flushing soccer field eats?
I know the fashion is all red hook, but for us queens locals, anyone do any good chowing and study on the stands near the soccer fields in flushing meadow corona park? I might head there this weekend, just wanted to know if there was any advance recon. I've heard about the cuy, but that's about it.
Hmmm, well I spent several hours walking the length (and width) of the park, beginning at the Jewel Avenue/Van Wyck overpass entrance, through the volleyball area, criss-crossed by the water, up through the zoo and Hall of Science area and finally to the Unisphere and the soccer fields; the food situation is meager at best. Other than a couple of independent ice cream carts roaming the corridor area, I spotted only three vendors selling food. All three were in the area beyond the empty fountain pools at the far end of the Unisphere (backing-up into the new NYC rec center fields off of College Point Ave) and all three were selling essentially the same items. Each of them had a sign that read "Brasil y Venezuela" but seemed to be selling the same Columbian and Ecuadorian items mentioned in last year's posts (the far left side vendor also had a sign indicating an Ecuadorian menu), e.g., empanadas, maduros, kababs, and ceviche. Nothing seemed outrageously priced, but then again, I did purchase a $3 snow cone earlier that day....
hi all; did a bike recon all over flushing meadow but I didn't eat anything. the eats are nowhere near as concentrated as at red hook and there are very few vendors. the layout of the park is a bit strange, but there are landmarks. I saw a few things:
1. near the empty blue pools and soccer field area, there are two typical latin-food stands, they might be related to each other, and they sold empanadas, chorizos, arepas, basically, your typical columbian eats. the food didn't look interesting, and was expensive.
2. there was a lone salvadoran stand in another section of the park, same section as the uniglobe, but near a circular body of man-made water; the woman was selling nice pupusas and some other stuff, at $1.25, very tasty, and quite rustic.
3. near the volleyball parks on the part of the park that borders the grand central parkway (I might be wrong, but at least, there is only one area with a whole bunch of volleyball courts) were all of the ecuadoran stands, about 4 right next to each other, and 2 more, a few hundred feet away. this was as concentrated as it got, but seeing as they were all ecuadoran and all selling pretty much the same things at the same prices, there wasn't really a selection. they had whole roast pigs, llapingachos (kind of like free-form mashed potato balls), cuy asado (roasted guinea pig), small empanadas along with rice, salad, etc., and most plates were $10. seems like a lot of food too, but I wasn't that hungry. the cuy looked a bit unreal, but actually quite tasty; they stick a huge stick through the length of it and just hold and turn the thing over charcoal; looks like it must take at least an hour per. safest bet is probably to go to the stand w/ the least amount of pig left, indicating good consumption; other than that, it all looked pretty similar. there was one stand which stood away from the main 4, and they were selling a vegetable sausage which looked interesting; not sure of the casing, but it was filled with veg.
4. now that I remember, I went to the immigrants parade a few year and at the exit/entrance near the children's science center, I now recall that there were quite a few shopping cart/burner/fryer vendors, but that might've been during the parade/festival only, but at least a dozen or so, each peddling one or two things. but, if not only during then, then it might be worth exploring the fringes of the park near the science center, in the corona section of the park.
anyway, I didn't get to eat, because I wasn't that hungry but . . . . those are my finds. cuy, anyone?
we went to check out the flushing ball fields this past weekend and i agree with bigjeff's appraisal of the situation. although, to clarify, the four ecuadoran vendors that he speaks of are located east of the unisphere where the park abutts the van wyck, not the grand central. i think this is near the kissena corridor/entrance to the park.
we tasted a good deal of the food. the two vendors near the end of the blue, unfilled wading pools sell okay meat empanadas, okay but underseasoned chicken kabobs, hot dogs, okay papas rellenas (little potato balls stuffed with some cheese) and plates of chicken stew. none of it is that tasty or memorable, but it wasn't bad, either.
due east from there is the pupusa vendor, just on the other side of the small round lake/pond. she sells chorizo, pupusas, ceviche, carne asada, fried chicken and some stews. we tried the pupusas. they were as good as any at the red hook ball fields. but the rest of her stuff didn't look that inspiring to us.
the four or five ecuadoran food vendors are southeast of the pupusa vendor, near the van wyck, where the kissena corridor begins. they all pretty much sell exactly the same things: servings of roast pork with rice and salad ($10), cuy ($35), ecuadoran cheese empanadas, maduros stuffed with cheese, chorizo, chicken stew, pork kebabs, carne asada. we tried the empanadas from the southernmost vendor. they were amazing and tasted more like a fresh donut than an empanada. 50 cents each, they are a tasty and cheap treat. these empanadas were far better than any of the cheese empanadas i've tasted at redhook. the maduros stuffed with cheese were forgettable and the pork kebabs suffered from low quality meat and little seasoning. all in all, the southernmost of the four vendors seemed the best, but we didn't try her pork or cuy, so it's hard to say.
overall, the food isn't quite destination worthy all on its own. generally, it's andean street food, heavily tilted towards what you'd see on the streets of quito or bogota. but it's fun to walk around the park. there are thousands of people there are on the weekend, far more than are at the red hook fields. the soccer players and fans and family members are incredibly numerous, predominantly latino, too. there clearly is a market there for a successful food vendor area, but right now the vendors are too spread out and their product isn't that varied or that happening. but if they were to concentrate their sales in one area (say, at the end of the blue pools) and pick up the variety and quality, there are so many potential customers that it could easily outshine red hook. maybe in a few years it will evolve into something like that, but one of the vendors would need to provide the vision/leadership/example for the others, in order to raise the bar a bit. that assumes that there isn't some administrative hurdle set up by the park department that would make a concentration of vendors in one area impossible. but from what i saw there are close to 15 or 20 soccer fields being used at once, which is considerably more than red hook, so the market seems to be there. if you're living in queens and want a nice day at the park, i'd recommend it. as a queens resident i often forget that flushing meadows park is a green, lush and heavily treed oasis in the middle of endless brick buildings and i was glad to have a relaxing summer respite from the city streets. sure, the park needs a face lift. but the walk from the museum past the unisphere, down along the wading pools to the vendors is a really nice way to spend the afternoon.
thanks, your geography of the park and landmarks is much better than mine! I ended up biking all over and criss-crossing, sort of getting lost. I had no idea the cuy was that expensive, but I guess that's the price one must pay for roast guinea pig. I agree w/ the pupusa, just as good as the vendor that I like at red hook, and the ladies selling and making them are very sweet.
maybe what would be good for some of these vendors is to visit red hook and see what they've done, and see the potential for them. they may need an organizer like cesar fuentes (red hook food vendor committee organizer) to kick 'em in the butt, and with the issue of licenses in the news a few weeks ago, there is a bit of publicity now. while red hook's actual soccer and baseball fields might be smaller, the crowds that amass for the food is crazy, and they could really turn it around. what we have instead are the vendors described above, plus a couple of good humor ice cream carts and your very basic hot dog and hamburger stands. the people of queens, and in the park, deserve more!