The town of Flushing in New York City’s borough of Queens has overtaken Manhattan’s Chinatown as the heart of New York’s Chinese community. It’s where many of the people who work in Manhattan’s Chinatown head once working hours are over.
Naturally, Flushing is now THE place to go if you want REAL Chinese food on the East Coast of the USA.
And we’ve now compiled a map that will take you on a walking tour of Flushing’s finest snack stops!
We moved to Flushing in 2007, after we found ourselves stopping there for lunch en route to Yen’s office on Long Island, and then for dinner on the way home to our apartment in Bed-Stuy. “Why not just move to Flushing?” we asked ourselves. “Not only does it have great food, it’ll halve our commute!”
As ethnic Chinese people ourselves, Flushing is extremely fascinating for us. On weekends, on the street just outside the bustling Flushing Library, you’ll probably see Falun Gong representatives protesting the oppression of their supporters in China, while next to them will be a stand with information about how the Falun Gong are just a crazy cult, then next to that is a lady peddling smartphone cases or knockoffs of brand-name handbags, and next to her, a fellow selling containers of braised pigs’ ears, smoked duck webs and grilled pigs’ feet. Scurrying all around them will be Chinese people not only from all over China, but all over the world too – Hong Kong, Taiwan, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Korea, and Singapore. It’s a picture of Chinese people that perhaps couldn’t exist within China itself.
Naturally, the food mirrors the diversity. Here, you’ll get restaurants and stalls selling food from Beijing, Shanghai, Sichuan, Tianjin, Harbin, Dalian, Guangzhou, Fuzhou, Wenzhou, Lanzhou, Chengdu, Qingdao, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Malaysia and even the Yanbian Autonomous Prefecture that borders North Korea.
And also naturally, when friends make the effort to travel all the way to the end of the 7 line to visit us, we feel obliged to share with them Flushing’s rich culinary experience. And now, we thought we’d share it with all our readers too.
We thought we’d start off with an itinerary of snack spots, because this way, you’ll get to sample many different nibbles and also not piss off the restaurant owners. When the New York Times did a piece on food in Flushing some years ago, restaurateurs were far from grateful for the exposure. Instead, we heard plenty of grumbling about groups of tourists occupying whole tables just to order one or two plates that they’d split between them. We’d rather save our list of the best sit-down eating experiences here in Flushing for future posts, when you can really savor each restaurant’s repertoire.
And so, here are our recommendations. It’s not meant to be an exhaustive list of Flushing’s great snacks, just what we consider the best examples of the different kinds of nibbles available, within a walkable radius, and taking into consideration the average person’s stomach capacity, that you can complete in around 3 hours or so. Please feel free to try stalls we haven’t listed, or order foods we haven’t recommended. Happy Snacking!
1. NEW WORLD MALL FOOD COURT If you have time for only one place, this is it – the newest, biggest, brashest, most crowded food court in Flushing. It’s likely to be your first stop as it’s just up the hill from the 7 train subway station at the junction of Main Street and Roosevelt Ave. There are two entrances, but we recommend the one on Roosevelt Ave, next to the Macy’s, as it takes you straight to the escalators down to the food court.
One of you should grab some seats, while the rest of you fan out and try these stalls. (We’ve provided the menu numbers for our suggested dishes.)
Stall #11 LZ Cafe – (4) Fish Ball & Fuzhou Dumpling Soup (Fuzhou folks are famed for their stuffed fish balls) and (17) fried taro cake.
Stall #12 Sliced Noodles – The noodles are okay, but get their (28) pan-fried leek dumplings (joined together by batter like some mighty morphin power pancake) and (30) spicy mini lobsters (actually a big pot of crawfish)
Stall #16 Lao Ma Ma La Tang – This stall’s name translates as ‘Ol’ Mom’s Tingly and Spicy Pot’. Point and choose the ingredients which you want to be cooked (in a soup or stir-fried) and served in a massive bowl. Tell them if you want it spicy or not.
Stall #17 Xiao Yuan Huan Taiwan Market Foods – (2) the classic Taiwanese gua bao: braised pork belly, peanuts and pickled cabbage in a steamed bun.
2. CORNER 28 ROAST DUCK Hands down the best snack bargain in the whole of New York City. $1 for a gloriously fatty piece of roast duck with crispy skin in a steamed bun! For $2, they’ll also sell you a roast duck carcass (after the skin and most of the meat has been shredded off) which is great for making stock.
3. AA PLAZA Beneath the Main St LIRR tracks is a stall selling grab-and-go foods – dumplings, fish balls, scallion pancakes, chicken drumsticks, noodles, tea eggs, soy milk, congee – popular with those rushing for their commute.
4. ZHU JI DUMPLINGS is another commuter favorite, especially for those using the Flushing-to-Manhattan Chinatown shuttle buses. Grab a youtiao (deep-fried cruller), and dip it in some hot, sweet soybean milk for a classic Chinese breakfast.
5. GOLDEN MALL
On the street level is a counter specializing in xianbing (a knish-like turnover stuffed with beef, pork or lamb) from Tianjin.
In the basement below (entrance at the corner of 41st Road) is a grimy warren of small stalls with the rather lyrical name Xiao Chi Yi Tiao Jie (literally, ‘The Little Street of Eats’), which houses the original Xi’an Famous Foods frequented by luminaries like Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmern. Try their famous liangi (‘spicy cold skin noodles’), spicy and tingly (‘ma la’) lamb face salad, spicy cumin lamb burger and stewed pork burger. The noodles from the other stalls, which come from Chengdu, Wenzhou and Lanzhou are all pretty decent.
6. TIAN JIN CHINESE RESTAURANT is actually a deli counter selling a variety of smoked and braised meats. Their smoked chicken is particularly popular.
7. WHITE BEAR Right next to Tian-Jin, this hole-in-the-wall is famous for its wontons in hot chili oil. Try some of the other dumplings too!
8. FLUSHING MALL Once the food court in Flushing, the whole mall has now been scheduled for demolition and is practically a ghost town. (It’ll become a temporary parking lot to take the place of the giant municipal parking lot behind Queens Crossing, which is itself going to be torn down and redeveloped into a huge complex called Flushing Commons.)
But their food court is still up and running and has two stalls worth checking out.
Diverse Dim Sum is possibly the best kept secret in Flushing, at least amongst Shanghainese expats, who know it serves the best xiaolong bao in New York. (Much better than the former titleholder, Nan Shiang round the corner on Prince Street, since they were discovered by food bloggers.) Order a basket of their (1) crabmeat and (2) original, as well as some (A6) mahogany vegetarian steam buns (A8) flaky pastries with fried egg and (B8) deep-fried radish puffs. Actually, almost everything on their menu is well done. We don’t know what they’re doing in a food court, but we suspect that due to the impending demolition, rent here must be very cheap.
Down the row is Hankou (its logo just says ‘Han’), a Taiwanese stall whose specialty is steak on a hot-plate, served with a sunny-side up egg, onions, noodles and a small cup of salad. It’s Sun Moon Lake meets Sizzler!
9. XINJIANG CHUAN Between the shiny Queens Crossing mall and a Chase branch is Flushing’s most famous cart for chuan: spicy cumin-dusted lamb, beef or chicken on skewers. A block away on 38th Ave is another chuan cart, which is more hardcore as it also serves lamb tendons and chicken gizzards. Mmm!
10. TAIPAN BAKERY End your tour on a sweet note with some Hong Kong-style milk tea and the best baked egg custard tarts in Flushing. Try both the original and Portuguese-style tarts with their slightly caramelized tops. We also recommend their savory chicken pies – buy a box to share with your friends at home!
We don’t assume everyone has a smartphone or 4G connection, so here’s the handy-dandy pdf for printing and taking with you:
If all this is still too overwhelming for you, why not engage a guide? We highly recommend our friend,Queens’ Most Erudite Eating Evangelist, Joe DiStefano. Joe also does personalized eating tours of other neighborhoods in Queens, so look him up if you’re jonesing for something different!
Yen Yen & Colin