08/07/15 11:52am
Keizo Shimamoto's Ramen Shack, one of my Smorgasburg Queens favorites.

Keizo Shimamoto’s Ramen Shack, one of my Smorgasburg Queens favorites.

Curating Smorgasburg Queens with its melting pot of international vendors ranging from The Arepa Lady and Celebes Bakar Indonesian Grill to luxe offerings like the lobster rolls from Brine by Danny Brown has been a real hoot. What’s even more fun for me though is eating there.

One Saturday I went full on Andrew Zimmern: balut from Papa’s Kitchen for starters, papaya salad with black crab from Qi, Snowy Durian from my friends at KULU Desserts. While I’m partial to the hallacas—sweet and savory Ecuadorean tamales—from Son Foods, my favorite eating experience at Smorgasburg Queens has to be Keizo Shimamoto’s Ramen Shack.

To step behind the curtain and take a seat at Keizo’s counter is to enter another world, somewhat more serene than the rest of the market, but no less delicious. Both of the hot soups I have tried have been most excellent, but my top pick might be the seafood broth based cold noodles. So, tell me, what’s your favorite thing to eat at Smorgasburg Queens?

Smorgasburg Queens, 43-29 Crescent St., Long Island City

03/24/15 10:07am
AREPATACONE

Chorizo and chicarron give a one-two punch of porky goodness.

The crew over at Areperia Arepa Lady have been busy these past few months. In addition to enlarging the dining room they’ve added mini arepas and patacones. The latter consists of plaintains that have been mashed, flattened and fried. They’re then topped with avocado and various meats. I went for a mixta ($8.50), topped with carne asada, chicharron, and chorizo. The combination of crunchy plantain, creamy avocado, and the one-two punch of pork made for a magnificent gutbomb. “I’ve gained 20 pounds” since we opened the Arepa Lady’s son Alejandro told me as I polished off the last bite. I believe him, I  think I gained five after my patacone.

Arepa Lady, 77-02AA Roosevelt Ave.,  Jackson Heights

01/07/15 10:27am
CHUPACABRA

The biggest, baddest BBQ torta in Queens.

Leave it to John Brown Smokehouse, the only Queens BBQ joint that serves kimchi to come up with a low and slow take on the Mexican torta. Like most tortas, the chupacabra ($12) is a monster. Queso fresco, tostones, pickled jalapeños, and pulled pork are piled high upon a brioche and lashed with ghost pepper barbecue sauce. (more…)

06/30/14 10:13am
AREPACHOCLO

An arepa de choclo in all its cheesy, gooey glory.

One of the coolest things about Roosevelt Avenue during the World Cup is the team spirit and national pride that pervades the street. The air crackles with energy, particularly after a win. And on Saturday, Colombia won, and they won big. It was the first time that the national team made it this far, and folks in the street were partying like it too, dancing and waving flags until late into the night.  Saturday also marked a monumental win for Colombian street food. The family of The Arepa Lady, the patron saint of Colombian street food in Jackson Heights, opened the doors to their restaurant.

I like to think that this street food dream team’s opening helped buoy team spirit back home. I know it buoyed my spirits. Ever since I heard several months ago that there was going to be an Arepa Lady restaurant, I’ve been watching the space with eager anticipation.

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09/30/13 12:15pm
REQUIPE

A miniature pandebono filled with arequipe, Colombian dulce de leche.

A hundred years ago back when Sripraphai was just a tiny fluorescent lit storefront I lived in Woodside. My local ethnic eats roster consisted of tacos washed down with copious amounts of Tecate, visits to various Filipino spots in Little Manila, Sripraphai, and the Colombian piqueteadoro, where I’d pop in for a coffee and a buñuelo. The golden orb of spongy cheesey fried awesomeness was just one of several small breads on offer, including multigrain rolls and pandebono, another cheese enriched bread. (more…)

09/24/13 2:13pm
AREPALINE

The Arepa Lady’s cart drew Smorgasburgesque lines.

After a week-plus on jury duty to say I was psyched for last Friday’s Viva La Comida festival is the height of understatement. The night be before I was like a child on Christmas Eve. Visions of street food—Peruvian tamales, Mexican sandwiches and tacos, Puerto Rican lechin, Tibetan dumplings, Indian chaat, Colombian arepas, Filpino BBQ, and Irish drunk food—danced in my head. The festival  which took place on 82nd St. between Baxter and Roosevelt in Jackson Heights was curated by my fellow fresser, Jeff  Orlick who knows a thing or two about street food in the Heights and elsewhere. (more…)

09/19/13 9:46am

I should really stop eating, do some stomach stretching exercises, or hit the gym real hard today. I say this not out of any desire for physical fitness, but because I feel ill-prepared for Viva La Comida! The street food festival being held tomorrow from 4 p.m.to 10 p.m on 82 St. between Roosevelt and Baxter Aves., promises a dozen undersung street food superstars from Queens and beyond. Street foods of many nations will be represented, including the supersized Mexican sandwiches of Tortas Neza to Tibetan momos from the Potala cart. I am most impressed by the fact that festival curator Jeff Orlick has been able to lure Lechonera La Piraña away from the Bronx. The machete-wielding Piraña makes the best Puerto Rican roast pork I’ve ever had. (more…)

06/13/13 10:39am
An arepa de queso in all its gooey griddled glory.

An arepa de queso in all its griddled glory.

These days Roosevelt Avenue is lined with scores of carts selling street food from all over the globe—Mexico, Ecuador, Colombia, even Tibet. One of the oldest, the O.G.—which in this case stands for original grandma—is the Arepa Lady as Maria Piedad Cano has come to be known among her legions of fans. Cano has been selling the griddled corn cakes under the 7 train for almost 30 years. She rose to popularity after Chowhound founder Jim Leff, wrote  a piece in the NY Press headlined “The Sainted Arepa Lady” touting her corn cakes as “snacks from heaven,” and extolling her beatific presence. (more…)