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Lunch in Queens - easy from Midtown?

So I've been a little stressed and overworked and want to start taking long lunches when possible. Since moving to Prospect Heights from Williamsburg 2 years ago (near the G), I find I never go to Queens anymore, and am hoping office proximity gives me an excuse.

I'm at 59th and Madison, so I can get the N/R/W, F and E/V, but obviously the N/R/W are closest. Would love suggestions for spectacular (at least, travel-worthy) street food/quick eats near those lines, not TOO too deep in due to time constraints.

I know Google maps is not perfect, but I tried finding restaurants near the FIRST stop on all those trains and did not recognize any of the names from Chowhound. Are there great places simply missing from the map, or must I go further?

I know that the E and F are express to Jackson Heights, but I take the E to JFK and it still feels like the distance to Jackson Heights is pretty significant. Has anyone ever timed the distance from Midtown East to JH? I'd love to try Afghan Kebab House or Rasa Sayang if there's time!

Thanks in advance for any advice!

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  1. Also, there appears to be more than one Tacqueria Coatzingo on Roosevelt. Is Google wrong, or is one of these more praised than the other?

    8 Replies
    1. re: NancyC

      According to the MTA website, the E train takes 10 minutes to get from Lex to Roosevelt Ave and 12 minutes on the return on weekdays during the week, not including waiting. I'd say that's fairly accurate. The R train takes about 17 minutes.

      There's only one Coatzingo on Roosevelt. It's at 76-05. The other one is on 82 St.

      Upi Jaya is also one long block from the 74th St/Roosevelt stop on the subway. There are lots more options if you're on the R train at both 65th St and Elmhurst Ave, if you have time for the 40+ minute roundtrip commute.

      1. re: el jefe

        Thanks, el jefe! Today I started fantasizing about gathering the other peons on a day when all the bosses are out and taking a group trip to Coatzingo. Maybe this week I'll do a practice run alone before roping my co-workers in.

        The reason I was wondering if anyone's tried getting to JH during the day is that on the 4/5 DURING morning rush, there are random periods of "running slow" perhaps twice a week, and the 2/3 tends to run only every 17 minutes or so after 7pm despite the official schedule of 10 minutes, and I've taken the F many times from 57th to W4th and that ride certainly isn't 10 minutes as posted...wasn't sure if the E/F was also subject to these issues Queens-bound.

        So it seems that if I decide to walk to the E or F I might as well go all the way to Jackson Heights. Would still take any suggestions for hidden gems around Queens Plaza or Queensboro Plaza, as the N/R/W stop is even closer, and more trains = less waiting!

        1. re: NancyC

          Here are lists of restaurants near each R train stop.

          There are lots of places near the N train stops in Astoria. I think Coatzingo (the one on Roosevelt and 76th, NOT the other one) would be a swell place. So would Sripraphai. By the way, if you ever get more time you can change to the 7 express at Queensboro Plaza and go to Flushing! It's about a 30 minute ride.

          I guess you've seen it but here is the Coatzingo post:

          1. re: Brian S

            Oh, I've seen it. Mouthwatering. I would have difficulty ignoring the sopes and mole and especially the al pastor but I will definitely give the specials a look. By the way, I've been searching the boards for "Coatzingo" and "tamales" but every thread I turn up does not actually put those two concepts together. Are the tamales there not worth mention?

            Thanks for the link. It appears that Malagueta is the closest interesting spot--both due to the N/W being only a block from my office, plus only 4 stops from there. Although--did it move? People seem to be recommending it from a couple different R stops that look really far away according to the address I have.

            Steinway definitely sounds a bit more intriguing. Flushing feels more like a "leave work early" choice, rather than "go there and come back," though...

            1. re: NancyC

              I don't think Coatzingo has tamales; I could be wrong, I've never looked for them. Malagueta is, unless they moved, which I doubt, closest to the 36th street stop of the N train. They have, or had, a lunch menu that's much cheaper than dinner. The food is EXCELLENT. I went one Saturday evening for the feijoada and it was a tiny portion, way overpriced... except that for the first time I understood why people love feijoada... it was head and shoulders and a lot more better than any other I'd had, so it was worth it.

              Astoria is very cosmopolitan. They have restaurants from every place Alexander the Great conquered... Egypt, Serbia, Pakistan etc... plus South America too. Here are posts about 2 restaurants which weren't that great foodwise but had incredible ambiance. I dont recommend them but reading about them gives you an idea about the many worlds of Astoria:



              1. re: Brian S

                You can get tamales at any number of carts all over Roosevelt Ave for between 1 and 2 dollars.

                BTW Nancy, an express 7 train could get you to JH fast enough for all of this and back. Don't forget that the lunch special (which ranges from 8 to 4 dollars depending on how much they like you) at Deshi Biryani is excellent too. Especially the goat. I think your fastest bet is the 7 train to be honest.

                1. re: JFores

                  What? Possible $4 difference? Not on the menu, I suppose? Youngish Chinese girl, what's not to like, give me the discount already!

                  Even assuming this lunch period will last around 1 1/2 hours (which is the reason I'd only do it when everyone's away and mostly only on Fridays), I should probably take around 30 minutes from ordering to paying to be on the safe side. Can Deshi Biryani handle that timing?

                  1. re: NancyC

                    They're usually pretty timely with me, though some of their dishes take quite long. Double check that what you're ordering is within the time limit as things can vary quite heavily. Something like aloo bhorta will be out super fast, but the goat might not come out so fast. Usually does though.

    2. FYI, Rasa Sayang is closed. It's been replaced by an ok/average Thai restaurant.

      1 Reply
      1. re: sharonj

        Poo...I just found a thread saying this a few minutes ago.

      2. I can not add anything to the great list along the R train that Brian linked to. But about getting there, it might take you longer than you think.
        Yes, it takes the F train about 11 minutes from Lexington Ave to Roosevelt Ave. But it's not just the train travel time you have to consider. For example, the F Lexington Ave station is about 11 stories below ground it takes a few minutes just to get from street level to the platform. These things add up.
        I frequently take the F from Lex/63rd to Jackson Heights just to get something to eat. The round trip can take me up to 3 hours. I don't rush while doing this, I live 15 minutes away from the subway station and I only do it during nights / weekends. But I still don't think you can squeeze such an excursion into a lunch break. My guess is that if you're going to sit down somewhere (as opposed to getting something from a cart), it will take you an hour and half to two hours at the very least.
        I think going to Malagueta by taking the N/W to 36th Ave will be faster, even though I never done it myself. If you insist on going to Woodside/Jackson Heights, it might actually be faster in your case to take the N/R/W and switch to the 7 in case you got the N or W.

        1. The E seems to come more frequently than the F, and I've timed it: 10 minutes from Roosevelt to 53rd/Lex. Afghan Kebab House (or Deshi Biryani or Zabb) is less than a 5 minute walk from the station. I say it's doable! And if the R/V train rolls into the station just as you step out of the E/F train (same platform) - take it one local stop to Elmhurst and you can eat at Nusara Thai, Chao Thai, Upi Jaya, Minangasli, or Taste Good.

          1 Reply
          1. re: yt28

            This is very encouraging! I'm thinking of heading out tomorrow, probably to Elmhurst but I may change my might last minute and try to get to Jackson Heights. Anecdotally, I agree the F can be quite infrequent, and the distances to the 63rd/Lex F and 53rd/5th E are pretty similar for me.

          2. Off the N train at Broadway you can get a great pizza from Sac's. I also like the Mexican off that same stop at El Mariachi. You can also pick up a great chicken souvlaki sandwich at Aliada right there or spinach pie at Stamatis. There's a great bistro place of 36th ave called Locale (but that's more sit down) and Cup Diner is great off the R line.

            6 Replies
            1. re: jenhen2

              A couple of comments and corrections to the above posts:

              Coatzingo has tamales on the menu -- rojos, verdes and rajas. $1.50 each, but I've never tried them.

              Malaguita -- I'm not sure which is the closest subway, but the last time I went past -- a Thurs at noon -- they were closed. The sign in the window said they open at 4:00 or 5:00pm everyday.

              Upi Jaya -- the 74th St stop is closer than Elmhurst Ave..

              But if you do go all the way to Elmhurst Ave you can get great soups and the city's best fried dumplings at Lao Bei Fang. Sit down to eat there, roundtrip transportation, and you might be back at your desk in under an hour.

              And I'm sure you figured this out -- that since you're doing this lunchtime the 7 Express isn't going to work for you.

              1. re: el jefe

                Yeah, I didn't think the 7 express ran outside of rush hour, plus it would definitely involve a transfer.

                I am really thinking about Lao Bei Fang for tomorrow--my direct boss and one of my...senior co-workers (not sure how else to put it) will both be out tomorrow. I stopped in yesterday to grab a menu and the lady pulling noodles was very sweet.

                Weird about Malagueta! The menu posted on bridgeandtunnelclub.com lists lunch specials.

                1. re: NancyC

                  They might have stopped serving lunch. I think the last menu I got from them didn't list lunch... just give 'em a phone call.

                  Just to show you the joy of walking in the area... I wrote this a few years ago:

                  1. re: Brian S

                    I ate at Malagueta today. They're open for lunch only during the weekends and have no special menu.
                    The food was great but portions were small. I heartily recommend it.

                    1. re: ow77

                      Nancy you could go after work! Just call to be sure they are open. Malagueta, by the way, would not be out of place in, say, Soho or Greenwich Village. The chef, as I recall, trained in France at a three-star Michelin restaurant.

                      1. re: Brian S

                        It sounds really good. I am adding it to a mental list...too bad about lunch, though!

                        I'm thinking noon is departure time...there are even more people out of office today than I expected! Still not decided on Lao Bei Fang or Coatzingo.

            2. I went to Coatzingo, but due to JUST missing the express train in BOTH directions, it took almost two full hours. Also, while the food came out quickly once ordered, it took a while to get the waitress to take my order.

              Anyway...delicious. Best sopes I've had in New York! Usually I find them to be only-slightly-thicker round tortillas, but these were thick griddled corn cakes, piled high with cecina and al pastor. Menu does not say they can be ordered individually (3 to an order) but they didn't seem to mind. Although it was $9.50 on the menu and $9.75 when broken down into 2 different types.

              They did have barbecued goat on the specials today, but I decided to stick with something that was easy to judge. :)

              1. Have you considered Sunnyside? I know it requires a transfer, but it's right across the platform at Queens Borough Plaza. And the 7 train runs really frequently. You can go to De Mole for Mexican and Natural Tofu for soon tofu.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Miss Needle

                  I may have to give this a try at some point...since I was AIMING for direct rides today and ended up either on local trains or transferring to express, it really couldn't be any slower to take the closer N/W trains to the 7. Soon tofu sounds awesome for the fall, right now I'm not sure I could take it. But any place with Mole in the name (um, except perhaps for Mole in the LES?) is worth trying!

                  1. re: NancyC

                    Soon tofu definitely hits the spot in the fall/winter. I can see how you may want something a bit lighter right now. De Mole really isn't too far at all. Growing up in Sunnyside, I know that it will take less time to get there from 59th and Madison than to 74th and Broadway in spite of taking two trains.

                2. I found this place by accident while walking to the rivefront from my apt in Woodside, so I don't remember the name but it had the most amazing Dominican? food. And cheap. It's one block West from 21st street on 40 ave (1 block from the 21st street stop on F). It's right outside of the projects (one side of the street is housing project and other side is industrial store fronts), but I'm pretty sure during lunch it fills with a lunch crowd from the surrounding factories and garages, so it's pretty safe. The restaurant is on the corner, it's the most shiny new-looking establishment on that block.

                  Since you're thinking of going to Sunnyside anyway, Mangal Kebab is a great Turkish right off 46st stop on 7. You can also go all the way to Woodside to Sripraphai, 7 runs express from Manhattan after 12pm - when I take-out I usually call the restaurant as soon as I emerge from the tunnel, so the meal is ready by the time I get there...