Have any of you seen the HBO series “The Night Of“? I, for one, absolutely loved every second of it and finished the entire series in one weekend–but that’s besides the point. The reason I bring up the series is because we get a quick glimpse into the amazingly diverse Queens neighborhood of Jackson Heights, where the main character lives, and I found myself thinking, “omg, I bet their food scene is incredible, I need to get there asap.”
So, I made it happen.
A few weeks ago, during one of those unseasonably warm 60 degree winter days, I corralled my family on a self-led food walking tour of Jackson Heights, Queens. I used this local’s recommendations as a guide, but since we were touring with a 1 year old, we only made it to 4 stops on the list. Definitely reference it if you’re looking for a full day of eating–our tour still took about 4 hours, even with just 4 stops!
Here’s what we ate and where we went:
1. Meaty Tibetan Momo
Ambo Kitchen is actually a food truck, with a huge cult following. I couldn’t initially find it, so I asked two Asian girls walking to the subway, and they immediately pointed me in the right direction. (It’s a side street right off the train, with lots of sidewalk seating…you’ll see a crowd.) As a vegetarian, I skipped these dumplings, but my sister-in-law said they were the “best. dumplings. ever.”, and I quote.
Where: Ambo Kitchen | 37-59 74th Street Jackson Heights, NY
2. Salted Butter Tea + Chive Dumplings
The real draw to this stop is the hidden location. If feels like the speakeasy of the Tibetan food joints, if you know what I mean. You locate it through walking through a cell phone store front, and then head all the way to the back, where you will probably find a line of people waiting to order.
Now, as someone who really hates waiting in line for food (I refused to wait in line for the cronut out of sheer principal;-), I almost didn’t last at this spot. Besides having a lot of loyal customers, the restaurant makes each dish to order (as in, they are back there making the noodles from scratch), so the process was exceptionally long–but they were really sweet and nice. While I enjoyed the chive dumplings and salted butter tea an okay amount, it’s not a spot I would come back to for the food.
However, there’s a framed picture of Anthony Bourdain in the restaurant with the chef, so that tells me that if you’re a meat eater, it’s probably pretty good stuff worth waiting for.
Where: Lhasa Fast Food | 37-50 74th St Jackson Heights, NY
3. Cheesy Arepas
This was my favorite stop along the tour, hands down. In fact, my husband and I are planning another date night to Jackson Heights simply so we can gorge ourselves on these Columbian arepas, they are incredible. Think of them as the best grilled cheese you’ve ever had–gooey melted cheese on a crackling hot cornmeal base. I could eat like, 10 of these things, and still not be sick of them. If you eat one thing in Queens, let this be it.
Where: Arepa Lady | 77-02a Roosevelt Ave Jackson Heights, NY
4. Thai Inspired Desserts
My in-laws have a huge sweet tooth, and their eyes lit up when they saw the menu of Sugar Club–they agreed that it was not only their favorite stop on the tour, but a place they were already anxious to get back to!
I ordered the dessert toast, slathered with butter and condensed milk, but other favorites from the menu were the chocolate crepes and green tea ice cream. The spot is also a Thai grocery store, so you can load up on treats to take home with you.
Where: Sugar Club | 81-18 Broadway Elmhurst, NY 11373
On a final note, everything on the tour was fantastically cheap–you’ll get stuffed without spending much at all. Do bring cash though, as the only stop that accepted credit cards was Sugar Club.