It’s no secret that Queens is one of the most diverse places in the country. Immigrants from all over the world have come to NYC and settled down in Queens neighborhoods, forming densely populated enclaves and communities. Asian immigrants have made areas along the 7 train line their home, with eateries and street stalls hawking delicacies from their native countries. As a Queens native, I don’t go anywhere in the city outside the Asian restaurants in Queens for Asian food. From the Korean barbecue and Chinese noodles in Flushing to the Nepalese momos to the Indian and Bangladeshi buffets of Jackson Heights and the Filipino fast-food joints of Woodside, there’s a whole ’nother culinary world to explore in the streets of Queens. Here’s a guide to my top five favorite places to take friends who are visiting.
Woodside Cafe has a deceptively simple name, and its corner exterior resembles any other humble neighborhood diner. But a closer look at its awning, which intriguingly advertises “Italian, American, Nepali, Indian Food,” will make you think otherwise. Nepalese or Himalayan food is popular in this area of Queens, and it turns out Italian and Nepalese fusion is a big trend in Nepal—just search #pastamomo on Instagram for examples of plump momos in bright orange alla vodka–inspired sauce. Woodside Cafe’s Kathmandu-born and German-trained chef specialized in Italian food before turning to the cuisine of his roots. All of their momos are worth trying—perfect for sharing with friends. The vegetarian momos are served in a savory broth, and their refillable thalis offer tastes of a rotating range of curries. Their rice-flour-based chatamari is perfect for soaking up any leftover sauce. Unusual for a restaurant of its size and type, a fully stocked American-style bar sits at the corner, right underneath a TV that plays mesmerizing Nepalese music videos on a loop.
3916 Prince St Unit 205 and 206
PappaRich is a Malaysian chain with over a hundred locations in countries all over Asia. This is its first stateside location, on the second floor of a newly built luxury mall complex meant to attract the growing population of wealthy Asian tourists and international students to this part of Flushing. Its menu recalls ones from American chains like the Cheesecake Factory for its novel-like size and streamlined graphic design. Still, that’s where the comparisons end: The food served here is the real deal, so much so that it’s earned a recommendation from critics at the New York Times. Helpfully, photos are included for diners unfamiliar with Malaysian food, but the must-trys are their versions of roti canai, served with a choice of curries, dhal, and a spicy red sauce, as well as their curry laksa, served with a choice of noodles in a spicy golden broth.
45-57 Bowne St
Ganesh Temple has been in this suburban area of Flushing since the 1970s and was one of the first Hindu temples in the country. Their basement cafeteria began its operations cooking up food for festivals and feeding priests and parishioners, eventually opening its doors to the general public. Now the secret is out about the no-frills South Indian vegetarian delicacies served here, with foodies from all over the city making the pilgrimage. Dosas are the star attractions here. You’ll see large dosas front and center in Insta posts from this place, as well as the cone-shaped ghee dosa and the special spicy Hyderabad dosa, all served with chutney, sambar, and potatoes upon request.
136-20 38th Ave, 2nd Floor
Shabu-shabu, or hot pot, is always popular in Asian neighborhoods, but Spring takes it to the next level with an unlimited buffet of vegetables, fish balls, tofu, noodles, and plenty of staple hot pot ingredients. Thinly sliced meats and seafood can be ordered separately, but vegans, vegetarians, and the meat- averse can easily survive off the humongous variety of choices and side dishes. Like most modern hot pot restaurants, diners get individuals pots and can choose from six different vegetarian-, pork-, or seafood-based broths. As the soup base boils, you can help yourself to a variety of Asian offerings from their stations, including dandelion greens, taro, fresh and dried ramen, and chicken dumplings. A large sauce station with a huge selection of mix-ins and a soft-serve machine with green tea and vanilla ice cream complete the ultimate hot pot experience.
Gupji Seafood Grill
149-11 41st Ave
Flushing is also known for its vast array of Korean restaurants alongside Northern Boulevard, and Gupji Seafood Grill is located in a dense cluster of Korean-owned restaurants, cafes, spas, and KTV parlors surrounding the Murray Hill LIRR station. Unlike its neighboring spots, Gupji is not a traditional Korean restaurant specializing in Korean barbecue grilled at your table. Instead, it’s one of the rapidly growing restaurants specializing in modern Korean cuisine. And its trendy sensibility is seen in the minimalist exposed brick that wouldn’t be out of place in a hipster neighborhood. The main focus here is on the seafood, which comes to you in shareable small plates—so much so that kimchi is only offered upon request, with only a dish or two of banchan. Standouts you can’t go wrong with are their freshwater eel, which comes grilled and cut into chopstick-friendly pieces perfect for accompanying beer or soju, deep fried oysters that are crunchy on the outside and soft and on the inside, and grilled Chilean sea bass.