by Crystal Chan-Long
LL Cool J, Idina Menzel, Lucy Liu, and 50 Cent: these are just four of the many notable people that are from New York City’s borough of Queens. Considered to be the most ethnically diverse borough in NYC, Queens is also the largest borough, housing more than two million people (according to the 2015 census). Other than resulting in an unbelievably diverse part of the city, this also leads to a varied assortment of restaurants and bars. Whether you are in the mood for Greek or Peruvian cuisine, you can surely find even the most ethnic restaurants in the culturally diverse foodscape. And with Queens having the second-largest economy in NYC, next to Manhattan, there are always new and hoppin’ restaurants popping up all over. Here are our top five picks:
We are in the middle of Poké-sanity right now, and newly opened PokéWave is riding the trend perfectly. PokéWave serves up a menu of insanely delicious Poké bowls and Onigiri (rice balls). Go for one of the premade bowls (mini bowl: $7.95 / hungry bowl: $10.95) like the Big Island: a bowl loaded with Tuna, Classic sauce, scallions, onions, cilantro, and sesame seeds, or the Wave: a mixture of Salmon, Wave sauce, onions, cucumber, edamame, cilantro, masago, and nori strips. You can also be creative and make your own tasty bowl by selecting the “Create Your Own Poké” option and choose from a huge assortment of different proteins, mix-ins, sauces, and toppings. But be careful: you might easily miss the little eatery without a watchful eye. And oh yeah, this is definitely a personal favorite of mine!
2. Roll Smash Ice Cream Bar
Even though the hot summer days are over in NYC, it doesn’t mean we have to stop indulging in drool-worthy frozen desserts – especially ice cream. One of the latest foodie trends in the Big Apple is Thai style ice cream rolls: a made-to-order ice cream treat done by pouring a liquid ice cream base and mix-ins onto an anti-griddle (a metal plate that flash-freezes anything in 30-90 seconds), then gets chopped and smashed into little chubby rolls. Opened in May by Dan Kim and Min Kim, Roll Smash Ice Cream Bar brings this sweet treat to the people of Bayside located in their Vietnamese eatery Pâté. Try one of the eight delectable flavors (all $6) – from Breakfast Cereal, with Fruity Pebbles, Cap’n Crunch and strawberries, Banana Cream Pie, Thai Tea to Salted Caramel Pretzel (my favorite). And the best part: they make it right in front of you.
3. Ramen Shack
Remember the Ramen Burger that caused a massive craze across the NYC food scene a few years ago? In September, the creator of the original ramen burger Keizo Shimamoto, introduced his first brick-and-mortar restaurant: Ramen Shack. Located in Long Island City, Ramen Shack is a ramen lover’s dreamland, with two faces to the restaurant, one serving a fare of highly slurpable specialties and classic ramen selections; the other offering the infamous ramen burgers and sides. Devour them in the cozy atmosphere with dishes such as the Sabatino Truffle Shio ($12), a delicious specialty ramen made with premium ingredients like chicken and dashi broth, cured fish, and truffle oil, or go OG with a steaming bowl of Classic Tonkotsu ($9) or Classic Shoyu ($8). Perfect for a cold New York night.
4. Mom's Kitchen and Bar
They say “it’s like how mom used to make”, and Astoria’s newest restaurant proves this saying true. Opened in July, Mom’s Kitchen and Bar dishes up a fun selection of comfort food. Offering all-day brunch (perfect for the day after drinking, and well, everyday honestly), Mom’s is a joy-inducing restaurant that puts a fun twist on their foods – be a kid again with their drool-worthy Mac & Cheese pancakes ($12) smothered with cheese Mornay sauce and drizzled with Cholula honey (MIND BLOWN), or share with buddies their ever-so-popular Heavy Metal Fries ($9), crispy fries topped with cheese curds, peppercorn gravy, Sriracha, and chives. Let Executive Chef Ben Ross and
Chef de Cuisine Paul Simon take you on a gastronomic journey you will never forget.
5. Gordo's Cantina
Setting up shop in its permanent home in Long Island City, Gordo's Cantina is slightly different than the run-of-the-mill Mexican places all over New York – their menu focuses on offering Central Mexican street food, but also including the basics like tacos and quesadillas. Owner JR Savage started out as part of the Conde Nast guest chef program (so you know he’s good) and after having pop ups in all sorts of venues, in September, he settled on opening his own forever home in LIC. Indulge in mouth-watering dishes like the Taco Gobernador ($13), an unforgettable dish with shrimp, Poblano peppers and Menonita cheese, or the El "Chapo" ($8), a bacon wrapped hot dog (mmm bacon) with made-in-house crema and pico de gallo. Be sure to end your meal with the Churros ($7), a popular dessert served with a Cajeta sauce and a chocolate sauce. Let us say Olé!