For the first three years, Adam Starowicz never stepped foot on the 7 train. The chef at North River had lived in Bushwick, the Financial District, and the Upper East Side, but it wasn't until he got married and needed more space that he looked into Queens. Today he's lived in Sunnyside for nearly four years, and Starowicz describes the neighborhood as not only safe and increasingly popular, but also as a place with more late-night restaurants than parts of Manhattan—an essential requirement for a busy chef.
Pizza: I always order a pepperoni pizza from Sunnyside Pizza on 40th Street well done with extra sauce. They put sesame seeds around the crust, too. The pizza is thin crust, so it's kind of dangerous to eat hot; the hot cheese slides off. Fortunately it reheats well in a cast iron skillet. I've probably eaten all the pizza in the area, and this one's really solid. Plus a large pepperoni costs just 18 bucks.
Burger: Wendy's Double Baconator with a small lemonade and fries. I also order a small seltzer, drink half of that and the lemonade, and then mix them together because the lemonade on its own is super-sweet. Anyway, the burger is so good—greasy, slightly smokey, sweet—and you can eat it all in 90 seconds. So I feel awful afterward. This is a local Wendy's designed for people in Sunnyside. The quality is a bit different. There's a community of people that eat there—they all dine in. It's better than other burgers in the area.
Bagel: Dave's Bagels and Grill. I get whitefish salad on a whole wheat everything bagel toasted with butter, lettuce, onion, and tomato. It's a weird place. It's open 24 hours about 75 percent of the time. I always get that specific order after my late-night shift, maybe once or twice a week.
Breakfast: I'll grab breakfast at this Japanese grocery store: Taiyo Foods. I buy a tuna-mayo onigiri and a Calpico soda, which has this great milky flavor. I do this most mornings before work. They're kind of boutique-y and really clean. They have pork katsu bowls, too.
Bakery: I like anything with almonds at El Buen Sabor. I've tried a few bakeries around here. The pastries are not that awesome, but for the area, it's one of the better places. I'm 6'4" and blonde. When I walk in, they look at me a little funny. But I like going in there and asking what everyone else is getting, acting like a regular.
Date Spot: At Salt and Fat, the menu is designed for you to get a lot of plates and share. The food and space are cool, and the last time I was there, they played through entire albums instead of jumping song to song, which I respect. It's a casual place, but they have a dish with foie gras, mandarin orange, and bacon brittle—Momofuku Ko [where I once worked] had something similar. You can order eight things between two people and not feel overwhelmed.
Take out: Don Pollo. The half-chicken with rice and beans. It's a pretty solid roasted chicken and it's super cheap. The rice and beans reheat well.
Chinese: Mr. Wonton on Queens Boulevard. Standard greasy beef and broccoli. Sunnyside Pizza is best to order take out, but in desperate times, we'll go here for the beef and broccoli with fried rice.
Bar: At Bar 43, I'll get a double order of wings, waffle fries and a Guinness. They have a dozen big screens playing every game you can think of.
Fine Dining: There's not much in Sunnyside that I would call fine dining, but I think Takesushi is maybe the best value sushi restaurant in the city. If we're trying to go for a nice dinner, we'll go there. The guy who owns it is a sushi purveyor, so he has amazing deals on seafood. We just go crazy and get a bunch of fish. He'll sometimes have blowfish on the menu, and there's uni from California and Maine. And they have a $3 corkage fee, so you can bring a nice wine.