NEW YORK CITY: METS BEATEN, GOOD EATIN’ IN QUEENS. Earlier this week I watched the NY Mets lose twice and ate some tasty, inexpensive, exotic meals, all in a little slice of heaven known as Queens, New York.
Visiting various neighborhoods in Queens (including Astoria, Corona, Flushing, Forest Hills, Jackson Heights, Long Island City and Rego Park) is like traveling the world. The ethnic diversity in Queens, NY is mind blowing. For a mere $2.50, you can board the 7 train at 42nd Street in Manhattan and ride it all the way to Flushing. Just about anywhere you get off, you’ll see, hear and taste things that you just can’t find anywhere else. Queens is loaded with hard working immigrants and lucky for us, these immigrants bring their regional cuisine with them.
Since I love baseball, food and exploring, Queens makes a lot of sense. Unfortunately, the New York Metropolitans don’t. Even though they have terrific young pitching, the Mets aren’t putting runs on the scoreboard. Can’t they get some bats? Wednesday night they were shut out in 11 innings and Thursday afternoon they lost 6-1. That’s right. The Mets scored just one run in 20 innings. All that losing sure makes a guy hungry. Luckily I was in Queens, a culinary treasure chest.
Located only one 7 Train stop past Citi Field, Flushing was originally settled by the English in the 1600s. In recent decades, Flushing has become the Asian epicenter of New York City and one of the fastest growing Chinese areas in America. The Golden Shopping Mall features about a dozen Chinese food stalls but it’s not easy to find. Almost no one on the street speaks English so I pretty much had to locate it on my own. It was worth the effort.
Once inside the Golden Shopping Mall’s basement (that’s where most of the good stuff is), I was overwhelmed by the sights, sounds, smells and choices. I went with the most basic; Lan Zhou Pulled Noodle. Lan Zhou Pulled Noodle serves large bowls of hand-made, Chinese soups. They’re cheap, delicious and filling. I opted for the vegetable soup ($5) but there are many varieties including beef, duck, seafood, wonton, (and for the adventurous) eel, fish ball, ox tail, intestine, lamp and tube bone. So much to taste and there I was, too full to sample anything else. Next time I won’t need directions and I’ll skip breakfast.
Formerly known for it’s Italian residents and Italian restaurants, Corona now has a sizable Spanish speaking population. With pizzerias and taquerias side by side, how can a foodie go wrong? Located practically right next to the 7 Train’s Junction Blvd. station, Rincon Criollo (I believe pronounced, RIN-cone cree-OY-oh) is a Cuban eatery that came highly recommended by a friend whose wife grew up in the neighborhood.
The first incarnation of Rincon Criollo was opened in Cuba in 1960 by the current owner’s grandfather. After fleeing the Castro regime, the family began the Queens operation in 1976. I ordered pechuga al ajillo (chicken cutlets in garlic sauce), moros y cristianos (rice & beans cooked together), ensalada rincon criollo (lettuce, tomato & avacado) and a Corona (what else?) beer. The total, including tax and a 22% tip was $26 and it was delicious. As I left Rincon Criollo on that warm July afternoon, everywhere I looked in virtually every direction, I saw places offering irresistible, eatable delicacies, dirt cheap.
To me, Queens is the Ramones, the Mets, the 7 Train and some of the best and cheapest ethnic food on the planet. I hope I can return to Queens, NY many, many more times. (Story and Photos by Rick Bedrosian)