The heart of Queens’ Chinese community, Flushing’s food scene is primarily centered on its Chinatown. You’ll certainly find dim sum, bubble tea, and quality hot pot restaurants on every corner, but one of the most noteworthy aspects of Flushing’s Chinatown is the range of restaurants specializing in foods from a number of different regions of China. Here, restaurant-goers have the unique opportunity to absorb the distinct differences in cuisine between regions. Head for the neighborhood’s commercial mecca, a several-block radius around the intersection of Main Street and Roosevelt Avenue, and keep an eye out for these spots.
Chonqing Lao Zao
As you walk into this unforgettable hot pot establishment, the first thing you’ll notice is the décor: dark wood and stone, vivid garlands of peppers and garlic strung up to dry, cloth-lined baskets of spices, and mismatched teacups. At Chonqing Lao Zao, the ambiance is part of the experience, setting the stage for conversations over merrily bubbling pots of spicy broth. The effect created is that of a warm, rustic farmhouse in the Chonqing countryside, made grander by the size of the space and the quality of the fare.
If you’re someone with sensitive taste buds, be sure to specify you’d like your dish to be mild – they don’t mess around here when it comes to spice. Wait times are notoriously long, so make a reservation or stop by as soon as you get to Flushing to join the waitlist before strolling through Chinatown.
The Ganesh Temple of Queens
This palatial Hindu temple cuts an impressive figure among the squat brick buildings lining the streets around it, but most who stop to admire its façade are unaware that a cache of culinary prowess waits underneath. Veer right once you reach the intricately carved elephant idols pointing the way inside the temple, head down an unremarkable set of stairs on Holly Street, and you’ll find yourself in the Ganesh Temple Canteen. Don’t let the bare-bones space and communal serving style deter you: this spot makes the best South Indian dosas in the city.
After eating, stop by the temple bookstore to pick up jasmine or lotus flowers to leave as offerings for Ganesh – he’s known to banish problems and obstacles. Keep in mind that the temple itself has a strict dress code, and does not allow photography of the altars.
If you keep a plant-based diet, don’t be discouraged by the fact that many raved-about Chinese dishes are heavy on the meat. The wholly vegetarian menu at Bodhi Village offers a take on the cuisine that’s accessible to those with dietary restrictions, with plenty of vegan, kosher, and gluten-free options. Their faux-meat has received the stamp of approval from even the most dedicated carnivores, and they also have plenty of options for those who shy away from meat-adjacent foods entirely.
Stop by the café section in front for a cappuccino and cheesecake, or head for the back to find the sleek, spacious sit-down restaurant. Given its size, you’re likely to be seated immediately.
Those not in the know are likely to walk right by this unassuming storefront, but they’d be missing out. White Bear’s no-frills interior, comprised of five small tables and a menu taped above the counter where you’ll order, utterly belies the caliber of its cooking. Scores of fans return time and time again for the dumplings, which are widely considered to be among the best in the city. If you only try one thing, make it the spicy chili oil wontons (No. 6 on the menu).
Since there isn’t much room for seating inside, consider taking your wontons to go, especially if you have a large party. Luckily, White Bear offers the perfect fare for on-the-go munching.
The crown jewel of Flushing Chinatown’s plentiful dim sum offerings, Asian Jewels is a spacious, opulently decorated hub of energy. As you’re seated, you’ll instantly be greeted by a flurry of carts bearing a number of covered dishes. The servers manning them lift lids to show you a stunning variety of dishes from spareribs with rice starch and beans to poached jellyfish with sesame oil. Those with less adventurous palettes can enjoy quality classics like dumplings, spring rolls, and pork buns.
It’s entirely possible you won’t lay eyes on a menu throughout the experience, and you likely won’t need one – your servers will describe each dish and answer any questions you have. Be aware that with all the steaming carts and crisscrossing staff, the energy in the restaurant gets a bit frenetic. Dim sum is served between 4:00 and 9:30 p.m., so on the weekends in particular, be sure to arrive early to snag a good spot.
The bright red awning of this little pizza spot stands out on the street among bubble tea shops and dim sum vendors, but it’s a standard-issue New York counter-service joint in appearance. Even so, Lucia’s Pizza has amassed a following of pie lovers throughout the boroughs due to the sheer deliciousness of their slices.
While their menu may not be adventurous or even distinct from the massive ranks of similar neighborhood fly-bys, they have that special sauce – literally. At 10:00 p.m. on a weeknight, you’ll find Lucia Pizza’s spare front-of-house jam-packed with patrons awaiting their slices, all of whom agree that Lucia Pizza knows how to do that indefinable thing that makes a plain jane cheese slice transcend the bounds of its simplicity.
New World Mall Food Court
While it may not technically be a restaurant, we’d be remiss not to mention New World Mall’s Food Court. Housed in the massive basement of a multi-level Asian supermarket, the food court boasts around thirty different food stalls. New and old vendors come and go frequently, but you’ll typically be able to choose from a wide range of Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Korean, Thai, and Malaysian dishes. If you find yourself overwhelmed by the wealth of options, you can typically rely on the pork buns from Pan Bao to be available and delicious. Keep in mind that most regular customers find the experience incomplete without ordering at least one dish they’ve never heard of.
Swing by the cotton candy machine on your way back upstairs, where you can walk off your meal as you explore the supermarket and surrounding mall. The New World Mall is bright and buzzing with energy due to its constant crowds – New World Mall is the most popular New York shopping complex. Prepare yourself for the masses, be sure to bring cash, and you’ll be able to sample some of the finest examples of home-style Asian cooking in New York for a song.