Eat Something New
in Queens

The Facebook Group for Food Lovers in Queens

It started by accident, really. In February 2021, I created a 5-day email challenge via this website called “Eat Something New in Queens,” intended to help my neighbors break out of mid-pandemic dining ruts, get curious, and try something new-to-them from across the deliciously diverse borough of Queens, all while throwing support to our struggling local restaurants. About 100 people signed up. The Facebook group was our discussion platform, a perfect place to give and receive suggestions for particular cuisines or restaurants that people were interested in. For example, during that first challenge, several people wanted to learn more about Ecuadorian food, and others were able to tell them exactly where they should go and what they might try. In this way, participants were armed with enough knowledge (plus the “assignment” I gave them) to go out and order something unfamiliar to them with confidence.

At the end of the challenge, everyone reported back with their findings, thus inspiring more people to go out to more restaurants and try more new things. Everyone loved it and lamented not being able to save all these terrific recommendations, so I wrote a recap post. And I left the Facebook group up, as new people kept joining and it was quickly growing into a great resource.

Go through the original 5-day ESNQ challenge here:

A “Unicorn” Group

I didn’t realize at the time what a nerve I’d struck—that people craved a trusted space to discuss food and restaurants specifically in Queens, that there was no other online space in which to do that, as Joe DiStefano would later point out in his March 2022 Grub Street article, “Chowhound Is Dead, But Its Spirit of Adventure Lives On.” (I also never expected this Facebook group to get press!)

Trust was key. Facebook groups can easily turn toxic with a few bad eggs (or bots), so from the beginning the tone was set: positive, curious, respectful. Drama was not invited to this party. It wasn’t, and still isn’t, the space to rant about a restaurant’s service, or pick fights. Members want to use this space to recommend restaurants, to support their favorite spots, and many are very generous in sharing their local knowledge. They are also generally great about flagging iffy content, but I’m proud to say there are only two moderators for 12K members (generally 70% of which are active), and we don’t have to do all that much. (We’re also super strict about Queens-only content! The desire of some to share about food in other boroughs prompted me to start a sister food-travel group, Eat Your World (Outside Queens).)

Keeping an open mind is literally one of the group rules. As the numbers ballooned in size, I worried ESNQ would morph into a general page of restaurant reviews and requests for the best tres leches/pizza/Thai food in Queens. But while those posts of course happen, I continue to see members’ curiosity on display, a lot. People love to share what they ate that was “new to them,” “in the spirit of this group.” That truly makes my heart swell.

I think this all contributes to the reason I recently got stopped inside a local cheese shop by a group member I hadn’t met before, who thanked me for creating this “unicorn” of a Facebook group and community. But the other essential piece doesn’t have much to do with me at all.

The Local Tongue, 2021

Thanks to food writer + Queens resident Nathan Thornburgh for this shout-out!

Join the Eat Something New in Queens Facebook group here:

A traditional kamayan feast at Kabayan in Queens, NYC
A group of people gather for a Lunar New Year dinner in Queens
A dim sum spread at a restaurant in Queens Chinatown, NYC.

Meetups + Community

In fall of 2021 I set up our first “meetup” event, an outdoor potluck in a park, where people could bring a favorite snack from a local spot to share. I didn’t intend to run more of those, but other members soon stepped up to take that mantle.

For the past year and a half, there have been regular in-person meetups held by various members, for groups small and quite large, multiple times a month. Sometimes they are food crawls, but mostly they center around a single Queens restaurant. One meetup leader, the esteemed Ben Lert, has organized more than 50 of these events, hitting everything from French brunch to dim sum, Isaan Thai lunch to an Uzbeki feast for 50 people. (Pictured above: Filipino kamayan at Kabayan, a huge Lunar New Year multicourse meal at King Crab House, a dim sum meetup at Lake Pavilion.) Along the way, this online group has shifted to a real offline community, with new friendships forged and genuine appreciation on display for not only the restaurants, cultures, and cuisines but also for our fellow food friends. Many of us have found our “foodie tribe,” and—bonus!—we are mostly neighbors.

I’m eternally grateful for this Queens food community, for the meetup leaders and willing participants, the restaurant owners and chefs, the group members who so generously share their knowledge and those who are curious enough to ask for it. May we all continue to eat well and often in the World’s Borough.

*For more intel on Queens food and restaurants, sign up for Queens Together’s Eats in Queens newsletter. I edit it alongside QT founder Jonathan Forgash, whom I connected with inside the ESNQ Facebook group.

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