When you got off the Long Island Railroad in Flushing, the scene above was the first thing you'd see: a long, narrow stall underneath the railroad tracks with hawkers selling scallion pancakes, buns, noodles, and fried chicken to commuters and passersby. On the other side of the sidewalk there were vendors selling fake handbags, watches, and beeping toys. The scene was a crowded, chaotic sidewalk bottleneck. The scallion pancakes were delicious. You got shoved and jostled. Everything smelled.
It's what made me first fall in love with Flushing years ago.
Yesterday, as I was passing through the area, this is what I saw instead.
The stall and all its inhabitants have been uprooted and the commanding AA Plaza awning is totally gone.
According to the Times Ledger, the stall was seized by the MTA through emiment domain as part of their efforts to renovate the Flushing LIRR station. Their plans include adding wheelchair access and a mural over graffiti-strewn wall space. If there are intentions to bring food vendors back to the space, they probably won't go into effect any time soon.
When I was commuting through Flushing from the 7 train to the railroad, a fat, fresh scallion pancake or four small steamed bao was my $1 breakfast. When I took wide-eyed newcomers to Flushing for a day of eating, we'd always stop at AA Plaza to take the edge off our hunger. If downtown Flushing had a symbol—something crowded and chaotic, a little dingy, incredibly cheap (I don't think anything cost more than $2), delicious, and full of life—this food stall was it.
It's also fascinating to see how small the stall's footprint was and how little space the vendors inside had at their disposal. Separate windows sold fish balls, noodles, fried chicken, scallion pancakes, steamed bao, corn, and more, all in the blink of an eye—the slowest part of the transaction was digging out quarters from your pocket.
If you hear updates about about the food stall or its vendors, please share them in the comments. In the meantime, do you have a favorite spot for scallion pancakes or bao nearby for hungry commuters? We want to know.