When leading food tours of downtown Flushing, I often boast that it is America’s best Chinatown. I’m also fond of pointing out Queens has two Chinatowns: the bustling hub that radiates outward from Main Street and Roosevelt Avenue and a little sister in Elmhurst. Until now there’s been little interchange between the two. All that changed with the opening of Happy Stony Noodle a couple of weeks ago.
“OMG where is that,” more than one friend asked when I sent a photo of Elmhurst’s oddest named and newest Taiwanese eatery. My pals’ surprise can be traced to the fact that Happy Stony isn’t new at all. It’s a reboot of Happy Beef Noodle (Kuai Le Niu Rou Mian) a much-loved spot on Prince Street that closed years ago.
I never got a chance to eat at Happy Stony’s original incarnation, so I was eager to try their food. (Looking at the awning for three weeks before the joint opened only served to make me hungrier.) Naturally I ordered the beef stew, hong shao niu rou mian. The house specialty beef noodle soup did not disappoint. Chunks of beef so tender they fall apart when you look at them floated in a bowl of star-anise scented broth along with strands of wheat noodles and some greenery. It was even better with some chili paste and a few spoonfuls of pickled mustard greens.
Happy Stony has a pretty deep menu, so a week later I returned for further exploration. This time around I wanted to get what I like to call a Taiwanese happy meal, a set consisting of rice, protein, and soup. For a moment I considered yen su ji—fried popcorn chicken—then I spied the fried calamari.
There’s no bigger fan of Taiwanese fried chicken than me, but I’d never had the Taiwanese take on fried squid. Yan su yo yu gai fan turned out to be quite nice indeed. Crispy battered rings of squid in a spicy salty batter along with rice a block fried tofu, and the ubiquitous pickled mustard greens, and a hard-boiled egg.
If I had the munchies and found myself wandering around Elmhurst I could think of no better place to sate my hunger than Happy Stony. I can’t wait to eat my way through the rest of the menu.
Happy Stony Noodle, 83-47 Dongan Ave., 718-335-0500
The Elmhurst Chinatown has always been weirdly slow in developing, and there generally seems to be only one place that specializes in something as opposed to a few places trying to do the same thing.
Most of the inspirations do seem to come from Manhattan Chinatown rather than Flushing Chinatown. I remember when Lao Bei Fang first opened up in the side street corner spot, and this was well after the fried dumplings and hand-pulled noodles started popping up in Manhattan Chinatown. Then a few years ago we finally got Shun Wong, one of the Big Wong clones. Uncle Zhou’s is a bit more unique, and continues to be very good. There was recently an attempt at a more Hong Kong style place (think XO in Manhattan Ctown), but that didn’t work out.
I don’t think this is the first Taiwanese beef noodle shop in Elmhurst, I vaguely remember one other one that didn’t survive.