Cheesy, oily, mega-enchiladas have their place. When you're not in that place yourself, these lighter ones do quite well.
A quick glance at the pubs that line Queens Boulevard in Sunnyside may have you thinking that the neighborhood is solely Irish territory. But there's some great Middle Eastern food if you know where to look.
Your typical New York Turkish restaurant is a nice-ish affair: smartly dressed waiters and white tablecloths, coursed meals, [middling] wine lists. But there are plenty of mom and pop shops that offer food which is just as good if not better, sometimes for as little as half the price, depending on how much atmosphere you're willing to sacrifice. Mangal Kebab in Sunnyside is one of them.
None of the grilled meat at Grill 43 wows me, but their cold salads and dips ($4 to $5 each) are worth a visit all on their own. A plate of four will run you $13.95 which, with endless refills of warm, crusty bread, makes a worthy light lunch for two (or a piggish meal for one).
The savory offerings at Romanian Garden, grilled meats and vegetable dips, tend to taste like the blander, fattier versions of versions in Sunnyside's better Turkish and Lebanese restaurants. But this cafe has some charming outdoor seating on a quiet stretch of 43rd Avenue, and it's a more than pleasant place to hit up for coffee and dessert.
Last month I was invited to a supper club meeting at Tangra Asian Fusion, an Indian-Chinese restaurant with locations in Elmhurst and Sunnyside. My friend who belonged to the supper club described the cuisine as mainly Chinese food infused with Indian character—"super junky and fun!" was what she wrote. Well, I make it a point in my life never to turn down anything super junky and fun.
The Sunnyside Mexican favorite has opened a second location in Astoria. One of the tastier offerings is this pork sandwich, which is way more fresh and texturally interesting than most of the taqueria tortas out there.
Market Tours: Irish Ham, Boiling Bacon, and Black Pudding at The Butcher's Block in Sunnyside, Queens
On a quiet side street off Queens Boulevard in Sunnyside, Queens, there's a cartoony wooden cutout of a maniacally gleeful butcher (with unnaturally blue eyes), grasping a red cow. Then you notice the shamrocks painted on the window behind him. And the bold red letters hinting at other treats inside: boiling bacon, corned beef, black and white pudding, rashers. Welcome to The Butcher's Block, one of NYC's few Irish grocery stores.