Thanks to its incredibly diverse inhabitants, Queens has morphed into a borough strewn with international dining destinations. New York City’s largest borough by land area invites adventurous eaters to travel internationally without purchasing a plane ticket. All you need is $2.75 for a MetroCard and an appetite for the unknown.
Stationed on a quiet street in Long Island City, Adda is a newcomer to the neighborhood. The walls of the casual restaurant are plastered with newspaper clippings from India, and the kitchen leans into the homey feel by serving Indian food you’d often find being prepared on the street or at home. There are simmered goat brains – often likened to scrambled eggs – rife with ginger, red-stained tandoori chicken, and goat biryani hiding under a drum of blistered bread. But you’d be remiss not to order a mango lassi, a bright yellow version that’s thick and creamy.
You’ll have to snake your way past cell phone stores and jewelers stitching beads to find Lhasa Fast Food, a teeny, hidden Nepalese counter operation in Jackson Heights. Here, in this hallway of a space, is a scattering of tables and chairs, occupied by momo (South-Asian dumplings) lovers. These delicately pleated, plump momos wobble in their basket, bursting with beef flecked with chives and cilantro. But the momos are not the only dish sought after from the tightly edited menu; look for soups swimming with torn noodles, hunks of beef slick with chili oil, and fiery, chili-tinged noodles curled into nubby rolls resembling snail shells, with as many layers as a tree trunk.
This cozy taverna is slightly removed from the heart of Astoria’s Greek restaurants, stationed on a sleepy corner a block from the East River. On blustery winter days, the kitchen cooks up cold-weather comfort food: Greek sausage sweetened with orange, shrimp wrapped in crispy shredded phyllo, and plump meatballs bobbing in tomato sauce. During the warmer months, seating tumbles onto the sidewalk, where local people can often be caught sipping glasses of Greek wine and digging into bowls of saganaki (crisped-up, melted cheese).
A summer-only establishment, Tacoway Beach is housed just a few blocks away from the bustling piers on Rockaway Beach. During those hot summer days, lines for the taco window snake throughout the outdoor restaurant as patrons cool off with frozen drinks and beers. Here, a carefully edited menu is hung on the wall of the red shipping container, boasting corn tacos crowned with crispy fish, crumbles of chorizo and shredded cheese, along with chips and guacamole, crisp plantains and spice-dusted elote.
Make your way through nearly 100 types of dumplings at Dumpling Galaxy
Restaurant, Chinese, $$$
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We may be mere mortals of the Milky Way Galaxy, but there’s perhaps no better galaxy to join than Flushing’s Dumpling Galaxy. The sleek, red-tinged space, tucked inside a new mall is home to 100 kinds of dumplings. There are the more traditional (pork tossed with chives), the more exotic (cod and roe) and the sweet (strawberry and sesame), all wrapped and sealed in translucent, soft skins.
Since claiming its Michelin star, Casa Enrique has seen droves make the pilgrimage to Long Island City for the chef’s Mexican cooking. The casual, warm restaurant quickly wins over stomachs with house-made pucks of corn crowned with tumbles of chorizo, fragrant ceviche steeped in lime, and tender chicken cloaked in chocolate-stained mole. Wash it all down with tequila and mezcal, and then tenderly spoon at the tres leches cake, a squat sponge infused with three kinds of milk and drizzled with goat’s milk caramel.
Housed in an unassuming strip mall in Elmhurst, Taste Good is a Malaysian restaurant that’s been around since the ’90s. The no-frills space shuttles out large portions of golden-brown roti, satays skewered on sticks, and bowls of spicy laksa swimming with hard-boiled eggs, noodles, bean curd and seafood, aimed for large groups or those hungry enough to polish off big portions.
There’s not much to look at when you enter Abuqir; the tiny space is outfitted with fluorescent lights and mismatched tables. However, step in a little farther to discover a case brimming with seafood. Things operate a little differently at this Egyptian restaurant than at most places; instead of picking pre-planned dishes off the menu, you simply belly up to the counter and select the kind of seafood you want – shrimp, whole fish, scallops, baby octopus – which is then prepared to your liking (baked, grilled, fried). It’s uncomplicated, unadulterated cooking: crisped-up shrimp, whole fish blackened with a dusting of spices, and tagine baked in a clay pot.
Begun in 2016 when father and son Lam and Michael Lien partnered with family friend and pho aficionado Louis Leung, District Saigon specializes in traditional and modern dishes, combining Vietnamese flavors and technique with local market products. Grandma’s secret recipe is employed for the District pho, a bowl of soup bobbing with long ribbons of rice noodles, round steak, bone marrow and meatballs.
It’s hardly difficult to find Thai food in NYC, but when you’re used to simply ordering takeout, it seems like there are few Thai restaurants worth leaving your apartment for. That’s not the case at SriPraPhai, a Woodside staple churning out the kind of Thai food that’ll convince you into spending a whole lot more time on the 7 train. Nosh on crispy ground catfish, green curry rife with Thai eggplant and bamboo shoots, and fried soft-shell crabs. During the warmer months, seating spills out into the outdoor patio, an ideal location to finish off your meal with green-tea ice cream.
Frequented by the likes of Anthony Bourdain and Astoria residents, Kabab Café is run by Ali El Sayed. In this teeny restaurant on Steinway Street, El Sayed cooks Egyptian comfort food: plates swiped with smoky baba ganoush, plump, crisp falafel rounds, and whole-roasted fish dusted with cumin. Settle into one of the red banquettes with a view of the postage-stamp-size kitchen, and get ready to mop up mounds of lemony hummus with triangles of pita.
Sandwiched between Rego Park and Middle Village, Taste of Samarkand is an Uzbek restaurant teeming with waitresses sporting colorful tunics and enough matzah-like bread to feed a village. The menu provides few details about each dish, but the servers are more than happy to give explanations. For example, samsa are flaky pastries jammed with meat, and nakhot garmack is tender veal showered with soft chickpeas and red onions. Manti are plump dumplings stuffed with chopped lamb.
Maria Cano served as a judge in Medellin before fleeing Colombia in the 1980s due to the escalating drug war. After settling in New York, Cano began delighting residents with her arepas – cheesy grilled corn pucks stuffed with everything from grilled chicken to chicharron – with a simple street cart under the elevated train tracks in Jackson Heights. Known fondly as the Arepa Lady, she opened a brick-and-mortar restaurant in 2014 due to popular demand, where she cooks the same crisped-up and doughy arepas.
Husband-and-wife chef duo New and Lek bring a taste of their native Bangkok directly to Astoria with Pochana. Originally known as Yajai, Pochana is an inviting, quaint space where patrons feel as if they’re seated at the kitchen table rather than a restaurant. Warm up with Thai family recipes including Grandma’s pork chop (seared pork chops, steamed vegetables and toasted rice chili sauce) or Uncle New’s crab curry (house-made yellow curry sauce, coconut milk, pepper, onion and pineapple).
Opened in 2013, Tamashii was the first restaurant to bring Japanese ramen to Astoria residents. Ramen, a traditional Japanese noodle-and-soup dish, is versatile, so it’s no surprise patrons can get it served in a host of ways, including with mineral salt (shio ramen), soy sauce (shoyu ramen) or with a spicy sesame flavor (tan-tan men). The most popular dish is miso ramen – soybean-flavored ramen rife with jammy eggs and hunks of pork.
Enjoy authentic Filipino dishes “just like how grandma used to make it” at Tito Rad’s Grill. From simple comfort foods to the likes of adobong baboy (pork braised in soy sauce, vinegar and garlic), inihaw na panga (grilled tuna jaw) and kare kare (oxtail cooked in a peanut-butter sauce served with Asian vegetables and shrimp paste), each dish boasts carefully chosen ingredients to give patrons lutong bahay (a taste of home).
At I Love Paraguay, chef and owner Nancy Ojeda takes her love and knowledge of the culinary arts and Paraguayan culture, passed down from her mother, and weaves them into every dish. Enjoy generous portions of plump empanadas, cheesy corn pudding and massive meat platters. I Love Paraguay prides itself on making Paraguayans in New York feel at home, while also serving as ambassadors of the South American nation and its culture to NYC residents.