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Apr 22, 2006 08:33 PM

Getting cold feet about moving to Jackson Heights....

  • n

I know alot of people on this board live in JH, and I know there are a bunch of great restaurants in the area. What I'm wondering is, where are the local hangouts? Is there a pub we could stop in regularly to get a beer? A place to hear some music? A casual, yet a bit romantic, restaurant to have a relaxing dinner at after work?

These are the kinds of places that I love and that I think make NY livable...I look forward to hearing any and all opinions or suggestions. Thanks in advance, from a born and raised Manhattanite!

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  1. Hi all,

    Chowhound's narrow focus is food. As tempting as it is to ask our fellow hounds about nonfood concerns, we ask everyone to keep the coversation squarely on food. Bars that don't serve food, music clubs, etc are off topic, thanks.

    If anyone has encouraging advice about where to find great food in Jackson Heights (restaurant prepared, or raw to cook oneself), please post 'em here.

    27 Replies
    1. re: The Chowhound Team

      I guess my original posting caused some trouble...sorry!

      I was specifically looking for places that serve food, but I see now that didn't come across. To clarify, we are specifically interested in hearing about places within the historic district, 74th to 82nd street or so. Also would love to hear supermarket, butcher, bakery, etc. recommendations.

      We really like the neighborhood and are excited about moving. In our current location, we have a couple of places that we've become regulars at, and are comfortable going in 1, 2, even 3 nights a week for food and/or drink. I like these kinds of places and want to know if there are any in JH.

      Thanks again!

      1. re: nervous
        Dan now in JH

        I moved to JH in October. The options for cheap and tasty food are plentiful. A quick search of the site will turn up many options...

        Lots of praise here for Fiesta Mexicana at 74th/Roosevelt - no liquor license though.

        Solid (and cheap) steam table indian at Indian Taj (74th St. at 37th Ave.) I'd recommend walking past Jackson Diner and heading here instead.

        Definitely check out Pio Pio (Northern Boulevard bet. 84th and 85th) for spit-roasted chicken, pisco sours, and a festive atmosphere. It's a great group-dining experience.

        There's a good Argentinian butcher at Don Francisco Meat Market (37th Ave. between 85th and 86th).

        Despana Brand Foods (86-17 Northern Boulevard) carries meats, cheeses, etc. from Spain. It's a trip - a lot of fun (they ply you with wine and a bunch of things to taste when you walk in the door).

        I haven't found anywhere in the nabe that sells particularly inspired bread, but I'd be excited to hear from anyone who has.

        Re: good local bars -- I haven't found anything at all in the area. A good local place to go for a drink is something I'm looking for too, and something I think the neighborhood is crying out for.

        One tip - I've never been, but a Spanish-speaking friend enthusiastically recommended La Jungla del Forastero on Roosevelt Ave. near like 78th St. Apparently, the bar itself is a fish tank. The happy hour runs from 4-8pm.

        1. re: Dan now in JH

          lived in JH for six years and have nothing but happy food memories. the best empanadas and great coffee at la nueva bakery and cafe on 37th ave. good (and cheap) rotisserie chicken, platanos, maduros, beans and rice for takeout at the place at 74th and roosevelt or any of the 'mario' chains. pio pio is also really good. polish deli on 37th between 80 and 81st for excellent rye and whole grain breads, try the large slices of rye that are sold by weight. they also sell perogis, cold cuts, cheeses, mustards. italian farms across the street is a good deli for sandwiches. la portena arginetine grill has great service and food - try empanandas, the entrana, the shell steak and delicious chimichurri sauce. tierras colombianas for traditional columbian fare. jackson diner, dosa diner and most of the indian joints are worth a visit. be adventurous!

          1. re: jnet62

            I think the last phrase is the key - be adventurous! And, as so many people have suggested, you have to range farther afield to get some of the best stuff. Don't be afraid to try some of the places that cater to Spanish speakers. I do speak Spanish and live in the heart of South America (my neighbors are Colombian, Dominican, Mexican and Ecuadorian). I've taken my American, African, Indian and Chinese friends to Pollos a la Brasa Mario on 83rd and 37th Ave (though there are several). It's open all night on weekends and has a great chicken platter which includes fantastic giblet soup for about $5. My Indian friends love the Argentine/Uruguayan meat/pasta places (don't forget El Chivito d'Oro on 84th/37th). I used to have good breakfast at Crazy Chicken which has become Gusty Chicken (forced to change name and chose a weird one) where they have good huevos pericos (eggs scrambled with tomatoes and onions).

            As for places to hang out over something to eat, I can suggest a few. In my neck of the woods, La Nueva bakery on 37th (86th/87th) has all sorts of pastries, sandwiches, and an assortment of other goodies along with a selection of hot and cold drinks (though I have lately found their café con leche to be a bit weak). I like to go there sometimes with my newspaper though it's crowded on weekends but you can always linger. They also own La Nueva Café on 37th and 85th Street. I haven't been overly impressed with the food, but they do open early and stay there until midnight and have a full bar, fresh squeezed juices, some good salads, as well as pastries. I haven't been in too recently so correct me if I'm out of date on that. I haven't been in Novo, across from the Post Office but it seems a good place for drinks and appetizers. The little bar Terraza (on Gleane, behind the Independence Bank on Roosevelt and 84th) also serves expresso during the day and has the hammock. It also has music at night and art and other cultural events. I've been to a couple of those and they serve a bit of food at openings. The crowd is of varying ages and bilingual. One other thought, I think it's kind of fun to eat upstairs at Kabab King on 73rd/37th Road/Broadway. It reminds my Indian friends of Old Delhi and, unlike the bustle downstairs, you're not at all rushed and can sit by the window which has a view of street life.

            As for restaurants with music, in my experience that's a mainly Hispanic thing in this neighborhood. However, that said, there are some options. La Pequeña Colombia (Roosevelt 84th) has a Latin harpist on Sunday afternoons and possibly other times. They also have great grilled pork ribs (asado) and sobrebarriga a la criolla (flank steak in a tomato/red pepper sauce). Mesón Asturias (on Baxter which is 83rd St on the Elmhurst side of Roosevelt) has a guitarist on some weekend evenings, I believe. They used to have a flamenco show but the main dancer/organizer died and it ended. They also have a bar and some quite decent Spanish food. There's another another Colombian place on 37th and 86th that often has music on Friday nights. It's a bit more sophisticated in its service and makes great fried plantains. I know a lot of Latin American musicians in the area and they play at different restaurants for awhile. If you walk along Roosevelt, you can also check out posters about who will be singing or playing in different bars and restaurants. There are also the night spots for dancing salsa that also have restaurants attached.

            There's one other unusual place on 83rd Street right off 37th called Garden Café which serves several Colombian specials every day and sometimes has musical entertainment, but it's primarily a hotspot for chess aficionados. There are times when I walk by and it's standing room only.

            Of course, a bit of Spanish is useful for getting around in much of this world, but people are generally friendly if you venture in. I just thought I'd give you some more info on this end of JH.

            ¡Bienvenido al barrio!
            Jill aka Paloma

            1. re: JH Jill

              Just passed this place called Fusion on 37th avenue between 86th and 87th. Seems to have replaced one of the several pollo emporia on the strip, but I can't remember which one. Unfortunately, I had already eaten lunch but will check it out soon. Interior looked nice (but quite empty at lunchtime)---they did promise steamed fish and they have a website that suggests they are looking for "crossover." Hope its good, but the proof will be in the eating. The website has no menu but highlights Mexican food, while the menu in the window seems more generic South American "continental". Still, thought this might be of interest given the discussion thread on Smithization and its prospects.


        2. re: nervous

          I live on 77th Street and have been in this area for 4 years also from Manhattan. I know of only two restaurants that describe what you're looking for. The first was opened 4 years ago and the owner Ernest wanted a place that was very Manhattan. Great atmosphere, food, service, and cocktails. Music on weekends. It's Uncle Peter's Continental on 83rd St & Northern Blvd. The 2nd is the Cavalier on 37th ave & 86th St. This place has a 1950's look with comfortable leather booths and also tables in the rear. It was recently upgraded. Really nice atmosphere. Good food but not as good as Uncle Peter's but good. Great cocktails, atmosphere, service and music on weekends. Nice weekend Brunch. Large Bar if you're looking for a drink and no food. Many former Manhattan residents like Armando's on 37th Ave & 75th St. I had lunch and dinner there and was not impressed with the food but may give it a third try. There's a large upscale Bar on 37th Ave (think it's called Novo) around 78th St. They also serve food but mostly bar patrons. Take a look. Very inviting atmosphere. I was there just once for a drink and liked it and I would return and next time may try the food which is very reasonable.

          1. re: Mike V

            Yes, 37 Av is a good street to look for restaurants like this.

          2. re: nervous

            I guess in the future I'll keep my posts a little shorter with the threat of them getting deleted *snif*.

            Just thought you might want to know the Legends Sports Bar on 35th Avenue has some of the best BBQ in Queens. I go their when I can't make it to Dinasaur or RUB in Manhattan.

            I would be a patron of any place that offered microbrew and pub food, but haven't found it in walking distance in my 3 years here.

            1. re: Dave G

              Dave -- has Legends replaced Pearson's with some other BBQ venue in back?

              i'd thought Pearson's closed for good, but maybe i'm crossing wires.


              1. re: jbonne

                I think it is (was?) Ranger Texas BBQ now....

                1. re: BackyardChef

                  Unfortunately, Ranger is not as good as Pearson's was...

                  1. re: JulesNYC
                    david sprague

                    it's not as good as pearson's was, but it's improved in leaps and bounds from its first couple months. i slagged it here after two extremely sub-par meals, but -- since i'm a five-minute walk away, not a cross-borough schlep -- gave it another try. big difference. excellent brisket and ribs, pretty good pulled pork. still, some conceptual glitches bug me (like the proprietors' thought that a brisket sandwich should come smothered in cheese and onions)...

                    1. re: david sprague

                      I was there a few weeks ago and the brisket was bad. I live 5 minutes away as well, and I'm not sure I would put in those 5 minutes again.
                      But maybe it was a bad night...

                2. re: jbonne

                  When we moved to JH a year ago, we were without a kitchen for a few months, so we had a lot of delivery. We had a short list of dinner options, so The Ranger at Legends was in heavy rotation. We still order from there occasionally, and I can say that they're really inconsistent. One time, succulent, the next, just tolerable. I'm not wild about the sauce on the pulled pork sandwich, but the pork shoulder sandwich (a different texture and sauce on the side) can be wonderful.

              2. re: nervous

                This isn't food-centric at first, but read on...
                I think the Manhattan-y places that you refer to are not here...YET. For better or worse (some people like change, others don't), I see Jackson Heights as being quite similar to Carroll Gardens/Cobble Hill 9-10 years ago (I lived in that nabe for 4 years at that time). People from Manhattan and Brooklyn are just starting to take notice and move in and the offerings do not yet match the population influx. A lot of the South-Asian specific businesses in the western part of Jackson Heights have closed recently, leaving a lot of vacant storefronts, which may be eventually filled by the kind of places you mentioned. (My husband and I have toyed with the ideas of opening a great wine bar/shop, coffee place or cheese shop - this is what is missing right now for us!)
                I've been here two and a half years - the Met grocery store improves (in freshness and variety) by the week and I've discovered places that I love. Try out all the Indian places and you can join the board discussions on which is the best (I particularly like Maharajah for weeknight meals and the Jackson Diner buffet on the weekend). The steak at La Portena is fabulous and I'm dying to try La Fusta, which is rumored to be even better. For a fun bar experience, try the place just south of Roosevelt at 85th street (don't know the name, but there is a hammock, which should be enough to entice you at least once!) Pio Pio is great for chicken and Rice Avenue under the 7 is good for Thai.
                Hope this helps!

                1. re: JulesNYC

                  Please Jules, open the wine bar or even a coffee shop that serves decent espresso. We'll be there at least a couple of nights a week. I think some of the other answers capture what the neighborhood lacks so far, and what it has. One point to make is that some of the things that you are looking for are probably available within a mile or so walking distance (seems unreasonable to Manhattanites but you get used to it). There is a cluster of Irish pubs around the Woodside avenue stop at 61st street--Donovan's is famous for the burger, and Saints and Sinners does an outstanding Irish breakfast. Places closer (Peter's and Cavalier) do offer the Benedict and Bloody Mary brunch duo, but I think the black pudding and Irish bacon make it worth the walk to S&S. Those places on 61st street are also probably the closest establishments that have a younger, english-speaking bar crowd. The old style locals bars (Bud's on 37th avenue that closed about 6 months ago and remains shuttered) and another still extant place on 73rd street (Readypenny Inn) seemed largely full of older white guys who spend most of their time complaining about how the neighborhood is being taken over by immigrants. Legends has a much friendlier feel but is still pretty low on any bohosity scale. In general, the immediate JH area does lack any place that combines soft lighting with a menu written after 1985 and a good wine list. I think Peter's on Northern tries and does okay, but typically we end up going to Sunnyside (Bliss and I suppose Quaint worth a visit now) or Sapori in Woodside for special occasions.
                  What is interesting is that seemingly less hospitable locations seem to be able to support significantly better restaurants than are available on 37th avenue, the main commercial strip in JH besides Roosevelt itself--I think of Sapori, La Flor, and El Jarro as examples, and believe that Viko's might have done better with its catchment area in JH proper. That said, I suspect it has do with commercial rents on the 37th avenue strip.
                  Probably the most shocking thing (to me at any rate) is that it is impossible to get really good or even adequate Chinese delivery in the neighborhood. There are places that do interesting Shanghai or Taiwanese in Elmhurst and the S.E Asian options within walking distance are outstanding (Srip, Zabb, Upi etc.), but after two years, getting a basic Manhattan-quality delivery of hot and sour soup, cold sesame noodles, Kung Pao chicken, Ma po tofu, sauteed stringbeans (my template delivery menu)has proved impossible. If like most Manhattanites, you regard basic Chinese delivery as your birthright, it's really, really hard to get used to the lack.

                  On the positive side, I think it is important to reiterate what someone else noted--if you like to cook, this is a great neighborhood for food shopping, in fact much better than most areas in the hipster belts of Queens or Brooklyn. The ethnic superstores--Patel's and Pacific and HK Supermarket are a very easy walk, but apart from that, the local Trade Fairs offer a variety of international products (to be able to get foul mudammas and frozen banana leaves at your local supermarket is cool), and you also have a number of local Korean groceries with good produce (and prices). There are Argentine butcher shops, a couple of Eastern European delis (the Polish on 37th, now up for sale) and Gourmet Fantasy Foods on 75th, I think) a local Italian deli-type store on 37th (and Sapori is a supply store in the daytime, so you can get your guanciale there), as well as Serrano ham by the leg, manchego cheese and tons of tinned tapas supplies at Despana on Northern. And if you run through cilantro like I do, paying 50 cents a bunch instead of 1.25 on the Upper East really helps.

                  1. re: kodiak

                    Kodiak, how far do you live from Woodside? Woodside seems to be a stronghold for the old-fashioned mediocre Chinese takeouts - there are like 5-6 of them. The best one with decent hot&sour soup is 'New Panda' (not sure about the name) I also like their 'Hunan' Dishes, but it's right next to Saints n Sinners. Ask around how far they deliver. New China next to Carvel's is also pretty decent. The 2 places around 64th on Roosevelt are total crap - I only go there to get cooked rice if I'm cooking something at home and in a hurry. Woodside Pizza on Queens blvd. and 61st? is also good 'middle of the run' delivery type of place for all things pasta, pizza, sandwiches and salads. I like to get their cheesesteak sandwiches, if I feel in the mood for junk/comfort food. Their delivery radius could be pretty wide as they have cars.

                    OT, if you guys hope that JH one day will gentrify and turn into some kind of LIC - dream on. If Woodside/Sunnyside/JH were to gentrify, it would've happened like 5 years ago when Real Estate peaked, MoMA, African museum and Noguchi museums moved to Sunnyside, and there was a faint promise of 2012 Olympics. There was this really good article in Queens Tribune, i think, 'Why Queens will never be cool' - fine with me.

                    On the bar scene, JH is a thriving GLBT community - there are many fun bars some even with drag shows on Roosevelt ave.

                    1. re: welle
                      david sprague

                      having lived in JH for nine years now, i've crossed my fingers against any Smith Street-ization of the area countless times -- mostly coinciding with the yearly 'JH is the new hot 'hood articles. thus far, it's worked, largely because the neighborhood is largely made up of middle class families, not extremely elderly folks or tenement dwellers who can easily be coaxed into moving.

                      thankfully, there's not so much as a starbucks in sight.

                      there are plenty of enjoyable diversions, though. you already seem to know plenty about the South Asian places -- Dosa Diner, on 73rd street, is the only one with a full bar, and they do have entertainment on weekends. Arunee Thai is my fave in the immediate area as far as that cuisine goes (Rice Thai has a nice atmosphere, but totally Americanized food).

                      Places that don't get a lot of notice, but are good, festive sitdowns include Cafe Salamanca (Spanish) on Northern circa 83rd. very old-school, great for a paella and wine, Natives (also on Northern) for Colombian and Trieste (really overlooked Northern Italian) on Northern near 73rd). the last is a tiny tiny place that's very easy to pass by -- give 'em a shot. nothing earthshattering, but comfy, homey and good seafood.

                      1. re: david sprague

                        I wouldn't mind a bit of Smith St.-ation! without the rising rents, of course.

                        1. re: Kerry
                          david sprague

                          well, that's kinda like saying "i wouldn't mind having triple cheeseburgers with chocolate milkshakes for dinner five times a week...without gaining a pound, of course" :)

                          1. re: david sprague

                            That I wouldn't mind either :-)

                            1. re: Kerry

                              Then have I got a White Castle for you...Queens Boulevard and 57th Avenue...right by the Mall. Be sure to buy the three burgers individually, take them apart and reassemble the ingredients "together" in layers (all bottom buns, meat, onion-pickle, top buns - I hate ketchup)...then eat the "Big Whitey" with gusto.

                              You won't put on an ounce...guaranteed.

                              1. re: Mike R.

                                The South Beach diet via Queens Boulevard?

                                1. re: Kerry

                                  More like Orchard Beach.

                        2. re: david sprague

                          OK, you're right. If I as a beer snob got the Blind Tiger to relocate to the Roosevelt/Broadway stop I might be in beer bliss, but pretty soon the wine snob would need their place too and then cheese snob and coffee snob and so on. Then as it became caucasian paradise and the really good indian, chinese, korean and south american places would be priced out, we'd be left with a hollow, cultureless neiborhood with good beer.

                          I guess I wouldn't wish that on JH. Maybe Blind Tiger can move to Sunnyside next to that great independent espresso place that just opened up in the last month: "The Grind" on Queens BLVD around 40th St.

                          1. re: Dave G

                            Actually, I'm not really that convinced by the "pricing-out" argument, particularly as it pertains to 37th avenue. There are many, many more really cheap and good restaurants on Elmhurst's Broadway stretch, Whitney, and the part of Woodside avenue that contains Upi Jaya (and a new Thai restaurant named Shallot--77-05 Woodside Avenue-- that I have not tried yet). 37th, on the other hand, with the exception of La Portena, Picada Azuaya (Ecuadoran on 85th/37th with great hornado) and possibly Inti Raymi has less real standout food--i.e., food you would make a friend travel into the nabe to eat. I am a big fan of the Mario's empire for the very tasty and inexpensive chicken, rice, beans, chorizos etc., but my general impression is that price points at quite a few of the restaurants on 37th avenue (such as Cavalier and Armondo's among the old guard, Chivito among the new)are quite a bit higher, with 5-10 dollar appetizers, and 10-20 dollar entrees. This is not really that far off from Astoria/Skillman Avenue/Smith Street pricing. The problem is that in my view, the food is just not good enough at that price, particularly at the older non-Latino restaurants which are bit of a stodge-fest. Being left only with Armondo's has me pining even for Luigi's, whose successor, the indifferent Ecuado-Italian Reina del Cisne, has closed down after only a couple of months in operation. I suspect the problem might be commercial rents on the 37th avenue strip (in an earlier series of posts regarding Luigi's demise, someone-- I can't remember who-- pegged the rent at 18K a month, and not the 1800 that was reported in the daily news), that limit innovative start-ups to the fringes of the neighborhood, where they are well patronized by locals and outsiders alike (Zabb, Arunee, Upi e.g.). I guess the point I am making is that if Upi Jaya or Zabb or Tastes Good were replaced by a Penang or a China Fun, I would be outraged too, but if Armondo's (or less controversially, the space formerly occupied by Luigi's) were replaced by a Bliss lookalike, I would be cheering.

                            1. re: Dave G

                              Apparently, even Sunnyside is not Smith St.-ized enough according to the recent Quaint thread.


                2. n
                  Not so nervous anymore

                  Thank you all so much for your replies! Once we get settled, I will definitely report on any finds!

                  1. I"m catching this thread late. I know exactly what you mean. And the answer, as you've surely discovered, is that Queens is great for many things, but friendly local hangouts, cafes, bars, and such are just not part of the equation.

                    But check out this:

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Jim Leff

                      I think it really depends on what part of Queens you are in. Astoria, for example has seemingly hundreds of cafes and bars where you can hang out. Though many of them are the Gree/Euro type places that may not be everyone's cup-of-tea, there are a number of other places. For example, Gian Piero bakery on 30th ave and 45th street is always filled with people hanging out, sitting on benches outside and inside. Another place is the Himalaya Tea House on 31st ave and 34th street. I would hardly say that Queens lacks "friendly local hangouts"

                    2. Certainly the Irish bars in my neighborhood (Woodside) would qualify, as would the many similar places in Sunnyside.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Woodside Al

                        Yeah, guys, I typed too fast. Didn't mean "Queens", so much as this part of Queens - i.e. Jackson Heights/Corona/Elmhurst (where there is literally NOWHERE one could call a local hang-out...till now). Lots of good things to do/buy/see/eat/listen to here, but hangouts, like bookstores, are not a strength.

                        Astoria's better, though I never feel quite cozy in the greek cafes (for one thing the pastries are invariable bad). And Donovan's is my default favorite bar in Queens, but the other places never really ring my bell.

                        1. re: Jim Leff

                          in astoria on ditmars there is freeze peach (they have good espresso) and waltz-astoria. these are places you can just go and read a book and have coffee.

                          in astoria the problem with "hangout" places in astoria has generally been that the "greek sidewalk cafe" model of business brings in tons of customers at all hours. not my thing, but if i was a business owner i would take that versus a "hangout" place.