Our meeting time at the bar has been 7:30PM and we head out at 8pm after a drink or two and allowing people to be inevitably late. Note that I was there on a Sunday night and Wednesday night - many people here advised to go on a Friday and Saturday, so the point is it's probably better on the weekends, but it is absolutely worth going on a weeknight in the middle of the winter! There seems to always be a lot of activity. We probably finish around 10:30pm or so, ridiculously full. While the bakeries close early, I didn't get the sense that we were cutting it close with the restaurants or food carts.
When we had 8 people every place we stopped seemed like $4-$8 a person, so it was a great deal. Tacos are usually about $3-$4, and if you're really disciplined you're splitting one taco per two people so that you can keep trying more! The Indian places were a little more expensive, and once you're in a sit down restaurant you're also tipping, paying tax, etc. So it does add up.
Thanks for reminding me! I have been out to Queens three times since this thread started and still have a lot of these recommendations to try out. Here were some of the highlights:
1) Astoria - got off at ditmars blvd, went to Stamatis (Greek, very good) and Trattoria L'Incontro. I was just blindly following the recommendation so was surprised to find it a high end Italian restaurant. They said they are the highest Zagat rated restaurant in Queens at 27 for food. It really was a special experience although $100 for a few tastes. The waiters have 50 different specials memorized, and next time I look forward to returning and saying "Just give us a meat, a seafood and a pasta." and letting them do the rest. This would be a great date spot, and the shortribs were incredible. Afterward the bakery Artopolis was closed so we walked down Steinway st past the BQE to Little Egypt and had some hookah and tea after dinner and picked up the 7 train again. It was a great walk and a really interesting neighborhood. RECOMMENDED.
2) Jackson Heights: I've been twice so far and am getting it down to a good process- this neighborhood has so much. Since I'm usually meeting friends coming from different parts of the city, our meeting point is Cafe 75 on Roosevelt between 75 and 76 for a few cocktails to warm up for the walk. It seems a quieter dive bar than the place right next door, and their booths in the back provide a good staging area for a table full of Chowhound printouts and smartphones.
We have been starting off with Indian food since it's so close to the subway. If you haven't been, a great walk is to head up 74th to 37th ave, make a left (possibly hit Haat Bazaar, below), then come back down 73rd which will lead you into Kebab territory.
If you want to make an additional stop, Haat Bazaar (not mentioned in this thread: 3711 73rd st) has unbelievable Bangladeshi food. The goat biryani was the most flavorful biryani I have ever had. On earth. We also had a fish and chicken dish that were also earth shattering. In any case, you will leave a different person. I can't remember the names of the dishes we had but you can see all the food they have and just point out a few items. For large groups it they'll open up the private dining room upstairs (we had 8 people).
For Kebabs, here is my recommendation: split up your group on the corner of 73rd and Broadway. Have one party go to Kebabish and order a Gola Kebab, and the other half go to Dera across the street (not mentioned in this thread: 7209 Broadway) and get the Bihari kebab and then plan to split those between 4 people. These two kebabs are amazing. If you end here, your trip will already be worth it. The Reshmi kebab at Dera is also very good.
Now head back down to Roosevelt Ave and start the latin part of the food tour: El Gallo Giro had fantastic lengua (tongue) tacos. We hit up the huitlacoche quesadilla at the Sabrosa Tacos y Quesadillas in front of the chase bank at 75th st (it was good.. but not mind blowing like the other items mentioned so far). At this point the pace of walking has to really speed up because it's a race against time before you get full! We didn't find many of the carts mentioned above, and the Arepa lady is on twitter and hasn't tweeted about coming out since October. Tracking her from last year shows that she appears to take off between November - April (to head to warmer climates?). We went to Tacos Mexicanos around 88th st, they did not have an outdoor cart so we sat inside for tacos - big mistake, it just takes too long and you begin to get full. They were so-so. By this time the Buenos Aires bakery was closed, but we did check out the ceviche on warren st, and Rincon Criollo for a cubano and cafe con leche while we waited. Note that this is also a sit down restaurant and while they did make our sandwiches they pointed out that it's really a lunch thing for them.
By this point you're at junction blvd, you've passed millions of places that you'd like to come back to, and hopefully you spent a few dollars on a selection of Indian sweets on 74th street to sample on the way home on the 7 train.
Other things we did in jackson heights were Sripraphai thai food (6413 39th ave) which was amazing, but it's a sit down restaurant. We also went to the himalayan yak restaurant - we were impressed that it was open until 2am, had a live himalayan band (who covered The Beatles pretty decently), and had a whole drink list of "Yaktails" - - but as we were ready to order the waiter noted, almost as an aside that "Oh, we don't have any yak today. It's not yak season." wtf?? The food we got wasn't great.
Here are some final tips for anyone who wants to get some friends together to do this. First, make sure everyone really understands what the plan is. For many people, it's just extremely unnatural for them to have a few bites of flavor at each place and they get more and more anxious to sit down to have a "real dinner" - we lost a few good people to these temptations. Second, really work hard to control how much you order. Ideally you would be doing this not in February but at a time when it would be comfortable to order 1 dish from each place as takeout so you don't have the awkwardness of going to sit down restaurants with 8 people ordering 1 dish... or the tragedy of caving in and ordering more than you should and getting full after 2 restaurants.
I am starting to favor the method of splitting the group up to go order things at different restaurants because sitting everyone down in one restaurant waiting for food really cuts into your momentum.
There appears to be some fantastic dive bar opportunities in this neighborhood as well.
Best of luck, and thanks so much to everyone who helped make this possible.
El Gallo Giro
La Quesadilla Sabrosa
Thanks, I think this is actually the guy I read about in the newspaper! It looks good and it does seem like he is the only one running these types of tours at night and on a regular basis at that. It sounds like a viable option, although it looks like I have enough info here to piece together a good walk on my own. I will write back if I go out with this guy and let you know how it went. Definitely like the niche he is pursuing.
Thanks for the tip, I'd prefer to avoid Flushing, though. I lived in China for years and while all of these places are great, it's not special for me. I'd really like to figure out where to go in Astoria, Rego Park, Corona, etc.
Hi, it's been my dream for a few months to take a subway to Queens one night around 8-9PM, and get off somewhere that would allow me to hit a bunch of fantastic places over 1-3 hours. I saw an article about a guy running these Queens late night food tours in the newspaper, but I can't seem to find it and I bet I could get some recommendations here to just do it myself. I figure I only need maybe 5 good places located within a mile of each other. Hopefully the recommendation would include the one dish to have at each place, as more than that and we will get too full!
My preference would be an area where I could hit as much country variety as possible in a small distance. I would also prefer to avoid Chinese (unless it's extraordinary and right on the route), as I don't really have a problem navigating Chinese food.
Thanks so much for your help, and let me know if you want to come! If I get some research done today I'd like to take my first trip this Saturday night!
I'd like to study Mexican cooking intensively in Mexico - for longer than one week. There is a wealth of information on the web about cooking schools in Mexico, but all seem to be aimed for the casual tourist - one day courses, or at most, one week which are scheduled as more of a vacation than a cooking school.
Any recommendations for a chef's course in Mexico? Or at least a program that can be customized to involve a few weeks or training? I'd also love for it to focus on broad Mexican cooking rather than one specific region.
Thanks so much!