Editor's note: We asked Queens expert Sara Markel-Gonzalez to find us some cheap eats in Corona, near the US Open. Looking for more ideas? Check out our Flushing post here!
Going to the US Open this week? Looking for some adventure before or after the matches? Here's a list of fun foods that can be found in nearby Corona (as well as Flushing), on the way to or just outside the stadium—and all for under $5.00!
At the base of the Junction Boulevard train station in Corona, there are all kinds of vendors selling great, savory snacks. In front of Shabaz Grocery, a small deli on the corner of Junction and Roosevelt is a stand selling quesadillas, pozole, aguas frescas, and tacos dorados. Literally "golden tacos," they're three corn tortillas, filled with either chicken or potato, then rolled and deep fried. The crunchy tubes are then topped with crisp, chopped iceberg lettuce, sliced ripe tomatoes, slivers of sharp red onion, salty cotija cheese, and your choice of spicy salsa verde or smoky salsa roja, made from guajillo chiles. It's a snack that's got crunch, heat, and fresh veggies, and will only set you back $3.00.
In front of Shabaz Grocery: 96-04 Roosevelt Avenue, Corona, Queens (map)
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Tacos de Canasta
Tacos from a basket. Doesn't sound exciting, but oh, they are. Almost impossible to find outside of Mexico, I've been searching for these for a long time, and the closest I've found, in Sunset Park, were served out of a kitchen, not a canasta. But the other day I noticed a man, on the southeast corner of Roosevelt and Junction, sitting on a bike in front of the subway stairs, with a cloth-covered basket and a jar of salsa verde hanging from the front. When I quietly asked what he was selling, and he said tacos, I almost couldn't believe it.
Three kinds of fillings—potato, bean, and chicharron—are folded into a small corn tortilla that has just been barely dipped into a spicy red salsa. These tacos are then layered together when still hot, so they sit in the basket and steam, creating an incredibly soft, flavorful, slightly greasy snack for $1.00 each. The man on the bike slips the tacos out of the basket and onto a piece of paper, the salsa is self-serve, and off you go. He's out every afternoon, from around 5:30 until the basket is empty, but he won't be there for long.
Bicycle: In front of 95-58 Roosevelt Avenue, Corona, Queens (map)
Making our way down Roosevelt, towards the stadium, at 104th Street there is a lady who sells hot dogs, just in front of the post office. Now hot dogs are not uncommon, but what's different about her hot dog cart is that there's a griddle for the dogs and a deep-fryer for her empanadas, chicken or cheese. For $1.00, try the empanada de queso. When she asks if you'd like a sprinkle of sugar, say yes. Fresh from the fryer, the sugar crystals fuse onto the hot dough, which is incredibly flaky and light. There isn't much of the white, melty cheese inside, but somehow it's just right. A touch of salt, the crunch of sugar, and the airy, crispy dough make for a great bite.
Hot Dog Lady: Corner of 104th Street and Roosevelt Avenue, Corona, Queens (map)
Chilpancigo: Gorditas de Chicharron
In my quest for the perfect gordita last summer, I came across the ladies of Chilpancigo. Just off of the 111th Street stop on the 7, they churn out near-perfect versions of this great Mexican street snack.
Made to order, the balls of masa, plump and round, are griddled and then stuffed with chicharron, lettuce, tomato, raw onion, and cotija cheese. A bite into this gordita was salty and porky, crisp and soft, creamy and crunchy, and only costs $2.00.
Chilpancigo GRO: 111th Street near Roosevelt, Corona, Queens (map)
Just outside the entrance to Flushing Meadows, close to the parking lot of the New York Hall of Science, there are at least three ladies who set up grocery cart grills in a row, under the LIRR bridge on 45th Avenue and 111th Street. The women, mainly Ecuadorian, sell all sorts of snacks. Skewered chicken and beef, sweet plantains stuffed with cheese, and grilled Mexican-style corn with all of the toppings. A good place to stop and load up on provisions for the walk towards the stadium.
Ecuadorian Snacks: 111th Street and 45th Avenue, Corona, Queens (map)
Snacks Inside the Park
Once in Flushing Meadows, there are quite a few places to get some good food. It's a huge park, but well worth taking a walk around. At the end of soccer fields numbered one and two, at the entrance to the industry pond, there are two carts that sell all kinds of food that you don't see at the stadium. Ceviche, salchipapas, stuffed plantains, empanadas, and much more. The plantains, soft and sweet, are sliced open and filled with firm, white cheese. Somewhere between a salty snack and a sweet dessert, for $2.00, it will fill you up.
Ground beef empanadas are juicy and full of meat, and only $1.00. The salchipapas that I tried didn't have the crispiest fries, but the hot dog, griddled, not fried, had a nice snap to it. At $4.00, the most expensive food of the bunch.
If you sit in the park long enough, you'll notice ladies pushing strollers full of food—not babies. They may have mangos with lime and chile, or freshly fried potato chips. They could have popcorn, chicharrones de harina (a crunchy snack made from flour, not pork skin), some have tortas, some sell elotes. It may seem strange, but they sell good stuff.
Soccer Fields at Flushing Meadows Park: map
In the mood for something sweet on the way home? The ladies who sell $1.00 Italian ices up and down Roosevelt Avenue sometimes have a hard plastic case next to their ice cart, filled with this fluffy pink and white confection. Meringue whipped with fresh guava, then topped with colorful non-pareil sprinkles and served in a wafer cone (also $1.00), the crema is light, airy, and marshmallow-y, and not as sweet as you might think. The guava flavor is very pronounced, and you can see the guava seeds mixed throughout the meringue. I found this one on the corner of Elmhurst Avenue and Roosevelt.
Elmhurst Avenue and Roosevelt: map
For another tropical treat, this four-colored pop, sold at an Ecuadorian deli, has layers of coconut cream, passion fruit, mora (berry), and naranjilla (a native fruit with a citrus-y, kiwi flavor). Imported from Ecuador, the frozen ice pop, $2.00, is definitely different, and a sweet way to end the day.
La Pauteñita Grocery: 100-08 Roosevelt Avenue, Corona, Queens (map)