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08/21/19 12:59pm

El Chivito’s namesake steak sandwich doesn’t appear on the menu.

“Skirt steak, sweetbreads, chicken, matambre,” the server intoned as my eyes glazed over while she recited a roster of sandwiches. “What about chivito?” I inquired after the Uruguayan national sandwich. “Yes, we have, it’s really good, you can get it with chicken or vacio,” she replied adding that the flap steak is butterflied.

“Para mi, vacio,” I replied wondering what sort of joyless individual would possibly disgrace the country’s national sandwich by ordering it with poultry. While I waited for lunch I perused the menu of El Chivito De Oro noting that the national sandwich was nowhere to be found. Secret sandwiches are catnip to a certain type of food writer, and I am that type. I was pretty hungry, so I was quite pleased to see that the rosy colored beef was topped with ham, mozzarella, bacon, and a fried egg, all cradled in a puffy brioche style bun that held a base layer of lettuce and tomato.

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08/17/19 9:14pm

When it comes to chicken the star of the show at Little House Cafe is surely the jia li mian bao ji, a gargantuan golden brown bun filled with curried chicken. That said, it may have just been eclipsed by a dish that made its debut today, chicken rendang. I learned about it while looking at the restaurant’s Instagram page, which called it dry curry chicken with biryani rice.

I’ve eaten my fair share of both Malaysian and Indonesian beef rendang, a soul warming curry, but had never heard of a chicken version so when I saw the photo of a sunny mound of rice accompanied by a generous portion of curry coated poultry, I knew what was for lunch. (more…)

08/09/19 1:49pm

What was once a tofu stand now specializes in fried treats like these braided Korean donuts.

Many of the Korean supermarkets that line Northern Boulevard in Flushing feature food courts, and sometimes even full-blown restaurants. Take H&Y Marketplace, it boasts an outdoor stand specializing in various porridges and the casual restaurant HanYang BunSik, which was extolled by Ligaya Mishan in the Times. While it doesn’t have a food court, it did have a rather large station devoted to fresh tofu. Or at least it did until about 6 months ago.

As I learned last weekend the tofu stand has been replaced with a specialist in fried fish cake. I wasn’t quite in the mood for fried fish cake, but soon noticed the lady behind the counter was sampling cut up pieces of freshly fried donuts.

Coated in granulated sugar, the doughy braids are known as kkwabaegi. As I strolled down Northern munching on this still warm treat I recalled the zeppole that my mother would fry up for me every St. Joseph’s Day.

You can find a recipe for this Korean treat on the wonderful Korean cuisine web site Maangchi. If you’re not inclined to cook, just pay the market a visit. With any luck the kkwabaegi will still be warm.

H&Y Marketplace, 150-51 Northern Blvd, Flushing

08/07/19 11:42am

Is this plate from a trattoria or a Thai joint?

For years the running joke about this Italian-American boy’s love for Asian food has been that I’ve forsaken my pasta and red sauce roots to slurp noodles in the basement of what my dear departed friend Josh Ozersky lovingly termed “ethnic hell holes.”

Noodles—be they Thai, Chinese, or Indian, cold, stir fried, or in soup—are one of my favorite foods. The other day I had a Thai noodle dish—black ink spaghetti with nam prik ong—that seemed to have more in common with Bologna than Bangkok. (more…)

08/05/19 12:17pm

One of my favorite things to do after leading a Chinatown food tour on a steamy summer’s day is to walk westward down Roosevelt Avenue and cool off by sampling frosty treats from various cultures. My first stop is the Dominican shaved ice at 98th Street and Roosevelt Avenue known as El Bohio. The bodega that the place takes it name from is long gone, but the frio frio man along with his gigantic block of crystal clear ice and his multihued syrups remain.

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07/31/19 11:52am

Leading culinary excursions through Flushing, Queens, is often hungry work, so I like to reward myself with a post food tour treat, sometimes sweet and sometimes savory. Last Sunday, I shepherded a largish group of 10 folks through the bustling streets of America’s Greatest Chinatown and found myself hankering for something substantial afterwards. Which is how I wound up at the neighborhood’s newest fried chicken purveyor: Bone Man.

Despite the joint’s name I opted for boneless nuggets instead of the bone-in options, including regular old wings, chicken wing roots (wing tips), and chicken middle wings. I didn’t ask whether the folks behind the bird here are Taiwanese, but Bone Man distinguishes itself from most of the hood’s yen su ji joints by making a bird with a craggier, crunchier crust. The juicy chunks were sprinkled with red pepper and an aromatic spice mix that I’m pretty sure was just five spice, salt, and MSG. (more…)

07/26/19 3:51pm

Now that’s what I call a Thai happy meal!

The Thai desserts at Elmhurst’s Khao Nom are so good that there’s a bit of a running joke between the ladies at the counter and me that all I eat is sweets. Truth be told, my Southeast Asian Elmhurst food tour usually ends there with dessert, but every now and then I find myself at Khao Nom alone craving something savory.

Such was the case last week when I tried the shrimp paste fried rice (khao klup kapi) with sweet garlic pork. The mound of rice—stained brownish-red from being fried with the funky kapi—was topped with two fried chilies and ringed with diced shallots; strips of omelet; chopped green beans; slices of fresh chili pepper; a wedge of lime; dried shrimp; cucumbers; and, of course, the bowl of sweet and garlicky stewed pork.

This DIY fried rice is one of my favorite ways to eat. Mix it all up and as little or as much of the dried peppers—in my case both—to the lot. The combination of sweet pork and shrimp infused rice shot through with veggies and burst of spice and the crunchy brine bombs of baby shrimp is particularly restorative on a hot summer’s day. Plus it comes with a sidecar of broth. Not a bad deal for $10.

Khao Nom, 76-20 Woodside Ave., Elmhurst

07/21/19 11:29am

Behold El Guachito’s mighty mixed grill laden with short ribs, blood sausage y mucho mucho mas!

Summer’s the perfect time for grilled beef and cold beer, but sometimes it’s just too hot in New York City to do it yourself, which is why the boys at Queens Dinner Club and I have decided to hold an Argentine style feast for carnivorous kings and queens at El Gauchito, one of our favorite steakhouses, on August 13.

Situated in Corona’s Esquina Argentina neighborhood, this temple to Argentine gastronomy—i.e. sumptuous grilled meats served with plenty of garlicky chimichurri—got its start as a butcher shop in 1978, which Mario Civelli named for the mascot of his home country’s football team in that year’s World Cup. The butcher counter—filled with special Argentine cuts like vacio or flap steak and homemade blood sausage—is still there as is El Gauchito or the little cowboy. These days the restaurant that started as little more than a butcher shop with a grill in the front window has expanded to take up two storefronts with two dining rooms, each a museum of Argentine culture lined with pictures of vaqueros (Argentine cowboys), accordions, and tango dancers.

Antipasto El Gauchito features creamy beef tongue.

Our carnivorous feast kicks off with an antipasto featuring creamy beef tongue, a terrine of pig feet, eggplant, and matambre. The name of the latter specialty—a rolled veal breast stuffed with spinach, olives, and cheese—translates to “hunger killer.” The real hunger killing though will be done by the special mixed grill loaded with skirt steak, vacio, short ribs, Argentine sausage, and blood sausage. All this meaty fare will be balanced out by Gauchito Salad with arugula, artichoke hearts, and Parmesan. Save room for traditional flan for dessert! Cash bar includes beer, wine, sangria, and, for those who have overdone it, the Argentine version of the digestif Fernet Branca.

Tickets for this Argentine feast are $45. Seats are very limited for this one so make sure to sign up for our mailing list to get your early ticket sale notification that will be sent on 8/1.

07/18/19 3:41pm

Downtown Flushing’s Chinese nougat man plying his wares on a hot summer’s day.

I can count the number of times I’ve added unknown foods to my Queens culinary walking tours on the fingers of one hand. This reticence to try new things with guests stems not from a lack of adventure, but rather the “all killer no filler” approach I take to the foods I showcase on the tour. Most of the time, unknown quantities prove to be severely lacking, but every now and then I come across a gem. Such a diamond in the rough appeared in the form of a streetside sweet on yesterday’s Flushing Chinatown food tour.

My guests and I were en route to the subterranean Golden Shopping Mall food court when I spied a Chinese gentleman with a streetside stand with a bunch of other Chinese folks surrounding him. I peeked over their shoulders, to see what I first thought was dragon beard candy because of the clouds of confectioners sugar, then I realized it was giant spiral of stretchy, sweet nougat. For a buck a pop the gent, who turns about to be from Fujian Province, stretched out the elastic peanut-filled sweet and then cut a fat finger sized length off with kitchen shears. It’s pretty tasty, but truthfully I was more amazed by finding a new street food than the flavor per se.

After my guests and I said our goodbyes, I hung out for a while and watched him ply his craft.When asked him his hours he shrugged and said he didn’t know. I bought a few more pieces to give my friends at Chengdu Tian Fu. I emerged from Golden Mall on to the street and went to say goodbye to the taffy master, but he was gone.

“Wow that was quick,” I thought giving myself a healthy mental pat on the back for having tried it. As I made my way northward on Main Street who should I see but my new friend posted up underneath the Long Island Railroad Station, with a small crowd around him. He hadn’t left, but had moved on to a busier spot. My new motto  is Carpe Via Cibus—Seize The Street Food—for you never know when it’s going to be gone.

All of this brings me back to the titular question of this post, what’s your favorite Queens street food these days? Let me know in the comments.

07/11/19 12:30pm

Despite appearances, this isn’t a veggie burger with monumental French fries.

For all the eating I’ve done at various incarnations of Whitney Aycock’s cheffed up Rockaway pizza parlor Whit’s End the only seafood I’ve ever eaten is the little neck clams on the salciccia e vongole pie. His Instagram shows him to be an avid fisherman, but I suppose the lure of pizza is sometimes stronger than that of the sea.

The other day pescatarian appetites prevailed, so I gave Whit’s “quick ass ceviche” a try. I love ceviche on a sweltering summer day and the menu’s terse description—dayboat catch, charred pineapple, lemon verbena—was intriguing. The catch of the day turned out to be black seabass or as Whit called it “knuckleheads, one of the best fish ever,” so nicknamed for the bump on the back of their skull. (more…)