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Group enjoying dish at Fu Run (Photo: Roboppy/Flickr CC)

10 Queens Restaurants Worth a Subway Ride

The borough's strength is in its diversity, both of its immigrant population and its restaurants, which include everything from an old-school Italian deli of the highest caliber to an authentic Chinese food court that seems to keep going and going

To the uninitiated, Queens can be intimidating: so many neighborhoods, so many avenues, so many cuisines. But if you’re looking for authentic Chinese, old-school delis and sub shops, killer arepas or unforgettable gyros, all of the best are found in Queens. So pick up your metro card and check out these 10 Queens restaurants and eateries that are worth a hop on the subway.

 

Leos Latticini

Exterior of Leo’s Latticini (Photo: Joeshlabotnik/Flickr CC)

Leo’s Latticini
Subway: 7 to 103rd St./Corona Plaza
If you want to out yourself as an outsider, go ahead call it “Leo’s Latticini.” Everyone else just calls it “Mama’s” — and though “Mama” herself, Nancy DeBenedittis, died in 2009, her name lives on. It’s the classic Italian-American hero shop of your imagination — a no-frills storefront where cops and firemen line up for sandwiches, photos of famous visitors line the walls, and everyone has a favorite order. Maybe it’s a foot-long eggplant parm too hefty to finish; maybe it’s the “Mama’s Special” of prosciutto, salami and Mama’s own mozzarella with onions and peppers; or maybe it’s the roast-beef sandwich with cheese and gravy. Whatever it is, Mama’s is the real deal. Grab your massive sandwich, settle in the backyard, and know you’re experiencing a slice of Corona history. 46-02 104th St., Queens, 718-898-6069

 

Chinese Watercress Salad at Ayada Thai

Chinese Watercress Salad at Ayada Thai (Photo: Scaredykat /Flickr CC)

Ayada Thai
Subway: 7 to 74th St./Broadway; E, F, M, R to Jackson Heights/Roosevelt Ave.

What’s the best Thai restaurant in Queens? Ask and you’ll likely hear the name SriPraPhai bandied around alongside Chao Thai — both excellent spots. But our money’s on a small, well-kept spot called Ayada. If your Thai food education hasn’t gone beyond pad see ew and green curry, get ready to learn a few things. Ayada’s menu incorporates dishes from many corners of Thailand and beyond, whether the ground meat larb salads of the Isan region or the complex sour curries of the south, humble pork leg over rice or the Japanese-influenced elegant raw shrimp appetizer. 77-08 Woodside Ave., Queens, 718-424-0844

 

Interior of Fu Run

Interior of Fu Run (Photo: Roboppy/Flickr CC)

Fu Run
Subway: 7 to Flushing Main St.; LIRR to Flushing Main St.

If you’re used to thinking of Chinese food as a monolith, Queens has a few things to teach you; namely that China’s a big enough country that every corner’s cooking is a little bit different. At Fu Run, a friendly, not-too-formal sit-down spot near the 7 train, you’ll find the northern Chinese cuisine of Dongbei (née Manchuria) — think wheat pancakes, not bowls of rice, and ingredients you might not associate with Chinese fare at all. The two agreed-upon must-orders? The Muslin lamb chop: in fact a whole rack of lamb ribs that’s braised ’til tender, then encrusted in spice (with cumin taking the starring role), and then battered and fried. And speaking of fried, get the ba sifor dessert: cubes of taro, apple and sweet potato that are deep-fried and stickied-up with melted caramel. Grab a piece with your chopsticks and the sugar stretches out in fine strings. 4009 Prince St., Queens, 718-321-1363

 

Arepa Lady

Arepa Lady (Photo: Roboppy/Flickr CC)

Arepa Lady
Subway: E, F, M, R to Jackson Heights/Roosevelt Ave.; 7 to 82nd St./Jackson Heights

Manhattan and Williamsburg may have the excellent Caracas Arepas Bar, but Queens’ Arepa Lady blows them out of the water. Maria Piedad Cano, better known as the Arepa Lady, only makes appearances on summer weekend nights and her street side cart is all the way out in Jackson Heights, but her arepas — both the puffier white versions stuffed with cheese and the bronzed, sweeter yellow corn ones, folded over queso blanco — are beyond compare. And while she’s not there every night, she’s impressively proficient on Twitter; make sure she’s serving before you set out to find her. Roosevelt Ave. and 79th St., Queens, no phone, twitter.com/arepalady

 

Pork gyro at BZ Grill

Pork gyro at BZ Grill (Photo: Roboppy/Flickr CC)

BZ Grill
Subway: N, Q to Astoria Blvd.

There are your everyday gyros — pita sandwiches with slices of that compressed lamb-and-beef sausage, tasting identical everywhere — and then there are real gyros, the sandwich meat cut from glistening hunks of pork roasting all day over a spit. That’s what you’ll get at BZ Grill in Astoria, home to the finest gyro in the city. Inside a fluffy toasted pita you’ll find an absurd amount of juicy pork that’s been spinning on a rotisserie all day, sliced thin, some bits tender, some bits crisped up. It’s a cheery, few-frills restaurant, but after a few bites — and maybe an order of Greek fries topped with feta and a healthy drizzle of olive oil — you’ll know it was worth the trip. 27-02 Astoria Blvd., Queens, 718-932-7858, bzgrill.com

 

M. Wells Dinette at MoMA PS1, 2012

M. Wells Dinette at MoMA PS1 (Photo: Jesse Winter/Courtesy of MoMA)

M. Wells Dinette
Subway: 7 to 45 Rd./Court House Square; G to Long Island City/Court House Square; E, M to 23rd St./Ely Ave.

What made the original M. Wells the most talked-about restaurant of 2011? There’s the fact that owners Hugue Dufour and Sarah Obraitis were serving avant-garde food out of an old diner car, sure. But then there was Dufour’s almost incredible culinary boldness: veal brains as likely to appear as grilled cheese, snail-stuffed bone marrow, a whopping 24-ounce burger. While that M. Wells has closed, it’s fitting that its successor M. Wells Dinette, open only from noon to 6pm, Thursday through Monday, has found a home within MoMA’s PS1, a contemporary art museum that’s avant-garde in its own right. In a setting that evokes an old schoolhouse, you’ll find Dufour’s style much the same: expect baked tripe, pickled pork tongue or those still-loved veal brains. Inside MoMA PS1, 22-25 Jackson Ave., Queens, 718-786-1800, magasinwells.com

 

Pastrama sandwich at Ben's Best

Pastrama sandwich at Ben’s Best (Photo: Pabo76/Flickr CC)

Ben’s Best
Subway: M, R to 63 Dr./Rego Park

Katz’s Delicatessen on the Lower East Side may get the tourist crowds, but for a real slice of New York deli culture, head to Ben’s Best in Rego Park. A third-generation family business, open for nearly 70 years, the kosher deli is still doing things the old way: pastrami smoked in-house and meats sliced to order. Corned beef and pastrami are the must-orders, of course, but there’s a lot more to love, including the matzoh ball soup, served in a mug labeled “Jewish Penicillin.” 96-40 Queens Blvd., Queens, 718-897-1700, bensbest.com

 

Dining room of MP Taverna

Dining room of MP Taverna (Photo: Andre Baranowski/Courtesy of MP Taverna)

MP Taverna
Subway: N, Q to Astoria – Ditmars Blvd.

Until recently, New York’s most prominent Greek chef had no outpost in the city’s most visibly Greek neighborhood. No longer. Michael Psilakis opened his second MP Taverna in Astoria this summer (the first is in Long Island’s Roslyn), and it’s been an instant hit. There might be a wait at this lively two-story corner restaurant, and its takes on Greek classics might not be traditional, but MP manages to feel like an Astoria restaurant — its TV screens and still-reasonable prices see to that. Don’t leave without trying the meatballs and the octopus. 31-29 Ditmars Blvd., Queens, 718-777-2187, michaelpsilakis.com/mp-taverna-astoria/

 

Zha Jiang Mian noodles at Shan Dong Dumpling inside Golden Shopping Mall

Zha Jiang Mian noodles at Shan Dong Dumpling inside Golden Shopping Mall (Photo: Wwny/Flickr CC)

Golden Shopping Mall
Subway: 7 to Flushing Main St.; LIRR to Flushing Main St.

Want to experience Flushing’s many culinary wonders all at once? There’s no better place to start than the Golden Shopping Mall, where you can take an edible tour of China for $20 or less. Its food courts aren’t the kind with Sbarro Pizza or Cinnabons; instead, there’s a huge array of Chinese food stalls on two different floors, from dumplings to hand-pulled noodles to steamed buns of all sorts. To start, follow your nose, but you can’t go wrong with the liang pinoodles at Xi’an Famous Foods; the shaobing, a filled flatbread pocket, at Wang-Zheng’s Halal Snacks; and the lamb dumplings at Tianjin Dumpling House. 41-28 Main St., Queens

 

Liang pi cold-skin noodles with stewed pork burgers

Liang pi cold-skin noodles with stewed pork burgers (Photo: Courtesy of Biang!)

Biang!
Subway: 7 to Flushing Main St.; LIRR to Flushing Main St.
Xi’an Famous Foods is the little noodle stall that could. From a small setup in the basement of the Golden Shopping Mall (see above), the father-and-son operation gained Chowhound repute and critical acclaim for its “cold skin” noodles and lamb burgers. That success led to expansion in Greenpoint, Chinatown, the East Village and Midtown. But Biang!, its first full-service restaurant back in Queens, is something different altogether. With its exposed brick and irreverent artwork, it looks closer to Brooklyn than Flushing, but the food served — an interpretation of the cuisine of Xi’an, heavy on wheat and lamb and Middle Eastern spices — is wholly unique. You’ll not only find some favorites from Xi’an Famous (including a number of perfectly chewy hand-pulled noodles and the spicy lamb face salad), but a lot more, including must-order lamb skewers and the elegant quail eggs and sausage on toasted steamed buns. And did we mention two can easily eat for $20? 41-10 Main St., Queens, 718-888-7713, biang-nyc.com

For more subway adventures, check out our list of 10 Brooklyn Restaurants Worth a Subway Ride.

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