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Advice for a Jackson Heights walk


Fat Guy
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What would you all recommend as an itinerary for a Jackson Heights Indian-themed walking tour? What route would you take, what shops would you go into, where would you have snacks and a meal?

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Technically speaking it is actually in Flushing but Spicy Mina is on the very edge of Jackson heights and is an absolute must for a meal.

Mina's food is still fantastic but, unlike her previous place in Sunnyside, she has raised prices enough such that she should be able to survive financially given enough business.

Tip: decide when you'll be there and call one day in advance to order some appetizers for your group. They'll give you a fax number and request that you fax a written order along with your credit card number and arrival time.

This system will allow you to actually start getting the first course on the table with 10 to 15 minutes after your arrival. Everything - and I do mean everything - is cooked to order. Without advance ordering the appetizers can take 40 - 50 minutes to begin arriving at the table - even when the restaurant is nearly empty. Believe me - it's worth the wait.

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How about non-restaurant shops and markets?

I don't see how you could go wrong with either Patel Brothers or Subzi Mandi. If you are looking for produce then lean towards Subzi Mandi, they are more known for that. (My familiarity with both shops is actually based on their Flushing and Hicksville locations, to tell the truth, but a guy I work with who lives in Flushing says the Jackson Heights locations are better and I am inclined to believe him.)

I wish I could offer more concrete advice; I started working in Flushing this past spring and thought I'd have Jackson Heights all mapped out by now, but it seems to be a case of 'so close yet so far'. I haven't been there once all year, sadly. On the other hand I've discovered a lot of the ins and outs of Flushing, and that ain't too bad.

Some of the places I would hit first (via word of mouth info), if I ever get the time, are noted on raji's map- particularly Dimple for snacks and the Dosa Diner (to try their rassam and thali, specifically. There are plenty of good dosas to be had in Flushing.) So definitely head for there and post how you found them. Oh- I would imagine (wishful thinking?) that there are also a bunch of places to get Kati Rolls so, even if you don't wind up getting any, just a heads-up would be appreciated.

I hope all goes well!

aka Michael

Chi mangia bene, vive bene!

"...And bring us the finest food you've got, stuffed with the second finest."

"Excellent, sir. Lobster stuffed with tacos."

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Just in case you don't have it on your list: kulfi from Patel Bros. If you're driving you might want to bring a small cooler along.

Also there are a couple of sweets shops along 74th St. that you might want to check out.

The human mouth is called a pie hole. The human being is called a couch potato... They drive the food, they wear the food... That keeps the food hot, that keeps the food cold. That is the altar where they worship the food, that's what they eat when they've eaten too much food, that gets rid of the guilt triggered by eating more food. Food, food, food... Over the Hedge
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Thanks guys. We headed out to Jackson Heights for a few hours this evening. We parked up on 77th, on the south side of Roosevelt, then walked along Roosevelt to 74th. The first interesting thing we passed, on Roosevelt, was Khan Baba Buffet Restaurant (74-15 Roosevelt Ave., 718.424.8911, http://www.khanbabarestaurant.com/ ).

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The place is quite large. It actually runs all the way through the block, and you can also (as we discovered when walking back to the car later, when at first we thought we'd found a second branch of the restaurant) enter from 37th Road (not to be confused with 37th Avenue, which is part of the Little India main drag, 37th Road is just a little side street closer to Roosevelt that runs from Broadway to 77th).

It's Ramadan right now, and a lot of the restaurants out there were offering special Ramadan dinners. The neighborhood has a substantial Muslim presence and a lot of the restaurants and shops are halal. Anyway, Khan Baba appears to be Pakistani-owned and has both generic Northern Indian food and some halal quasi-Chinese food on the buffet. There were also some special Ramadan items, especially desserts. The buffet for dinner was $10.99. We thought about it, but wanted to try other stuff. It's a large, well-lit, clean place and the folks working there were friendly and happy to let us peruse the buffet without them trying any sort of hard sell.

There is also now in Jackson Heights a pretty strong Tibetan and Nepalese presence. Ellen (my wife) has been to Nepal several times as well as to Tibet, and has a number of contacts in those communities here. One friend, in particular (a limo driver), is into the food scene out there and recommended that we check out a Tibetan momo place he likes. I'm a huge fan of Tibetan momos (dumplings), and in fact we named our dog Momo.

One of the things I love about Jackson Heights is that many of the stores have stores within stores. Take for example this establishment on 74th Street:

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Best as I can tell, the jewelry store is not only selling jewelry but also leasing space to the luggage store, the tailor and the AT&T cell-phone store. But that's not all. If you walk into the AT&T cell-phone store there are, in addition to the cell-phone operation, an area where you can buy teapots and the like, and another area where you can select from a large collection of foreign-language videos.

And then all the way in the back of the cell-phone store, behind the teapots, behind the cell-phones, behind the videos . . . there's a momo counter. And it was closed. It seems it will be closed for a couple of weeks in order to upgrade the kitchen -- by upgrade I mean there was a telltale yellow Department of Health sign on the counter. Anyway, I'll be sure to swing back by there at some point, as the recommendation comes from an excellent source.

Then we checked out Patel Brothers grocery (37-27 74th St., 718.898.3445) and, after turning the corner and walking a block west, Subzi Mandi grocery (72-30 37th Ave., 718-457-1848).

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Certainly, Patel Brothers was by far the better of the two stores. However, I was not particularly impressed with either. The produce was generally mediocre at both, and dipped at times to awful. There were a lot of interesting Indian ingredients, particularly at Patel, but the quality seemed lower than at various specialty stores in Manhattan's much smaller Little India on Lexington Ave. in the high 20s. And when you compare these Indian markets with what some of the other ethnic groups have come up with, it's not a favorable comparison. I mean, look at Hanahreum (now H-Mart) or Mitsuwa in New Jersey. Those are first-rate, modern stores. Jackson Heights has some serious catching up to do on the grocery front.

We made sure to explore the side streets off the main drag (the main drag being the triangle of 74th Street, 37th Avenue, and Broadway). There's some great stuff on the side streets, for example this place on 73rd Street -- a combination restaurant, market and halal butcher -- was bursting at the seams and had a real undiscovered-by-white-people feel:

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As we were walking on the Broadway part of the triangle, Ellen noticed steps leading down to "Himalaya Connection" at 72-30 Broadsay, and I noticed, below that sign, some signs that said "MOMO."

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So we went in and found lots of videos, and a travel agency, but no sign of any momos. Upon cross examination, the travel agent revealed that the MOMO signs were for another store, over on 37th Road (the little side street, not 37th Avenue), where we were assured there would be momos aplenty. Upon arrival at the location we were not optimistic. The place appeared to be an internet cafe called Net Gen, at 73-19A 37th Road.

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However, within the structure that promises to be an internet cafe is actually a place called Cafe K-2. And they had momos.

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They were quite good, though not the best momos I've ever had. They were a bit too much like Chinese dumplings -- refined rather than rustic as momos are supposed to be. The beef filling was tasty, though, and the cilantro-laced hot sauce was great. It was $5 for 8 momos and that also came with a small bowl of soup.

Also within Cafe K-2 there was a woman making bhel puri to order. She had a bunch of containers of the various components of bhel puri (as well as about six other permutations of same, such as sev puri) and a metal mixing bowl. We got Bombay bhel puri, also $5 -- for a huge portion.

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I can't see any one person wanting to eat that much bhel puri, but it was excellent and between the two of us we ate about half of it.

We had taken the edge off our appetites and then some, so at that point a buffet was out of the question. So we figured we'd try Raji's recommendation of Kababish. Actually we went to Kababish II (37-66 74th St., 718.205.3625). I wasn't optimistic. The place was kind of empty and when I tried to order the "assorted barbecue platter" I had to deal with three people before I found someone who would acknowledge that such a platter was on the menu board right above the counter. I ordered one platter for us to share. Then we waited at a table. After a long delay, a salad arrived. A fairly large salad, actually. We figured the idea was to have it with the kebabs, but we got tired of waiting and started snacking on the salad. We finished it. We waited some more.

Then, eventually, an incredible, heaping platter of assorted kebab items arrived.

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Everything on the platter was first rate. The spicing was robust and complex; I don't think I've had better kebabs in New York. And the guy brought another whole salad ("Salad more for you!"). It was a lot of food for $8.99.

We had planned also to check out Dosa Diner

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and a couple of sweets shops

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but our babysitting time was up and we had to head home.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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