The meganightmarket/food hall known as Bourdain Night Market that will rise on Chelsea’s Pier 57 development in some two years is being hailed as the most exciting development in the food scene since white people, including myself and Tony B., discovered Flushing’s Golden Shopping Mall. Anthony Bourdain and Stephen Werther have tapped some major talent, including hawker food expert KF Seetoh and The Street Vendor Project—the nonprofit behind the Vendy Awards—to curate a dozen stalls. I’m excited to try Singapore’s Geylang Claypot Rice and the uni tostadas from Sabina Bandar of Ensenada, Mexico.
“It will be all transparent and authentic…not sterile, but chaotic in a good way, with hawkers and vendors and places to eat,” Bourdain tells Florence Fabricant in last week’s Times. “Where in this city can you have that?” Where indeed!!?? Why Queens, of course. Without further ado here are seven spots we’d love to see find a home in Bourdain Market.
1. La Esquina del Camaron Mexico
Pedro Rodriguez is a mixologist of sorts, but instead of mescal or tequila his cocktails contain shrimp and octopus. His Mexican seafood cocktail mise en place includes olive oil, limes, onions, cilantro, avocado, and a tomato-based sauce. Doctored up with a goodly splashe of Valentina hot sauce and served with saltines, a cup of his signature creation brimming with tender octopus and shrimp is a meal in itself. Rodriguez operates out of a sparkling clean kitchen in a bodega on Roosevelt Avenue. Lately he’s branched out to include other delicacies like octopus tostadas. La Esquina Del Camaron Mexicano, 80th Street and Roosevelt Avenue, Jackson Heights (347) 885-2946
2. Pata Paplean
Hawker style Thai boat noodles have been taking Queens by storm for the past year or so. My favorite place to down a bowl or three is the weekend afternoon noodle popup at Pata Paplean, a funky Thai bar in the heart of Elmhurst’s Thai Town. (Pro tip follow Pata Paplean on Facebook or call ahead to be sure they are open.) My go-to order is two bowls of num tuk koy, a pork soup enriched with blood, followed by a third bowl of dry noodles—tom yum haeng—for dessert.The latter consists of springy yellow noodles, fish sauce, lime juice, ground pork, and fish balls topped with sugar,chili, cilantro, and golden shards of fried pork. Mix it all up and dig into the best dry noodles in Thai Town. Pata Paplean, 76-21 Woodside Ave., Elmhurst, 718-651-2076
3. Tortas Neza
Galdino “Tortas” Neza, the undisputed king of the Mexican sandwich, sells 19 varieties of overstuffed Mexican sandwiches, all named for Mexican soccer clubs. The Tortas Puma ($14) is an immense creation consisting of a breaded chicken cutlet, head cheese, chorizo, and fried eggs, among other things. It is enough to feed four, or two gluttons. Less hearty eaters will be satisfied with one of the many other sandwiches. Tacos here, particularly the carnitas are also excellent. Tortas has had to take his food truck off the road, but you can find him plying his trade from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily from a window in front of Juan Bar. Tortas Neza, 96-15 D Roosevelt Ave, Jackson Heights
4. Soy Bean Chen Flower Shop
This shop has the distinction of being the only combination florist and fresh tofu vendor in all of New York City. For years I passed by it vaguely aware something good was being sold from the window facing Roosevelt Ave. I’m not sure why I finally stopped to check it out, but I’m glad I did. Some of the freshest, silkiest tofu ever is sold from that window, which upon further examination turns out to be a repurposed Good Humor ice cream cart. A small container of sweet or saline style tofu will set you back $1.50. Ask for the former and Chen or his wife will ladle in a generous amount of sweet, gingery syrup. The “saline” comes topped with a bright spicy sauce made from crunchy preserved vegetables, and dried shrimp among other things. Soy Bean Chen Flower Shop, 135-26 Roosevelt Ave., Flushing, 718-321-3982
5. Peng Shun Spicy Pot
This stall in Flushing’s New York Food Court takes its name from the ubiquitous by the pound stir fry, but the real star here is the juicy cumin-crusted $20 Muslim lamb chop. Muslim lamb chop is a specialty of the hood’s Dongbei spots where many of the chefs take shortcuts resulting in an inferior product. Not so at Peng Shun where the dish goes by the moniker “roasted lamb chop.” A mantle of cumin seeds and red pepper flakes coats what’s surely the most elaborate dish to ever be served in a Flushing food court. Juicy tender meat with just enough gamey funk to get your attention and glorious white lamb fat lays within. It is the spiciest, crispiest, most finger licking version I’ve ever had. Peng Shun provides plastic gloves and a bowl or two of rice. Scoop the heady mixture of cumin seeds and red pepper imbued with lamb fat on top of your bowl. Peng Shun Spicy Pot, No. 13, Newyork Food Court, 133-35 Roosevelt Ave., 646-250-1118
6. Baul Daada Jaal Muri Shop
As the name implies there’s only one specialty here, jaal muri, a Bangladeshi chaat so popular that there’s phone card named after it. Three bucks gets you an order of Baul Daada’s spicy puffed rice. It’s a sensory overload of a snack consisting of puffed rice, kala chana (black chickpeas) chopped tomatoes, cilantro, green chili paste, red onions, crunchy dried soybeans, cilantro, spicy fried noodles, and squirts and shakes from the various and sundry bottles, including some sinus-clearing mustard oil. Find Daada on 73 St. near 37 Ave. from late afternoon to around 10 p.m. weather permitting.
7. Celebes Bakar Grill
The cats from this stand at Astoria’s Masjid al Hikmah Food Bazaar make some of the best satay and Indonesian grilled fish I’ve ever had. Whole pampano stuffed with spices and served with a fiery sambal is a favorite. Sadly food bazaar season is over at the mosque leaving me and many others with a serious Indonesian grilled fish jones.