Flushing recs for a timid colleague
In a business meeting today, a colleague said that she felt a person could not eat in Flushing if they did not speak Chinese--that the language barrier was too great and the pace intimidatingly hectic. I eat in Flushing all the time and I don't speak a word of Chinese. I am fond of dim sum at Gum Fung and I love the pork and dill dumplings from that stand in the Flushing Mall (where the lovely lady behind the counter speaks no English at all), so there was really no hope of me swaying my colleague's opinion--does anyone else have any suggestions for "starter" restaurants in Flushing?...What I mean is, places where someone feeling a little hesitant could go to get their feet wet and see that it's not that scary.
I was a little unfair with my first response. The fear is natural. What lies on the other side of the fear, however, is the thrill. Trying something new. Discovering for yourself. Nothing beats that. Flushing's Chinatown is just one of seemingly hundreds of nooks, crannies and byways in this amazing city where people can experience that feeling.
Today I walked into a mall, on 41-28 Main Street, between Sanford and 41st Road, that I'd never even noticed before (I was actually looking for another mall, but that's another story). Various stores and food stalls, tiny shops off glass walled-alleyways, very little English. I thought, as I'd done more than a few times before, that I would just pick a joint where the chow looks good, and point to the grub of my choice. Needless to say, I was the only white person in the whole mall. But, when I went up to the counter of a non-descript little eatery across a narrow hallway from a tiny hair salon, and ordered a huge plastic tub of flat noodles with lamb in broth, I was rewarded with a great many smiles and warm looks from the workers and the patrons. And the noodles, well, they were just about the best and heartiest meal that I've ever had for 4 bucks. Suffice to say I liked it enough to start another thread recommending it.
There's no escaping it - no matter how much of an outsider you might feel yourself to be, great food, and the search therefor, is a major connecting point.
All the suggestions on this thread are good but I'm going to add a very basic one - offer to go to Flushing with your co-worker.
It will give her a comfort level - she'll have a "native guide" so nothing bad can happen. She'll relax and will find out that the whole Flushing experience can be easy and fun.
If you feel slightly awkward being one-on-one with your co-worker you could expand the group by one or two to smooth things out.
I've eaten many times at the Flushing location of Joe's Shanghai. This is a pretty good intro to Flushing, since the menu includes many standard items (and they'll make standard dishes like chicken w/brocoli, which we always order for the kids). Plus, it's across the street from the Hong Kong supermarket, which is a fun adventure in and of itself.
It is very hard to see things from the point of view of your colleague. What exactly is she frightened of, especially if she is going to be accompanied by you? Most places in Flushing have menus that include English translations. Not being a Chinese speaker either, neither myself, my wife or anyone else that I know has ever had any problems communicating or ordering.
If your colleague likes a little heat in her cuisine, I would heartily recommend Spicy and Tasty, on Prince, a few paces off of Roosevelt. I say this not just because it is my favorite Flushing haunt or because the food is fantastic, but also because the menu indicates the level of heat each dish has. It is definitely user-friendly for non-Chinese speakers. This is one of many places where I have always been able to communicate with the waitstaff, mostly by pointing to the number corresponding to the menu item I want. Here is one of several helpful threads regarding S&T: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/241445
I believe their menu is available on bridgeandtunnel.com as well.
Hope your co-worker gets over her fear. The culinary rewards await. Happy eating. P.