“I guess Queens is still the only place to go,” read a lament about the state of Thai food in Brooklyn. To put a finer point on, it Elmhurst, is the place to go. And, to narrow it down even further, Hug Esan, is the place, at least so it’s been for the past 11 days for me and a rather large chunk of the local Thai community.
I’d been watching the space—carved out of the first floor of an apartment building—for months. The name might sound like a character from a Thai version of Starsky and Hutch, but Hug means “love” in Thailand’s Esan dialect. (more…)
Keizo Shimamoto’s Ramen Shack, a spinoff of a stand that debuted at Smorgasburg Queens, sits down the block from the Queensbridge Houses. The ramen obsessive who eats hundreds of bowls of the Japanese comfort food a year offers seven classical varieties, including shio and tonkatsu, and four specialty bowls. It’s on the specialty list that I found Metta World Paitan ($13). (more…)
“I’m going to take you to a real Queens institution,” my pal said. “Someplace you’ve never been. When we pulled up to the corner I saw a spot I’ve been hearing about for years, Cherry Valley Deli & Grill. For a guy who’s tasked himself with writing about sandwiches every Wednesday it’s amazing I’ve never been to this neighborhood institution boasting more than 80 sandwiches with fanciful names like the Bushman (chicken cutlet with bacon, brown gravy and American cheese on a toasted garlic hero) and the Z-Zoo (grilled chicken with bacon, mozzarella, nonion rings, and brown gravy on a toasted garlic hero). (more…)
With 2016 coming to a close, it’s time to take a look back at the year that was. It was a big year for me and for food in Queens, including a feature in Asahi Shimbun and the discovery of the durian pizza. In no particular order here are 16 of the best things I ate last year.
1. Best Grilled Cheese Mr. Crispy, a grilled cheese sandwich served at Astoria Bier & Cheese answers the question, “How good can a grilled cheese be?” with a resounding “very, very good.” The sandwich of cave aged gruyere, ham and honey mustard is coated in mantle of white crispy cheese. This coating extends outward into a golden lacy corolla, a veritable halo of crispy cheese. It’s crunchy, sharp, and eminently craveable. I’ve haven’t been this excited about fried cheese since Joe Bastianich’s ill-fated Frico Bar. Astoria Bier & Cheese, 34-14 Broadway, Astoria, 718-545-5588
2. Most Fabulous F***in’ Clam Pizza
The salciccia e vongole pizza at Whit’s End is the best clam pie I’ve had outside of Zuppardi’s. Housemade sausage seasoned with clove, star, anise, juniper, and allspice join the Littleneck clams along with pepperoncini and shaved garlic. The combination of the fior di latte mozzarella and Parmigianno Regianno round things out quite nicely. Whit’s End, Riis Park Beach Bazaar
3. Hottest Off-menu Indian-Chinese Chicken
Nashville may have cayenne-infused hot chicken, but here in Queens we have something I like to call hakka hot chicken. Peter Lo, Queens’ godfather of Indian-Chinese cuisine and founder of Tangra Masala, whipped up a batch for me a while back. The hacked up bits of fried bird sauced in a glaze that marries the flavors of chili, soy sauce, vinegar, and garlic call to mind Dominican style chicharron de pollo with an Indian-Chinese twist. Tangra Masala, 87-09 Grand Ave., Elmhurst, 718-803-2298
4. Best Breakfast Sandwich I count myself a big fan of the classic bacon egg and cheese, but my favorite breakfast sandwich of 2017 contains no swine whatsoever. The breakfast sandwich at Roast n Co combines organic eggs, tomato jam, and Cabot white cheddar on a brioche make for one of the best egg sandwiches ever. Since Roast n co is run by Tunisians you have the option of asking for a sidecar of harissa, a lovely concoction of chili peppers, olive oil, and paprika. It’s an option you should exercise. Roast n Co, 100-12 Queens Blvd. Forest Hills, 718-263-6000
5. Most Secret Korean BBQ Garden
Korean barbecue always brings to mind happy memories of backyard barbecues. At Flushing’s Majang Dong the Korean BBQ that takes place in an actual backyard. Chef Yu and his family run what some might call a Korean BBQ speakeasy. Sure there’s a storefront and inside you’ll find a restaurant, but the real action takes place out back in the shack and garden. Say you’re there for BBQ, and Mrs. Yu will walk you out the back door into a Korean BBQ wonderland. Pork kalbi and pork belly are both lovely, and there’s eel and octopus for seafood lovers, but one of the best meats is grilled pork intestines. With a crunchy exterior and chewy interior, the fatty rings eat like an offal lover’s version of pork cracklins. Majang Dong, 41-71 Bowne St., Flushing, 718-460-2629(more…)
Queso fresco and poblanos give this chicken sandwich a Mexican accent.
Will Horowitz is the type of chef who pickles, smokes, and ferments anything that isn’t nailed down. He’s a cook who creates flavor combinations as vibrant as any modernist chef, not with rotovaps and liquid nitrogen, but with decidedly old-school techniques, and not in a sleeve garter steampunk poseur fashion either. He’s the type of guy who does his own foraging and who reduces poblano chilies to cinders to sauce a smoked chicken sandwich. (more…)
With the exception of certain Mexican cantina/hookah lounge Tut’s Hub might well be the strangest restaurant in Astoria. I’ve never been able to quite get behind the Mexican hookah lounge, but Tut’s Hub wedged between two discounts shops on Steinway Street drew me right in with its promise of “Royal Cuisine” and over-the-top Temple of Dendur style.
Once inside I was a little overwhelmed by all the menu choices, design your own pasta, design your own feteer, plus a salmon dish that they seemed all too eager to push on me. I settled for the chicken shawarma platter and grabbed a can of Fayrouz, an apple flavored Egyptian malt beverage. (more…)
At first glance it looks like a chicken burger on steroids.
As the self-proclaimed culinary king of Queens I’ve made something of a cottage industry of hating on Brooklyn, particularly the legions of kombucha-swilling beard-sporting gastrohipsters. The notable exceptions to my Kings County antipathy are old-school spots like Bamonte’s and its slightly more new-fangled neighbor, The Meat Hook. It’s taken me a good six months to visit the butcher shop’s nearby sandwich satellite. Yesterday Chef Dave and I stopped by after braving what seemed like hours of traffic. (more…)
Eim Khao Mun Kai is the latest addition to Elmhurst’s Thai scene.
The first thing I noticed about Eim Khao Mun Kai was the chorus line of bald chickens hanging from what looked to be a street food set-up. The second thing was the aroma. The perfume of gingery rice and chicken stock was incredibly comforting. Eim serves one thing and one thing only: Thai style chicken and rice or khao mun kai, known elsewhere in Southeast Asia as Hainanese chicken and rice. In fact it’s listed on Eim’s menu as Hainanese chicken and rice. After walking by the month-old shop twice while on the way to a bowl of cold busting soup at Pata Paplean, I finally gave Eim a try. (more…)
Peruvian hot sauce and Taiwanese chicken, together at last.
For years Queens,which is renowned for offering food from all over the world, was sorely lacking in one area; the bánh mì,or Vietnamese sandwich. All that changed when JoJu Modern Vietnamese Sandwiches opened a few years ago. The Elmhurst shop offers a whopping 17 varieties of bánh mì. The 17th sandwich on that lineup, which includes everything from pork belly to green eggs and ham, is perhaps tastiest of all. It’s certainly the most modern and the most Queens of them all. The Lin-Sanity ($5.99) is a tribute to one-time Knicks superstar Jeremy Lin. It marries his Taiwanese heritage with one of the tastiest cuisines Queens has to offer, Peruvian. (more…)
Gong Xi Fa Cai! The year of the Wood Horse is upon us. To aid in your celebration of the 15-day Chinese New Year, here’s a short list of some of my favorite dishes in what I humbly consider to be the tastiest Chinatown in America.
Fu Run’s festive looking golden corn pancake.
1. Golden Corn Pancake, Fu Run The granddaddy of Dongbei cookery in Flushing is best known for the Muslim lanb chop, but it’s specials, like the festive lookinghuang jin yu mi lao,or golden corn pancake($15.95)that keep me coming back. Despite the name it’s not stack of hoe cakes, but rather some lovely fried corn croquettes. The loosely bound kernels are interspersed with carrots and peas and laid out in a star pattern. Other standout specials include the spicy fried crabs. Fu Run, 40-09 Prince St, Flushing, 718-321-1363 (more…)