In a nondescript shopping mall, just past a plastic bottle recycling station, in Jackson Heights, Queens, lies one of the best French bakeries in New York. Case in point: this all-chocolate, all-the-time dessert.
Jackson Heights, Queens
The French pastries at Cannelle Patisserie in Jackson Heights aren't all created equal. The Choux pastries are excellent, the short pastry is generally commendable, the croissants skippable. Somewhere between those first two categories, just below the beautiful St. Honoré cream puff and right above their elegant pear tart, is this Gateau Breton.
With a perfectly light interior crust that's just flaky enough to offer a satisfying crunch, this apple pastry at Cannelle worth the trek to Jackson Heights.
When we, as diners, talk about how delicious a plate of street food can be, it's easy to lose sight of just how tenuous the career of a street vendor—especially an immigrant street vendor—is. For this brief moment, the Arepa Lady reminded me that for those who come to America to make a new and better life for themselves, cooking (even saintly cooking of national infamy) isn't necessarily the life they have in mind.
The bread basket at this Uruguayan steakhouse is piled high with big, fluffy rolls. They're fresh and warm, but not that good—their crust is lacking, their crumb is bland. But they serve an important purpose that I consider as vital to a meal here as the meat itself: they take care of the Provolone ($7.50).
The first thing to notice in your average New York barbecue joint is the design. Earth tones. Distressed wood. Painstaking efforts to make the place feel more casual than its position in the ruthless New York restaurant world would suggest.
That's not the case at Alchemy, Texas, a barbecue joint in the back of an old man sports bar in Jackson Heights. The wood's been there for a while. So have the balding men drinking at the bar. I get the impression that the plastic red-checker tablecloths were bought to fancy up the place.
And the 'cue? On a good day, it's up there with some of New York's great smoked meat. On other days it disappoints. As the two-month-old spot settles into a groove with its customers and works through the quirks of its smoker, that success seems likely to improve. In the meantime, go early in the evening. And spring for the beef.
When it comes to brisket, I've found that Queens barbecue falls behind its Manhattan and Brooklyn colleagues. But if my sample from the new Alchemy, Texas in Jackson Heights is an indication of future success, the scales are starting to level out.
Popping out of the 74th Street-Broadway station in Jackson Heights, chef Andy Ricker of Pok Pok was ready to take us on a Thai market tour around the neighborhood. We traipsed up and down the aisles of a few markets specializing in Thai products as he pointed out the ones he likes (frozen coconut milk) and those he really doesn't care for (canned curry pastes; "don't ever buy them, please.").
The cream-stuffed desserts are my personal favorites at Cannelle Patisserie, but this Pear Tart ($2.50) gives them a run for their money. Because the pastry base isn't really a tart crust—it's shortbread.
Fried sweet plantains are common enough, but at Cevicheria El Rey in Elmhurst they're exceptionally sweet.
Urubamba, in Jackson Heights, is a restaurant to root for, with a clientele utterly devoted to its takes on traditional Peruvian food.
This week's noodle reporting took me to Phayul in Jackson Heights, a Tibetan restaurant on the corner of 37th road, on the second floor of a building on top of a beauty parlor and a kebab joint. Though Phayul has many noodle dishes, the real kicker is the broth.
The Himalayan food at Mustang Thakali Kitchen is very vegetarian-friendly; don't skimp on their flavorful sauces.
Shoko sil sil ngoe ma shows the trouble that comes from confusing humble with meek. It's the Tibetan food equivalent of going from 0 to 80 in no seconds flat.
The once solely Indian section of Jackson Heights, Queens, has become a hotbed of Himalayan food and culture over the past several years. We had our friend Joe DiStefano show us some of his favorite bites of the neighborhood. Come take a look at our tour.
As important to Himalayan food as sliced bread is to Americans, fluffy steamed tingmo is the best starch to soak up the curry-like sauces and pungent pickles of Tibetan and Nepali cooking.
It's easy to miss the sign for this place. After all, it's buried under an awning that says "Net Gen" in large letters, and the only marking for Bombay Chat lies below PASSPORT PHOTO and INTERNET/FAX. Yet despite the WTF mash-up, this place sells the best pani puri I've had in New York.
When the thunderstorm hits, it's best to be somewhere warm, with flowery bachata music tinkling in the background, sheltered by sturdy walls and good food. Tacos Morelos, just might be the place.
A non-descript antojito cart at Junction Boulevard serves a special snack: the unique tlacoyos, served simply and vegetarian-friendly, with ancient purple ayocote beans.
There are over a dozen Himalayan places to get momos in Jackson Heights. We recently went on a crawl to try them all.