On She Goes

Travel the World on the 7 Train

Grab your Metro Card and hop on the “International Express”!

Christine Kandic Torres
Christine Kandic Torres
November 17, 2017
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Dubbed the “International Express,” the 7 train subway line connects the industrial west side of Manhattan to Flushing, Queens—hitting some of the most diverse enclaves of NYC along the way. Whether you’re visiting New York for the first or fiftieth time, or looking to explore new pockets of your hometown, check out these spots along the 7 train in Queens for a taste of the world beyond. For your eating convenience, this belly-bustin’ itinerary follows the stops sequentially as you’re heading east on the train. Grab your MetroCard and make your way to the nearest subway stop to see a Latinx dance theater, enjoy a sizzling pan of Filipino sisig, take a bite of hearty Irish shepherd’s pie, and more!

The elevated 7 train pulls into the 74th Street station during a sunset commute in Queens. The Empire State Building glows red, white, and blue from Manhattan in the distance.
photo by Christine Kandic Torres

41st St: Thalia Theatre
41-17 Greenpoint Ave

Sandwiched between a laundromat and a bodega on Greenpoint Ave, the unassuming Thalia Theatre bills itself as the “home for Latino culture” in Queens. This is the place to watch Latin American folk dance, tango, salsa, flamenco, and zarzuelas or Spanish operettas. Once you step inside, you’re greeted by the glamour of old New York theaters: a wrought-iron ticket booth and hand-carved wooden benches adorn the entryway. The only bilingual theater in the borough, it hosts traveling shows from Spain and South America throughout the year, complete with projected subtitles so viewers can follow along in English or Spanish. This helps to attract a diverse audience, but sitting in the intimate theater, it’s hard to feel too separate from your neighbor when you look around and notice everyone’s feet tapping to the percussion of a salsa beat, or everyone’s hearts soaring at the cante jondo (“deep song”) of a flamenco performance. The Thalia will make you feel welcome, no matter what language you speak.

46th St: Tito Rad’s Grill
49-10 Queens Blvd

When you walk in and nearly every table is taken by large parties of Filipino families, you know you’ve hit the real deal. Tito Rad’s has the best sizzling sisig in Queens (Woodside boasts a Little Manila along Roosevelt Ave)—and possibly in all of NYC. Diced pork and onions are served on a hot plate—yes, sizzling—with a fried egg cooking on top. The owner is known to come over and chat, extending the family feel to every table. Don’t pass on dessert; their ube, or purple yam ice cream, is not to be missed.

61st St: Donovan’s Pub
57-24 Roosevelt Ave

Donovan’s has been voted best hamburger in the city by several local papers for years. The burger is good, but their classic Irish fare like the shepherd’s pie is where it’s at. The interior is deceptively large, with its main dining room designed to mimic an Irish countryside cottage. It’s a great place to warm up during the winter months before making your way to the other pubs in the area: Sean Og Tavern, Cuckoo’s Nest, and Saints & Sinners are all local favorites where you might want to enjoy live music and grab a pint (or three).

The chili sauce drizzled dumplings of Tian Jin Dumpling House in Flushing’s Golden Shopping Mall basement food court: dish number A3, pork, chives, shrimp, egg.
photo by Christine Kandic Torres

Jackson Heights
74th St: Potala and Diversity Plaza
Broadway between 37th Rd & 74th St

Much has been written about the Indian food available on 74th St in Jackson Heights, so allow me to introduce you to the nabe’s newest darling: Tibetan food. Specifically, momos, dumplings as ubiquitous as hamburgers in the Himalayas. Each November, Jackson Heights is home to an annual Momo Crawl, which has attracted increasingly larger crowds. Created by local Jeff Orlick, participants in the crawl vote for the best momo vendor, after which the winner receives a golden momo trophy and bragging rights. Past winner Lhasa Fast Food gets a lot of attention for its novelty (it’s located at the end of a long corridor inside a cell phone store), but in my opinion, you can get better momos elsewhere. Lali Guras is great if you’re looking to sit down away from the cold, but my personal fave are the beef momos at Potala, a truck parked on Broadway between Roosevelt and 37th Rd. Pick some up and enjoy them at a table in the outdoor pedestrian Diversity Plaza around the corner, surrounded by Indian and Pakistani storefronts.

82nd St: Terraza 7
40-19 Gleane St

This bi-level Pan-Latinx bar located on the corner of Gleane St and Baxter Ave caters to an artsy crowd with its regular program of local musicians, poets, and activists. The whitewashed facade gives way to neon paint and calaveras behind the heavy wooden door, where you can enjoy a great pisco sour at the full bar. If you’re in the mood for something stronger, try any of their cocktails made with Aguardiente, an anise-flavored liquor from Colombia with a 29% alcohol content that’s hard to find outside of this Colombian-heavy neighborhood in Queens. It means “strong water” or “fiery water” in English. Terraza 7 is always a great time, but never in quite the same way: one night you could catch a Latin jazz performance on the suspended second floor, and the next a literary reading or a Peruvian folk dance performance.

111th St: Queens Night Market inside Flushing Meadows–Corona Park

Corona used to be known for its Italian food (and in some places, still is), but its demographics have shifted with new immigrants over the last several decades. This mix of new and varied cultures is perfectly celebrated at the Queens Night Market, held Saturday nights in Flushing Meadows–Corona Park. Created as an homage to the night markets of Taiwan, the international food market was an immediate hit with locals and visitors alike. Come to try Japanese fried octopus balls, Vietnamese banh mi, Russian pelmeni, or Persian desserts; stay for the local artisans and performances in the picnic area.

Main St: Tian Jin Dumpling House inside Golden Shopping Mall
41-28 Main St

While Manhattan’s Chinatown is a unique experience inside the warren-like cobblestone streets of downtown Manhattan, nothing can prepare you for the shock of Flushing: getting off the train at Main St feels like stepping onto an entirely different continent. The packed sidewalks pulsate with life and different languages, with staples like whole roasted ducks hanging in shop windows. Hidden down a dingy stairwell inside a gray building whose name has weathered off the facade, the Golden Shopping Mall’s basement food court thrives with kiosks serving hot food to hungry patrons. The two women of Tian Jin Dumpling House make Chinese dumplings fresh to order, a la carte or off their numbered menu. Pull up a stool and dip your dumplings (I recommend the A3: pork, shrimp, egg, and chives) in some chili sauce and take a moment to embrace the spirit of travel that has allowed you to experience a bit of the world without a passport, without even leaving the borough of Queens.