’m still dreaming of a Brussels sprouts salad it offered last spring. The menu continues to change, and it’s always on point. Of late, the restaurant has been bringing back its roster of events, from book readings to comedy shows. 80-02 Northern Blvd.

Angel Indian: This is the best Indian restaurant in Jackson Heights, a neighborhood once celebrated for its Indian food. The chef formerly worked at LIC’s beloved Adda, and the menu is a little similar: expansive in regionality, heavy on spice, focused on super fresh ingredients. The fresh paneer, made in-house, is to die for, so anything with paneer in it is a winner. Favorite dishes of ours include the PB 35 app, the samosa chaat, the dahi batata puri, the Adraki lamb chops, the dal makhni, the bhindi (okra) masala, the dum biryani (if you’re dining onsite). You can’t really go wrong here. Almost everything is spicy, so be sure to order plenty of naan as well! There’s outdoor dining, but it’s very enclosed. 74-14 37th Rd.

Maharaja Sweets & Snacks: This vegetarian spot is known for its sweets, but I come for the Indian chaats, or snacks. Papri chaat and aloo tikki chaat are among my favorites. It’s also a great place to have a veg lunch thali and a masala chai (add your own sugar to taste). And then try a sweet! I’m partial to jalebi (the sticky orange syrup-soaked ones that look like pretzels) and gajar halwa (sweetened carrot cooked in ghee and milk), but there are so many to choose from. Outdoor seating is available. 73-10 37th Ave.

Pecoshitas: This Colombian bakery has terrific pan de bono, almojabana, pan de queso, and empanadas (both chicken and beef)—somehow the cheese breads are still being made fresh and hot even at 5pm most days! I’ve yet to try many more of the offerings, but I have my eye on the tubs of arequipe (like Colombian caramel) they’re making. The service is fast and friendly behind the counter, and there’s some sidewalk seating. 80-03 Roosevelt Ave.

Antojitos Doña Fela: This popular Peruvian cart, run by three generations of women in the same family, is full of delicious gems: the trio marino (fish ceviche, perfectly fried fish “chicharron” with yuca, chaufa de mariscos), the causa de atún, the anticuchos (grilled beef hearts), the pollo al cilindro. The family takes pride in their traditional foods, sourcing many ingredients, like spices and herbs, directly from Peru. Go early in the morning for tamales (with salsa criolla, a pickled onion sauce), and don’t miss the fresh picarones (sweet potato doughnuts). It’s a weekends-only stand that recently added Friday hours. 90th St. & Roosevelt Ave.

La Esquina del Camaron MexicanoThe kitchen of this pescatarian-friendly Jackson Heights gem is inside a tiny unmarked bodega-cum-vape shop a little down 80th St., south of Roosevelt Ave. The specialty? Veracruz-style shrimp (and octopus) cócteles. The cócteles come drenched in red sauce—a sweet, tangy concoction combining the chef’s secret tomato sauce, onions, lime, olive oil, orange juice, and clam juice—and topped with cilantro and thick avocado slices. There are also great grilled fish tacos, sea bass empanadas, and tostadas de pulpo here. 80-02 Roosevelt Ave.

Sushi on Me: In an intimate speakeasy setting in a Roosevelt Avenue basement, incredible sushi and sashimi, served in Japan’s omakase style, awaits. But don’t expect Japanese austerity with this meal. The local chefs are Thai—some of them learned this art on YouTube—the music is loud, and the atmosphere’s a party. Thanks to the Thai influence, components like chili garlic and tamarind sauce show up in some of the dishes, to delicious effect. It’s a 12-course, two-hour meal for $89, which includes unlimited sake, and it’s worth every penny. 71-26 Roosevelt Ave.

Nepali Bhanchha Ghar: A neighborhood standout since 2015, this Nepali restaurant is rightly celebrated for its award-winning jhol momo—steamed dumplings in a spicy broth laced with tomato, sesame seeds, ginger, and garlic, served hot—but don’t sleep on all the other wonderful traditional dishes here, from sel roti (fried rings of ground rice) to the bento box-like samay baji (try the air-dried goat sukuti!) and the great thalis. The mango lassi is delicious too! You can stock up your freezer with frozen momos here: I love the potato, the paneer, and the chicken best. 74-15 Roosevelt Ave.

Haat Bazaar: This Bangladeshi spot is half grocery and half steam-table restaurant, with seating in the back. I love the plump vegetable singara (Bangladeshi-style samosa, with lots of veggies, spiced potato, and peanuts inside) and the bhortas here, veg or fish mashes laced with chilies, mustard oil, onion, and cilantro. The pumpkin, lentil, dried shrimp, and potato are some of my favorites, but they typically have a great selection here. Pair that with some rice, dal, a vegetable bhaji or two, a meat or fish curry, biryani—whatever looks good to you under the glass. The chai is good too! 37-11 73rd St.

 

Elmhurst

Ayada: One of our favorite Thai restaurants in NYC, for years now! Do not miss the kaeng som (sour curry) with omelets, the chive dumplings, the crispy watercress salad, the drunken noodles, any of the whole fish dishes, and more. Kua gai noodles and sautéed eggplant with ground chicken are favorite nonspicy dishes. There’s lots of space inside and out, on a street chock-full of great Thai restaurants. 77-08 Woodside Ave.

Hug Esan: Come here for something different on Woodside Avenue, aka Elmhurst’s little “Thai town.” The food is Isan, as the name suggests, so it’s not your typical NYC Thai menu. Try the pork crepe, the nam khao tod (crispy rice salad), the crispy fish salad, the dill soup, any of the papaya salads or larbs. The crab omelet makes for a delicious early lunch. 77-16 Woodside Ave.

Khao Kang: Choose from the available dishes of the day at this Thai steam-table restaurant, where there’s no cooking to order and it’s Thai chefs cooking for the Thai community. In other words: Expect a lot of heat. There’s typically one dish, a BBQ pork, on offer that is not spicy, so you’d do well to include that in your build-your-own plate of two to three entrees(also white rice and a fried egg!). Like its sister restaurant around the corner (see below), the desserts are fabulous too. Try the taro sweet egg custard in kabocha squash, or anything else that looks good by the register. 76-20 Woodside Ave.

Khao Nom: This inviting Thai restaurant tucked behind its sister restaurant, Khao Kang, has a full menu, with very good shrimp cakes, turmeric-laced crispy rice tacos, mussel pancakes, basil pork, and “chan” noodles with prawns. Yet I prefer it for its sweets. Since the pandemic there’s been a convenient grab-and-go table for its excellent desserts, some of which are dairy-free and otherwise vegan. Try the khanom Tokyo (sweet crepes wrapped around a filling of pandan cream); the sticky rice-and-coconut sweets; the steamed pumpkin, palm, or banana cakes; the durian in coconut sauce; the coconut or Thai tea ice cream off the main menu (topped with peanuts, corn, and potato). Just grab whatever looks appealing to you, and be sure to check the fridge just past the register too. 42-06 77th St.

JoJu: This cheerful bi-level spot has many varieties of banh mi, specialty fries (like spicy kimchi fries, with a fried egg on top!), and rice bowls, which can (and should) be topped with fried spring rolls. There are also bubble teas, Vietnamese coffee, and other delicious (nonalcoholic) drinks like a refreshing mango-lychee mint “mojito” and the interesting, sweet-salty “pickled lemon mojito,” JoJu’s take on Vietnamese soda chanh muoi. It’s currently open for takeout and delivery only. 83-25 Broadway

 

Flushing

Max & Mina’s: One of our very favorite spots for ice cream in Queens! The walls are cheerfully plastered in cereal boxes and the always-changing homemade ice cream flavors are just as fun and colorful (and, yes, some do involve the cereal of your youth). They are generous with their tastings here, luckily—you’ll want to try them all! Think chocolate lava cake, Fruity Pebbles, cinnamon toast pie, funnel cake caramel, Krispy Kreme candy cane, fresh-brewed coffee, and so much more. 71-26 Main St.

Nan Xiang Xiao Long Bao: As suggested by the name, this is the spot for xiao long bao. The soup dumplings are excellent here, and I love that you can go classic here with traditional crab-and-pork dumplings or try their newer iterations like the colorful “lucky six” soup dumplings or truffle soup dumplings. You can’t go wrong with any of them, or other Shanghainese dim sum. You’ll want some noodles too! 39-16 Prince St.

White Bear: It’s no secret this tiny spot has great house-made wontons, filled with pork and vegetables and doused with chili oil (no. 6 on the menu), among its offerings. They’re $9 for 12 wontons, and you can buy them frozen too! It’s a must on any Flushing food crawl. 135-02 Roosevelt Ave.

 

College Point

Little Pepper: Among the dishes we love at this fantastic Sichuan restaurant are the lip-numbing Chongqing-style chicken, the dan dan noodles, the classic mapo tofu, the shredded potato with green pepper, the crispy scallion pancake, and the cold-smashed cukes … but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. If you have kids, you may have to strategize a bit: This is spicy food. (For ours, we settled on shrimp fried rice and dried sauteed string beans.) You won’t be disappointed. 18-24 College Point Blvd.

Much more to come … stay tuned.

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