by Nate McCarthy
In 2015, Lonely Planet named Queens the top U.S. travel destination of the year. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the New York City borough is also the most diverse place on the planet. For this reason, Queens is home to a food scene like no other. And yet, Nyack residents are probably much more familiar with the Manhattan restaurant scene. Though a bit further from Nyack than Manhattan, Queens is an equally worthwhile weekend destination. There are many neighborhoods to explore in Queens, and certainly many many places worthy of praise, but below is a condensed list of some of the borough’s best eats.
Long Island City
This intimate Long Island City eatery is nestled in the bottom of an old brownstone — you can hear the rattle of the elevated 7 train on it’s way to and from Manhattan — and it offers a simple menu of seasonally-rotating, sustainably sourced American food. Sit outside in the backyard, stay for a coffee or drink at the bar, and be sure to check out the homemade goods for sale upfront — jam, hot sauce, pickles, all made in-house.
Astoria is home to a large Italian-American community. This deli and grocery offers Italian specialty items like imported cured meats and cheeses, as well as delicious sandwiches served on housemade focaccia. It’s a favorite lunchtime spot for locals and transplants alike.
Alternately, visit Rose and Joe’s bakery across the street, for a delicious slice of authentic, bakery-style pizza. I recommend you walk or drive to Astoria Park; enjoy a scenic view of the east river and Manhattan.
Khao Kang is named after the popular curry-rice carts you see all over the streets of Thailand and, to me, is the closest thing to being in actual Thailand. You won’t find pad thai here or chicken satay; instead, authentic central and southern Thai curries served over a heaping plate of rice. For the non-Thai speaker, the food is ordered simply by pointing. But don’t be afraid to ask the friendly cooks for recommendations. As in Thailand, these dishes are already seasoned, and can’t be adjusted for the western palette; this means many are infernally spicy and should be eaten with cha nom (Thai milk tea).
Hours: Tuesday-Sunday, 11am-9pm (cash only).
Greeks comprise a major community in Astoria, but few of the Greek eateries here are as worthy of your time as Agnanti. Agnanti is situated on the northeast corner of Astoria Park. Go and enjoy a spectacular view of the Hellgate Bridge and Manhattan skyline while you dine on classic Greek dishes in a rustic setting — or, cast your gaze on the old black and white Greek films played on a small projector.
Thai Son Vietnamese Restaurant
Don’t be fooled by the name: Thai Son serves strictly Vietnamese cuisine. Though the menu is quite large, what this Elmhurst restaurant does best is the classic Vietnamese noodle soup dish, pho. For the traditional version, order pho bo, beef noodle soup. However, chicken and pork chop versions are available as well. The spring rolls (cha gio) are as good as those I’ve eaten on the streets of Vietnam. Finish your meal with a round of ca phe sua da (strong, smoky Vietnamese coffee with sweetened condensed milk).
Hours: Monday-Sunday, 11am-10pm
Milkflower offers Neapolitan-style pizzas cooked over a blazing wood-fired oven. The restaurant fuses classic Italian flavors with new American ingredients sourced locally and sustainably. The dough and buffalo mozzarella are made in house, and are some of New York City’s best.
The atmosphere is rustic and charming, perfect for a date or night out.