Ramadan And Bacon Don’t Mix. But A Hate Crime?

Throwing uncooked bacon all over a field on Staten Island is a reckless waste of bacon. And it also might be a hate crime, authorities say, when the field is the site of a Muslim religious ceremony — which it was.

Police are investigating pieces of bacon being strewn about John D’Amato Field on New Dorp Lane on Staten Island over the weekend, where about 1,500 Muslims gathered Sunday morning to celebrate the end of Ramadan.

According to the Koran, “He has made unlawful for you that which dies of itself (caracas) and blood and the flesh of swine and that on which the name of any other than Allah has been invoked. But he who is driven by necessity, being neither disobedient nor exceeding the limit, then surely, Allah is Most Forgiving, Merciful.”

In other words, Muslims don’t dig on swine.

Police are investigating the bacon-ing as a hate crime because of its obvious religious implications — it seems like a bit of a stretch that a field is littered with bacon the very day Muslims are planning to worship there.

Hate crimes are no joke — the penalties for a crime increase significantly when the “hate” component” is added. But is throwing bacon in a field really a hate crime?

The “hate” part can’t really be disputed — again, it’s probably not a coincidence that bacon ended up scattered all over a field where Muslims planned to worship. But is throwing bacon on a field a “criminal” act?

New York penal law defines hate crimes as “criminal acts involving violence, intimidation and destruction of property based upon bias and prejudice.”

“Criminal acts” is the tricky part — dropping bacon in a field, essentially, is littering, which in most cases is a violation, not a crime. It could be viewed as “intimidating,” but the law says the “intimidating” behavior must be a “criminal act” for it to qualify as a hate crime.

However, some creative prosecution could up the violation to a misdemeanor when classified as “criminal mischief,” which is defined as when a person “intentionally damages property of another person.”

In this case, however, the property that was “damaged” belongs to the city, not a private individual.

Regardless of whether it’s a hate crime, if you dump bacon in a field you know is going to be used by Muslims to worship, you’re an asshole. You’re no better than the scumbags who spray-paint swastikas on Jewish temples, so knock it off. Then jump in front of a bus.


Paula Deen Responds to Anthony Bourdain; Chipotle Addresses Bacon in Beans

It would appear that dogs are the final frontier when it comes to gourmet food trucks. Bocce’s Bakery launched its Biscuit Bike this summer, offering organic dog treats, including cupcakes.
[NY Post]

Paula Deen shot back at Anthony Bourdain after he called her the “most dangerous person in America” by touting her own charity work.
[NY Post]

Burger King’s new ad campaign debuts this weekend, featuring beauty shots of fresh ingredients being prepped and not a King in sight.
[USA Today]

Chipotle warns vegetarians of the bacon content in its pinto beans on its website, but not on menus. After the CEO got a letter from a Maxim editor, the policy is changing.
[Huffington Post]

Ramadan will coincide with the 2012 Olympics, meaning certain athletes will be fasting, which could affect their performance.
[New Scientist]


Gourmet Sweets and Restaurant Spreads Its Treats to Queens

There’s nothing like eating with people who have been fasting to put you in a celebratory mood. After the sun went down each day of Ramadan, customers started streaming into Gourmet Sweets and Restaurant, a new South Asian place in Jackson Heights, eager to break their 13-hour fasts with the iftar meal. The eatery’s huge plate-glass windows blazed with light, revealing rainbow-hued sweets piled high in their display cases, and red, white, and blue plastic bunting fluttering from every available surface.

One evening, a private iftar party rollicked in Gourmet’s upstairs dining room, and the main floor was completely packed. At one table, three young men avidly slurped falooda, the sweet rose-syrup and vermicelli drink. At another, a lone woman in a spangled brown chador downed a plate of goat biryani, while a large family occupied several tables pushed together, the women wearing the loose tunics and pants called salwar kameez passing plate after heaping plate, their children fidgeting with toys, hopped up on holiday atmosphere.

This restaurant is a branch of a smaller spot called Gourmet Sweets and Snacks in the Pakistani neighborhood on Coney Island Avenue in Midwood. The original concentrates on mithai (South Asian sweets) and small savories, while the new Jackson Heights location is a spacious, full-fledged restaurant, open now nearly four months.

The menu advertises Pakistani, Indian, and Bangladeshi cuisine, and when I asked about the style of the mithai, the genial guy behind the counter confirmed they’re a mix from all of those traditions. The harried but friendly employees speak to each other in either Hindi or Urdu—it’s hard to tell because the two languages sound similar, and share many words, including “bhai,” for “brother,” which gets bandied around a lot. Though Gourmet cooks dishes common to the three countries—like haleem—the place has a meat-heavy, Pakistani slant.

Most of the restaurant’s repertoire is arrayed on a long steam table, though the food does not suffer from sitting around. Maybe it was because all my visits came during Ramadan, which produced a high turnover, but Gourmet’s food is vibrantly, impressively fresh-tasting. In any case, many restaurants keep pre-prepared foods warm, even if they’re hidden away in the kitchen—no one is braising lamb curry to order. Behind the steam table glow two large tandoors, and next to them, a floured work surface where bread dough is slapped into shape before being thrown in the fire. You can order by pointing at what looks good, but I’ve found it more helpful to look at a menu first and choose a few dishes I definitely want to try. That way, if you are not South Asian yourself, you can avoid being steered away from spicy beef nehari and toward chicken tikka.

Gourmet’s food is a testament to all the many wonderful things one can make with humble cuts of meat, lentils and rice, and plenty of spice. Most iconic among them is haleem, the lentil, wheat, and meat stew that’s particularly popular during Ramadan. The version here tastes appealingly simple, the creamy yellow mung dal and barley simmered together for so long that it becomes a uniform, golden potage, humming with ginger and chilies. One evening, the haleem floated with tender hunks of chicken, though the restaurant probably also serves it with the more common mutton.

But the fireworks start with the goat curry: Rubbed with spices and cooked on the bone for such a long time that the meat goes limpid and utterly tender, it has the texture of pulled pork (not that you would find that here). Piled in a heap, with no gravy except its own drippings, the goat gave up the bone easily as we plucked bites of the green-chile-spiced flesh with bits of warm whole-wheat roti. Then, as is deliciously obligatory, we sucked out the gelatinous marrow.

Richer still is beef nihari, a classic Pakistani shank stew. Gourmet’s soupy rendition has a smooth, chocolate-brown gravy: an almost impossibly complex mix of long-simmered beef stock and ground spices with a layer of golden fat floating on top. The braised shank meat, sticky and luscious, lurks within, and when you spoon up a mouthful, it emerges like a sunken ship, heavy and dripping.

But unlike some other humble eateries, Gourmet does not rely on slicks of oil to make food taste good. (They’re only deployed when appropriate!) Keema, a heavily spiced ground-meat dish a bit like chili without the broth, arrives in a great pile of browned minced chicken, mung beans, tomatoes, green chilies, and cilantro. (This particular rendition is called “keema green peas” on the menu.) Nothing could be more wholesome.

The tandoors are employed to make a variety of flatbreads, including a hearty keema-stuffed naan. Whole-wheat rotis, pleasantly blistered in spots, are less substantial, and can be used as a utensil when eating with your hands. Aside from those breads, a menagerie of grilled meats sizzle in the fire. Skip the tiny quail, which look beautiful but taste mummified, and go for meats that hold up under intense heat, like the wonderful behari kebab, extremely tender slices of beef coated in a garlicky marinade. Lamb chops are so charred they flirt with overdone, but I love that carbonized crunch.

Before heading back out into the night, get a box of mithai. With such a large selection, there are bound to be some clunkers, but the sweets are cheap enough that you won’t mind, and all of them are remarkably fresh, though again, that could be because of Ramadan. From the teetering stacks of dairy-based confections, I chose the carrot burfi, fluffy and almond-studded, and the dense milk cake, which might remind you of cheesecake. I snuck bites from the box on my way home, vowing to stick to a secular fast the next day.


Little Sheba

Though the smeary pink interior of 145 Luncheonette is accented with fake brick like a ’60s diner, a squint through the window reveals an Arabic menu at the end of the room with no English translations. A mural on one wall depicts a town of adobe towers backed by breathtaking cliffs, while an airline poster reminds us that Yemen is “The Land of the Queen of Sheba.” Don’t worry if you can’t read the menu, because your host will bring you a set meal (approximately $6.50 per person, exact price revealed with your bill). It begins with a straw-colored soup, a delicate consommé of lamb that would do any French restaurant proud. Though it’s not quite curry, flavors like turmeric and ground coriander emerge, and you can make out a few morsels of celery and onion in the darkly translucent depths. In good time a salad of romaine, tomato, onion, and flat-leaf parsley arrives, unremarkable save for the crispness of its greens and a tangy, substantial vinaigrette.

Consistent with Arab hospitality customs, the food is served communally, and the salad appears with radiating forks already in place. You will be offered plates, which you should refuse unless your fellow diners are visibly diseased, or you mistrust them to share. The meat course comes on a round metal platter, bedded with sepia-stained rice marvelously aromatic of cinnamon and meat juices. At intervals around the perimeter little piles of a thick potato stew occur, so good you’ll wish you’d gotten more. But the focus is the meat. The selection is negotiable, although Yemeni favorites like kidneys and liver run out early in the day. On several visits we enjoyed pleasantly charred lamb chops, a tender roast chicken with burnished skin intact, a heap of baby lamb rib nicely salted and falling off the bone, and mutton that had been thickly smeared with hawayij, a spice paste of caraway, black peppercorns, cardamom, and turmeric. Only the boiled lamb disappointed; it was tough and most of the flavor had already disappeared into the soup.

Such a prodigious meat display would be a rarity in impoverished Yemen, a feast appropriate to the end of Ramadan or some other festive occasion. But 145 Luncheonette also offers the common fare of the country, if you can read the menu or know to ask for it. First, there’s fatut, a pottage of chopped vegetables and jalapeños in a stout broth buoying fragments of pita that dampen, become gummy, and eventually disintegrate. Another comforting concoction is assid, a giant doughnut-shaped dumpling with a lake of sauce in the middle. Tear off fragments of this African-style mash with your fingers and dip.

But foremost is salta, which sails in enshrined in a black iron cauldron that bubbles and sputters alarmingly. Underneath is a concentrated meat-and-vegetable gravy, while on top, a thick foam seems to be the product of some chemical reaction gone astray. It’s hulba, an emulsion of powdered fenugreek seed and lemon that imbues the dish with a sour and bitter flavor. In Yemen it doubles as a folk remedy, and I can personally testify that it’s good for what ails you.


Queens For A Day

Online this and online that—if you want a “portal” to the rest of the world, turn the computer off and head to Queens. You don’t have to stare at a screen to expand your horizons.

New York City has been losing population at a steady rate, and Nassau County is the No. 1 destination for those people fleeing the city. Meanwhile, immigration from other countries into the city is higher than it’s been in nearly a century, and New York is being transformed. The wonks who specialize in such matters say that Queens is the most diverse county in the nation. About 40 percent of the 2 million people of Queens are foreign-born, and the murmur of more than 150 languages has created a modern-day babble on the island where you live.

You can look at it as confusing, or you can embrace it. The latter is much more rewarding.

Many descendants of the Italian, Irish and Jewish immigrants from previous generations have moved to Nassau and Suffolk, but there’s a steady stream arriving daily at the borough’s two airports (the 1999 version of Ellis Island). They’re revitalizing the city—thousands of Central Americans, South Americans, Chinese, ex-Soviets, Southeast Asians, South Asians, Koreans, Haitians. Did we mention Dominicans and Puerto Ricans? Mexicans? Israelis? Yes, even a new generation of Irish immigrants.

Manhattan, of course, will always be there. But on your way to the city for another dose of anti-suburban tonic, get off the expressways, parkways, subways and trains a few stops earlier.

Take a trip down, say, Roosevelt Avenue, where you can walk from South America to South Asia in just a few minutes. Look for the international grocery stores. Check out the restaurants. Stretch your legs. Dip yourself into the melting pot.

Flushing Town Hall: America The Musical

Is nothing in Queens permanent? “In no time at all,” the great saxophonist Illinois Jacquet once mused of life in the borough, “we had assembled the greatest community of black people in the country outside Harlem. We built a neighborhood to be proud of, a monument to black achievement.”

Italians could say the same thing. So could the Irish, the Jews and other immigrant groups of the past. Many of them invaded the potato fields of Long Island to build new neighborhoods. And now the way station that is Queens is host to increasing numbers of Koreans, Filipinos, Salvadorans, Dominicans, Colombians, Russians—the list is long. It’s been reported that 150 languages are spoken in Queens.

Including the universal one: music. Built in 1862 to house Union troops, the Flushing Town Hall has been refitted and converted into a beautiful state-of-the-art theater and café, where you can have a drink, dance, get it all done and start over. Right in the middle of the scintillating Asian downtown, there have been opera performances (a current exhibition zeroes in on Mozart and Solieri), funkmeister Stanley Turrentine raising the roof, Brazilian music and the Boys Choir of Harlem. World-class concerts every weekend in a place that somehow manages to be elegant as well as loose and low-down—probably as good a definition of American music as anything else is.

Flushing Town Hall is also the start of the Queens Jazz Trail, a day-bus tour to spots where an astonishing number of geniuses lived and played—Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie, Billie Holiday, Fats Waller, Dizzy Gillespie, Lena Horne, James Brown and Clark Terry. As a spectator sport, the trail is a joy, with visits to home (while neighbors give their insight and memories), barbershops, small clubs and churches. —Ambrose Clancy

Flushing Town Hall 137-35 Northern Boulevard. Take the Van Wyck to Northern Boulevard, go up four or five blocks and look to your left. If you pass the Boom-Boom Auto School, you’ve gone too far. 718-463-7700.

Life In the Fasting Lane

The Muslim man with the box of treats wanted to know whether I’d ever kept the fast of Ramadan, when for one lunar month each winter Islamic believers abstain from food, sex and even the smallest sip of water between the hours of dawn and sunset. Far from being looked at as a hardship, Ramadan is a time of rejoicing. “It’s our holy month,” the man said, smiling as he got into a car one night with his friends in Astoria. “We like it.”

Muslims believe the prophet Muhammad received the Holy Quran in Ramadan, the ninth month. The annual period of fasting and prayer began this year on Dec. 9, after the sighting of the ninth new crescent moon, and will end about 28 days later, when the next crescent rises and the three-day celebration of Eid—complete with feasts and presents—begins. Travelers, the ill, pregnant women and small children may all be exempted from fasting, but the rigors of Ramadan have a festive appeal that the North African immigrants in my neighborhood embraced with vigor.


In the days before the first crescent moon rose, the markets filled with sesame sweets, golden dates and pounds of rich Halal meat. My favorite shopkeeper on Steinway Street, a handsome man with the intellectual bearing of a poet, fashioned an Arabic holiday greeting out of cotton balls arranged on the glass door. The usual calls of “Asalaam Alaikum,” or “peace to you,” have given way to “Ramadan Mubarak,” which means something like “congratulations.”

Each evening when the fasting breaks, people flock to the mosque for prayers, then gather in restaurants and on corners. The cafes, which are usually full but stand empty during the days of Ramadan, suddenly fill with men smoking tobacco from water pipes and slapping one another on the back. My neighbors, men and women alike, crowd the shops as they gather food for that night’s feast. Even as midnight nears, whole families are still in the streets, walking from house to house, visiting and taking visitors in.

In the morning, a little trail of date pits will mark the path of this strolling celebration, an urban sidewalk souvenir from this ancient winter ritual of examining the soul, disciplining the body and drawing tight the bonds of community. —Laura Conaway

Socrates Sculpture Park: The shape of things to come

Typical of a borough that’s now in a constant state of re-creation is Socrates Sculpture Park. Once an illegal dump site along the East River, full of trash and abandoned cars, the park has in the past 13 years become a sculpture garden for everything from the monolithic to the whimsical. What a setting: the running tides, small islands and a giant city beyond. Within, Socrates Park features wind chimes and windmills, sculpture to climb on and sculptors to talk to. Amid a shower of sparks, Jason Reppert, a 25-year-old from Boston, works on a commission for the Fuller Building in Manhattan. He’s one of only a handful of artists who get fellowships to burn their ambitions on the rusty tables set up near the park entrance. Short of hanging around Socrates himself, what could be more inspiring to a sculptor? “It’s fantastic, to work out in the open with first-class tools, surrounded by all this,” says Reppert, gesturing to the garden, river and gleaming skyline. In Queens, the old is comfortable with the new. As if to prove it, Reppert points to an abandoned station wagon in the center of the park. “It’s what was here, and how it all was changed,” he says. “Check it out.”

Good advice. The beat-up, late ’60s Oldsmobile wagon looks like a remnant from the pre-park park until you peer through its windows: Inside is a pristine, perfectly miniaturized world of gleaming bathhouses, an empty room of polished parquet floors, everything bright and new and crisp. —AC

Socrates Sculpture Park 31-34 Vernon Blvd. Take the LIE to the BQE, merge onto Astoria Blvd. N, turn left at 21st St, right onto Broadway and stay straight until Vernon Blvd. Open daily 10am-sunset. 718-956-1819.

Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum: Hide and seek

Take 21st Street north, under the Queensborough Bridge to Broadway, hang a left, and then another left at the river to 32-37 Vernon Boulevard: You’ve just arrived at a nondescript building, just one of many in this warehouse district, but this one houses the Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum, one of America’s hidden troves of treasures. Step inside to the Japanese-American master’s inspiring legacy of Eastern and Western traditions harmoniously joined. Twelve galleries with changing exhibitions demonstrate Noguchi’s innovative work in sculpture, drawing, architecture, interior design and theater. More than 350 works are centered on a Zen garden—subtle, simple, lovely, timeless. —AC

Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum 32-37 Vernon Blvd. Take the LIE to the BQE, merge onto Astoria Blvd. N, turn left at 21st St, right onto Broadway and stay straight until Vernon Blvd. 718-721-1932.

P.S. 1: The grammar of high culture

South of the Queensborough Bridge, Long Island City opens up with a sense of sky and vistas unique in this ordinarily dense and crowded borough. The stark, beautiful mixture of factories, warehouses, rail yards and the soaring jade-green Citibank Tower converges with high art and modern pop culture at P.S. 1, a huge, neo-Gothic grammar school built a century ago. Once filled with immigrant kids who later fled to Long Island and became your grandparents and parents, the building fell into disrepair and was used as a book warehouse in the ’50s. By the late ’70s, the deterioration was complete, but then the Museum of Contemporary Art took over, transforming it into the school you always wanted to attend. Skylights have been cut into ceilings to provide an airy environment filled with light. The young, unfailingly polite workers in the museum are dressed not in uniforms but in hip-hop bags. The art challenges you not to smile. One room has two fans installed in a wall, blowing at hurricane power; another has just a fan swinging lazily from the ceiling creating hypnotic patterns. A large elevator contains a 1962 Italian roadster. Red, buzzing light floods a stairwell; when you emerge, everything looks green for awhile. Show-and-fell is still alive at this school: There’s a plastic chute that pretzels down three floors to the courtyard. Sign a waiver and you get to experience the feeling of being shot out of a cannon. Don’t tell Giuliani, but even a series of pictures of a naked woman chained to a rod seems innocent and non-threatening. —AC


P.S. 1 22-25 Jackson Avenue, at 46th Avenue, in Long Island City. Take the LIRR, via Jamaica, to Hunters Point Station. By car, take the LIE to Van Dam Street (the last exit before the toll), right on Van Dam, left on Thompson, left on Jackson. 718-784-2084.

AMMI: Keepin’ it reel

Before Hollywood was Hollywood, Astoria was Hollywood. And in a way, it still is. The American Museum of the Moving Image, blessedly far from the Left Coast headquarters of the film and TV industry, bills itself as the only museum in the country devoted to the art and technology of movies and TV. More than 500 screenings a year emanate from this space, most of them in a comfortable theater with easily the best projection and sound facilities in New York. Don’t feel like watching? Then do something: You can create your own animation or reprogram the soundtrack of Terminator II with Road Runner effects. Or, watch someone else create: See a baseball game on the monitors in a production truck and listen to a director create TV from practically nothing. (Hmm, maybe that isn’t so novel after all.)

Get off your duff and check out some of the 7,000 artifacts, ranging from 19th century flip books to the Seinfeld diner set. Somehow you get the feeling that a California-based museum honoring movies and TV would be considerably tackier, (maybe with a separate wing devoted to Hollywood Squares). Here, Red Grooms’ Tut’s Fever Movie Palace serves as an over-the-top homage to the great theaters of the past where you can watch old movie serials until your eyes fall out or see contemporary and classic films in optimum conditions. Worth a separate visit is a permanent installation by Gregory Barsamian, a three-dimensional sculpture of moving objects and strobe lights that may be more magical than movies themselves. —AC

AMMI 35th Avenue at 36th Street, in Astoria. From the Island, take the Northern State Parkway to the Grand Central Parkway, exit at Hoyt Avenue (the last exit before toll). Left on 31st Street, right on 35th Avenue. 718-784-0077.

Queens for Queens

Juan Miguel has spent less than 10 minutes in Friends, the anchor hangout in a string of gay bars on Roosevelt Avenue in Jackson Heights, but already he’s the belle of the ball.

“It’s freedom here,” he declares, preening near the bar in a Nike muscle T-shirt, struggling to find enough English to describe his elation about moving from Colombia to Manhattan two weeks ago and finally being an out gay man in America. A guy from Jersey buys him a beer and fetches him an extra bar stool from across the dimly lit room as his friend ogles from the sidelines. All around, other recent immigrants from Latin America, Puerto Rico and Cuba chat to one another in Spanish, throw back cocktails and cruise each other not-so-slyly.

This is “the Roosevelt,” the gay ghetto of Jackson Heights that’s as revered as the Village or the Castro for gay people arriving from Spanish-speaking countries.

Within 10 blocks, boys and girls can choose from a variety places: the friendly Friends (78-11 Roosevelt Ave., 718-397-7256); the new Club Atlantis 2010 (76-19 Roosevelt Ave., 718-457-3939), drawing in a young, late crowd with strippers and drag shows; the Music Box (40-08 74 St., 718-457-5306), a dark and mellow place with a pool table that also pulls in a 20- and 30-something group (and even a few women); Zodiac Tavern (69-19 Roosevelt Ave., 718-899-4724), with drag shows and DJ dancing; Lucho’s (38-19 69th St., 718-899-9320), a dark and fun place with go-go boys; and Bum Bum Bar (a.k.a. The Bar, 63-14 Roosevelt Ave., 718-651-4145), with lesbian night on Thursdays, where I recently watched a fired-up butch-femme couple do a mean and sexy salsa between rounds of pool. And that’s not to mention the gay clubs that pepper the rest of Queens, like the packed and fabulous Krash (34-48 Steinway St., 718-937-2400) in Astoria or Hatfield’s (126-10 Queens Blvd., 718-575-3014) in Kew Gardens.


It’s where to go when you’re tired of the white-bread Long Island scene, but not quite up for the attitude and high prices of Manhattan. In Friends, two beers were $6—and after only an hour visit, my pal and I hugged five new buddies good-bye. —Beth Greenfield

Aqueduct: A Sure Thing

Before the bugler blows, eager characters at this snazzed-up, refurbished racetrack in southern Queens are ready to teach you how to decode a racing form. Most of the time, anyway. The other day, an enthusiastic degenerate gambler named Skelly Billy gave up trying to teach two Hofstra sophomores about track conditions and early speed by saying, “Look, bet the jockey, bet the color of the horse or his name. You’ll do as good as anyone in here. Just have fun.”

Just don’t go with the idea of climbing out of debt. With that in mind, Aqueduct may be the cheapest sporting event in the tri-state area. A dollar for parking, three dollars for admission and you’re in. Take 20 bucks to bet all races and enjoy the uncommon spectacle of winter racing in a northern climate. The beauty and nobility of the animals in full flight, steam rising off them, their breath pouring out in clouds—this is a sensuous sport. Watch the crouched, motionless jockeys in their bright silks, and hear the roar of the bettors rising as the pack turns for home.

So what if somebody else bet on the bay. After your nag finishes out of the money, drown your sorrows and refuel your ego right on the spot at New York’s largest restaurant, Equestris, with seating for 1,500, several great bars, deli counters and burger stands. Sit in the Man O’ War Room with a drink and listen to an old-timer screaming at the TV during a race beamed from Laurelton, Maryland: “Get up there! Get up there!” When his horse finishes out of the money, his pal says laconically, “He didn’t hear you.”

After the races, beat the old-timer and his pal to the Eclipse Lounge at 111-46 Lefferts. From the outside, it looks like a good place in which to get stabbed, but the patrons are good people. Monday through Wednesday, drinks are half price; Friday and Saturday, there’s live rock and salsa. —AC

Aqueduct Raceway Rockaway Boulevard and 110th Street, in southern Queens. Belt Parkway west to Exit 18B (Lefferts Boulevard/N. Conduit Avenue). Stay on N. Conduit to Aqueduct’s entrance. 718-848-3169.


A vibrant Asian hometown away from home, Flushing isn’t laden with tourists like Manhattan’s Chinese neighborhood. It’s a real Chinatown. The businesses are here for the people who live in its apartments and houses, for the diverse Asian community now sprawling throughout the greater Flushing area east to Bayside and Little Neck.

Head south on Main Street, and just across the Expressway past the cemetery is a strong Orthodox Jewish community that keeps adding immigrants from Eastern Europe and Israel. NAOMI’S FALAFEL, the first and only place to get a falafel in Queens 30 years ago, has now been joined by COLBEH, a kosher Persian restaurant that has branches in Great Neck and Manhattan, serving all kinds of kebabs.

The depth of the restaurants here is well documented. Outposts of restaurants from Chinatown are here in force: JOE’S SHANGHAI (with its famous soup dumplings), PENANG MALAYSIAN (its Roti Canai at half the price of the restaurant’s branches in Soho and Uptown) and new arrival SHANGHAI TANG. But hundreds of places are native to Flushing, like SWEET HOUSE, on Prince Street off Roosevelt, a small Taiwanese drink bar that specializes in tapioca drinks and teas. Black and white tapioca pearls are ladled into tall glasses containing various concoctions of fruit-flavored liquids—or you can have taro, mint, mung-bean paste or Ovaltine-based drinks. The menu also offers iced drinks with a choice of three items, like corn, barley, gelatin, peach, pineapple, palm seed, mung bean, red bean, seaweed jelly or peanuts. Snacks ranging from toast and jam to a whole chicken are also available, but this place is a cool little café designed for after dinner or a snack with one of the drinks.

The SWEET-N-TART CAFÉ, which opened a few years ago on 38th Avenue and then branched into Manhattan’s Chinatown, is an ultra-modern place, and that fits Flushing, which has become a trendsetter because many affluent Taiwanese have settled here, preferring to leave Chinatown to the tourists. Sweet and Tart specializes in sago drinks. (Sago is extracted from the pith of the sago palm and processed into flour and pearls like tapioca.) The sago is then mixed into tea with different flavor combinations like mint or cinnamon green tea and almond or taro milk tea. The main attraction here, though, is Tong Sui, concoctions purported to enhance health that are blended behind a sleek counter surrounded by mounds of fresh fruit. Some come cold, some come hot and some come double-boiled. The hot Tong Shui can be eaten like soup. More common fruit and vegetable drinks with ingredients like carrots and watermelon instead of lotus seeds or snow frogs are also available. The kitchen in back turns out dishes like sausage and taro on rice, served in bamboo bowl.


The Mets still play at Shea, of course, which is only a short walk from downtown Flushing. Other landmarks, however, are gone, like the old Keith theater and Diskin’s, a venerable clothing store on Roosevelt Avenue. Back in the day, Diskin’s sold purple bell-bottoms and tie-dyed shirts to nascent hippies, but the real attraction was that it was one of only two places in Queens that sold tickets for the Fillmore East. Since then, Flushing has undergone a cultural revolution. Right down the street from where Diskin’s used to be, among the noodle joints, is a tea and herb shop called SHUN AN TONG, dominated by large barrels of ginseng roots in the middle of the floor. This is the frontline for standbys like ginseng and for herbal remedies like Tu Gee San, an herb mixture that purports to treat sexual impotency and frequent urination.

Up Main Street is BUDDHA BODAI NATURE VEGETARIAN RESTAURANT, which opened in June. With Chef Weng in the kitchen an entire menu of delicious mock Chinese food has been constructed from tofu and wheat gluten. This style of cooking got its start when Buddhist cooks in China started cooking vegetarian versions of popular Chinese foods for their guests at monasteries. Kung Pao chicken, jumbo shrimp with walnuts and steak with Chinese broccoli couldn’t all be made with tofu, could they? Tasting is believing. The “beef,” served with broccoli, looked genuine and was perfectly textured and tender. The curry chicken is an uncanny recreation. Do we even need meat? Or bell-bottoms, for that matter? —Ron M. Beigel


Still the Greek bastion of the five boroughs with restaurants, clubs and banks firmly entrenched in the area, Astoria now is attracting Manhattanites with its reasonable rents and quick commute. But a newer wave of cultures led by immigrants from North Africa and the Middle East is adding another form of richness to the cultural stew, especially on Steinway Street right off the Grand Central Parkway.

The EGYPTIAN COFFEE SHOP, for example, is like a slice of the Middle East—without the violence. Here you can enjoy thick coffee while toking on a rented hookah loaded with strong tobacco. Three bucks is all you need. An oven supplies the coals that sit atop the tobacco in the water pipe. The long room has a large-screen TV playing movies and tapes of TV shows from back home. Places like the nearby AL IMAN FOOD MARKET sport barrels of dried figs, along with other reminders of home, like Halawa pistachio dessert spread, eaten on toast with tea or coffee. Cross the street and you’ve traveled all the way across Africa to Morocco, to a restaurant called LA KASBAH, its clay pots for cooking couscous sitting in the window. —Ron M. Beigel


For most Long Islanders, Woodside is nothing more than the name of the last stop before Penn Station on the LIRR. But for those of you who change at Woodside for the No. 7 IRT upstairs, head downstairs one day. You’ll find yourself in Latin America.

From its beginnings at Queens Boulevard in the west to just before Shea Stadium in the east, with the No. 7 rumbling overhead, Roosevelt Avenue is dominated by South American restaurants, stores and offices stretching from Woodside through Jackson Heights to Corona.

But that’s not all in this polyglot area. Hard by the BQE, the PHIL-AM GROCERY on the corner of Roosevelt and 70th Street, across the street from the Phillipine National Bank, is crammed with produce like green wrinkled bitter melons and long melons. In back is the meat counter where you can buy delicious longanizas. These pork sausages have sweet barbecue sauce already mixed inside the casing, which oozes out as you fry them. Ensaymada or sweet bread are made in New Jersey and trucked over for local Filipinos. (Get the ones with the Monterey jack inside. It’s really a Filipino cheese Danish.) Mama Sita’s barbecue sauce is a dark, sweet soy-sauce based marinade perfect for soaking steaks overnight.


Not everything here is so new. THE PHILIPPINE GRILL at 69th Street and Roosevelt has anchored the community for quite a few years now, offering such new treats to Long Islanders as goat stew, deep fried pork belly with liver sauce and menudo.

Down the block, at 68th Street, you’re in South America again, munching on a quick snack of churros (long cinnamon-and -sugar coated pastries) with coffee from LA URUGUAYA/LA PARAGUAYITA BAKERY.


American culture has often been hatched in Queens, and one of the most famous bits has nothing to do with the borough’s deep history of jazz and jazz musicians. At the intersection of Broadway and Elmhurst Avenue is Moore Homestead Park, the former residence of Clement C. Moore, the 19th century academician destined to be forever known for “A Visit from St. Nicholas.” Legend has it that Moore, a stuffy classics professor at a theological seminary in Manhattan, had a brainstorm on a sleigh ride home from Greenwich Village one evening in 1822. Ordinarily a dour academician known for his two-volume Compendious Lexicon of the Hebrew Language, Moore was inspired not only by the chubby Dutchman who drove the sleigh that day but by Washington Irving’s satires of New York’s Dutch population and by a contemporaneous Christmas poem that linked Santa Claus to reindeer, according to folklorist David Emery.

Much to Moore’s chagrin, Emery says, his verse, “‘Twas the night before Christmas…,” written just for his own six children, was published behind his back and became his only claim to fame.

The home is gone, and in its stead are swings and monkey bars. And a new era of Queens has taken root. On the corner is a branch of Asia Bank, which also has branches in Flushing and Chinatown. Next to the bank is a Long Island-style strip shopping center anchored by a Key Food supermarket. The rest of the center is a food paradise: One after another sits JOE’S SHANGHAI, PENANG TASTE, PHO BAC, TAKRAI THAI, SINGA PIZZA and PHO BANG (one of six Pho Bangs in Queens and Manhattan). Pho Bac and Pho Bang are Vietnamese soup places—perfect for a chilly day.

Jackson Heights

The new Queens has crossroads found in few other American cities. Think it’s a lonely planet? Not after you’ve traveled to Bogota and Bombay on the same Saturday afternoon, in the same neighborhood.

On the block of Northern Boulevard between 83rd and 84th streets lies the Colombian stronghold of New York. Follow the food: JAIMIE’S CORNER GROCERY plants its bins of plantains and chili peppers on the sidewalk; down the block is SEBA SEBA BAKERY (Seba stands for “selling everything baked appetizing”). ESMERALDA DE COLOMBIA restaurant features a “country platter” of grilled skirt steak, white rice, black beans, a piece of smoked pork skin, a small biscuit, a fried egg and a slice of avocado, all for $5.75. Breakfast offerings include corn-meal pancakes. For a couple of dollars, the fruity milk drink called guanabana sweetens things up.

Across the street at LA QUINDIANITA BAKERY, owner Luis Ocasio explains the sweet corn cake and the cheese pancakes for sale on the counter. What looks like a half-eaten roasted pig on the back counter seems more interesting. A dish that’s originally from the town of Tolimense, it consists of a cooked pig with the meat cut out, mixed with rice and peas and stuffed back into the animal, re-creating the torso.

At LA PERRERA DE JOE‘s (Joe’s Hot Dog Stand) on Roosevelt and 81st Street, Raoul dishes out a Colombian perro with potato chips, cheese, onion, salsa, pineapple sauce and chili. If you want something less elaborate try the Equadorean perro with onion and tomato.

Forget Colonel Sanders. Colombian chicken places, like the POLLOS A LA BRASA MARIO at 81st Street and Roosevelt, do the rotisserie thing well and they offer corn stew and chicken consomme, too.

And then, you’re in India.

74th Street has long been the main shopping street for the South Asian population in Queens. The famous JACKSON DINER, with its generous lunch buffet, has been bringing together people of all nations for years. Surrounding the diner are scores of restaurants and stores. You can sample the cuisines of Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and India off 74th St. at KABAB KING PALACE, where Chinese food prepared with Halal meat is a favorite. But the real attractions are kebabs cooked on three-foot-long spears over red coals. —RMB

Cambria Heights

Go ahead, stick a foot into the melting pot. See, it doesn’t hurt. If you’ve spent most of your life skipping over Queens, start off nice and slow with a trip just to the other side of the Nassau-Queens border. Just over the county line, on Linden Boulevard west of the Cross Island Parkway, is the renewed and vibrant middle-class community of Cambria Heights. This is quite a bit more exotic than, say, Rockville Centre. Here on Linden are Haitian groceries like CHEZ MIELLE, which displays wood carvings and T-shirts in the window. At JAKE’S BLUE MOUNTAIN CUISINE at 228th Street, take-out Jamaican meals of oxtail, goat’s head soup and cow foot are dispensed from behind a bullet-proof plexiglass window. The place’s motto: “Out Of Many One Pot.” Yes, you can get Jamaican food in Hempstead as well, but while you’re here in eastern Queens you might as well check out the BOSTON JERK CHICKEN RESTAURANT at 225th Street. At 222nd Street, you’ll jump back to Haiti for a lunch or dinner of Creole seafood at the PORT O PRINCE RESTAURANT. For a quick bite, try the CREOLE BAKE SHOP, which bakes and packages hard rolls for numerous grocery stores in the region. The shop’s flaky, warm, beef, fish or chicken patties are only 50 cents to a dollar each. Wash them down with a Rexy banana soda and you’ll swear you’re not on Long Island anymore. —RMB



Egyptian Coffee Shop

25-09 Steinway St


Al Iman Food Market

24-31 Steinway St.



Creole Bake Shop

221-11 Linden Blvd


Port O Prince Restaurant

221-13 Linden Blvd

Chez Mielle Grocery

221-24 Linden Blvd.

Boston Jerk Chicken Restaurant

224-16 Linden Blvd.


Jake’s Blue Mountain Cuisine

228-01 Linden Blvd



Pho Bac

82-78 Broadway



Sweet-n-Tart Café

136-11 38th Ave.


Shun An Tong

135-24 Roosevelt Ave


Sweet House

40-11 Prince St


Buddha Bodai Nature

Vegetarian Restaurant

42-96 Main St

718- 939-1188


Kabab King Palace

74-15 37th Rd


Seba Seba Bakery

83-03 Northern Blvd.


Pollos a La Brasa Mario

81-01 Roosevelt Ave.


Esmeralda De Colombia

83-17 Northern Blvd.


La Quindianita Bakery

83-26 Northern Blvd.


Cholado’s El Oasis

83-18 Northern Blvd


Phil-Am Foods

70-02 Roosevelt Ave


Philippine Grill

69-09 Roosevelt Ave.


La Uruguaya Bakery/La Paraguayaita Bakery

68-24 Roosevelt Ave