Rego Park observations- long
My office moved to Rego Park at the beginning of May, and due to some issues at home I’ve taken to eating lunch out probably 3 days per week on average. I also do some basic food shopping in the area for stuff I need at home. With help from some folks who’ve been here longer, including a definite chowhound, I’ve tried enough things to post something useful. My office is on Queens Blvd near 63rd Drive, and so this is definitely boulevard-centric. This is hardly an exhaustive study, but hopefully informative.
The basic, cheap diner in the area is the Rego Park Café, 63rd Dr < 1 block South of the blvd. Decent, not great, standard fare. Much bigger, nicer, and more expensive is the Shalimar, on 63rd just north of the LIRR overpass. It’s expensive, but generous, and when they’re not busy they make a great breakfast. 4 or so blocks further east on Queens Boulevard is the Tower, on the north side of the street. Very reasonable and excellent diner grub.
On the South side of Queens Boulevard between 62nd and 63rd is Istanbul, a Turkish restaurant. Their gyro/doner is actually the closest thing I’ve seen in this country to the lamb shwarma I fell in love with in Amsterdam. I’ve personally become addicted to the adana kebab, and mix of ground lamb, spices, and peppers formed onto flat skewers. They have a house bread that’s really good, and a display full of fresh cold sides that I haven’t really delved into.
Rego Pita serves Israeli food, falafel, shwarma, kebabs, etc, about 2 blocks East on Queens Boulevard. The baby chicken shwarma is moist and tasty, and food comes with a free salad bar, with a variety of standard fixings. (Kosher, shomer shabbos). Not the best falafel, but pretty good.
Further east, at the edge of my range (and almost to Forest Hills) is On the Grill. This has been written up on this board a number of times before, and if you search you’ll get some good info. I just have to add that I agree with the previous posters that this place rocks, with good food and very nice ownership. (Kosher, shomer shabbos- don’t open ‘till 1)
Columbia Chicken is on 63rd Dr and Saunders. The chicken actually isn’t any better than most supermarket rotisserie birds. I go for one of the typically Columbian platters built around grilled steak, with rice & beans, other sides. Very hearty, tasty, and reasonably priced.
If you want to get rotisserie chicken, then I have to recommend Antica’s, a pizzeria on the north side of Queens Blvd, just east of 63rd. They seem to glaze it with hoi-sin sauce, and rotisserie it just so. It’s one of the best I’ve ever had, and you can get a half with steam table starch and vegetable, and a little salad, for like $7. Their sandwiches and pizza are OK, but this is what I come here for.
I tend not to waste my time on Chinese, as I have a decent takeout place near home in the suburbs, but there is one place in the neighborhood I do eat at. Next door to On the Grill is Grand Sichuan NY II. The menu is divided into Chinese food and Chinese-American food, a good sign. I was drawn in by seeing an appetizer of cold beef tendon in chili. It’s shredded, with a texture between that of chow fun and jellyfish, and delicious, with a nice fire. It’s really good also if you mix it into some of their excellent mapo tofu, which has great heat and a rich dose of black beans, whose saltiness accentuates the chili. What other things I’ve tried have been good, though their basics like wonton soup, spare ribs, and crap like that aren’t anything special.
Jay Dee Bakery is on the South side of Queens Blvd a few storefronts to the West of On the Grill. I go for breads, including a very light rye and full-flavored pumpernickel. I personally don’t care for their challah though- not eggy enough.
Sunflower International Food is on the South side of Queens Blvd just west of the Rego Park Jewish Center. They seem to have every staple used between Morocco and the Caucasus on hand, including coffees, nuts, dried fruits, juices, dozens of grains that I’ve never even heard of.
On 63rd Road, on the second block north of Queens Blvd, are a couple of Russian-ish groceries. What I mean by that is that they have Russian signs and Russian-speaking staff, but I think they are from Central Asia. The smaller one is International Gourmet, between 97th and 98th streets, which says “Tajikistan” on its sign. The other day I purchased some salami which I was told contained bear, and fresh, snowy-white, Bulgarian feta cheese there which was fabulous. They have a diverse array of smoked and preserved fishes, deli meats, and breads/groceries.
At the corner of 98th Street is Universal Food, which is twice the size, newer, and cleaner. They have a much larger selection of deli, fish, cheese, and prepared foods in the central deli counter, and a wide variety of other ethnic baked goods and groceries. Both stores are providing me with inexpensive culinary adventure.
I have not yet gotten to any of the Bukharian Jewish restaurants, or Tangra Wok, the Hakka Chinese place that has been discussed here, but will update this post as I explore more.
Nice review. I grew up in that neighborhood (anyone else remember when Sears was still Alexander's?) and my parents still live there. If I still lived there, I'd never have to walk more than 1/2 mile for great food! Two places you overlooked---Bagelette, which has bagels the way NY bagels USED to taste (I'm bringing an extra suitcase when I visit next month to fill my freezer at home with those bagels!)and the Asian market on 63rd Drive (I think it's called Jumbo Market). My mother now buys her fresh fish here and they have the best packaged frozen dumplings.
Be sure to check out Tangra Wok---especially their weekday lunch special.
One more suggestion---sushi from Sushi 33 (6356 Booth St)is quite good---and they'll deliver (718) 896-3033.
I'm right there with you on Istanbul. Great place. The Adana Kebab is so flavorful and moist as to keep my mouth watering for days after. The bread, as you mentioned, is also memorable, fresh and hot. I look forward to trying Tangra Wok, which is a couple of doors down. I also agree with you on the Shalimar. A cut above the usual.
Cheburechnaya is one of a few excellent Uzbek kebab places in RP, but my favorite for the moment is Shalom (which has taken over the storefront formerly occupied by Beautiful Bukhara), on 108th St. Their Salmon Kebab is tender, succulent, as good as anything I've ever eaten off a stainless steel blade.
Also down a ways from the immediate neighborhood you're describing, right on the border of Forest Hills, is a relatively new place, King David Restaurant, which I can only assume is another Uzbeki place. With its' big sign of the king himself looming over Queens Boulevard, furrowed brow and all, this place is just forbidding enough to make me curious.
Try Bagelette on 63rd Rd by 98th St -- the low fat nova and scallion cream cheese is amazing. Bagels are really fresh, too.
ditto on cheburechnaya - moist and delish kebabs. would ask counter person while ordering for guidance if you aren't sure what's what.
chikurin japanese - sushi okay, nothing special but very cheap. i would, however, highly recommend their chicken udon. i used to get this all winter long when i lived in RP. it's been a long time since i've had it, but i remember rich broth with a wide variety of veggies, udon packaged separately for take out so it doesn't get soggy.
tower diner - please try the challah french toast. it's real challah bread, very thickly sliced.
definitely some interesting things to try in RP, but i can't say i miss the neighborhood that much. it's lacking in some basics - sometimes you just want some good ol' italian or go to a neighborhood bar. never liked avellino's pizza or anna's for drinks.
Wow, thanks for the comprehensive review! My husband and I used to live in Forest Hills near Metropolitan Avenue so we miss being within walking distance from Dee's Pizza and the Thai restaurant near the old Dee's location. We've lived in Rego Park for a year and a half and haven't been adventurous as far as our culinary forays, sticking with places like Thai Pot (ok but a bit overpriced), Grand Sichuan NY II (probably one of the better Chinese places in the neighborhood, which isn't saying that much), Raj Gate (decent Indian, I do love their daal), and Tangra Wok (pretty good, but a bit pricey for take-out) but we'll definitely have to try some of the places you recommended.
Is the doner kebab served in Istanbul on pita bread or "rug bread"? And is it more of the take-out/informal Turkish or formal/sit-down Turkish?
Am not exactly sure what bread they serve the doner with (am pretty sure it's not pita), but Istanbul is a full-fledged restaurant with a take-out counter. The atmosphere is simple, laid back, not all that formal. All three times I have been there, the service has been gracious, friendly, attentive. I am partial to the Adana Kebab, and look forward to trying their seafood. The hot, fresh bread - not pita - is worth going for on its' own.
Thanks for this 63rd Dr. posting. I've been there more often than usual lately, and have sought out decent food options. Just last night I finally tried Tangra Wok. I was very happy with the food. It would be a great option for mixed vegetarian-carnivore outings, since both approaches are well-represented. The service, however, was bizarrely lousy. A bowl of soup as an appetizer took twenty minutes to arrive, despite my explicit request for it from the waiter, and the place was not crowded. But based on the food, I'll go back. And the waitstaff was friendly, despite the slow service.
One place I didn't see mentioned in the above reviews is the Kosher deli, Ben's, on QB east of 63rd Drive. The place is run-down and seedy, and the food is second-rate. This should be noted, as a warning.
well, since ya'll are talking about my block / my hood!
Anna's Place is pretty interesting, a german/irish pub but with an actual restaurant that is actually quite nice. they serve a special game menu in the fall and I've had some of their main meat entrees, schnitzels, etc. and it's purty good.
Cheburechnaya I concur is great, I always get the fries, an israeli salad, and then maybe a dozen skewers, plus one of those large breads with the indentation in the middle.
Arzu is another place, near 67th avenue, which has great pelmini (it's another uzbek skewer place) and other good salads. Tashkent, which someone mentioned as the place replacing the Goody's, is pretty good, but not as good, and as fun, as Cheburechnaya.
I will second Istanbul though; very nice folks; great baba and other eggplant choices, and a great doner platter.
Knish Nosh has great knishes (I really like the meat one) and they also have a good chopped liver (a quart for $5, a steal!).
There aren't really that many good diners, I find Tower to be overpriced; there was a diner across the street, but it closed.
Sato is a very generic, chinese-owned type japanese restaurant, but the food is very accessible to the american palate and will please, at every course. imagine it being the high-end japanese restaurant in a small town that doesn't know any better, that's how I see it.
Avellino's has great pasta and meals, but their pizza has a way too thick crust.
Ben's is kinda decent, but I've only gotten takeout, I haven't eaten there; I don't think it's affiliated with the one in Bayside and besides, I like the Bay Terrace one better.
Tangra Wok is great; very spicy, but very oily. Always ask for extra-spicy when you go there, they seem to tone it down some. For better Indian-Chinese, I go all the way down to Grand Avenue for Tangra Masala; less formal and slightly less expensive.
Tandoor is the big indian place across the street; I don't like it at all; it's too big and fancy and I'm used to Kebab King Diner in Jackson Heights. With that said, Raj Gate's buffet is a really good deal, and it's kinda semi-decent, for $7.99 AYCE for weekday lunch.
Sizzler's is terrible, as is the Applebees.
Rego Pita is pretty decent, probably the most accessible of the falafel places around. There is a Kosher Pizzeria between 67th Avenue and 66th Avenue and it is terrible.
Anyway, those are my thoughts. Welcome to the neighborhood! And, I will try to post a more exhaustive and comprehensive post sometime soon.