Tong, a tiny festive Bangladeshi food stand, in Jackson Heights has the honor of being America’s first fuchka cart. This post is not about those amazing crunchy orbs though, it’s about aam bhorta, or Bangla style spicy mango.
For some 30 years I’ve been a fan of spicy South Asian pickle. It all dates back to a college roommate, Harold, who was the ringleader in many a Patak’s lemon pickle eating contest. Since then I’ve branched out to mango pickle. I’m especially fond of amba—the tangy Middle Eastern mix of pickled mango and turmeric—on my falafel. So when I learned Tong offered spicy mango, I had to try it. (more…)
“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
El Chivito’s namesake steak sandwich doesn’t appear on the menu.
“Skirt steak, sweetbreads, chicken, matambre,” the server intoned as my eyes glazed over while she recited a roster of sandwiches. “What about chivito?” I inquired after the Uruguayan national sandwich. “Yes, we have, it’s really good, you can get it with chicken or vacio,” she replied adding that the flap steak is butterflied.
“Para mi, vacio,” I replied wondering what sort of joyless individual would possibly disgrace the country’s national sandwich by ordering it with poultry. While I waited for lunch I perused the menu of El Chivito De Oro noting that the national sandwich was nowhere to be found. Secret sandwiches are catnip to a certain type of food writer, and I am that type. I was pretty hungry, so I was quite pleased to see that the rosy colored beef was topped with ham, mozzarella, bacon, and a fried egg, all cradled in a puffy brioche style bun that held a base layer of lettuce and tomato.
Lobster rolls have come to Jackson Heights, thanks to Farine!
I’m not typically a brunch guy, but I’ve been known to make exceptions. M. Wells for one with Hugue Dufour’s decadent creations like foie gras and oatmeal, and now Farine. I’ve been meaning to try the lobster roll from the brunch menu, but I’m averse to weekend crowds.
On Monday night I stopped by to introduce a friend to Michael Mignano, the man behind the hot new Jackson Heights eatery. I’d forgotten it was the last night of Ramadan and the last night of Farine’s Iftar dinners. Every table was filled with joyous Muslim families all tucking into spicy fried chicken sandwiches and fruit plates.
“We’re going to have it tomorrow as part of an EID brunch,” Mignano told me when I asked about the lobster roll, which I’d been seeing on the gram for weeks.
As food writer I’m often loathe to throw around superlatives even though I’ve been called upon by Grub Street to do so in recent months. All that said, I have no problem calling the spicy buttermilk chicken sandwich at the newish Farine Baking Company in Jackson Heights the best fried chicken between bread in Queens.
At $16 Chef Michael Mignano’s chicken sandwich is isn’t cheap, but it’s worth every penny. It’s insanely crunchy and juicy and packs a nice kick from a Sriracha honey glaze. It is a gloriously messy sandwich requiring removal of both wristwatch and rings. The secret behind this marvel is twofold: first the chicken thighs luxuriate in a mixture of buttermilk, fresh thyme, rosemary and garlic for two days. Then they’re fried twice first at 325 to seal in the juices and then at 375 to get a nice crust.
If this method sounds a lot like Korean fried chicken, that’s because Mignano borrowed the technique. “I’m not using a Korean chili paste, but I am borrowing the double fry technique and the breading mixture is very similar,” he said. For the record his favorite KFC can be had at the H Mart off Route 100 in Hartsdale. Farine Baking Company, 74-24 37th Ave., Jackson Heights
There are many, many treats at the Heights’ new bakery but this chocolate bar steals the show.
Acclaimed pastry chef Michael Mignano’s Farine Baking Company opened about a week and a half ago in Jackson Heights, a neighborhood better known for such multicolored Indian sweets as jalebi and chum chum than French treats like brioche and kouign amann. I stopped by last weekend to ogle the Viennoiserie and other goodies, but the place was a madhouse, so I returned on a weekday when things were a bit more chill and was lucky enough to meet the man himself.
“Try this, the 2017 Iron Chef champ said as he handed me an ingot-sized chocolate bar. “This is our Mignano bar. It’s layers of cashew and macadamia nut caramel, dark chocolate, crispy nougat, and graham cracker crust, all covered in dark chocolate with black Hawaiian sea salt,” the bar’s namesake told me as I bit into it and held on to the counter to avoid fainting from sheer bliss. (more…)
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…)
Early last month I had the distinct honor of being filmed for a profile on Great Big Story for my expertise on Queens’ diverse and delcious food scene. “When this came up in my Youtube feed, I was like this better be Joe,” more than one person remarked to me on social media when the video dropped last Thursday.
I’m very grateful that Soybean Chen Flower Shop,Pata Paplean, and Lhasa Fast Food were featured in the video, but you’ll notice that there are lot of shots of me eating with no further description. All my Queens people know the spots, but here’s a breakdown for those unfamiliar with New York City’s most delicious borough. At the 16-second mark, you’ll see Joe’s Steam Rice Roll, which makes exquisite Cantonese chang feng. If you haven’t been you should go, right now. Why are you still reading this? Get on the 7 train! (more…)