Some of the most authentic food from all over the world can be found in New York City’s diverse borough of Queens, home of the US Open.
As professional athletes spend much of their time crisscrossing the country, and oftentimes the globe, it’s understandable that they’d seek out good, honest food from restaurants at the top of their game when passing through New York. When you head out to Flushing this summer for the US Open, give one of these athlete-approved restaurants in Queens a try for your pre-game lunch or post-game dinner.
Park Side lies at the “Spaghetti Park” triangle of Corona: a three-corner geographical area of Italian eateries that have been there since Corona used to be predominantly Italian-American. The crown jewel is the famous Lemon Ice King of Corona at one end. But across the park, where bocce ball courts now inspire residents of the neighborhood to pick up the old Italian sport, is Park Side. The restaurant is famous among athletes and celebrities alike, and thanks to its close proximity to Flushing Meadows, it is a hot spot for celeb-spotting around the US Open. Not only tennis stars but also many Yankees and Mets and even NFL star Deion Sanders have lingered here over a long lunch of antipasti and Park Side’s endless—and enormous—bread basket.
This cash-only, red sauce Italian restaurant holds legendary status in New York for some of the best Italian-American food you can get anywhere. The old-school food (linguine with clams, fra diavolo, and Chicken Chinese—a dish unique to Don Peppe) is so delicious that it transcends the dated décor and fluorescent lighting, and manages to attract celebrities from all facets of the entertainment world, especially sports. Revered Yankees coach Joe Torre and the NFL’s Dan Marino and Joe Montana have all dined here. Located in Ozone Park near JFK Airport, it’s best reached by hopping on the Van Wyck from Flushing Meadows and making the 20-minute drive down.
The Mets play at Citi Field in Flushing and therefore spend a good portion of their year in Queens. Catcher Travis d’Arnaud’s favorite restaurant here, which is open late so he can grab a bite after evening games, is the Jackson Hole in Astoria. Feeling like a time capsule from the 1950s, the chrome-walled burger joint has been around since the 1950s as the Airline Diner (note the neon sign out front), and the kitschy décor and tabletop jukeboxes feel like they’ve been here just as long. If it feels familiar, that’s likely because it’s been featured in classic movies like Goodfellas. Don’t leave without trying the nearly half-pound burgers they’re known for.
Major League Baseball has fostered a ton of talent from the Caribbean and South America, and when traveling through New York for games at Yankee Stadium or Citi Field, players from the Dominican Republic know exactly where to go. Café Rubio has been serving homestyle cooking from the DR for the past 17 years on Northern Boulevard, close to Citi Field and Flushing Meadows Park. Famously the spot where David “Big Papi” Ortiz called his home run for the Boston Red Sox in Game 7 of the 2004 World Series against the Yankees, the bar and restaurant regularly hosts Dominican MLB players hungry for a taste of home, including Pedro Martinez, Jose Reyes, Jeurys Familia, and Albert Pujols.
Similar to Café Rubio, Rincon Criollo is the place where locals know to go to get their ropa vieja (shredded beef over rice and beans). With an outpost in Huntington Station, Long Island, the original Rincon is on Junction Boulevard in Corona (just steps off the 7 train stop). Mets outfielder Yoenis Cespedes is a fan of the restaurant whenever the team is in Flushing during a homestand.
Several of the New York Mets rent apartments in Long Island City—specifically in the luxurious Avalon buildings along Vernon Boulevard. Players can often be spotted dining together at restaurants along the strip. A favorite, though, is Maiella, an upscale Italian restaurant with breathtaking views of the East River where pitchers Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz have been known to indulge on their days off.
After growing up in Jamaica, Queens, and graduating from Christ the King High School in Middle Village as a young basketball phenom, New York Liberty center Tina Charles maintains an apartment in Forest Hills during the WNBA season and commutes into the Garden via the E train. A self-proclaimed foodie, when she wants to indulge in fried chicken, she goes to Sweet Chick—owned by Queens-raised rapper, Nas. The newest location of Sweet Chick recently opened in LIC on Vernon Boulevard, a short walk from the 7 train.