Established: 6 months ago, previously Spicy Mina's
Our first momo ($5.95, beef) was also one of the best. Using homemade, unleavened dough sprinkled with cilantro and stuffed with garam masala-spiked beef, Woodside's dough was particularly fresh and chewy.
Tawa's Nepali Hut
Established: 1.5 years ago
In spite of the pre-made wrappers, Tawa produces some of the neighborhood's finest momos. Orlick opted for chicken on our tour; we'd recommend you go for the much tastier vegetable. Both are buffered by curry spices, with the vegetable packing enough flavor to make those squirt bottle sauces obsolete. (Note of interest: Tawa also happens to be one of the only momo parlors where you can get your dumplings stuffed with paneer cheese.)
37-38 72nd St, Jackson Heights, Queens 11372 (map); 718-457-7766
By all accounts, the original Jackson Heights momo. The steamers were cause for hope, but their pork momo ($6.50) paled in comparison to Woodside Cafe's. The skin was too thin, and the filling was less flavorful and too dry. Not anything to write home about, the sauces were also too one note.
Established: 4 months ago, previously owned the momo cart
Momos ($6, beef) just aren't their strong suit. The congenial staff makes it hard to hate and, truth be told, these weren't particularly bad: just unnoteworthy, with a indistinguishable beef filling that lacked flavor.
37-38 72nd St, Jackson Heights, Queens 11372 (map); 347-848-0349
Established: 1.5 years
It's hard not to share in the joy this cart's owner radiates, somehow brighter then the LED tube that lights up his patch of sidewalk at night. Asked by a fellow traveler about momo style, he offered that his (particularly bao zi-like) are characteristic of the state of Amdo in eastern Tibet. The hand-pulled wrapper is particularly dense, with perhaps the most complex pleating of any we tried, and, according to Anne Noyes Saini of City Spoonful, contains barley flour. The juicy filling, too, is excellent: giving the most justification to the "almost soup dumpling like" descriptions of quality momos.
37th Ave and Broadway, Jackson Heights, NY 11372 (map)
Established: As many as 2 years ago
To get your momos ($6, chicken) here, you'll first have to pass through Merit Farms into the back. There waits Namaste, a restaurant within the restaurant. The orange sauce was likely the best we tasted: fresh and tangy, brimming with genuine sweetness from the tomatoes. The momos, too, were quite good.
37-67 74th St, Jackson Heights, Queens 11372 (map); 718-396-5827
Examples of common dipping sauces (from front to back): sweet (tomato with cilantro), spicy (roasted chilies with Sichuan peppercorn), and sesame (claimed by a Himalayan Hut waitress to be more characteristic of Bhutanese food).
Established: Possibly 4 years ago
As its name indicates, this store boasts origins deeper in South Asia. Orlick thinks they turned Nepalese 4 years ago, but paan (sweet or tobacco) and other vestiges of a Desi past remain. The roasted chili hot sauce is pretty killer, as are the vegetable momos ($6). Unlike many of those with more jiao zi-like shapes, these wrappers are homemade every day. Inside, scallion greens, cabbage, and carrots mingle to make a light filling, albeit a little soft.
73-19 37th Road, Jackson Heights, NY 11372 (map)
Now this place is awesome. Tucked into the back reaches of a AT&T store, behind shelves of imported DVDs and VHS's is a tiny kitchen serving a counter top and a small table. Talk about practical. Here you can get your phone fixed and feed your family, too. The food is no joke either.
We ordered beef ($5), but the other customers—a family of three—offered me one of theirs: wild chives accented by beef. The flavor of the greens spoke through the protein, powering one of their juicier dumplings I've had stateside. But don't diss the plain beef, cooked just with oil and salt, which was a formidable bite itself.
Established: Possibly 3 years ago
A favorite spot of Orlick's, these momos ($5, beef) were checked off as "best in the 'hood" by the Woodside Cafe staff. Ridiculously juicy (soup dumpling caution applies), they sport a delicate spice that puts more bland alternatives to shame. And don't miss that sesame dipping sauce on the side. They're also the only explicitly Bhutanese joint around, though other neighborhood restaurants serve the mountain kingdom's fare as well.
37-63 76th St, Jackson Heights, NY 11372 (map); 718-424-0017
Established: 2 to 3 years ago
Mustang has gotten some critical acclaim from writers in the past. Their chicken momos ($7.95) aren't excellent, due in part to a skin that's a little thin, but the turmeric and other spices in the filling do help.
74 37th Ave, Jackson Heights, NY 11372 (map); 718-898-5088
Established: 1.5 Years Ago
Stepping into Himalayan Hut—where you'll be greeted by a clubby, color-changing light fixture—can feel like stepping out of Jackson Heights and straight into the Himalayas.
If there's one thing our momo crawl proved, its that maybe there is some truth to the foodie superstition that the best food is served at shabby hole-in-the-walls. In any case, it became clear that not all momos in the Himalayan Heights are worth your dough. These ($8.95, chicken) had the saddest, soggiest dough, with a filling too bland to be rescued. It's a shame, because the restaurant is such a nice place.
Norling Tibetan Kitchen
Established: Various incarnations over the last 4 years
Real crowd pleasers, these beef momos ($6) were some of the best we ate. The greens and onion made all the difference, with the meat harboring a funky flavor a la dry aged beef. And, oh yeah, they're massive.
74-15 Roosevelt Ave, Queens, NY 11372 (map); 718-424-8900
Established: Roughly 1 year ago, previously Deccan Kebab
The skin of these momos ($6, chicken) lacked the tug of hand-pulled dough, and the filling could've used more flavor. Perhaps we would've been more impressed had we gone off the beaten path and placed an order for the more exciting sounding beef chili momos. Still, Peace Cafe is an awesome place, with a charming and particularly welcoming atmosphere. Momos just aren't their strong suit.
74-06 37th Rd., Jackson Heights, NY 11372 (map); 718-205-2233
Established: Himalayan for 4-5 years, previously Bhim's
These weren't our favorites. The thin wrappers were carelessly constructed and fell apart easily. The chicken filling ($6) was sufficiently spicy but otherwise not particularly interesting. The steam table, which features buffalo, is more promising.
74-10 37th Road, Jackson Heights, NY 11372 (map); 718-458-0917
Established: Roughly 1.5 years ago
Purveyors of Tibetan-Chinese food, Phayul is one of the neighborhood's best restaurants: offering a cool but warm ambiance not often seen in these kinds of restaurants. Dishes like tsak sha dro thuk (beef and cheese soup) and tsak sha la kor hot (beef with radish and Tibetan mountain herbs) are excellent; but the beef momos ($5), which I've enjoyed in the past, were disappointingly dry and bready. Better are those served in soup or with chicken. Still, hot sauce remains necessary.
74-06 37th Rd Jackson Heights, NY 11372 (map); 718-424-1869
The Game Trail
Each participant was armed with this map, which lacked directions but provided addresses and a gameplan. Making sure each group had a local to help them along, Orlick let each group find its own way.
Established: 6 months ago, previously Spicy Mina's
Our first stop was also one of the best. Using homemade, unleavened dough sprinkled with cilantro and stuffed with garam masala-spiked beef, Woodside's dough was particularly fresh and chewy.