“You finally went,” my friend Greg, one half of the dynamic duo that is Food & Footprints, commented on an Instagram post of a Peruvian picarone—a lovely sweet potato and squash donut—at the Antojitos Doña Fela cart in Jackson Heights. I’d been trying to visit the Vendy nominated Peruvian snack specialist for weeks, but until last Sunday had missed the cart, which is open from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. only weekends.
“Do you have chicharron con camote?” I asked Doña Fela’s daughter, about the pork belly and sweet potato sandwich that’s a common breakfast in Peru. “Let me see, we might be sold out,” she said while I hungrily eyed a bunch of pork belly and camote, or sweet potato, sizzling on a corrugated cast iron grill. “One last order,” she said. (more…)
As the No. 1 food fan in Queens, I was very pleased to learn tennis fans have some Queens-based dining options at this year’s U.S. Open. My favorite Vietnamese sandwich shop, Elmhurst’s JoJu is slinging classic bánh mì as well a bánh mì inspired hot dog and Helen You of Dumpling Galaxy is serving up her signature lamb with green squash dumplings and other goodies. It’s nice to see China and Vietnam represented, but Queens offers food from all over the world so here’s a globetrotting list of 7 of our favorite places from an Argentine steakouse and the borough’s only Burmese to one-of-a-kind only in Queens street foods like Peruvian doughnuts and amazing Tijuana style tacos.
1. Tijuana style Birria tacos at Beefrr-landia
Dozens of taco trucks and carts line Roosevelt Avenue as the 7 train rumbles overhead transporting tennis fans to the Open, but there’s only serving Tijuana style tacos: Beefrr-landia. The truck’s signature beef birria taco is filled with a ruddy beef stew scented with cumin, cinnamon, paprika, bay leaves, cloves, and a good dose of chilies. For a real treat get a side of consomme—a heady scarlet soup featuring more beef—and dip your taco into it. Beefrr-landia, 77-99 Roosevelt Ave., Jackson Heights, 347-283-2162
2. Burmese at Asian Bowl
Despite its generic name and a menu that features such American Chinese standbys as General Tso’s chicken this spot run by Kyaw Lin “John” Htin and his wife, Aye Thida, has the distinction of being the only Burmese restaurant in the World’s Borough. Among the list of 13 thoke find the famous latphat thoke, or tea leaf salad, as well as the lesser known gin thoke. The latter is a tangle of shredded cabbage, ginger, and tomato shot through with briny dried shrimp and crunchy broad beans resulting an explosion of texture and flavor. It’s great paired with the crispy beef, which has been fried with onions and chilies until it shatters. Asian Bowl, 101-11 Queens Blvd., Forest Hills, 718-275-1888
3. Chinese Breakfast at Joe’s Steam Rice Roll
This breakfast specialist whose Chinese name translates to Stone Milled Rice Roll King, is located just one subway stop away from Arthur Ashe Stadium. It’s a well-deserved moniker, owner Joe Rong and his crew make the lightest rice rolls around thanks to the fact that the grind their rice in a stone mills to create fresh batter daily. Fillings include shrimp, pork, beef and an assortment of veggies. The crown jewel at the King Joe’s though is the shrimp and egg topped with curry fish balls, soy sauce and peanut sauce. It’s even better with the complex homemade chili oil. Best of all Joe’s is open all day not just for breakfast. Joe’s Steam Rice Roll, 136-21 Roosevelt Ave., #A1, Flushing
A Peruvian breakfast sandwich by way of Northern Boulevard.
“They have Peruvian sandwiches,” my pal Cristina told me a few weeks as I stood slack-jawed in front of Juanita’s, the only Peruvian sangucheria in Queens. We’d already had two meals, so there was no way we were eating any more that afternoon.
A week or so later I returned to the groovy cafe on Northern Boulevard, this time with an appetite. Among the half dozen sandwiches—including pollo a la brasa and butifarra, a home-made roast ham—the one that stood out to me was the chicharrón, after all who doesn’t like shatteringly crisp, succulent pork. Something about the menu description, crispy pork shoulder with sweet potato sounded familiar, but I wasn’t sure why until the sanguche hit the table. (more…)
Ceviche de pescado—fish, typically corvina in Queens, cooked in lime juice—is such a staple of Peruvian cuisine that until just the other day I’d never tried Peruvian style octopus. Sure, I’ve had pulpo in the exquisite cokteles from La Esquina del Camaron Mexicano. Octopus is probably on the menu of every Peruvian place in Queens, but my eyes skate over it in favor of sexier seafood like jalea, that mountain of fried fish, shrimp, and calamari fortified by planks of fried yucca.
The other day pulpo al olivo jumped off the menu at El Anzuelo, spurring my friends and me to order it. Tender slices of octopus loll in a pool of mauve liquor flanked by some avocado slices and, of all things, five Keebler Zesta brand saltine crackers. (more…)
My new favorite summertime ceviche features quinoa and Peruvian potatoes.
Lately I’ve been having a streak of bad ceviche luck. Not the really bad kind that involves shivering, sweating, and praying for death, but rather the kind where the fish is either chewy or has clearly been cooked using heat and and then bathed with lime juice afterwards. So that’s why I decided to pay a visit to La Cevicheria, which never disappoints, plus it has the added bonus of being just steps away from the beach in Rockaway. (more…)
For as long as I can remember I’ve been a fan of noodles— whether the fusilli with red sauce and chow fun that I cut my teeth on—or the tallarin verde of Peru and various culture’s takes on cold noodles that can be had in Queens. This edition of The Seven is devoted to my favorite Asian noodles in Queens, at least as of summer 2017.
1. Tom thuk, Lhasa Fast Food
Anthony Bourdain recently paid a visit to this Jackson Heights momo shop tucked away behind a cell phone store. While the big man tried the hand-torn noodle soup known as thenthuk he did not get to experience its colder, spicier cousin tomthuk. Listed in the menu’s Noodle Zone as beef cold noodle ($6) there’s no forewarning of the twin heat engines of chili and mustard oil. The tangle of chewy noodles interspersed with shredded carrots, cabbages, and bits of ground beef packs enough heat to melt snowy Mount Kailash which looms above the counter. Lhasa Fast Food, 37-50 74th Street, Jackson Heights
2. Yum Dek Sen, Dek Sen
There are many Thai noodle dishes, from funky bowls of blood-enriched soup to those that resemble pork ragu, but Dek Sen is the first restaurant where I’ve seen noodles used in a yum, Thailand’s spicy savory version of the more prosaic Western salad. Yum Dek Sen ($11.95) takes Mama instant noodles and mixes them with squid, shrimp, minced pork, and two types of fish balls. Served warm the whole lot is dressed in a chili lime sauce. You might be tempted to order it spicy, but medium is more than adequate. Dek Sen, 86-08 Whitney Ave, Elmhurst, 718-205-5181(more…)
La Cevicheria’s got the best mixto in Rockaway Beach.
Few things are more refreshing and delicious on a hot summer day than a good Peruvian ceviche. Fresh fish marinated/cooked with plenty of lime served showered with red onions and with the traditional accompaniments of camote (sweet potato), cancha (toasted corn kernels), and mote (hominy corn) makes for a fine summer meal. Until last week my go-to was ceviche pescado, with ceviche mixto a distant second. Thanks to Rockaway Beach’s La Cevichería, I have a newfound respect—and craving—for ceviche mixto. (more…)
A Peruvian breakfast sandwich in a Rego Park diner.
An old school diner is the last place one would expect to find such Peruvian specialties as papa la Huancaina, sliced potatoes in a cheese sauce spiked with aji amarillo, and cau cau, a tripe stew. In Queens though, such cultural cross pollination is becoming more and more common. Take the Rego Park Café, where a separate menu called La Mistura Peruana went into effect over the summer.
I’ve been meaning to try out the diner’s 12-item “Peruvian mixture” for months. I had my hungry heart set on the chicharron con camote sandwich ($6.95), a typical Peruvian breakfast of pork and sweet potatoes. They were out of it the day I stopped in, so instead I slurped augadito de pollo ($4.50) a verdant chicken and rice soup that gets its color from handfuls of cilantro. (more…)
Chez Wong’s ceviche took top honors at the Chowzter Awards in London.
Last November I had the privilege of taking Jeffrey Merrihue, founder of Chowzter, and Richard Vines, Bloomberg’s U.K. food critic, on a whirlwind food tour of Queens. The goal of the tour was to showcase the best Queens had to offer. We only made it to about ten of the stops out of the 16 I’d planned, but we had a blast doing it, hitting such Flushing favorites as Taipei Hong’s secret fried chicken and Soybean Flower Chen along the way.
Finding the best food item in Queens is a daunting nigh impossible task. After all it’s a vast diverse borough, and really what’s best for me—balut, tripe to name a few—might not be best for you. Leaving aside the issue of subjectivity, one thing’s for sure, I don’t ever like to eat anythings subpar. Seeking out the best is also the mission of the Chowzter app and web site. It aims to showcase the top places to eat local food in more than 70 travel destinations around the world from Lima to Singapore and points in between. I am honored to be the Chief Chowzter for Queens, which is how I found myself at the second annual Chowzter Awards in London this past weekend. (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…)