I haven’t been this excited about a Mexican street food vendor since I stumbled upon Juguitacos stand in Mexico City’s Colonia Roma three years ago. The source of my excitement is a little stand called Tacos Yancui tucked into the side of an Elmhurst apartment building around the corner from my house. Apart from its location far from Roosevelt Avenue’s teeming Mexican street food scene what drew me to it was a cooking device known as a brasero filled with blazing hardwood charcoal. I chatted for a bit with the owner, Livorio Flores and his wife, Jacinta. I’d already eaten, but I made a mental note to return.
When I finally made it back there on a frigid early spring evening Livorio suggested I try the quesadilla, but I decided on some chalupas two with meat—one cecina, salted beef, and one carnitas, or pork confit—and two without. While I munched away Livorio told me he worked for years as a chef in restaurants in Forest Hills and opened the little stand with his wife in October 2021.
“I do all the prep, she does all the cooking,” my new friend told me as he placed a memela before me. The oblong masa treats filled with beans are a rarity in Queens and even rarer in front of Elmhurst apartment buildings. I opted for a memela bandeja, so named because it is slathered with salsa roja and salsa verde, and then topped with white queso cotija mimicking the colors of the Mexican flag. Everything I tried that night had a wonderfully toasty flavor thanks to the blazing hot fire.
Livorio told me his little stand is named for his hometown, Yancuitlalpan, which lies south of Mexico City. He also said the next day’s special would be consomme de chivo. “If you have consomme de chivo I’m coming back,” I said of the young goat soup. Shortly before writing this I polished off a bowl brimming with meat and topped with jalapeños and onions. Best of all it came with two large homemade tortillas.
Tacos Yancui is open daily from around 7 p.m. to around midnight except Mondays. In case you’re wondering Friday’s special is the Lenten specialty tortas de camaron, fritters made from dried shrimp served in a spicy chipotle sauce. Tacos Yancui, 80th Street at 45th Avenue, Elmhurst
Queens boasts at least half a dozen momo vendors—ranging in size from carts barely big enough to house a cook to food trucks with full kitchens—specializing in the juicy dumplings popular throughout the Himalayas and India. The lion’s share are located in Jackson Heights, many are excellent, some are merely passable, but there is none quite as good as Basantapur Chowk.
The cart, which opened about a month ago, is located in Woodside outside Thamel NYC, New York City’s only Nepali nightclub, named for a popular hippie destination in Kathmandu. With a gigantic head of Lord Bhairav, the destroyer avatar of Shiva revered by Nepal’s Newari people, towering over the bar and Nepali rock bands nightly, there’s no place quite like it. And really, there are no momo quite like Basantapur’s.
The crescent-shaped momos subtle wrappers enfold beef spiced with a Newari style masala. “Dude is that jhol?” I asked Yogendra Limbu, one of Thamel’s partners. “Yes,” he responded, advising me to pour it over the dumplings. These were not my first jhol momo by a long shot, but they were definitely the first ones I have ever had from a street cart. I’m fairly certain they’re the only jhol momo being served from a cart in Queens. Fried momo, little golden orbs filled with chicken were also excellent. The crunchy little dumplings went well with the jhol too. Both types of momo were also came with a little cup of Nepali hot sauce and another of crushed fried chilies.
In true New York City street food fashion the cart, which is named for Kathmandu’s Basantapur Darbur—a magnificent nine-story pagoda style palace built in 1779—also offers hot dogs. Sadly they were out of the wieners, which come topped with a Nepali style cole slaw spiked with green chilies. The neighborhood surrounding the Basantapur Darbur, it should be noted, is known for Nepali street food, and now Woodside is too.
The first time I ever savored the smoky sweet porcine marvel that is Filipino BBQ was at Ihawan in Woodside, in the shadow of the 7 train in the neighborhood known as Little Manila.
Last week I ventured out in the bitter cold to try some pinoy style grilling that’s as good as and perhaps even better than Ihawan’s. It was grilled on the street by Bad for Business Popups, brainchild of journeyman Chef Francis Maling. The street in question none other than Roosevelt Avenue hard by the 61st Woodside subway stop on the mighty International Express, aka the 7 train.
I’ve been meaning to try Francis’ BBQ for quite some time and I’m glad I finally made it. His pork BBQ is decidedly cheffed up, benefiting from a marinade in soy sauce, banana ketchup, and vinegar followed by a three-step process: an initial grilling, a quick steam in banana leaves, and a final kiss of the flames as he brushes on his homemade sauce. I didn’t try the chicken, but I’m sure it’s excellent. I did however grab a duo of ruddy hued hot dogs capped off with marshmallows, which Maling says is a nod to Filipino birthday parties for kids. The day’s special was his twist on Peruvian anticuchos, grilled beef heart in a bulgogi marinade.
Maling has been operating his fly by the seat of the pants popup since January of 2021. Much as I like to joke that his promotional strategy of announcing each popup a day or so beforehand via Instagram is the reason behind the name “Bad for Business Popups,” Maling said there is a deeper meaning coupled with a mission to build awareness for street vendors who can’t get licenses.“I came up with the name cos when it comes to business a lot of people look for profits before people [but] I’m trying to think about the community,” he said. “I’m trying to think about the safety of the workers, people’s livelihoods not just the money aspect of it.”
As I am writing this I received a notification on my phone that Maling’s little BBQ stand will be open today Feb. 1 from 1 p.m. until he runs out and Thursday from 1 p.m. This week’s special is a burger from Burger Machine, BBQ on Foccacia by @nextlevelpizza.
“It’s barbecue for the community,” Maling said. “This is essentially barbecue for Woodside, I grew up here.” Oh, and in case you are wondering Maling’s favorite Filipino BBQ is the O.G. Ihawan.
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…)
The signature taco from New York City’s only truck specializing in beef stew tacos.
I first ate at the Beefrr-landia truck—New York City’s only specialist in Tijuana-style beef stew tacos—after a long walk down Roosevelt Avenue following an evening eating through the Queens International Night Market with Action Bronson.
It was our third taco stop of the night, and we were already quite full. The first was a passable taqueria on National Street, and the second was the amazing nameless al pastor cart that comes out late night in front of the check cashing spot on the northwest corner of Junction and Roosevelt.
Despite the fact that we were all at maximum tacopacity we all looked at each other and decided we had to have the tacos from this truck. None of us had ever seen a tacos de birria vendor anywhere in New York City. I had a taco de birria, while Rachel and her boyfriend, John, each had a taco and split a mulita, a quesadilla like creation, which she raved about. It was a tasty taco, the tortilla stained a reddish orange and topped with beefy stew, but I knew I’d appreciate it more on an empty stomach, so I made it my business to return. (more…)
Downtown Flushing’s Chinese nougat man plying his wares on a hot summer’s day.
I can count the number of times I’ve added unknown foods to my Queens culinary walking tours on the fingers of one hand. This reticence to try new things with guests stems not from a lack of adventure, but rather the “all killer no filler” approach I take to the foods I showcase on the tour. Most of the time, unknown quantities prove to be severely lacking, but every now and then I come across a gem. Such a diamond in the rough appeared in the form of a streetside sweet on yesterday’s Flushing Chinatown food tour.
My guests and I were en route to the subterranean Golden Shopping Mall food court when I spied a Chinese gentleman with a streetside stand with a bunch of other Chinese folks surrounding him. I peeked over their shoulders, to see what I first thought was dragon beard candy because of the clouds of confectioners sugar, then I realized it was giant spiral of stretchy, sweet nougat. For a buck a pop the gent, who turns about to be from Fujian Province, stretched out the elastic peanut-filled sweet and then cut a fat finger sized length off with kitchen shears. It’s pretty tasty, but truthfully I was more amazed by finding a new street food than the flavor per se.
After my guests and I said our goodbyes, I hung out for a while and watched him ply his craft.When asked him his hours he shrugged and said he didn’t know. I bought a few more pieces to give my friends at Chengdu Tian Fu. I emerged from Golden Mall on to the street and went to say goodbye to the taffy master, but he was gone.
“Wow that was quick,” I thought giving myself a healthy mental pat on the back for having tried it. As I made my way northward on Main Street who should I see but my new friend posted up underneath the Long Island Railroad Station, with a small crowd around him. He hadn’t left, but had moved on to a busier spot. My new motto is Carpe Via Cibus—Seize The Street Food—for you never know when it’s going to be gone.
All of this brings me back to the titular question of this post, what’s your favorite Queens street food these days? Let me know in the comments.
Behold, the mighty Tortas Chivas, CDMX’s answer to the NYC breakfast sandwich.
“They’re all pretty big,” I said to two recent guests on a World’s Fare Eating Along the 7 food tour. We were about an hour into our trek and had already enjoyed delicacies from Joe’s Steam Rice Roll and Soybean Chen and had just arrived at Tortas Neza, which specializes in comically huge Mexican sandwiches. I was doing my best to steer the two ladies toward a carnitas taco, but l knew they really wanted a sandwich.
The gargantuan 7-ingredient Tortas Puma named for the owner’s favorite Mexican soccer team was out of the question. So I scanned the roster of 20 creations, each named for a different team, and settled on the Chivas, which listed only three ingredients: huevo, quesillo, and chorizo.
As Galdino “Tortas” Neza prepared the sausage omelet on the plancha I told the guests it represented just one component of his biggest sandwich. “We can handle this one, it’ll be like a Mexican breakfast sandwich,” I said with a chuckle. (more…)
I have yet to travel to my paternal homeland of Castellammare del Golfo, Sicily, but when I do I might have to trek Southeast to Siracusa to feast on a sandwich from Chef Andreas of Caseificio Borderi. It’s a good thing that this 10-minute video starts with a shot of the finished product—piled high with a gorgeous salad; several types of cheese, including fresh ricotta; and lovely ham—because it takes Andreas almost that much time to complete a single panino.
This delay is largely because he stops halfway through to make a snack for the long line of customers. “OK now I make you taste this one. Do you know garlic?,” he asks. “For us Sicilians, garlic was truffles,” he says as he prepares chunks of ricotta with garlic and herbs.
“You have to know that ricotta is the most valuable asset of human beings,” he says as he passes out the Sicilian amuse bouche, only to be interrupted by the customer who ordered the sandwich: “Where is he going? I want my sandwich!” Apparently, it’s well worth the wait!
C+M correspondent Kristen Baughman checked out the Singapore Crab Throwdown and has the scoop on all the goings on for Singapore Restaurant Week.
Singapore celebrates 50 years of nationhood this year as this city-state comes of age on the global stage. In honor of the country’s birthday, The Daily Meal hosted a few of Singapore’s top chefs for the “Singapore Crab Throwdown.” Chopsticks and Marrow had the chance to go behind the scenes at The Daily Meal Test Kitchen to learn from these great chefs as they prepared dishes from salted egg yolk crab to wok fried black pepper crab.
The first cooking demonstration was by Chef Wayne Lieu of Keng Eng Kee Seafood Restaurant. Along with his team, Chef Lieu taught the “Singapore Crab Throwdown” attendees how to make iconic Singapore chili crab, a signature Singaporean dish with a balance of sweet, salty and heat from the chiles. (more…)